Saving oil paint is always on the oil artist mind. (my opinion)

Everyone has heard how well putting paint in the freezer works, and I did that successfully for years.  Living in a motor home with a small freezer made that no longer work for me too well.

Next I heard about paint under water.  Surprisingly it works, and I did not need to refrigerate. I have some small Carmex Lip Gloss (stuff)  (the jar is 1.25" wide and 1" tall--small).  I can scrape up my little dabs and wipe off on the edge of the inside of the jar placing the extra paint around the edge.  That works well, and if the paint starts to get older - like for paintings you have not finished yet so you still want those colors - just dig them out and add a tiny drop of Linseed oil, mix up and put back in the jar.  Paint keeps for a month or so.  Eventually though, I had 15 of those little jars of dabs of paint.  Any jar that you can seal with water will work.  Fill completely bulging full of water....dont want any air. 

I still felt like I was wasting paint, I mean 15 jars!

After I painted the aspen painting I mixed a bunch of cad yellow and did not use it.  Next trip I made to Hobby Lobby I noticed that any paint that mentioned CADMIUM the price was about $27 --- considerably more than other colors that sold for $12+ or $8+.

My idea:

I bought some baby syringes at Walmart pharmacy (they charged me $.10 ea) - the nice thing is that there was no needle and it had a sort of thing on the end so you could not poke the babies mouth.  I put some plastic wrap over the syringe's end and then the cap.  I filled the hole with glue turning it into a seal able lid and stood on end til dry.  I loaded the paint in the syringe and put the plunger in.  I can see the color in the tube.

OH, I just combined all the little dabs of similar colors together.  I have a really dark purplish color, a lighter reddish brown color, a darker reddish brown color, and all that cad yellow.  All the other colors I mixed together and made a nice gray.  When I need gray I squirt some out and adjust it (lighter, darker, warmer, cooler).

The icing on the cake was when I found I could take the plunger out and add a similar color in the tube and re seal.  It is completely air tight.

Problem is that the size of the syringe was small and difficult to load.  A bit messy, but after wiping down it still worked.

Next I went on a quest to find something better, larger.  The syringe on the left in the photo above is a Normal Saline 10ml size. It comes with a screw on lid and is much larger and more easy to fill.  The opening for the filling end is slightly over 1 & quarter inch. 

I found a supplier in e-bay and ordered from him. The important thing is to verify that what you are getting has a screw on cap and NO needle.

10mL Pre-Filled Saline leur lock Syringe Flush 0.9% Sodium Chloride - Lot of 7

You can contact David direct if you wish.  David@McGee.Net 

Be sure to tell him you want the syringe with no needle and the screw on cap on the end.  He sends you a PayPal invoice and you pay.  My transaction with David for the syringes was in September 2013.   His phone number is 704-770-1733 and he is in Charlotte, NC.  Free shipping. 

In the past I have also purchased empty 37ml metal paint tubes.  Problem there is they hold an enormous amount of paint.  I used them to pre mix my gray paint according to value that I used for the gray layer in the Flemish method of my seven layers paintings. 

So, am hoping this information might benefit those who want to save old paint or pre mix their favorite color to use all the time.


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Comment by Roena King on June 24, 2015 at 16:17

Great info Susan Burke!  I still have not attempted acrylic, but for those that do, this is wonderful news.  Thanks for sharing. 

Comment by Susan Burke on June 24, 2015 at 7:56

I don't know about oils, I do acrylic; but, I have a great tip for any acrylic artists out there.  I use Golden Open and am very pleased with how long they stay workable. However, the color saturation isn't the best. I've taken to mixing my regular acrylics half and half with the open acrylics and find that they stay workable almost as long as the open acrylics alone--and much longer than by using regular colors mixed with Open acrylic gel. The saturation is much better and I can paint in the afternoon, leave my studio and come back the next day to beautiful, workable paint--without covering it or anything.

Comment by Ada Truesdell on October 19, 2013 at 10:46


This is interesting information.  Especially the keeping paints under water as I also have very little freezer space on island cottage.  The syringe method for grays is a great idea.

Comment by Carolyn Brunsdon on October 1, 2013 at 16:38

Good tips, Mary Jo. I ordered my Palette Garage almost 2 weeks ago, should have it soon. I ordered direct with a check v.s. Amazon since they did not offer PayPal...I've had 3 messy credit card fraud situations over 6 months all on line. Looking forward to having a better way to stow my paints! (I will continue to use my Masterson with glass palette and mid-grey ground, for studio work. Enjoy it too much to let it go.)

Comment by Mary Jo Ellis on October 1, 2013 at 15:20

I agree with Stu about the palette garage.  I like it and if I remember to load it up with clove oil it keeps paint very well.  I use in my studio and en plein air -- the setup time saved is amazing!  It used to take me forever to set up my palette outside -- and I am a really slow painter to begin with!  

A hint for those of you in colder climates -- wrap the very end of the palette garage storage tube with strapping tape.  When it gets colder the plastic tube can crack.  Strapping tape is flexible yet will not crack or tear like duct tape and others can.

One other thing, before I got my palette garage I used the masterston plastic palette box and used double stick velcro to adhere picture frame glass to it.  It never broke and the glass was not too heavy.  But I discovered the palette garage was a better long-term solution for me.

Comment by Roena King on September 18, 2013 at 4:39

This is so interesting, and thank you for contributing all these cool solutions.

Comment by Stuart J. Gourlay on September 17, 2013 at 9:03

Carolyn, painting outside on glass is an invitation to broken glass and the glass is very heavy.   I know it is a "plastic". but one clever solution is to take your wood palette or the wood bottom of your pochade box and paint it with a neutral gray (mid value) acrylic gesso.  You then coat it with about a dozen coats of oil based clear polyurethane  floor finish with liberal sanding between coats to have it very flat.   This takes several days, but it is  an incredibly durable rock hard finish that you can easily scrape with a palette knife.  I got this tip from another artist here in Marin.   Stu 

Comment by Carolyn Brunsdon on September 17, 2013 at 8:54

Oh, I forgot, regarding small paint containers to store mixed or left-over paint. I have two sizes 70mm and 50mm  of the twist together stackable containers. I first found them in sporting/fishing goods. Just found the larger ones as well at Michaels craft store. These I have found very useful.


Comment by Carolyn Brunsdon on September 17, 2013 at 8:44

Hi again Stu. As to Camile's intended positioning, according to her and her website, she does mean for it to be used  at a 45 or 90 degree angle. The only illustration I saw of her actually using in was upright also, and yes, the paint was starting to creep regardless of the "laser etched" partitions. I've been looking at the Palette Garage with interest. I too, use the last Masterson "Stay Wet" palette box, still from years ago. I don't life working on plastic, I have it fitted with plate glass for studio work. I used the large fold out wood palette on the Julian, too have for the Soltek. Once I actually get outside it will all come together. Again, thanks for the info

Comment by Stuart J. Gourlay on September 17, 2013 at 8:34

Carolyn, you are right about slip slinding away in the sun, and the more vertical you get, the quicker and more impressive the slide is.   I believe that this device is made to be clamped onto one of the side wings of a plein air palette or any indoor palette.  It does require the freezer to keep the paint from oxidizing.  If you are interested in something that works outdoors (especially Prescott, AZ and Bakersfield, CA) I would recommend that you try the Palette Garage, because the minute you are done painting, you slide your paints into a saturated atmosphere of the anti-oxidant in clove bud oil.  Also, the Palette Garage is about 1/2 the price and less than 1/2 the size.   David Axelrod is Camille's husband, and he also invented a larger fold up palette for the Soltek Easel.  Richard paints with his palette in a vertical position when he makes his videos, and what he does is use a large piece of canvas and lay out flattened paint piles that won't slide (using his palette knife).  Johannes Vloothuis does the same for his videos and tapes his palette inside of a Masterson "Stay Wet" palette box (they come in several sizes) that is designed to put in the refrigerator.    There are also little paint covers that go over your paint pile on your palette and keep the air from it.    Many solutions.    Stu


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