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"What is the shelf life of hobby paints?" Topic

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viper512122 Sep 2021 4:26 p.m. PST

Once a hobby paint is opened, and the cap re-closed on the bottle, what is the shelf life of that hobby paint?

Does the paint harden up over time in storage? If so, what can be done to make the paint usable again? And is it even worth it to use that old paint on an expensive miniature?


wpilon22 Sep 2021 4:44 p.m. PST

I've got both Vallejo and Coat d'Arms acrylics that are at least a decade old with no issues.

John Armatys22 Sep 2021 5:20 p.m. PST

It is a matter of luck, and the nature of the container (some are better than others. Like wpilon I've got some very old paint which it still in good condition, and I've had some go solid.

I occasionally check my paints and add a few drops of water to any that seem to be a bit thick. Once the paint is solid I don't know of a way of recovering it.

Blasted Brains22 Sep 2021 5:31 p.m. PST

The greatest determinant in shelf life is probably how clean the lid is before putting it away – and how well sealed.

I have had craft paints last over twenty years. Unlike wpilon, the vast majority of hobby paint has rarely lasted five years for me – a very few longer. The old Ral Partha paint probably my longest lasting hobby paints, might even have a rare pot or two still viable (I keep some old and dry RP pots for color matching).

The nature of acrylic paint is contact with the open air solidifies it. Storing upside down is one way to keep it longer because the paint helps provide a better seal.

Once dried out inside the bottle, I know of know use for acrylic paint.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2021 5:42 p.m. PST

I have 30-year old bottles of Polly S still in excellent condition. Store your paints in a cool, dark place for maximum longevity. Be sure to keep the cap clean of paint which can build up, harden and allow air to seep in.

I also have Vallejo and Reaper paints still in wonderful shape after 10 years or more. I don't think I've ever had a bottle go bad.

Conversely, I've had GW paints go rock hard in 60 days.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian22 Sep 2021 6:11 p.m. PST

I have bad luck with the 'large mouth' type containers (Renaissance Ink, Howard Hues) – they don't maintain a good seal, and the paint dries out.

Other paints seem essentially eternal.

Goober22 Sep 2021 6:30 p.m. PST

I have some of the original Citadel Colour paints from, what, 1983? 1985? I've got some Humbrol enamels that are probably 40 years old. On the other hand, I have chucked out plenty of more modern GW paints with the domed lids. Those ones are rubbish.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Sep 2021 6:48 p.m. PST

I have 20-30 year old craft paints. I shake all the bottles a couple times a years
Russ Dunaway

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2021 6:55 p.m. PST

I have a lot of craft and hobby paints that are 20+ years old and still perfectly fine.

The unidentifiable desiccated wood-hard fruit that I found behind the microwave, on the other hand …. sending it for radiocarbon dating.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2021 6:56 p.m. PST

I have Polly-S paints from the mid '70s that are still viable today.

khanscom22 Sep 2021 7:13 p.m. PST

Had a couple of Ral Partha bottles that were nearly 30 years old and still usable; some Delta craft paints that are 20+, and a few Humbrol enamels of similar vintage.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2021 7:36 p.m. PST

I had some Ral Partha and Musket Miniatures paint that was still good after 20+ years.

Wargamer Blue22 Sep 2021 8:15 p.m. PST

I have some Vallejo paint that is easily 20 years old and still good.

Zephyr122 Sep 2021 9:25 p.m. PST

I still have Citadel Colour paints (round and hex bottles) from 30+ years ago. The key is a good sealing lid (and keeping your paints at around room temp, never too hot or too cold… ;-)

Martin Rapier22 Sep 2021 11:51 p.m. PST

With acrylics, once they are set, you've had it. But a few drops of water and a good stir can revive the thickest paint. My oldest working paint pot is some Humbrol metallic gold which dates from the late 90s and has been revived many times.

The worst paints I found fir drying out are Colour Party. Take the lid off and they are rock solid in months. Storing them upside down seems to help a lot.

GW paints are variable, depending on the design of the lid.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine23 Sep 2021 1:22 a.m. PST

I've got some GW paints that are at least 15 years old and I've got some Army Painter paints that went bad after only a few months. Honestly there seems to be a big dose of luck involved.

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2021 5:33 a.m. PST

Craft paints….mine are about 20-25 yrs old….I store them upside down and shake them every so often.

JAFD2623 Sep 2021 7:45 a.m. PST

Had a bottle of the old Pactra enamel – Flat Steel Metallic – lasted 40 years.
OTOH, some acrylics became 'blobs of glop'. Have fished out the blobs with bent wire, dropped on wood or cardboard to make areas of 'rough terrain'

DyeHard23 Sep 2021 7:55 a.m. PST

I also have some original Ploy-S from 1976.

Not all have survived, but many have. Metallic paint seem to go bad the most quickly. Keep the jars well sealed, control temperature, and mix regularly and paint has a very long life indeed. I have some Floquil paint that was old along before I got it. 1950s? maybe older. These are lacquer based, with all the nasty solvents, but if you add back solvent and prevent from going completely dry, they are still good.

Personal logo Gonsalvo Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2021 12:57 p.m. PST

Likewise, I have a great many craft paints (Delta Ceramcoat, mostly), that are still going strong after more than 20 years.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2021 2:50 p.m. PST

I had some never opened Vallejo paint where the pigment precipitated out as sandy grit.
And I've had some cheap Ceramcote craft paint that outlasted the brittle degradation of the cap hinge.

kcabai23 Sep 2021 4:45 p.m. PST

I have a few tins of Humbrols: Brown Bess and Rifle Green, that were still viable with a dash of solvent. Originally purchased in 1976.

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