Monday, March 25, 2013

Keeping Stored Oil Paint Fresh for the Palette


Over the years I’ve tried many ways of preserving paint, using everything from closeable palette boxes; which only work in the short term – ultimately the paint hardens, or submerging blobs of paint in water overnight; works okay, but it’s a chore fishing the paint out of the water and getting it ready to work with, and there may also be problems with the water breaking down the binder. Overall, the best and easiest way I found was to put the whole palette in the freezer. However, as my palettes have grown larger this has become less convenient.


Recently I learned a new trick. I have smaller pieces of glass to hold the paint, like these from School Specialty. These are lightweight and have smooth beveled edges. I load them with individual colors and line them up around my regular palette. I take color from the smaller glass panes and mix it on the larger glass. The smaller glass stays clean and at the end of the day I put them in the freezer. The cold slows down oxidation so that the paint doesn’t dry out. They are small enough that they don’t take up too much room.


The panes are 4 x 6 inches; inexpensive and small enough to slide into a Tupperware container to prevent accidentally getting oil paint inside the freezer.

Why save paint? One – it’s economical to do so and two, I’m keeping in mind that some of these pigments are mined and once they’re gone - they’re gone. I prefer not to waste them. Three, I don’t want to add anything to landfills if I don't have to. Four, any leftover paint fragments need to be dry before tossing and it’s messy and space consuming to have smears of half used color scattered about drying.

I like to put out more than enough color on the palette when I start painting. Have you ever heard “paint like a millionaire?” It seems to me this makes the work looser and more confident, plus it seems a waste of time and stops the flow to stop in the middle of painting a passage to squeeze out more color.

Please feel free to share this post if you find it helpful!

18 comments:

Elizabeth Seaver said...

Great tip, Katherine. Thank you for sharing the benefit of your experience. I love your reasons for trying to save paint, too.

Anne M Bray said...

You are so smart and clever! Thanks! Now, to go move around the jars of jam in the freezer...

Katherine Kean said...

Thanks Elizabeth - I'm glad if it's helpful.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Anne - thanks! Yum! Jam in the freezer. Add some paint and you'll be all set.

jeronimus said...

Good advice, Katherine.

I also tried the water submersion thing as an experiment. It kept the paint workable for many weeks but eventually everything went mouldy.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Jeronimus, thanks, and thanks for that info. I hadn't realized that the water submersion could result in mold - good to know.

R.L. Delight said...

What a great idea! Thanks for sharing your results with other methods too. Always good to know.

Katherine Kean said...

You're welcome - I'm glad if it's helpful.

Diane Hoeptner (hep-ner) said...

Oh, this is very good: Thanks! I really enjoyed your posts about the Palm Springs Art Fair too, Katherine. I hope you had great sales!

Katherine Kean said...

Thanks Diane - I'm glad this helps!

Maggie Latham said...

Katherine, I've just shared a link to this post with a friend who is frustrated with throwing away oil paint....so glad I found your blog. Thanks for sharing.

Katherine Kean said...

Maggie, you're very welcome. I hope the information is helpful!

Jean Spitzer said...

If you could see my refrigerator, you would be laughing.

Would need another freezer to take advantage of this tip.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Jean, Haha! In that case I would start eating until room was made - or perhaps consider a mini fridge for the studio.

Palmer said...

What a wonderful tip!! Thank you Katherine!

Katherine Kean said...

My pleasure, Palmer!

Anonymous said...

drop a penny in with the oil paint and water.
the penny will stop mold forming in the water.

Katherine Kean said...

Thanks for the penny tip - good to know!