If you want to know if Acrylic paint expires, the short answer is no, but acrylics do tend to run the risk of drying out, freezing, or developing mold. Acrylic paint is a synthetic-based material so it can’t technically “expire” like some other art products. You should know however that Acrylics are infamous for drying out very fast.
It really depends on the quality of the paint you purchase. This Arteza Acrylic Paint Set, is the one I personally use.
Here’s a checklist to follow if you believe you paint has gone bad:
- Smell the paint — does it smell like mildew? Probably mold.
- Tap the paint tube — is it hard or brittle? Probably dry or frozen paint.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Last Once Opened?
Acrylic paint has a shelf life of about 10+ years when stored correctly. If it’s unopened after 10 years, it’s probably still usable. Opened and unopened cans of paint last for years when stored correctly. I usually finish a tube of paint within a month, but I have had tubes and cans that have sat in my garage for years, and when I opened them they just required a little mixing, or a wetting agent that re-hydrated the paint.
Why Does Acrylic Paint Go Bad?
Acrylic paints are made up of materials are susceptible to extreme temperatures, particularly the pigments, polymer emersion, and water within acrylics. The best part of acrylic paints is also their greatest weakness: It dries quickly.
When your acrylic paint loses water, it dries up and becomes brittle and crusty. I always recommend using a mixer or wetting agents to keep your paint from fully drying and making it completely useless.
When exposed to extreme cold, acrylic paints can separate.
This separation always happens because the cold affects the contents of the acrylic paint. When acrylic paints get cold enough they freeze and break off. Just like extreme heat makes acrylics crusty and dry, cold temperatures turn acrylic paint into little icicles.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are harmful in general, but they can also ruin your paint!
With paint, mold and mildew can grow when paint is exposed to moisture or dirty water. You can have mold in your garage without even knowing, making your acrylics susceptible to mold.
Best Places to Store Acrylic Paint
The best place to store your acrylic paint is in an air tight plastic container. Apart from that, I store mine in the garage since it’s neither cold or too hot. If you have a decent temperature garage, I would store them in there, or in a big air tight plastic container perhaps in your closet.
Always remember not to store your acrylics where it’s too hot or too cold, as this will ruin your paints. Depending on the amount of paints that you have, it’s convenient to keep them in a plastic container in your closet or somewhere in your home. If you have a huge collection of paints and supplies, the garage is always most convenient.
Before storing your paint, make sure there isn’t a leak! Even a small leak can cause the paint to dry and become unusable. Apply a small piece of duct tape to any leaks you find in your tubes.
You should also wipe away any excessive paint that could dry and crack the tube.
When storing your brushes, make sure to wash and dry them before storing. If you don’t wash your brushes they can become caked with dry paint, leading to brittle and unusable brushes. Add a little paint thinner to your paint if they’re becoming particularly sticky.
Paintbrushes should be stored away from leaky paint tubes. Most paintbrushes will store well for many years as long as they are in good condition and impeccably clean when they’re put away. I’ve had my set of paintbrushes for over 3 years now and I keep them in a good, clean condition.
Best Temperature to Store Acrylic Paint
Remember: Acrylic paints are water-based, which means they can freeze in cold temperatures. Many acrylic manufacturers recommend temperatures of 60–75 F (15–24 Celsius) for storage and application, and anything below 45 F (7.2 Celsius) is certainly not recommended.
If you live in an environment with extreme temperatures (e.g. hot summers and/or cold winters), it’s best not to store your acrylic paint in a garage or basement that’s not temperature controlled. Keep them in an area that’s dry and temperate.
How to Restore Dried or Hard Acrylic Paint
The best way to restore or “re hydrate” your Acrylic paints are with wetting agents or mixers. These products help restore your acrylic paint to a desired consistency again. You can also try some of the steps below as alternatives.
- Add water, and dip your paintbrush in water and gently tap the bristles. Continue adding water until it’s flowing naturally through your brush.
- Mix the pigment and binder together with a palette knife.
- Add a small amount of paint thinner and mix with water. Continue stirring until you get the desired consistency