Acrylic paints are every craftsman’s best friend. With a water-soluble formula that vanishes when it dries, they can be used for virtually any project. Undoubtedly, they are all-around versatile and valuable paints for many different types of projects.
However, if you’re an artist, then chances are you’ve experienced the frustration of a dried-up acrylic paint tube. When this happens, it’s essential to know how to fix dried acrylic paint before it renders your favorite painting unusable.
How do you fix dried acrylic paint? The simplest way to rehydrate dried acrylic paint is to add water. Acrylic paints are water-soluble and should easily become usable again with a little mixing. However, if you need something a little stronger, paint thinner or retarder will work as well.
Keep in mind that we are referring to paint that is still in its tube and has some amount of moisture left in it. It is not possible to rehydrate acrylic paint that has dried out completely in the open air. When it comes into contact with the air, it actually becomes water-resistant.
Luckily for us, there are some easy steps that we can take to revive the lost pigment from our work! First, let’s get started by breaking down what causes acrylic paints to dry out, and then we’ll go over some solutions on how to fix dried acrylic paint.
Why Does Acrylic Paint Dry Out?
Contrary to the name, acrylic paints are solvent-based, which means that the paint is made up of tiny particles suspended in a liquid.
Moreover, they dry by evaporation, and the wetter the air around them is, the longer they’ll stay wet. Besides, this can even happen in a lush climate where you might not think humidity would be an issue.
Another reason could be that the tube has been opened too many times, the lid was left off or screwed on loosely, or the paint was kept in a hot place for too long.
How to Prevent Your Acrylics from Drying
Well, not being able to use your acrylics can cause a lot of frustration. You’ll need to find ways to prevent them from drying out. So, here are some tricks that worked the best for us and hopefully will work for you.
Here’s how to keep acrylic paint from drying out:
- Keep the Tubes Capped – The last thing you want is a bottle of paint that’s dry and crusty. Not only do you want to cap your tubes after you’re done painting, but also between using colors. This can be easy to forget but is an essential tip for keeping the moisture inside the tube while painting. Don’t put the cap on too tightly, but as securely as possible to prevent spills or leakage while transporting it back home. If there’s any dried-up paint leftover from your project, use something like an old credit card to scrape it off. Make sure to dust away all remaining pieces before replacing the lid. Also, don’t forget about wiping down what remains with water, so no sticky residue gets stuck underneath.
- Keep Your Workspace Covered – Take care of your paint colors by setting up a protected workspace and minimizing the effects of sun or wind on them. In addition, use the tablecloth or even a more minor rag to cover your work surface before you start, so nothing gets scratched during this messy process.
- Paint Outdoors – It’s best to paint when the sun is not at its strongest. So morning or evening would be great times of day to do some fresh air art.
- Store the Colors in a Cool Space – Store your unused paints in a cool place, away from light and heat sources. You can also store your paint bottles upside down or sideways so that air bubbles don’t form and cause the paint to dry up too quickly.
- Place Them Horizontally – Make sure that you store them horizontally (not vertically). This way, the air will circulate and reduce the risk of creating a dried plug of paint in the tube. If possible, you can also place them near an open window.
Reviving paint once its dried can end up being a lot more work than simply following the above tips to prevent dried paint in the first place. These tips will also help you keep your paints nice and fresh for longer.
How to Rehydrate Acrylic Paint?
So, now that you know your acrylic paints can last you years, you’re probably wondering how you can keep yours hydrated so they’ll store this long.
But, what is the best way to fix dry or lumpy paint? You want it not only moist but also usable. We have a few tricks up our sleeves that will help you rejuvenate your dried-out acrylic paints in no time.
Before now, drying out was inevitable for any artist who didn’t store their art supplies correctly. Thankfully, this has changed with some of these life-saving tips and techniques.
How to fix dried acrylic paint:
- Keep a Spray Water Bottle – A small spray bottle of water is a great tool to have on hand when painting. You can keep the paint moist with some light spraying now and then so that it doesn’t dry out too quickly or become unusable. Besides, the type of water you use does not make much difference if tap will suffice for you. Distilled water may be worth investing in, though, for best results. Be careful not to add too much water, or you can alter the texture and break down the paint.
- Use a Stay-Wet Palette – With a stay-wet palette, you can keep your paints moist from above and below. Not only will this make mixing colors easier, but it’ll also save time. If you want to keep your acrylic colors moist and usable all day, replace the lid on your palette with a secure seal. A damp environment will help maintain their longevity for days–just be sure not to open it.
- Use Retarders or Slow-Dry Mediums – To create more time for your artistry to shine, you should use an acrylic gel or medium that extends your acrylics’ “open” time. By adding a retarder into your mix, it will be able to stay wet longer. Therefore, you won’t have to work with stiff and dried material when trying out different techniques on top of one another.
- Keep Stirring the Colors – Once you have mixed the thinning medium or diluter in the colors and it has been fully incorporated, add a few more drops to it. Keep stirring it until your paint has reached the perfect consistency because it will be smooth and creamy.
- Try Agitators – A mixer or agitator is typically called a “mixing ball.” It’s usually just an ordinary tiny sphere-like object that can be put into jars full of dried-up paints to help mix them all up again.
In general, the key is to make sure your paints aren’t sitting out soaking up the air and sunlight. Always keep them in a moist or air-tight environment to avoid drying.
How Long Can Acrylic Paints Last?
The expiration date of acrylic paints depends on many factors, and it can vary depending on the type, age, exposure to the elements, and how they were stored. Also, new paints will last longer than old ones.
Generally, however, acrylic paint that is stored and looked after properly will last up to 5 years and some high-quality paints can even last up to 10 years.
The most common way acrylic paints can go bad is if they dry out, so it’s essential to keep them away from direct sunlight and not expose them to extreme temperatures. If you do this, then your paint should be good for five or even more years.
Some Tips for Acrylic Paintings
Now that you know how to keep your acrylic paint from drying out and what to do if it’s already dried, we have some bonus tips for you when it comes to working with acrylics.
Tips for painting with acrylics:
- Acrylics should only be thinned with water by about 30% or less. Thinning the paint too much will result in a deposit of pigment without enough acrylic binder to create a stable paint film. This, in turn, can cause cracking and painting problems down the road.
- Creating a larger-than-life masterpiece is not for the faint of heart. For starters, you need quality supplies to get started, and it can be hard to tell which paints are best or what types of surfaces will work well. Therefore, you will need to try them first on smaller-scale projects such as small paintings, sketches, or drawings.
- Remember, you need to be extra cautious about the brushes. So, make sure to clean your paintbrushes with mild soap and water after each painting session to avoid dried paint from getting stuck in the bristles. If possible, use synthetic brushes with acrylic colors. We have another article on how to clean dried acrylic paint from paintbrushes.
- Lastly, introduce palette knives to your painting life. These are used to mix paints on a canvas, but they’re sometimes also utilized in the painting itself. These knives usually have flat handles or ones with slight bends depending on your preference.
These tips will have you on your way to mastering this wonderful medium in no time. Let us know how your painting turned out!
There’s no need to worry about fixing your dried acrylic paints. With these simple steps, you can keep your color fresh and ready to use for days. Now, with a bit of preparation, the next time you dip your brush in acrylic paint, it will be easier than ever.
We hope that this article has given you the knowledge and tools to fix your dried acrylic paints. Happy painting!
Up Next: How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Wood