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Tips for Storing Oil Paint Between Sessions

Well, that was fun, well fun like a long workout is when you are done ;) It definitely helps to have good music when paint mixing as sometimes it can seem like it can take forever to get the exact mix you are looking for. 

It is so worth it though as there is nothing better than having all of your paint premixed in clean little tubes so that you can squish out fresh paint every time you paint.   I have thought of mixing while sipping a glass wine or martini but I am sure I would end up with very sub par mixes ;)

I don't premix all my colors but I find it so helpful to premix a flesh palette as I may not get the chance to paint every day, especially in the summer, and there is nothing worse than mixing up your paint and then having to through it all out because it did not keep between sessions. 

Also, as some days I only have an hour to two to paint and if I have all of my colors premixed, I get to spend almost all of the time painting rather than getting ready to paint.  Of course, even when premixing the mixes are merely starting points but they create a sense of harmony and consistency.

Tubing is not for everyone though so I listed a few other ways to keep your paint usable between sessions.  Oil paint does not actually dry out, it oxides due to contact with the air.  So the key is to slow down the oxidization by limiting the amount of air the oil is exposed to.  I have tried all the methods below and they all work, depending on the size of paint nugget left and the amount of time the paint is left out.  I listed them in order of my preference after tubing as nothing compares to fresh paint ;)

Pure Clove Oil - clove oil actually slows down the oxidization of the paint.  If you have a sealed container, place your palette inside the container at the end of a painting session.  Dip a q-tip in pure clove oil quickly as you don't want too much clove oil, just dampen the cotton.  I use a bit of masking tape and tape the q-tip to the box and close the lid.  I have had paint last over a week during a summer heat wave this way.

I use this method for plein air painting and the first time I tried it I used too much clove oil and my paint was a little runny so I just use a little oil now.  I also use it in the studio now (duh, I don't know why I didn't sooner) as I like this method because I paint mostly using the indirect method which uses smaller piles of paint and I find that it prevents a skin from forming more so than freezing.

I like the smell of clove oil but it can get pretty strong so when I am painting, I remove the q-tip and put it in a zip lock bag while I am painting and then just put it back on the palette after my session.  You can also add the oil directly to the paint (1 drop per 1 inch of paint squeezed from the tube) but I don't like to do that as I like my paint to dry once rather quickly during painting so I can paint the next day if I want to...and I always want to ;)

Freezing paint - works best for paint storage for a few days depending on the size of the paint nugget. he larger the better.  Try to keep paint in thicker piles, scrapping up to a peak if needed and I like to cover with saran wrap and gentle pat down to create a seal between the paint and the surface (I usually put on an piece of glass or disposable palette paper).  I have several pieces of glass, some that are tempered and thicker so I don't need to tape the edges.  This one I grabbed from a cheapo dollar store picture frame and taped it to a piece of neutral gray painted board for support.  Also, the tape protects the edges from chipping and from cutting me.  You lose a bit of paint on the saran wrap when you take it off but it prevents the air from reaching the paint even more and will keep longer.

Under Water - crazy but it works!  Fill a tray with at least an inch of filtered water, with your paints on a piece of glass or water resistant surface (mine is a piece of grey plastic), flip the surface upside down so that the paints are fully submerged in the water.  This method works great, when you are ready to paint, just take out your palette and blot off water with paper towel. 

The only issue with this method is that if you forget to refill the water and the paint dries out...yeah, so my paint is still stuck to my palette...I will have to scrape that off at some point ;)


  1. I'm horrible with keeping my paints in storage. Even my wall paint. I almost always end up with the stuff drying up. I've resigned myself to just steering clear from painting altogether lest I waste money on my paints!


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