Will Watercolor Paint Freeze? What You Need to Know 

Will Watercolor Paint Freeze? What You Need to Know

Artists have to depend on their paints, brushes, and supplies for creating the most beautiful pieces in different weather conditions. 

A lot of concerns can race through your mind thinking of your materials and paints when you’re going to paint in cold weather. One of the most common queries artists have about their paints is; Will watercolor paint freeze?

The answer depends on what kind of watercolor paints you’re going to use. With a dry watercolor pan, you’ll be completely fine even in freezing temperatures.

However, if you’re using tubes, the paint will definitely freeze and can cause trouble for you. If you’re interested in finding out more about using watercolor paints in winter, we’ve got you covered. 

Effects of Temperature on Watercolor Paint

Watercolor Paint in Freezing Point 

Watercolor paints are very versatile mediums to work with, whether you’re a beginner or a professional.

When you’re working with watercolors, a lot of things need to be considered — for example, the paper or canvas quality, pigment quality, brush type, etc. But one of the most important concerns is regarding extreme temperatures.

If your paints are not compatible with the warm or shivering weather, things might not work out in your favor. This is why it’s important to know which kind of watercolor paints will work in warm or cold weather. 

If you think of how watercolor works, you can figure out how they adapt to freezing temperatures. Watercolors need water for painting, so you can expect them to freeze in cold temperatures.

These paints come in both dry pan forms and tube forms. The consistency of these two forms can make a lot of difference when they’re used in freezing temperatures. 

Dry pans come without a water base, so even under extremely cold temperatures, the paints will not get frozen. So, this type of paint is a great option for using in winter. On the other hand, with tubes, the situation is different.

The issue of freezing arises with tube paint. Since tube paints are fluid and are runny with a water base, they’re very likely to freeze.

Not only that, the tubes will thaw to a point where they will appear to have a consistency like a cottage cheese or a messy kaleidoscope. Frozen and thawed tubes are a mess to work with, and the pigment gradually becomes light and develops mold. 

So, if you’re thinking of using watercolors for painting in extreme temperatures, it’s easier to go with dry pan paints than tube paints.  

How to Use Frozen Watercolor? 

Artists need to know how they can take care of their paints in harsh environments. They should be prepared beforehand if they’re going to a winter location to paint so that they can take the necessary measures to store their paints. 

Now that you know that tube paint can thaw, you might try opting for dry pans more often. But how can you prevent your tube paint from freezing? Well, you can easily fix the issue with a simple hack.  

Alcohol works as an excellent antifreeze in cold temperature extremes. You can mix both isopropanol and ethanol rubbing alcohol with your pigments to prevent your watercolor paints from freezing. Most artists prefer using ethanol spirits to save their paints since it freezes at 173-degree Fahrenheit below zero, so only a bit works for watercolors.  

Effect of Freezing Temperatures on Other Paints 

Freezing temperature can have effects on different kinds of paints. Watercolor experiences a change in texture as a result of freezing points, but it applies to other paints as well. Acrylic and oil painting are other paint categories that are widely used by artists. Let’s have a look at how freezing temperature affects these paints –

Acrylic Paint 

Unlike one form of watercolor paints, acrylics are not at all compatible with freezing temperatures. Acrylic paints are water-based, so of course, they will thaw down under colder conditions and can be an interesting challenge to work with.

When these paints freeze, they lose their consistency and develop poor adhesion.  

Any application of acrylic diluted paint below 50-degree Fahrenheit can cause poor film formation along with cracks. So, if you’re working with acrylics, it’s better to avoid applying them at temperatures under 49 degrees Fahrenheit (hopefully we don’t get to this point worldwide).

Working at this temperature will give the opportunity for the acrylic paint to create an adhesive film by withstanding a few thaw cycles.  

Another measure you can take with acrylic paint in winter is using air-proof containers for storing them. Since acrylics dry easily and quickly, the best way to store and protect them is in air-tight containers. This will also maintain the consistency and texture of the acrylic paints so that they can be used in winter.

Oil Paint 

If you compare with acrylics and watercolor tubes, oil paints can withstand freezing temperature much better than the former two. Both acrylic and watercolor paints are water-based, which is why becoming frozen are inevitable for them. However, this is not the case with oils. 

Oil paints are obviously oil-based and comprise a freezing temperature completely different from other paints. The most common oil used in oil paints is linseed oil which has a freezing point under –4-degree Fahrenheit. So, getting an oil paint to freeze is definitely rare.

In fact, oil paints become quite stiff in the cold, which can be beneficial for many artists who struggle with an oily consistency. Besides, the cold weather actually does good for the oil painting by reducing its oxidation rate and thereby preserving it.

You can also increase the efficiency of oil paints in the cold and protect them by storing them in an air-proof paint box.

So, if you’re thinking of creating a unique art piece when it’s freezing outside, we recommend using oil paints. However, the dry watercolor palette also works just fine. But acrylics and watercolor tubes can be difficult to work with if you’re thinking of painting in cold temperatures.  

Final Words 

So, will watercolor paint freeze? Well, it depends on the form of watercolor you’re using for your art. 

Using dry paints is the best option in colder weather, but you can also fix frozen watercolor tubes with easy hacks too! We hope our discussion was sufficient in helping you find out how to use watercolor paints at freezing temperatures.  

WATCH – I tried to watercolor in freezing

Maiu Lunekund
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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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