The shelf life of artists’ colours


We are often asked how long our artists' colours last. This question cannot be answered in general terms, as the shelf life of the individual types of artists' colours varies greatly depending on the material and also depends on many external factors.

We often receive artist colour ranges that are decades old from inheritances. These are analysed and tested in our laboratory and it is always amazing that the colours can still be used perfectly even after such a long time.

In order to give you an indication, we state the expected shelf life, which can be far exceeded if stored correctly. For an optimum shelf life, it is important that containers such as tubes, bottles, jars or pots are hermetically sealed and undamaged.

The following overview provides a rough guide to the ideal storage conditions for Schmincke artists' colours, what needs to be observed and the approximate shelf life.

A production number on all products enables us to recognise the production date.


Pastel sticks last indefinitely when stored in a dry place as they are essentially made of pure pigment. Pastel colours are certainly the longest-lasting artists' colours.

Oil colours


Due to their oil content, oil colours can also be kept and applied for a very long time. When using large containers with a large surface area, it is not uncommon for oil colours to separate and/or form a skin during storage. In such a case, we recommend carefully removing the excess oil and/or skin before processing. 

Our tip: To avoid rapid skin formation again, large oil paint surfaces should always be well covered with foil. By the way: After many years, it is occasionally possible that the drying time of the oil colours has increased. We therefore recommend an individual pre-test in the desired painting technique, especially for older oil colours.

Water- and gouache colours

HORADAM Aquarell, Aqua Drop, HORADAM  Gouache,  Designers‘ Gouache, Calligraphy Gouache and AKADEMIE Gouache

Tube colours such as watercolour and gouache, i.e. water-based colours, have a shorter shelf life. We provide a guarantee of 3 years, but the colours can often be used for much longer. Dried gouache and watercolours can also be dissolved with water and reused again.

Watercolours in pans

HORADAM Aquarell and AKADEMIE Aquarell

Watercolours can be kept almost indefinitely in a pan, if stored correctly: no water should be allowed to remain in the pan and the box should only be closed when the watercolours are dry. Colours should always be stored in a dry place at room temperature (15 - 30°C).

Linoprint colours


The same applies to water-based lino print inks as to water- and gouache colours in tubes. With proper storage and careful handling, a shelf life of over 3 years can also be guaranteed.

Acrylic colours

PRIMAcryl, AKADEMIE Acryl color, COLLEGE Acrylic and AERO COLOR Professional

Acrylic colours are also guaranteed for 3 years. They can often be used for much longer if stored appropriately. Once acrylic colours have dried, they can no longer be used. The following also applies strictly to acrylic colours: Please protect from frost.


The shelf life of the mediums depends primarily on the binder used for the respective product. In general, however, it can be stated that all AQUA and LINO mediums, as well as all mediums for acrylic painting, will last at least 3 years with good care, while non-aqueous oil mediums and varnishes or fixatives will last considerably longer. 

Summary: The more conscientiously you treat your material, the longer you will be able to enjoy it. Water-based artists' colours and mediums in particular should only be removed from their containers with clean and dry tools if necessary. Please also ensure that you close all containers tightly immediately after using the painting materials. In the case of products that are difficult to dissolve after drying, such as oil and acrylic colours, it is also helpful to wipe the necks of the tubes briefly with a cloth before closing them - this saves a lot of effort when opening them again later.

With regard to the optimal storage of all artists' colours and tools, the general recommendation "store in a cool, dry place" applies both at home and when travelling. Spray cans with varnishes or fixatives in particular should be protected from direct sunlight and temperatures above 50 °C, as these containers are pressurised.

The product properties and application examples described have been tested in the Schmincke laboratory. The information is based on our current technical knowledge and experience. Due to the variety of applications with regard to painting techniques, materials and processing conditions as well as numerous possible influences, the information represents general areas of application. A legally binding guarantee of certain properties or suitability for a specific purpose cannot be derived from our information; therefore the use of the products must be adapted to the specific conditions of the user and checked by means of tests. For these reasons, we cannot assume any warranty for product properties and/or liability for damage arising in connection with the use of our products.

By the way:

Details on product safety are available on our website Download/Safety Data Sheets. 
If you have any further specific technical questions, please contact the Schmincke laboratory team: 
T: +49 0211 / 2509-476