How long can you leave oil paint out? Essential Tips for Artists

Preserving oil paints is a simple process but can create troubles if you don’t do it. If you ever want to know about the preservation of oil paints and the techniques to handle them, first you need to become familiar with places and methods that are useful to store your oil paints. The improper storing of oil paint can lead to discoloration, drying issues, and permanent damage.

This blog aims to provide a complete guide about how long can you leave oil paint out and tips to store oil paint. Let’s dive into the blog and discover the secrets to keeping your oil paints safe and stored properly.

How Long can you leave oil paint out?

Oil paint can be left out for a few hours to a couple of days but no more than that as it will start getting harder and losing its original glow. If the paint has been left out directly under sunlight, UV rays can cause discoloration which can affect the paint’s ability within a few hours. In the studio, oil paint can be left out for 2 days.

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This is common to leave the paint out for a night, especially in oil painting. Oil paint contains linseed oil that slows its drying time and we cannot expect the oil paint to dry within a day or two days. Oil paintings have a beauty that an artist can work for months on a single painting without fearing the quick drying of oil paints like acrylic paints.

It is not necessary that oil paints will always dry in a certain manner. Environmental, material and other factors play an important role in drying time. Some artists often found their oil paints to dry within a few days but there were some conditions and that case study has been mentioned below in the preformatted.

Real Time Case Study: 

A beginner found his oil paints to dry within a day. He was so confused for that uncertain manner of the oil paints. He was from Canada and he used to oil paint near a fireplace. After research, it was found that his paint's quality was poor and indeed temperature and the environment also played a big role there. 

Read complete information: Why is my oil paint drying so fast?

How long can you store oil paint?

When stored properly in a cool and dry place, oil paints can last for several years, most probably 20 years. In other words, oil paints don’t get expired because they don’t go bad if they are sealed tightly.

However, oil paint in a tube without being used even one time can last for more than 50 years but if you left the tube without cover under sunlight, it will go bad in a few weeks. Going bad means it will become harder but hardening can also be fixed by using linseed oils or paint thinners.

If you want to prevent your oil paint from getting harder, check the tips to prevent the oil paint from drying up.

  • Store the oil paint in an airtight container such as a metal or glass containers
  • You must store the oil paints in a cool and dry place
  • Humidity is dangerous for the natural quality of oil paints, so store the oil paints in an environment with moderate humidity levels.

Things to store the oil paint

Oil paint is not suitable to be stored in every utensil or container. The reason is that oil paint contains solvents that are strong enough to break the sealed containers after some time. Only some materials are recommended to store the oil paints. below are some materials to store the oil paint:


Oil paint always comes in sealed metal tubes that are usually made of tin. They are best due to their durability, ability to provide a tight seal, moisture control, and maintaining quality. These tubes are also ideal for shipping and storing due to their durability.

The ability to create an airtight seal is the most important characteristic of the metal tubes that can help to make the oil paint fresh even for 50 years.

Glass Jars

Glass jars can also be used to store the paint because they are the same in characteristics but there are more chances for the jar to break if it is not handled properly. Glass jars are transparent that can provide an easy view of the pigment color. There is a need to seal the jar tightly so air cannot go inside.

Glass jars can be used as an alternative storage option but we don’t recommend using them over metal tubes. If you have metal tubes then prefer them first.


It is not recommended to store the oil paints in a refrigerator because the cold air will cause the linseed oil to separate and freeze. This will introduce some new issues that can negatively affect the quality of the oil paint. As we discussed earlier that oil paints cannot stay good in moisturization. The fridge is full of moisturization that can cause problems.


Plastic is also not recommended because oil paint contains Volatile Organic Compounds that will be evaporated to make the oil paint thicken and dry. In this way, we will not be able to use the oil paint again

How long does oil paint last on canvas?

Oil paint can stay for a very long time on canvas depending upon the quality of the oil paint, environment, and care. In good condition and with proper care, oil paint can last for centuries but in bad conditions and poor care, it may last for a few months as well. A properly prepared canvas also promotes the longevity of oil paint.

The famous oil painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci was created in 1503 but still it is in good condition. However, there are some cracks if you see the Mona Lisa painting closely. Today, preservation techniques are more effective and more developed as compared to the past and we have a written knowledge about the storage techniques. It means that we can prolong the longevity of our oil paints easily.

Important To Note: Certain factors such as sunlight, humidity, temperature, pollution and improper handling can also affect the life of oil paint on canvas and cause cracks. 

Things to avoid

To prolong the life of oil paint on canvas, we advise you to keep the oil painting away from the sunlight because it contains UV rays that cause discoloration of the pigments and also cause cracks. Cleaning and maintenance are also recommended but do not repeat the process every day. One time in a month is enough to keep the painting clean.


Can you store oil paint in a freezer?

Oil paint cannot be stored in a freezer because the temperature will not be the same and the freezing of linseed oil will led to the low consistency of the paint. Instead of putting a freezer, use metal tubes and store them in cool and dry places.

Can you store oil paint in plastic?

It is not recommended to store the oil paint in a plastic container as plastic is not strong enough to hold the solvents in the paint.

Final Words

Oil painting is the most beautiful art style and the most famous paintings are oil paintings. An artist is the one who is responsible to create such masterpieces but beyond talent and skills, there is also a need for quality and professionalism that can only be achieved if the materials used are of the best quality. To maintain the quality of oil paints, it is necessary to store them in cool, dry, and suitable places. Oil paint can be left out for a maximum of 2 days but after that, the paint will start getting harder and drier. Also, make sure to prefer only metallic tubes and glass jars to store the oil paints.

The life span of oil paints is very long if you store them in a favorable condition. The famous paintings from the history are more than 500 centuries old but they are still in good condition. Good care can lead to good paint life. Last but not least, “painting is another way of keeping a diary”.

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