Airbrush paint does not have an expiration date on it but that does not mean that airbrush paint doesn´t expire. The problem is that there are so many airbrush paints and brands out there that it is difficult to accurately say how long airbrush paint generally lasts. The time Airbrush Paint lasts for also depends heavily on how well it is stored. In this article, I will do my best to tell you exactly how to identify if your airbrush paint has gone bad or not, how to properly store it, and how long different types of paints and different brands of paint generally last for.
But before we get there let´s get one thing straight right out of the gate.
Airbrush paint can go bad. Airbrush paints can last anywhere between 3 to 15 years depending on how well they are stored and what type of paints they are. Some airbrush paint can last for even longer than that if stored properly. Oil-based paints, for example, are known to last for a very long time while water-based paints tend to expire sooner.
While most airbrush paints last at least 3 years there really isn´t a guarantee for that. If the paint is stored poorly than it might only last for a few months.
But generally, if your paint is not stored in the worst conditions ever then any paint that is less than 2 years old should still be good.
Signs That Your Airbrush Paint is Expired
Fortunately, the signs of expired paint are pretty obvious to spot once you know what to look for.
So I will tell you exactly what you have to look for!
The Paint Has Clumps in it
This is probably the most obvious sign of a expired paint.
If it has thickened or if it has clumps in it then chances are that your paint has gone bad.
There are people out there that would tell you that this is no big deal and depending on the paint you could actually just add some water and then shake it until the clumps are gone.
But even though this works with some paints, like acrylic paints and some water-based airbrush paints, I would not recommend doing it.
It seems like it is working but the paint will not be like it was before. It will probably clog your airbrush or it will not dry properly. Even though there are instances where this can actually work for me these instances are more the exception and not the rule.
So I generally recommend not using paint that has clumped up anymore. Simply throw it away and save yourself any potential problems later on.
The Paint Has Separated
This can happen to a lot of oil-based paints if they are older.
You will see that the paint has separated from some of the oil and from the binder.
This is usually not a bad thing as you can simply mix the two components together and the paint should be good to use again.
But this is only true if the paint has a nice consistency to it once the separated components are mixed back together.
If the paint has clumps in it or if the paint is very thick all of a sudden then you should not use it because it could clog your airbrush or it might not stick properly to the surface that it has been applied to.
The Paint Has Dried Out
This is obviously a sign that your paint has gone bad.
Paint usually only dries out when the container or the tube that the paint is in was damaged in any way or if they werent sealed correctly.
Even though there are a lot of different theories and tips out there that will tell you that dried out paint can be revived I personally would not recommend it.
If the paint was oil-based or then reviving it is pretty much impossible if the paint was waterbased then reviving it might seem like a possibility but the outcome will never be as good as the paint was before it dried out.
How Long do Different Types of Paint Last For
Water-based paints include acrylic paint and some airbrush paints. You can read the instructions on the container to find out if your paint is water-based or not.
Water-based paints can last up to 10 years if they are stored correctly.
In some rare cases, the paints can even last longer than that.
Oil-based paints include Enamel-Paints, Laquer paints, and some airbrush paints. You can read the instructions on the package to find out if your paints are oil-based or not.
Oil-based paints can last up to 15 years or even longer if stored properly.
How to Store Airbrush Paint Properly to Ensure its Longevity
Now, that we covered how to identify paint that has gone bad it´s probably time to take a look at how to prevent paint from going bad.
The one thing that can be done to drastically improve the longevity of any paint is to store it correctly.
There are three big things that are important when it comes to storing paint properly.
The Location, the Climate, and Agigate your Paints from time to time.
The Location Where You Store Your Paints
Generally, you should not store your paints outside. Airbrush paints won´t survive very high or very low temperatures.
You can read the instructions of your airbrush paints to get the recommended storing temperature.
Make sure, that your paints are easily accessible and in a dry and weather-protected location.
Store your paints upright and don´t store them in a location where they could fall down. Or might have a big mess at your hands in the future.
So in short, store your airbrush paints indoors in a dry and weather-protected location. Store your paints in an easily accessed location in order to be able to agitate them from time to time. And make sure, that the paints can not fall down easily.
I usually store my paints in my garage and some of my more expensive paints are stored on a shelf inside my apartment.
Provide the Optimal Climate Conditions for Your Airbrush Paints
It doesn´t really matter where you store your airbrush paints as long as they are protected and as long as you can ensure that the temperatures are as constant as possible.
The temperature surrounding your airbrush paints should not exceed the optimal storing temperatures given on the package.
Generally airbrush paints should be stored at a temperature between 60°F and 75°F. So basically room temperature.
Also make sure, that no heating element (like a heater) is near your paints. You should also store your paints at a location where no sunlight can hit them directly.
Direct sunlight could heat up the can or tube of your airbrush paint. This could damage your paint after a while.
So in short, try to keep your paints at the right temperature. For most airbrush paints this temperature is between 60°F and 75°F. Try to keep your paints away from any direct sunlight or other heat sources. And make sure that your paints don´t cool down too much either.
Agitate You Airbrush Paint From Time to Time
Every type of paint needs to be agitated from time to time to avoid any separation.
Simply pick up the paint and shake it a little bit. You don´t need to do this every day either. It´s more than enough to shake your airbrush paints once a month to keep them from going bad over time.
By regularly agitating them you can avoid any separation and you can keep your paint from getting clumpy over time.
Expired Airbrush Paint can Cause Problems if it is Used
You should never use expired paint for airbrushing, or for painting in general for that matter.
There are several reasons for that but the two most prominent reasons are that you could clog your airbrush and that expired paint might not work properly anymore.
Clogging the Airbrush
If you use expired paint then there is the danger of clogging your airbrush.
Expired paint tends to get clumpy and thicker. Both things are not desirable when you want to use the paint for airbrushing.
Even when only small clumps have formed inside the paint that can still be enough to badly clog your airbrush at which point you have to take that thing apart and clean it completely. Which is very annoying to do.
Expired paint can´t really permanently damage your airbrush, so don´t worry. But it is still annoying to make the airbrush work again after has been clogged once.
So do yourself a favor and just don´t use expired paint for airbrushing anymore.
The Expired Airbrush Paint Might Not Work Anymore
It sounds weird but it is true.
Expired paint sometimes doesn´t work properly anymore.
What I mean by that is, that expired paint sometimes doesn´t properly stick to the surface its been applied to anymore or it might not have the opacity or even coloration it had before it was expired.
So even if you manage to spray your expired airbrush paint that doesn´t guarantee success.
The paint might not stick to the surface properly and peel off after a short while or it might not cover the surface fully because it´s opacity has ben reduced greatly.
Slight discoloration of expired paint is unusual but it can happen sometimes.
So I would generally just recommend not using any expired paints anymore and instead just buying new ones. If I had followed this advice from the beginning of my crafts-journey then I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and time.
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.