How Long Do Watercolour Paints Last?

Working with watercolour paint is a great way to express one’s artistic style, as watercolours are relatively easy to use, are great for beginners, and are available at several different price points. For new artists, it can be intimidating to learn the proper way to care for your watercolour paint, regardless of brand or price, to ensure that they last well and maintain a good quality so that your work is not impeded by aging or fading of the paints. In this article, we will provide all of the information you need to maintain the longevity of your paints. 

How Long Do Watercolour Paints Last? 

​All watercolour paints, as with most artistic mediums, do have an expiration date, but the length of time paints can last vary between types (tubed or panned watercolour), and brand of paint, as well as how you store and take care of your paints. A typical tube of watercolour paint can typically last up to 5 years, most manufacturers say, while a pan of watercolour can last up to 10 years. While this is generally the rule, many other sources have said that those numbers are simply baselines, and that panned watercolours can last indefinitely with proper storage.

​Pans of paint can last for so long because they are stored in a dry state, meaning there is no moisture present to cultivate mold or other unwanted contaminants. So, if you allow your panned watercolour paints to dry properly before storing them they should theoretically last until they run out of product. Tube paint, while stores in a more liquified state, is kept in tubes designed to seal very tightly shut, which also is a deterrent for the production of anything that could tamper with or ruin the paint product. The general rule of thumb, especially for panned watercolours, is that if it looks okay it probably is okay to create with, but testing paints that have been left untouched for extended periods on a small scrap section before you begin to create is always a good practice. 

What Can Reduce The Life Of Your Watercolours? 

​Usually, the main reason that tubed watercolour paint goes bad is that it is not sealed properly after use and is left to dry up in the tube it is packaged in. Eventually, your tubed paints will dry out over time no matter how well you care for them, but there are many things you can do to maintain the longevity of your paint to ensure it lasts to allow you to continue to create. 

​Make sure to keep as much added moisture away from your paints as possible, as mold is the main contributor to a watercolour paint’s decreased lifespan. With panned paint, this means allowing it to air dry before sealing and storing it, especially if you plan to seal that paint for a long while. Allowing water or other liquids to be sealed into the packaging/containers with the paint will not allow the products to dry effectively and will create a great environment for the mold that will ultimately ruin your paints. 

​With tubed paint, this means trying to avoid over-squeezing the tube to produce unnecessary amounts of paint during your session, and instead only gathering the amount that you think you’ll need for your one session. If left out incorrectly, this tubed liquid paint could cultivate mold quite quickly that can ruin your entire palette. Proper storage of your liquid watercolours is also very important, so ensure that the caps are placed correctly and tightly upon each tube after each use. 

If your watercolour paint tubes have become solid, then there are ways in which you can revive your paints. One of the ways is simply take out the dried watercolour block from the tube using a craft knife or similar cutting tool. After that, you can revive the paint in the tube or take rocky chunks out of the palette. Once you do, start adding water till you get the consistency you need from your watercolours.

​Improper storage can also reduce the life of your watercolour paints. Storing your tubes and palettes in low-humidity environments is key to ensuring your paints last a long while. Storing your paints in an air-conditioned room or area is recommended, but an air dehumidifier can also be a great option. 

How To Care For Your Watercolour Paints

​Treating your watercolour paints with care is what will allow you to get the most use out of them, and will prevent you from having to repurchase new tubes or pans in an untimely manner. Allowing dried panned paint to completely dry after use is a great practice to follow before you put them away for storage, and ensuring there are no cracks or breaks in the containers you have for them is also vital.

​A similar practice should be followed for tubed paint, as any holes or tears in the tube packaging will cause a premature drying out of your paints that may be irreversible. Additionally, if you are using a palette for your liquid paints that is able to be sealed, ensure that you are not attempting to seal copious amounts of liquid paint all at once, and ensure that the seal is air-tight each time you put the palette to rest at the end of your painting sessions. This will prevent any liquid or moist air from entering into that space and causing an unwanted paint contamination or mold growth. 

All in all, in practicing careful use of your watercolour paints, you could maintain the same set for a very long time. Ensuring that the set that you have works best for you and does not hinder your creative abilities is very well achieved through proper care and maintenance of your paints. If ever you see mold growing on your paints or suspect some of your paints have gone bad, the best thing to do would be to test them on a scrap surface and then, if confirmed unusable, immediately throw them out lest they inadvertently cause mold growth to spread. This spread of contamination can happen most commonly in panned paints that are stored in the same container, so clean out the affected pan quickly and completely. 


Watercolours are one of the most beautiful mediums to use in painting, and a key part of that is having functional and healthy paints. With proper care and utilisation, your paints should last you until you have completely used them up. Many people believe that watercolour paints have a lifetime that one must not exceed to get the most out of them. For example, most manufactures say that watercolour paints have a lifetime of 5-10 years, but in reality, they never truly expire. The only thing that happens to them is that the quality may deteriorate with time. That is because, with time, the pigment of the watercolour paint will separate from the binding again. It will keep happening till your watercolour paints can’t be revived at all, no matter how much water you use. Saying that, watercolour pans require very little maintenance and can last a long, long time.