Common Problems With Acrylic Paint

Troubleshoot Acrylic Paint Issues

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Do you know how to revive old acrylic paint? Do you know when acrylic paint goes bad? If you’re new to the medium, you might be unsure how to handle some common acrylic paint problems. This acrylic paint guide will sort through some common complaints and give you some tips and tricks so that you can get back to painting.

  • 01 of 05

    The Paint May Have Gone Bad

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    Sometimes acrylic paint will dry out or separate in the tube. This malfunction doesn’t necessarily mean the acrylics have gone bad to the point where it’s no longer usable. Temperature changes can change the consistency of the paint, but acrylic paint usually becomes unusable due to mold growth.

    The easiest way to determine if acrylic paint has gone bad is to smell it. Expired acrylic paint will tend to have a sour, aged smell that could be the result of excess moisture where the paint was stored. The shelf life of acrylic paint is anywhere from 2 to 5 years if the tube has been opened and upwards of 10+ years if the container is sealed.

    What to Do With Old Paint

    Some people decide to use old acrylic paint. However, if the acrylic paint has developed a pungent smell similar to spoiled milk, your best bet is to toss the paint and start over.

  • 02 of 05

    The Paint Has Dried Up

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    Acrylic paint has dried up when the paint is stiff, thick, lumpy, and won’t come out of the tube easily. 

    How to Fix Lumpy Paint

    Usually, you can revive the lumpy acrylic paint if you can still get the paint out the tube. Since acrylics are water-based, you can add water and mix it into the paint using a palette knife until you develop a better consistency. Be sure not to mix in too much water, which could compromise the paint coverage and color. Too much water could also cause your paint to lift off the canvas once it’s dried. 

    Also, water becomes ineffective if the acrylic paint is rock hard. In this case, you can try to rework the paint with a clear acrylic base. To prevent the paint from drying in the first place,

  • 03 of 05

    The Paint Has Separated in the Tube

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    If you squeeze acrylic paint, and you find a tube of thick paint surrounded by a puddle of almost-clear liquid, then the paint has separated. In this instance, the pigment and binder are no longer adequately mixed. This paint separation is not necessarily something you've caused; it could be due to a manufacturer error or cheap paint.

    How to Revive Separated Acrylic Paint

    You can revive separated acrylic paint by mixing the pigment and binder back together with a palette knife. You could also return the paint to the store for a replacement.

  • 04 of 05

    The Paint Dries Too Fast

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    Most acrylic paint is designed to dry rapidly. However, sometimes the acrylic paint dries on the palette before you’ve had a chance to get it on the canvas. 

    How to Prolong Acrylic Paint Dry Time

    Try to eliminate any drafts where you’re painting by closing a window or turning off a fan. If you are painting outside on a windy day or hot, consider going inside. Also, keep a spray bottle on hand and gently mist down the canvas and palette every so often to keep things moist longer. Some people also add paint retarder to their paint. However, make sure you don’t use too much or your paint might never dry.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    The Paint is Not the Best Quality

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    There are several acrylic paint issues you can run into when you are using cheaper paints. If you are a beginner painter, spending less on acrylic paint makes sense. However, you can make the most of inexpensive paint if you know what to expect and how to work with it. Here are a few common complaints and what to do about them.

    The Paint Has Poor Coverage

    There are transparent and opaque acrylic paint colors. If you notice you have inadequate paint coverage, make sure the acrylic paint pigments are labeled as opaque. If you accidentally purchased transparent paint, see if mixing in some titanium white enhances the color’s coverage. 

    The Paint Dries a Different Color

    Some less expensive acrylic paints will dry much darker than when they first go on the canvas. This color discrepancy can make color matching more challenging. You could either upgrade to a better quality paint or become familiar with how much a particular paint brand darkens as it dries. You can compensate by mixing your wet paint colors in a much lighter shade than you desire.