What to Do If Your Acrylic Paint Has Dried Out


When your acrylic paint has dried out or is showing signs. . It can be frustrating. What do you do when this happens? And can you prevent it going forward? You may already know too well about its speed of drying, so when you find a tube or two that’s showing signs of no longer being pliable it’s cause for concern. Have no fear I can show you what to do.

First off, some acrylic paint brands may be more prone to drying than others. Just something to think about going forward. The more pigmentation and less water the less likely this happens. Less pigment and more water to compensate, these can be worse offenders. I have noticed this as I accumulate lots of paints. One thing that can happen is carelessness or if a cap comes off a tube by accident, it’s at risk.

Pin Me?

acrylic paint dried out

When acrylics are exposed to air this is what happens. I don’t worry about this going on with oils so much as they don’t evaporate the same way. Anyway one time a cap came off a tube and I couldn’t find it, I guess it fell somewhere and it was so small I couldn’t see it, I ended up wrapping a little piece of tinfoil over the open spout as a stopgap solution.

Where and how you store your paints is important too. I keep all of my paints in the closet in my office. Cool and dry as a cuke. No problem whatsoever. They used to be on my baker’s rack but I moved all of that art stuff out to my closet and first just use the baker’s rack for CD’s and books, things like that. As a nice bonus it keeps dust off them too. The cats may sneak in from time to time, but everything is nicely in its place.

acrylic paint drying out

Does age matter? Well acrylic paints don’t have an expiration date if that’s what you’re asking, as they aren’t made with food grade ingredients. They can change consistency over time, however…Sometimes, my FolkArt paints (of which I have many) may get clumpy depending on how long I have had them. I can usually tell which these are as the front label will look worn and “used” They will also be half-empty or “mostly used”.

When they get in that state they are harder to work with. They may also have a funny smelt to them. Sometimes I can remedy this by the addition of a little blending gel. I don’t add water to these as these paints already have more water and less pigmentation to them so it’s not good to keep the colors intact.

My higher viscosity paint, I can tell if I examine a tube and it feels stiff, it means it has lost its moisture and may be drying out. It may also be soft in some areas so it is still salvageable.

If this is what you’ve experienced, I can tell you how to revive these paints:

Some hot water usually does the trick. (Hot, NOT boiling) Add a little at a time using an eyedropper and see if some of the color is showing . If it’s not working, there will just be a wet spot, in that case, it’s junk now. But if the addition of water makes signs of loosening up that’s good. Be sure to keep the ratio 1:1 to prevent color pigment loss.

Another sign of unsalvageable paint is if it’s formed a “skin” on something and can be peeled off.It does this due to the presence of binders and polymers present. Been there, done that. I can hear you now thinking I hate wasting paint. yeah, me too. It ain’t cheap!

Well did you know that there are some artists who have been able to use dried acrylic paint pieces in other projects? You could fold them into a fresh batch of paint to add texture, you could assemble dried scrap pieces in a pattern using glue, just have a think about it. See what you can do!

Hopefully these tips will help. Good luck to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.