How Long Do Watercolor Tubes Last?

Old watercolor

If you’re new to watercolor painting, then you’re probably bemused by all the choices and number of paints. Some artists are saying 4 primary colors are enough, while others are vouching for 24-piece watercolor pans. Amidst all that, their fairly priced rates only add to the dilemma.

Nevertheless, whether you buy tubes or pans, you need to buy something that’s worth your while. So, if you’re asking how long do watercolor tubes last and getting different answers from different people, it’s because it depends on the quality of the paint itself.

Watercolor paintOpens in a new tab. tubes can last anywhere from 2 years to 15 years, depending on how well you keep them. If you rehydrate and keep them in a cool place, they can last up to 10-15 years.

So, How Long Do Watercolor Tubes Last? Let’s start from the top!

What Is the Shelf Life of Watercolor Paints?

Oil paints can last up to 30 to 40 years, but other paints don’t have the same luxury. To understand why you must know what watercolors are made of. Even if you buy artist grade watercolor paint, it will sooner or later go bad.

Watercolors are a mix of pigments and a binding agent called gum Arabic. Gum Arabic helps the paint to dry slower and lets the paint stick to the paper or canvas.

The pigments used are the colors, while the binder is a clear fluid that gives watercolor paint tubes their liquid texture. Other chemicals like glycerin are used to keep the pigments and gum Arabic liquid and prevent them from drying.

Nonetheless, the liquid will eventually dry. For some paint, it takes years, while cheaper watercolors can dry out in months.

Tube watercolors generally take 2-3 years before the gum Arabic and pigment separate from one another. So, if you want an exact estimate on when watercolor paints expire, we would say it’s about 2-3 years. Then the tube loses its consistency over time.

As an artistOpens in a new tab., you should know once the two separate, it’s next to impossible to rehydrate it back to its original consistency. That is when you need to decide whether to rehydrate the old tubes and settle for a lesser quality paint tube or buy new ones.

How Long Do Pan Watercolor Paints Last?

On the other hand, it’s a different story if you’re using pan watercolor paint. Pan watercolors are the ones you find in palette shaped containers. They are dry, and you need to use a wet brush and water to moisten them before you paint. Pans are usually the first watercolor paints that are used by beginners.

While pan paint performs similarly to tube, there are some differences. For example, this paint is not as suitable for mixing on a palette and they are not as dark or opaque as regular tube paints.

People think pan watercolor paint expires like the tube ones, but since pans are in dry form, they do not expire as fast as them. Also, with the tube, if you keep it open for long, they dry out, so you have to be careful during your painting session.

But with pan paint, you can keep it out in the open without worrying about the paint drying.

Maintaining Watercolor Paints

You can do many things to maintain your watercolor tube to prolong its life.

Those who regularly practice art will probably use up their paint before it gets bad. Yet even they need to do certain things to take care of the tube. One thing to keep in mind is watercolor can be rehydrated simply by putting in a few drops of water.

It will help some of the pigment, but the overall consistency of the tube will still be bad.

One of the best tips to maintain your paint is to squeeze the tubes occasionally. This works for watercolors as well as acrylics. If you don’t use your paint for a long time, remember to come and squeeze them every once in a while.

In humid climates, paint tends to deteriorate faster. So, to prolong their life, you should keep them under shade. That is, too much sun and humidity could make tubes smell weird and make them moldy. Consider keeping them in a dry and clean area and use less water to keep the consistency good.

How to Rehydrate Watercolor Paint?

Rehydrating is a lifesaving option unique to the watercolor tube that you can’t do with oil or acrylic paint. Since watercolor paints work with water, rehydrating them is when you drop water in the tubes. With this simple process, you can keep your tubes for many years.

To rehydrate with water, you need to cut the tubes open. Also, you are only required to rehydrate if the pigments are drying. Use a palette to put the paint in, then rehydrate properly using wet brushes. Be careful to use a clean brush as you don’t want the pigment to change color.

The more advanced way to rehydrate while maintaining the consistency of the paint is to rehydrate using honey and glycerin. Honey is used as an alternative to binders. It makes the pigments and binding agent solvent.

Use them to soften the paints. If the paints have hardened, you might need to grind them using a tool. Simply brushing it on a palette might not be enough if the paints have hardened completely.

When mixing paint with the rehydrating ingredients, you need to be wary of the proportions. For instance, if you use too much water, the paint will lose its thickness or using too much honey will make the paint sticky. Therefore, the measurements need to be accurate.

However, know that rehydrating doesn’t always give the result you want. And you might have to get new art supplies as the paint might develop mold like form.

Teoh Yi ChieOpens in a new tab.

What Are Some of the Best Watercolor Paint Brands?

Watercolor paints come in different combinations and shades. The pigment holds the key to determining how opaque or transparent the paint will be. So, brands offer different priced paints depending on the pigment. Some of the top brands used by famous artists for their paintings are Winsor Newton, Daniel Smith, Holbein, etc.

The thing with paint tubes is that you can use just 4 paints to make any colors you need by simply mixing them on a palette. But buying more colors will help beginners draw as it will lessen the trouble of mixing paints.

However, if you truly want to learn to paint with watercolors then, using a palette to mix your paints is the best and fastest way.

Final Words

We hope this article helped you understand what sort of paint you need to buy to start your painting journey. You can start right away with 4 color set box or save up to buy a 24-set watercolor paint.

Finally, if you were waiting to understand how long watercolor tubes last, you have your answers. They easily last long enough to finish your tubes if you use them regularly.

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

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