Can You Reuse Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is a favorite in the crafts world because of its versatility, water-solubility and resistance, and ease of use. Since it is an essential type of paint, it is crucial to know how long acrylic paint lasts and if you can reuse it after a while.

You can reuse leftover paint since it does not expire. If not stored correctly, however, acrylic paint can dry out, making it difficult to reuse.

Can You Reuse Acrylic Paint? In some instances, you can revive dried-out acrylic paint by mixing it with warm water. This method does not work all the time. It depends on the type and age of the acrylic paint. I will highlight how you can reuse dry paint and how you should store acrylic paint.

How to Reuse Acrylic Paint

If you stored your acrylic paint well, you can use it as you would brand new paint. However, if your acrylic paint dried out, you can revive it and reuse it again. The easiest way to restore acrylic paint is to rehydrate it.

You can achieve rehydration by adding water to the paint. Since acrylic paint is water-soluble, a little water should be able to make it reusable.

Before I delve much deeper into how you can revive and rehydrate acrylic paint, let me point out why acrylic paint dries in the first place.

Why Does Acrylic Paint Dry Up?

Acrylic paint is solvent-based, made up of tiny particles suspended in a liquid. Acrylic paint dries up by evaporation when you leave it in a hot room or under direct sunlight. The wetter the air around your acrylic paint, the moisture the paint stays.

If you open your acrylic paint tube or container too many times or do not screw on the lid tightly, the hot air that enters it may evaporate the paint, causing it to dry out.

How Can You Prevent Acrylic Paint From Drying Up?

Having tubes and containers of acrylic paint and not being able to use them because they have dried out can be frustrating. Some tips will be helpful for you to avoid drying out your acrylic liquid paint.

Keep the Tubes and Containers Tightly Closed

After you finish painting, and even when you switch between colors while painting, ensure your tubes or containers are tightly closed to keep the moisture sealed inside. Clean up any spillages from your tubes as well to avoid dried-up paint crusting over them.

Cover Your Workspace

Keep your workspace, including your acrylic paint, covered and protected from elements like direct sun and gushes of wind, which may dry up your paint much faster. You can use a table cloth or an old rug to not only protect your paint but to keep your work surface clean.

Store Your Paint in a Cool Place

Store any of your unused acrylic paint in a cool place, away from heat and direct sunlight. The cold temperature will ensure no evaporation occurs, and the absence of heat will prevent your colors from drying.

Store Your Paint Horizontally

Do not keep your paint vertically placed. Horizontal placement will ensure air circulation within your tube or container and prevent dried paint plugs within the tube that may speed up drying. In addition, you can place the tubes near an open window so that they can be in contact with cool air and keep the paint inside moist.

Paint in the Morning or Evenings

If you are painting outdoors, make sure you do so in the morning or the evening. At this time, the sunshine isn’t harsh and cool air will blow your way keeping your paint moist.

How to Revive Dried Acrylic Paint

The easiest way is to rehydrate the dried-out acrylic paint. You can achieve rehydration by adding water to the color. Since acrylic paint is water-soluble, a little water should be able to make it reusable.

Adding water to your paint may weaken the color a little, so adding a paint thinner or retarder will get it back to its regular strength. Please note that this method applies to paint that is still in the tube or container and has some moisture.

You can revive acrylic that has dried up on a surface in the open air as it has become water-resistant. Follow the following tips to keep your paint wet and reusable.

Use a Spray Water Bottle

A spray bottle of water is a valuable tool to keep your acrylic paint moisturized. You can spray bits of water now and then to ensure the paint does not dry out even as you regularly open and close your tube or container. Warm, distilled water yields the best results, but you can also use tap water.

Do not spray too much water, or you will dilute the paint, interfere with the texture and break down the pigments.

Use a Stay-Wet Palette

Available on Amazon, a stay-wet palette keeps paint moist above and below the surface. It will save you the time from regularly spraying your paint, making color mixing easy. For longevity, keep the lid of the palette properly sealed and store it in a cool place.

Please do not open it unnecessarily, or else air will escape and risk your paint drying.

Use a Retarder

Adding retarder to your acrylic paint enables it to stay wet longer. You can also use slow-dry mediums for the same effect to ensure your acrylic paint remains wet and does not dry out no matter how long your painting process is.

You can also add retarder to used acrylic paint and maintain wetness for future use.

Stir Your Colors

Once you have applied a retarder or thinner to your acrylic paint, stir it consistently. Stirring will achieve a smooth and creamy texture and eliminate lumps formed when the paint is dry.

Other than manually stirring the colors, you can use an agitato, a sphere-like object that you put in containers of dried-up paint. This mixing ball will help mix up the colors, get rid of lumps for a smooth, moist consistency.

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How Long Does Acrylic Paint Last?

When you properly store acrylic paint, it can last up to five yearsOpens in a new tab.. Expensive, high-quality paint can last up to ten years.

As I have highlighted, acrylic paint expiration depends on your storage method, determining how long it will last. Different types of acrylic paints have their lifespans, so that is also a factor to consider.

What are the Types of Acrylic Paints?

Not all acrylic paints are alike; they all have different qualities from texture to viscosity. I will list not all but some popular types of acrylic paint, including their grades, for an informed decision if you want a specific type.


Student-quality acrylic paints are economical because they do not have costly pigments. They have levels of additives and extenders to replace high series pigments with cheaper alternatives with similar hues.

This does not mean that they do not have different properties; they do, but they are cheaper than artist-quality acrylic paints. Student quality acrylics dry at a uniform finish, so they are easy for beginners to handle.


Artist-quality acrylic paints contain a high level of single pigment colors and have very few extenders and additives. Their high grade requires that you don’t add more pigment to your paint mix, making it dull, muddy, and lifeless.

Each characteristic of the different pigments is unique for each of them to shine through their excellence. For this reason, they will all dry at different rates and with different textures. A lot of artistry is required to balance them out.

Different Viscosities of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paints come in different consistencies, known as their viscous quality. It is best to go for consistency that will best suit your purpose. You can use medium to thin viscosities if you do not want heavy acrylic.

You can also add water to thin down the consistency; however, this is not advised as too much water will compromise your paint binder’s quality and subsequently weaken your paint’s adhesion to the surface.

A thin-bodied acrylic paint is not the same as a watered-down version of a heavy-bodied option. The quality will not be the same.

Heavy-Bodied Acrylic Paint

As the name indicates, heavy-bodied acrylic paint has a high viscosity and thick texture. This paint gives the artists’ painting a sculpture-like look as artists use the paint’s thickness against the brushes to maintain the texture of their brush strokes.

Heavy-bodied acrylics take a bit of time to dry in about two to three hours. Some paints take more time, depending on environmental conditions.

Soft-Bodied Acrylic Paint

Soft-body acrylic paint has low viscosity and a texture similar to heavy cream. Its application is smooth, and the paint has rich pigmentation, making the colors bright and vibrant.

It maintains brush strokes, but only subtly and not as pronounced as with heavy-bodied acrylics. You can use soft-bodied acrylics in a variety of techniques of art, like paint pouring. Their fluidity allows easy blending and smooth finishing in paintings.

Soft-bodied acrylics take a short time to dry. Some thin films dry within 20 minutes, also depending on environmental conditions.

High-Flow Acrylics

High-flow acrylic paint is the most fluid type of acrylic made from finely ground pigments in a fluid acrylic emulsion. It is easy and smooth to apply, and you can use a variety of techniques with them.

High-flow acrylics dry quickly, within a matter of minutes.

Acrylic Gouache

Acrylic gouache is a modern take on traditional gouache, an opaque watercolor that consists of natural pigment, water, and binding agents. Acrylic gouache has acrylic binders that make it waterproof.

Unlike traditional gouache paint, you do not need to add water before you paint, although you can if you want it to be translucent.

Acrylic gouache is flexible, and you can overpaint it as many times as you like, as long as it is dry. When wet, it has the same properties as watercolors; if you mess up, you can wipe it off and start over again.

Artists like this type of acrylic paint because of its opaqueness and its matte finish. Acrylic gouache takes between 20 to 30 minutes to dry.

Acrylic Paint Pens

Acrylic paint pens contain free-flowing paint that allows you to apply color like you would with a pen. You make this application by pressing and releasing the pen’s nib until color saturates it to your liking.

You can apply thin or thick layers or color-splash the acrylic paint by over-saturating the nib.

Acrylic pen’s drying time depends on how thick your paint film is. Thin applications will take 10 to 20 minutes to dry, while thicker applications can dry up to two hours.

Slow-Drying Acrylic Paint

Slow-drying acrylic time can stay open for a reasonable amount of time compared to other types of acrylic paint. Artists prefer this type when they are working on complicated projects. They are suitable for thin applications and can stay for weeks if used with a sty-wet palette.

Consistency ranges from smooth, free-flowing textures to thick and creamy variations but only in artist-quality acrylic paint. Student-quality paint features more fluid textures.

What Types of Brushes are Used with Acrylic Paint?

There are two types of brushes, natural and synthetic. You can use acrylic paint with either of the two.

Natural brushes fit with heavy-bodied acrylic paints. You can also use firm synthetic hair if you want to create brush strokes on your surface. The firmness of these brushes makes it easier to work the heavy-bodied paint on your canvas.

You can use natural or synthetic brushes with light-bodied acrylic paint, but the bristles must be softer for smooth coordination and application.

The firmness of natural bristles decreases over time. Water further weakens the brush, so when you are using a natural brush, do not let it sit on water for too long. Proper care and storage of natural brushes will ensure their lifespan lasts a little longer before you replace them.

Synthetic bristles are resilient and can withstand frequent use and prolonged exposure to water.


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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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