How Long Does Acrylic Paint Last?

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When I teach paint and sip classes, I am frequently asked about the shelf life of acrylic paint. These paints are popular because they dry so quickly, but can this also be a bad thing?

It only makes sense to think that if the paints dry quickly on a canvas they may also dry up while in the tubes. While this can happen, it can last for many years if they are properly taken care of.

If you have some old tubes of acrylic paints lying around and you are wondering if you can still use them, continue reading to learn about the shelf life of acrylic paints and whether or not acrylic paint will expire.

Does Acrylic Paint Spoil?

There is no actual expiration date on acrylic paints. But, this doesn’t mean that they are going to live forever.

For instance, if the paint is exposed to extreme heat or cold it can degrade. When this happens, it is no longer usable because extreme temperatures can change the synthetic ingredients in acrylic paints.

The emulsion can separate, or the paint could even freeze, develop mold, or dry out completely. But, if paint is stored properly, it can last for several years.

How Long Is Acrylic Paint Good For After Opening?

Acrylic paint can potentially last five to ten years after it has been opened. Unopened acrylic paint has a shelf life of about 10+ years. Of course, this will all depend on the quality of the paint and how it is stored. 

Here are two of the biggest problems that can happen to paint that is left open.

#1. Bacteria

Bacteria can get into an open tube of paint. When this happens, mold can begin to develop on acrylic paint.

You will know when this happens if your paint begins to smell off. You can also tell if the paint has become lumpy.

#2. Drying Out

If you leave a tube of acrylic paint open, it can begin drying out within 20 to 30 minutes. When this happens, you will notice a crust of dried paint at the surface.

Over time, the entire tube of paint can dry out completely. Close the tube immediately after each use to prevent this from happening.

You can also thin acrylic paint by adding water, an acrylic binder or a paint thinner to achieve the desired density.

Why Does Acrylic Paint Go Bad?

There are two main reasons why acrylic paint can end up going bad if it is not properly stored. 

First, if the paint is exposed to extreme heat, the water will evaporate and the paint will dry up. If it is exposed to extreme cold, the paint can separate after they freeze and cannot be used again.

The second reason is mold and mildew. If acrylic paint is exposed to moisture, mold can grow on it. Once this happens, the paint is no longer usable.

There are ways to restore dry paint. But, in most cases, it is a whole lot easier to just buy new paints and throw the old ones away.

Extend Acrylic Paint Life with Proper Storage

You won’t have to worry about having your acrylic paint dry out or degrade if you store it properly. Make sure your paint is always stored indoors, and out of direct sunlight.

Acrylic paint should be stored in a room where the temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It should also be stored in an airtight container. The caps should fit tightly. If you are using paint in tubes, the caps should be properly screwed on to keep air and moisture from getting into the paint.

A lot of people store their art supplies in their garages. This is okay, as long as you make sure there is no chance of mold. If there is any moisture, eventually mold will grow.

Never store acrylic paints where there is running water, exposed wood or concrete, furnaces running, etc.

It is also a good idea to store your paint containers inside another container. I often store my paints in old cookie tins or Tupperware containers with tight-fitting lids.


You spend a lot of money on art supplies, so the last thing you want is for your paints to dry up or become moldy. Proper storage can prevent these things from happening.

If you store your paints properly, you should be able to expect them to last for at least five to 10 years. Depending on the quality of the paint, it could be good for even longer than 10 years.

Finally, if your paint is too watery, you can thicken acrylic paint by adding paste medium or gel.

Up next: How Long Does Oil Paint Last?

*image by Tihon6/depositphotos