How to Save Left Over Oil Paint

I was absolutely amazed recently whilst scrolling through Instagram, checking out some of my favourite artists, to see a high profile international artist, with over ten thousand followers, remark that she always squeezed out way too much oil paint at the start of her day and hates scraping it into the bin at the end of the day.

WAIT! WHAT? You waste paint?

My Number One Art Tip and Trick to preserve oil paint – Freeze It!

There is absolutely no need to waste paint.  No, no, no, no, no.

Oil paint is expensive…I’m talking some series 5 tubes costing the same price as a divine pair of leather shoes.    Yep, that much and I certainly don’t want to bin any portion of that. Even a couple of tubes of series 1 can certainly add up over just a few large paintings.

The answer is – Freeze it.

Why freezing oil paint works

Linseed oil, the predominate oil in oil paint, has a low freezing point of around -20c.  Most home freezers are set at around -17c and therefore will not freeze the oil paint, but instead preserve it, slowing the rate of oxidisation and evaporation that hardens paint. (Note that temperatures lower than -20c will cause the paint to become brittle and fragile.) Bringing the paints back to room temperature happens very quickly, allowing the paints to be reusable many times over.

Depending on the size of your freezer, you may be able to just wrap your whole palette in plastic wrap and pop it into the freezer in one easy step. I don’t use a portable palette, preferring a large sheet of glass (old fridge shelves) as my palette, so this isn’t an option for me. I’ve also got a ridiculously small box freezer.

How to make a freezer palette for saving oil paint

To solve my freezer space issues,  I’ve sourced some plastic A4 stationary cases to stack in my freezer drawer…one for skin tones when I have a portrait on the easel, one for daily squeezed paint and one spare. You can find these in Australia at Officeworks.  Try a large stationary stockist overseas.

Plastic stationary case, repurposed for freezing oil paint
Plastic stationary case, repurposed for freezing oil paint
Saving oil paint in the freezer
Freezer tray setup for saving oil paint – this is a case that has been used for around 4 months and it really needs a freshen up!
Freezing oil paint, Mia Laing Artist
Mdf board cut to size for freezing oil paint…I’m needing to peel off the contact paper and start a fresh board after around 4 months of use.

My hubby cut me some 3 ply board, sized to fit the plastic cases. I either cover these with freezer paper, masking taped to the back or clear contact paper will also do the trick.

When I have a portrait painting, I will often make the effort (cause it is an effort) to premake all my dominant skin tones and store these in a freezer case.  For the rest of my paintings, I will always make a big batch of chromatic black (I’ll share my recipe some day soon) and fill the case with decent squeezes of my most used colours. At the end of my paint day, it’s a quick matter of scraping bigger blobs of seperate colours (free of any medium) into the freezer case or if there isn’t much paint left, mixing it all together to make a blob of whatever colour it makes!! Seriously, some awesome colours get made with these odd mixes.  Gamblin actually makes a colour called  ‘Torrit Grey’ that has been made from left over paint. They give it away and each year have a paint competition to see how painters use it. I was recently given a ‘torrit grey’ and it’s been a great addition to my palette.

So there you have it, no more waste and money saved for the important things…like shoes and paintbrushes.

😊Mia

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