How To Preserve Oil Paint On A Palette For As Long As Possible!

Our content may have affiliate links that can result in commissions for qualifying purchases, full details in our privacy policy.

The majority of artists will usually add too much paint to their palette for their painting sessions compared to what they actually need so we often see people reaching out to ask how to preserve oil paint on palette without it going hard. Due to oil paint being oil based rather than water based, you are not able to add a little water to it to rehydrate the paint if it does dry out but thankfully, there are a number of quick and easy hacks that you are able to implement to ensure that your oil paint will last for as long as possible on your palette.

Due to seeing so many people reaching out to ask for ways to preserve their oil paint on their palette as well as the steps required to keep you oil paint fresh being so easy, we have decided to publish this dedicated article. We hope that we are going to be able to help any of our readers who like to oil paint ensure that their paint on their palette is able to last for as long as possible without issue.

Although we would always recommend that you do your best to get as close to the correct amount of oil paint required out of your paint tube and onto your palette, everyone accidentally overdoes it, at least for by a small amount. These tips and tricks can easily be used to ensure that the extra paint on your palette doesn’t go to waste with minimal effort being required on your part.

How To Preserve Oil Paint On A Palette!

The three main factors that you have to control to ensure that your oil paint on your palette will last for as long as possible are exposure to air, exposure to light, and temperature. Provide you are able to restrict all three of these, you are able to help ensure that your oil paint will last you for as long as possible without issue.

Unlike a water based paint that dries by evaporating the water in the paint, an oil based paint dried via oxidisation. Understanding this difference allows you to take the correct steps to protect your oil paints and keep them in a usable condition for as long as possible once out of their tube and onto your palette.

We constantly see people making this common mistake and presuming that they are able to rehydrate their oil paint as if it was an acrylic paint when this is simply not the case and will result in issues. Let’s take a look at the most popular options that you have available to you to help keep your oil paint fresh.

Can You Leave Oil Paint On A Palette Overnight?

The oxidisation process can take weeks for your oil paint to fully dry so if you are only leaving your oil paint on your palette over night then you are able to easily pick the palette up and start painting again the next day. Although some of the paints may have the start of their outer skin forming, it should not be hard enough to cause you any problems and a quick mix with your brush should soften everything up again.

If you are only going to be leaving your oil paints on your palette over night then you shouldn’t have any issues and you can usually just leave them there without having to go over any of the processes below. That said though, if you have managed to mix a color that you are particularly fond of or will be having some of the paint colors on your palette for a number of days after pouring them, implementing the steps below are highly recommended.

Keep in mind that the oxidisation process for your oil paints technically starts as soon as the paint leaves the tube. Due to this, if you pour paint on a Monday, you can probably leave it on the palette without protecting until Tuesday but by Wednesday, the effects of oxidisation will be kicking in without adding any protection from the other methods below.

Rehydrate Your Oil Paint With A Suitable Medium!

Due to so many oil painters using a suitable medium with their oil paints such as refined linseed oil, you are often able to rehydrate your oil paint on your palette by adding more of the oil to the paint. We would always recommend that you stick to the same medium and not hot swap between them on different days though.

For example, if you mix your oil paint with linseed oil, stick to using linseed oil to rehydrate it and don’t switch over to something like liquin or walnut oil. Different oils and solvents used as oil paint mediums have different densities and tend not to mix well with each other.

Different oil mediums have their own advantages and disadvantages too so our ultimate guide on oil painting mediums may be worth reading. It goes over the various advantages, disadvantages, and drying times for each of the more popular mediums to help you get a better idea of what you can expect when mixed with your oil paints.

Use A Slow Drying Medium

If you do like to mix your oil paints with an oil paint medium then using a slow drying medium once out of the tube can help keep your oil paints on your palette in a usable condition for longer. Although the oil painting community are some what divided on using poppy oil it does have a very slow drying time so will keep your oil paints on your palette useable for as long as possible.

There are a number of other mediums that you are able to use that have a medium drying time such as safflower oil That’s tend to perform well when mixed with your oil paint and not dry up over night. Depending on the mediums you have available, or your budget for adding new mediums to your collection, this may be a route that you are able to take.

Just keep in mind that if you are working on a base layer for your oil painting, this may not be suitable as the majority of people need their base layer to dry as fast as possible so they can start to build up their layers. Once you have your initial base layer down on your canvas or paper though, you can take advantage of various slower drying mediums to try keep you oil paint fresh on your palette.

Cover Your Palette With Plastic Wrap!

A quick and easy trick that you are able to take advantage of to keep your oil paint fresh on your palette is to wrap your palette in plastic wrap at the end of your painting session. This works by restricting the amount of air that the paint has access to while on your palette to slow the oxidisation process down drastically.

Although some people do try to double or triple wrap their palette, it offers minimal advantages over a single layer of plastic wrap so there is usually no point in doing it. We have also seen some people try other materials such as brown craft paper and although it doesn’t work as well as plastic wrap, it can work if you have it to hand in your arts and crafts collection.

Thankfully, the various types of plastic wrap are very cheap so there should be no issues with your budget when picking up some plastic wrap. The majority of people will have plastic wrap in their home anyway due to it being popular for use with keeping food fresh too.

Cover Your Palette With A Towel!

Another trick that we have seen people take advantage of is to wrap their palette in a towel but the purpose of using a towel is different to using plastic wrap as explained above. The goal of the towel is to restrict the amount of light, specifically UV light hitting your oil paints on your palette as the less UV light available to your oil paints also slows down the oxidisation process.

The best option does tend to be to initially wrap your palette in plastic wrap to restrict the air flow and then wrap a towel around it to prevent the UV light getting to your palette. This tends to offer you the best of both worlds and drastically increase the amount of time that you are able to leave your oil paints on your palette without them drying up.

Another option is to pur your palette into a dark area of your home once you have wrapped it in plastic wrap to reduce the amount of light that your oil paints have access too. Depending on your situation, there will probably be a number of different options available to you to help restrict the amount of light that can hit your oils when not in use.

Chill Your Palette If Possible!

Although this is not a major factor and only offers a small benefit, if you are able to chill your palette when not in use it can also help to slow the oxidisation process of your paints. In all honesty though, focusing on restricting the air and light supply offers the majority of what you need so the two benefits above should be able to meet most of our readers needs.

If you are using some colors that you have mixed up yourself that will be difficult to remake so you have to keep them fresh on your palette then you could try this. We have seen people put palettes in the fridge but most people usually just put them in a cool area of their home such as the garage.

Focusing on restricting the temperature of your oil paints on your palette is definitely a secondary factor though so it is best when compounded with the options above. If you don’t restrict the air and light available then the difference will be minimal.

Submerge The Palette In Water!

Although we don’t usually recommend that our readers actually do this, we do know some artists will actually submerge their palette in water overnight as a quick and easy way to restrict the amount of air that gets to your paint as well as control the temperature. The theory is that due to it being oil based paints, the water will not cause any issues but if you are using a medium with your oil paint, especially a solvent then the medium will wash out over night.

In very specific circumstances you could try this if you are a more experienced artist and know for a fact that the waiter wont cause you any issues with anything on your palette as it can work. For most people though, you will almost always be better off just going with the plastic wrap and towel method that we covered earlier in the article.

Another potential problem with submerging your palette in water is that any old water based paints on your palette will come off and contaminate your oil based paints colors too. If you do only ever paint with oil paints then this should not be an issue but it is something that should be factored in.


That brings our article going over how to preserve oil paint on palette to a close. Although these methods may sound strange, they work and are commonly practised by people in the arts and crafts community who use oil paint on a regular basis when painting. They are very beginner friendly too so the majority of our readers should easily be able to implement them without issue or having to spend much cash while keeping their oil paint fresh on their palette.