How to Store Oil Paint

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Art supplies can be quite expensive, oil paints in particular. So, you must know how to properly store oil paints after using them.

When I teach oil painting at paint and sip parties, I always make sure that I take the necessary steps to properly pack up my paints at the end of each painting class. That way, I can be sure that they aren’t going to dry up on me before I get a chance to get to use them again.

Today we are going to take a look at some of the best ways to store oil paint tubes and keep them from drying out. Let’s go!

Storing Oil Paints on a Glass Plate

Glass plates can be used for several purposes. I have often used them as palettes, and after I finish working with oil paints, I can use the same palette plate to store the leftover paint.

Many beginners (and even a few old-hand such as myself) tend to put far too much paint on a palette. Then, they have a lot of paint left over. Since it is so costly, it hurts to scrape it off the plate and watch the paint fall into the garbage can.

So, I have begun using my palette plates as storage plates. What I usually use are glass plates that have plastic covers, such as pie plates.

All you have to do is put the plate into the freezer. Leave it there until you are ready to have another painting session.

If it isn’t covered, there is always the risk of someone reaching into the freezer and getting their hands covered in paint. Or, food could end up getting into the paint.

When you are ready to use the paint again, simply remove the paint from the plate, using a palette knife or something similar that is flexible, and put the paint on another palette. Use a bit of denatured alcohol to clean any remaining paint from the plate.

How Long Can You Keep Oil Paint in the Freezer?

I don’t usually keep paint in the freezer for longer than one week at a time. Of course, the length of time you can keep it in the freezer will depend on the brand, as well as the pigment.

The colors that tend to dry out the quickest are Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange, and Cerulean Blue. On the other hand, there are other colors, such as Ultramarine Blue, that will last much longer in the freezer.

Other Paint Storing Methods

Putting paint in the freezer isn’t the only way to store it. Some people say that other methods are even better.

Let’s take a look at some other paint-storing methods that will keep your oil paints fresh and ready to use at any time.

#1. Cover Oil Paints with Plastic Wrap

If I am in a hurry after working with oil paints in my studio I often just place a piece of plastic wrap over the unused oil paints left on the palette. The only problem with this is that it can get a bit messy.

One way to avoid the mess is to use those little “tables” that come in pizza boxes. Place them on the plate, and the plastic wrap will cling to them instead of the paint.

#2. Cover Paint with Disposable Cups

This isn’t a long-term solution, but it will work if you need to leave your painting for a few hours. Place a disposable cup over each portion of the paint on the palette.

You will end up with a bit of paint on the edges of the cup, but you won’t lose nearly as much as you would if you didn’t cover the paint at all.

#3. Wrap Paint in Aluminum Foil

Another option is to scrape the paint off the palette with a palette knife and then place the paint onto a piece of aluminum foil. Then you simply fold the foil over the paint.

Again, this is not a long-term storage method, but it will work for a few hours or even a day or two.

Getting the paint off the foil is a bit tricky and you will lose a bit of paint. But, it is better than using nothing at all.


These are the methods I use for storing oil paint that I am already using to maintain the quality and shelf life of oil paint. For storing paint in tubes, make sure they are upside down, and the cap should be facing downward. Use a binder clip to attach the bottom end of the paint to a hook or screw on the wall, desk, etc.

Don’t forget to check my guide on how to clean and store paint brushes and how to dispose of oil based paint for more tips.

*image by K1tyara/depositphotos