How to (Store Oil Paint on Your Palette) Keep Your Paints from Drying out

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how to keep paint from drying out

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A question I often receive is: how do you stop the oil paints (on your palette) from drying out between painting sessions? Knowing how to store oil paints between painting sessions can benefit any level of painter. Especially if you’re in a season, where you’re not able to paint as often.

Now, if you are able to paint consistently. Then, you probably don’t need to worry too much about storing your paints between sessions.

**QUICK TIP if any of your oil paints do get just a little dried out – simply remove the small remnant of dry paint from the portion that is still good.

However, no matter how often you paint. We all experience moments when life gets in the way and we are not able to make use of the fresh paint we squeezed out of our tubes. So, for this reason – it is good to know (a few ways) how to keep your paint from drying out!

Place cling wrap over your palette

learn how to store oil paint with seran wrap placed on top of your palette
You do not need to cover your entire palette, just be sure to cover all of the paint on your palette

When looking at the best ways, for how to store oil paint, often times the simpler the better. So, one the quickest and most simple way to keep the paint on your palette from drying out – is to cover it with cling film or seran wrap. This will slow down the oxidation process and keep your paint from drying too quickly. It is best to seal the cling wrap around the palette to keep any air from getting in.

One thing to be aware of is that the paint might stick onto the surface of the cling film when lifting it off. You can use your palette knife to place it back onto your palette.

It can be a little annoying to need to deal with fresh paint lifting off with the cling wrap. Taking off this paint is an extra step you need to consider when deciding whether using cling wrap is worth your time or not.

Apply a drop of oil on your paint

If you wish to take take it a step further, before you wrap your palette in seran wrap, you can also place a drop of linseed oil on each pile of paint. However, be careful to not put too much oil on your paint as it will then become too thin.

You can use a variety of different oils beyond just linseed oil. Clove oil is also a great option – simple add a drop or two will dramatically slow the drying time of your paint.
Your palette knife is a great tool to drop linseed oil (or your oil of choice) onto your paint. It will allow you to control the amount that you place as you do not want to make your paint too thin by dropping too much oil on top.

If you wish to skip the seran wrap altogether, you can just place a drop of linseed oil on your paint without covering it. This is a good way if you’re looking for how to store oil paint (for a shorter period) super quickly. It will of course help your paint to dry slower if you do both the linseed oil and plastic wrap covering.

How to store oil paint in a jar

Another option to consider, is storing your paint in a small jar or storage containers. This will keep your oil paint fresh for a longer period of time.

one of the best ways how to store oil paint - is to use jars for preserving your paints
Storing your paint in glass jars could work well but it will be rather time consuming. It depends on how long you will be away from painting for you to know if it is worth it for you.

This is a great option, if you have to step away for a bit longer period of time. As it could become a little time consuming to transfer your paint in and out of jars on a consistent basis. You will also need to clean your jars from any remnant paint, otherwise it will dry and affect any fresh paint you place in it.

Use a palette garage

here's how to store oil paint using a palette garage to keep your paint from drying out
A palette garage can be very handy for traveling. You could also use what you have at home to make a similar device.

Arguably one of the best ways for how to store oil paint for a longer period of time, is to use a palette garage. A palette garage, is a convenient device that will help to keep your paint fresh for weeks. It is a more appealing and functional option compared to storage jars. You place your paint on a tray and then insert it into a sealable plastic tube. However, before sealing your paint in the tube you place a drop of clove oil onto each paint pile.

This device is also a convenient way to transport your paint when plein air painting or traveling.

Consolidate colors at end of session

When it comes to saving not just the colors you squeezed from paint tubes but also the paint you mixed on your palette, it is best to consolidate all the similar colors together. Larger amounts of paint dry much slower than small amounts of paint. So, the more paint you can join together the better.

You may have a wide range of different mixtures on your palette, it is up to you to decide how best to group the colors together. Simply place the colors that are most alike with one another! This will help your colors become less muddy and more usable in your next painting session.

For example, in the palette above – you could join together all of the greenish and bluish color mixtures together in one pile. In a separate pile you could join all the warm reddish and yellowish color mixtures. This way they will dry out far less quickly and your colors won’t be too muddy to reuse for your next painting session.

What about you?

Do you make an effort to save your paint from drying out? Or do you paint often enough that it doesn’t matter too much? Let me know in the comment section below. If you have any other special tips for how to keep your paint from drying out (on your palette). I would love to hear about your storage methods in the comments below as well!


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    36 thoughts on “How to (Store Oil Paint on Your Palette) Keep Your Paints from Drying out”

    1. Hello Elizabeth,
      I have been painting predominantly in Acrylics and am currently experimenting with working in oils. As the panels I am working with are large I am wanting to mix more lasting (secondary colours) volume that I maybe able to use across multiple panels. Can you suggest a method to mix large volume?, and how you’d suggest storing individual colours, ie type of container.
      Best Regards

      1. Hi Paul, I think the best way to mix large volume would be to grab a very clean large glass palette and mix your colors on this using a palette knife. You can then store the paint into empty paint tubes like these. You could also use empty paint cans to store the paint in. The important think to make certain of is that you can properly seal it. Hope that helps!

    2. Great article. I find putting the palette in a freezer stops the paint from ‘going off’ for a while. You do have to thaw it out before painting again though

    3. Dear Elizbeth
      I use a plastic disposable plates, and cover with water all paint. This way at the day after the paint is fresh.
      Thank you!
      Best regards

    4. Good Morning Elisabeth,
      I try to learn how to use acrylic or oil. Sometimes I want the painting to dry quickly to paint over the trees or other details. I also use acrylic to make the canvas background (foggy trees etc.) that dries quickly and I continue with oil afterwards for the beautiful colors of a forest for example. Finally I start with acrylic and if the result does not please me I use oil on acrylic.
      I keep the rest of my oils in the little boxes used for the soy sauce that come with sushi meals. They are cheap and they are often offered to me.

    5. Sandy Schmidt

      Nice tips on getting longer life from the paint on the palette! I use a glass palette when painting away from home. I have been covering the left-over paint with waxed paper and painter’s tape to seal out air. BUT I really like your Seran Wrap idea better! It eliminates the tape and that’s a savings right there! Thanks Elizabeth!
      I use the “leftovers” during my painting sessions once home. Oil paint is expensive so any stretching of my paint is welcomed!

    6. Todos tus artículos son muy prof esionales y de mucha utilidad. En lo personal, para evitar que se sequen rapido las pinturas obtenidas del tubo, trato de no poner grandes cantidades como es costumbre.

    7. I put piles of paint on waxed paper in a small stay-wet palette box, put the lid on, then place in the freezer.

    8. When i have finished painting for the day i have a small palette that i put in my freezer. the next day i take them out and in a few minutes the paint is ready to use.

    9. I put a drop of oil on my oil paint palette and put it in a small refrigerator, until my next painting session. I have kept them for almost a week.

    10. Very simply, put your palette in the freezer! Works great!
      It’s nice if you have a separate small freezer in which to store your palette.
      Thanks for the other tips!

    11. I use a combination of methods:
      As you suggest, I combine the left over mixes into colour related groups. Then place them on a “Stay Wet Pallet” and put it into the freezer.
      The stay wet pallet I use is made by “Masterson” (comes in two sizes). These pallets are used primarily by acrylic painters but suit this purpose nicely as they seal tightly.
      I find that paint will keep for a VERY long time with this method. The paint, being oil based never freezes and takes only a few minutes out of the freezer to regain its working consistency.
      Many thanks for your articles. I look forward to them and am pleased to be able to contribute this little ditty!
      P.S. When using this method for acrylic, I put a damp sponge onto the pallet and store it in the bottom of the fridge instead of the freezer compartment. It will keep for many days as opposed to weeks like the oil paint in the freezer.

      1. Thanks so much for sharing this! I was curious about the stay wet palettes and oil paint. Good to hear your experience and how it works for you.

        So glad that you enjoy my articles and information – thank you for sharing that 🙂

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