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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? :)


  • 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 2019

    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 2019
    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 2019

    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 2019
    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.
  • 21 days and done. By 22 days the Hansa Yellow and Mixed Brown are setting too much.

    Still 21 days without clove oil.. :)

    It's a shame Phthalo Blues and Green dry so quickly whatever brand is used. I like the chroma in them for a more opaque saturated blue and green.
  • I can't remember where I heard it or read it but the suggestion was to put the palette in the fridge covered in cling film/shrink wrap to keep paints open longer if that helps?
  • This set of testing helped me identify a range of pigments and brands which stayed open the longest. These paints held promise for me to use them in a palette which stays open for at least 3 weeks (It normally take me 2-3 weeks to complete a painting), when stored in the dark and with a walnut oil medium - without solvents, or anti-oxidants, freezing, immersing in water or anything else.

    I then tested colours on the palette and found a curious thing. Some of the paints which stayed open the longest started setting up quick quickly under the brush. I have tested the colours now and found a range that stay open for (just) 3 weeks, but all of them dry quicker than what the first drying tests showed.

    So I'm theorising that some of the paint films were soft and able to be removed with the rubber tool even though the paint was no longer movable with a brush. The biggest culprit I found was with the W&N Carbon Black which tacked up in only 3 days yet lasted 34 days in my first test.

    The Arylides, Pyrrols have so far also dried quicker than the first testing phase showed (but at least 21 days). My W&N French Ultramarine Blue has just dried after 26 days and I got 24 days originally, so I'm wondering if the mineral nature of the pigment is the difference here compared to the organics.

    Still some colours to dry, and variations to try. But all very interesting to me anyway. :)
  • edited January 25
    Roxy said:
     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.
    For how long does Clove Oil retain its paint-anti-oxidizing prowess? If it goes "rancid," does that make it not only extremely unpleasant to work with, but also unproductive as a slowing agent?

    I am just starting out, and will be using all Geneva paints to begin, and I also have a large container of the Geneva Brush Dip and am just wondering if the brush dip will "go bad" after a while?

    I also picked up some linseed oil to have on hand to use for oiling out as needed, etc.  My question is, does it go rancid quickly like flaxseed oil?  -- And, if it does go "bad," or somehow change in a way that makes it not acceptable to use on a painting-- how long does it take for Linseed to "go bad" (before and) after opening?

  • Dustin_Cropsboy

    As a phenol, clove oil should be fine for 4 to 5 years in a dark, sealed container in a cool place.
    I would mark my bottles of clove oil with a three year use by date to be safe.

    Woodworkers keep linseed oil for decades. Protect from light, heat and oxygen.

    Rancidity is about oxidation, affecting the taste and smell. In most cases a slight oxidation will not alter the oil’s benefits in the art process.


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