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How long do you need paints to stay open?

Just curious as to how long people really need paints to stay open for?

A realistic painting for me takes around 2-3 weeks (I only have a few hours each day on average). Ideally I like paints to say open for at least 3 weeks..

What about you all? :)


  • PaulBPaulB mod
    I think 2 days would be best for me. Edge work is hard when the paint dries rapidly.  Dust accumulation is bad when it stays open too long.
  • I am currently working on a large painting, I need to keep my paints open for 6 and 7 weeks. Most any other time is 3 to 5 weeks.
  • Such a difference between your two approaches! 
  • A month ( in my location) would be ideal, as i tend to go slower and step away for days, to build pergolas in my garden etc,..

    Are you working on a secret formula ????
  • dencaldencal -
    edited October 11

    Four weeks ought to cover my short burst style of paint application. My small containers for values are open for about six weeks.

  • One or two days open time is more than enough for me. With certain subjects - water for example - I like to paint light reflections over darker water and I don't like the colours to blend so it's good if the darks are somewhat dry. Same with foliage. But painters who like to blend a lot will prefer longer open time.
  • With the switch to Rublev lead white I'm lucky if my lighter values stay usable on the palette for more than a few hours :)

    The downside to the drying time is obvious, but the upside is that the paint dries so fast I don't have to wait to avoid painting into mud. I've found that if you're just mixing as you go the drying time isn't that big of a problem.
  • how does one keep oil paint open for 3 weeks???  I have a masterson Tupperware type sealed box for palettes and will put q-tips with clove oil but after just a few days....  I'm pushing the limits of working it...…    

    I just have to trust that I can mix anything again and it will be even better.  

     I would say 3 days MAX for me.
  • If you only need the paint to last 2-3 days then you have a lot of options.

    If you are talking about weeks then you have more restrictions. One of the reasons why I did the drying tests I have been working on is because I'm looking to find the paints that stay open longest without clove oil (as I've grown to dislike the smell).

    Some pigments dry faster than others, and some do stay open a very long time. Although I've not tested it, using a pigments that dries slowly and storing a palette/painting in the dark with clove oil in a fluid medium should give you paints that last the longest.

  • Richard_P

    I rarely notice clove oil and when I do it is quite pleasant. A good flow through air circulation means low odour concentrations.


  • edited October 8
    I don't mind clove oil at all but budget restraints made me switch to using walnut oil for a month (7 weeks) now. We also have high humidity where I live which adds to keeping it open and slows drying and cool weather upon us now.

     As I got used to working with the qualities of clove oil and to know its properties so well, I am now learning how to use walnut oil and learning of its qualities as I go. It stays wet longer than clove oil, less amount is needed to keep my paints open and I most often work with thick paint straight from the tube. Works real well on cotton balls or q-tips carefully placed in a glass covered palette to keep thick paints open for extended periods. By the end of 6/7 weeks much paint has already dried, most of whatever leftover wet paint is on the palette is no longer useful, but not all of it. In my most recent painting, my higher values for highlights are still quite good at the moment but not for very much longer at all. I also notice the scent of clove oil slowly leaving my space.
  • I often only get time to work at night after our daughter is asleep. So I can't keep windows open then as most of the year it's too cold, and when it's not we get mosquitoes and other insects coming in the house.
  • I mix my own medium and when I  find the paint getting to thick I will add more medium to it.  It will stay nice until I use it up.
  • I work with quick drying paints such as Daniels Smith...they become dry overnight so no options; plus paint during nine months of summer dries within a day with clove or without. So, again no options!  :) I sort of changed my technique.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited October 9

    Don’t let your workspace limit and constrain your art. You could end up painting watercolour postcards.
    Insect screens are easy to make/buy. Air flow heating would help. What about a silent exhaust fan on the roof?


  • I have recently switched from SDM to walnut oil with 1-2% clove oil and get 2-4 weeks with a covered palette (depending on season). There must be different types or grades of clove oil I think, as the stuff I use I cannot smell at all in use. It is a fairly clear greenish colour and quite runny, and I can only really smell it if I stick my nose over the bottle - and then it is a fresh clove odour. I did have another brand of clove oil that was much darker and thicker and really did reek unpleasantly, but i had assumed it had gone rancid.
  • 1-2% is quite low, I use more but then you have a stronger smell.
  • So far after my first set of testing I have narrowed the paints down and tested a palette of DMP style colours which have stayed open in a dark box when mixed with walnut oil to a fluid consistency for 18 days. I'm hoping to get to 21 days or 3 weeks.. this is without clove oil or another antioxident/water/fridge method.
  • edited October 10
    You may want to add a couple of cotton balls or a few q-tips with walnut oil as well.
  • Walnut oil on cotton balls shouldn't do anything. It's the clove oil vapour that has the anti-oxidant effect when used with cotton wool balls.
  • Thanks for affirming, I wasn't sure about it. Now happy, back to painting. Lol.
  • 20 days. Think a few colours are starting to get less fluid.

    I'm really pleased though. Although I can't use some pigments without antioxidants like clove oil, I don't have to use them and have a palette stay open this long.
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