The shelf life of Schmincke artists' colours

Here at Schmincke, we are often asked how long our artists’ colours are stable. This question isn’t always easy to answer, because the shelf life of the different types of artists’ colours can vary, depending on the material as well as on outside factors. From descendant’s estates, we often receive artists’ colours that are decades old. They are analysed and tested in our laboratory, and it is often amazing how suitable for use the colours still are after such a long time.

To give you a point of reference, we have listed the various prospective shelf lives, which can be significantly extended if stored properly. The following overview gives you a basic idea of the necessary conditions for the ideal storage of Schmincke artists’ colours, what must be observed and the respective approximate shelf life. All products have a production number, which make it possible to ascertain the production date.  




The shelf life of pastels is unlimited when stored in a dry place, because they are basically made of pure pigment. Pastels have the longest shelf life of all artists’ colours.  



Resin oil colours or oil colours

MUSSINI®, Norma® Professional, AKADEMIE® Oil colour.

Oil colours also have a very long shelf life due to their oil/resin content. It is important – as with every tube of colour – that the tubes are sealed airtight and undamaged. After many years, it is possible that the drying time of the oil colours will have increased. 


Watercolours and Gouache colours in tubes

HORADAM® AQUARELL and HORADAM® GOUACHE, HKS® Designers‘ Gouache, Calligraphy Gouache and AKADEMIE® Gouache

The shelf life of colour tubes such as watercolours and gouache, or water-based colours, is shorter. We indicate the prospective shelf life to be 5 years. The colours are often still useable after a much longer time. Gouache and watercolour tubes that have dried out can also be dissolved in water repeatedly and used.  


Watercolours in pans


In pans, the shelf life of watercolour is nearly unlimited if stored properly. No water may remain in the pan and the case should not be closed until the paint is dry. Dry storage at normal room temperature is also recommended.


Acrylic colours

PRIMAcryl®, AKADEMIE® Acryl color, College® and AERO COLOR® Professional

Because they are water-based, the shelf life of acrylic colours is also limited to approximately five years, and they are the most dependent on airtight, room temperature storage. Acrylic colours that have dried out are no longer useable. Therefore: the more care you apply in handling your materials, the longer you will be able to enjoy them! Please ensure proper storage temperatures (frost-free, but not too warm), and normal humidity at all times, and mind for well closed and undamaged tubes. 



Linoprint colours

aqua-Linoprint colours, College® Linoprint colours

What applies to gouache and watercolour paints in tubes also goes for water-based linoprint colours. Under proper storage conditions and careful handling, a shelf life of 5 years can be expected.




As far as the Schmincke mediums are concerned, shelf life depends primarily on the binding agent used in the product in question. Broadly speaking, it can be said that all AQUA and LINO mediums have a shelf life of at least 5 years under proper storage conditions and with careful handling, like all mediums for acrylic painting. In contrast, the shelf life of non-aqueous, oil-based mediums, varnishes and fixatives is considerably longer.


So, as you can see: 

The more carefully you handle your materials, the longer you will be able to enjoy them! Here are the main points, once more in brief: it is especially important when handling water based artists' grade colours and mediums, that containers are opened only for immediate use and the media taken from their containers using only clean and dry implements. In addition, keep in mind to close all containers properly, immediately after use. In the case of products which are not readily resoluble, such as oil and acrylic colours, it is moreover advisable to wipe the paint off the threaded neck and cap of the tube with a cloth before screwing it shut. This will prevent the cap from getting stuck to the neck later, with dried out paint. As regards optimum storage conditions for all artists' grade colours and mediums at home and on the go, the general recommendation "store in a cool, dry place" applies.

Especially in the case of spray cans with varnishes and fixatives, it is imperative to keep them away from direct sunlight and protect them from temperatures above 50 °C, since these contain a liquid under pressure which may explode when heated.


Please see below!

The described product attributes and application examples have been tested in the Schmincke laboratory. The information is based on our current state of technical findings and experience. Due to the diversity of applications in terms of painting techniques, materials and working conditions, as well as numerous possible influences, this information is based on a general application range. A legally binding guarantee of specific attributes or the suitability for a specific usage purpose cannot be derived from our information; therefore the use of the products must be adapted to the users' individual conditions and tested in trials. For this reason, we cannot provide a warranty for product attributes and/or assume liability for damages that occur in connection with the use of our products.

For special questions please don´t hesitate to ask our team in the lab! The best way to get in contact with them is via mail at: