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How to Keep Watercolor From Cracking

Are your watercolor paints cracking, or is your finished art piece cracking the dry watercolor paint? Both of these can happen, and it can usually be avoided both ways. If your watercolor paints are cracking, it could be due to them drying out. 

So, how do you keep your watercolors from cracking? You will need to store your watercolor paints in an air tight wood or metal box. Also make sure the lid on the tube is tightly closed so no air or moisture gets in the paint. Watercolor paints will start to crack if they dry out, and this sometimes happens when you transfer paints form tubes to pans. Another reason for your paint cracking is that you applied the paint on too thick.

If your watercolor painting is cracking, it can be that you put the paint on too thick. This can be because you didn’t water the paints down enough, or you added too many layers without waiting for the previous one to dry completely. In this article we go over how to keep your watercolor pants from cracking, and much more. Let’s get to it!

How Long Do Watercolor Paints Last?

Watercolor paints can vary with how long they will remain good for use. In tubes, watercolor paints are said to last about five years. In pans, they are said to last at least ten years. Pan watercolors can last longer than tubes because they are stored already dry, so they don’t have much room to go bad.

My favorite and top pick is always Arteza Watercolor Paints. They have so many different colors, and the quality is amazing! I usually use Arteza Paints for all my projects.

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Watercolor paints in tubes are always wet, which leaves them vulnerable to the elements. Tubes of watercolor paints are known to grow mold if they are not taken care of properly. This can greatly shorten the life of your paints. 

If your tube watercolor paints are dried out, it can be easy to think that they are at the end of their life. However, this is not the case. It is possible to extend the life of dried watercolor paints by transferring it to a watercolor pan or adding some water to it.

I highly recommend using these Arteza Watercolor Pans to put your tube or dried watercolor paints in. It comes with 48 empty pans, and it’a also travel friendly, which is always a plus.

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If the paint has a moldy smell to it or you can visibly see mold, it is likely that your paint needs to be replaced. This is especially important if you are allergic to mold. You can try to salvage the paint, but it is not likely to work very well. If your paint is moldy, it is best to throw it out and buy new paint.

As for how long watercolor paints will last on paper, it depends on the quality of the pigment, as well as the quality fo the paper. If your paints are always cared for properly and you are painting on high quality paper, the paints are just as permanent as other types of paint. 

I use this Arteza Watercolor Paper Pad for my watercolor paintings. It’s amazing quality, and doesn’t bleed. It’s always important to have premium quality paper if your re using artists quality paints.

How Do You Preserve a Watercolor Painting?

One of the biggest concerns with watercolor paintings, as with most other paintings, is fading. There are a few precautions that you can take to preserve the color of your watercolor paints on your painting. First, make sure the painting is never in direct sunlight.

Watercolor paints are fragile, so even a few weeks of sunlight or a bright room can fade the colors. The color of the paper can change, also impacting how the colors look. Putting your watercolor painting behind glass can provide some light protection, but not enough to keep your painting safe.

It is also an option to seal your watercolor painting with a varnish to preserve it. This varnish coating will protect your painting from more than just sunlight. It will also act as a barrier from water, humidity, dust, and dirt. Below we go over different options of varnish for your watercolor painting.

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If you want to frame your painting, you should also varnish it first. When placing the picture in the frame, keep a space between the art and the glass. If the painting is not pressed against the glass, it can breathe better.

When hanging your painting, even if it is in a frame, you need to choose the spot carefully. Keep the painting away from areas of your house that have a higher level of humidity, such as the bathroom or the kitchen. You should also keep the painting away from any vents for air conditioning or heat.

Should You Spray Watercolor Paintings?

If you want to use a spray varnish for your watercolor painting, it is absolutely possible. It is important to use the right kind of spray varnish for the job. Make sure the varnish is archival, as this will provide the highest level of protection to your painting.

I recommend using Krylon Varnish Spray. It’s offers great protection against humidity, dust, and even UV rays!

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When you use spray varnish, make sure you are spraying evenly across the entire surface. If your painting is on an absorbent ground, you should use three coats of spray varnish to prevent bleeding or streaking of the colors. If it is not an absorbent ground, you will only need two coats of spray varnish.

Can I Mod Podge Over Watercolor?

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It is possible to use Mod Podge on top of watercolor paints to seal it. It is not going to smudge or smear your watercolor paints but be careful to avoid brushing back and forth several times on one area. Mod Podge is water-based, so too much motion with it can reactivate the watercolor paints. 

To use Mod Podge over a watercolor painting, you need to let the painting dry for several hours before you apply the Mod Podge coating. You will want to paint a very thin layer to start. Be sure to cover the entire painting, but do not brush over the same spot more than one time. 

Let the first layer of Mod Podge dry completely before adding any additional layers. Your painting might be good with one layer if you are going to frame it, but for extra protection you can add another layer or two. This will keep un-framed paintings safer.

Can I Varnish a Watercolor Painting?

Using a varnish can protect your watercolor painting from outside elements like moisture, water, dirt, and dust. When you add a varnish to a painting, it becomes a permanent addition to the painting. This is especially true for watercolor paintings, which are done on absorbent pieces of paper. After the painting is varnished, no changes or additions can be made.

Adding a varnish is also a way to manipulate how your finished painting looks. The varnish will change the appearance, feel, and texture of the paper. You can darken the colors of your painting by using a gloss varnish, or you can lighten colors with a satin or matte varnish. 

I recommend using this Sax True Flow Watercolor Varnish, to seal your watercolor paintings. It leaves your painting with an amazing high-gloss finish, that won’t yellow over time.

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If you are planning on varnishing your watercolor painting, the change in color should be anticipated before you start painting. This will give you the opportunity to choose different shades that will turn out how you expect after the varnish is added.

Final Thoughts

It can be really frustrating to have to deal with watercolor paints that are cracking. If the paints are cracking in the pan or in the tube, it can mean that the paint is older and could potentially need replaced. The lifespan of watercolor paints depends on how well they are taken care of and how they are stored.

To improve the life of your watercolor painting, it is recommended to preserve it the best you can. You can preserve your painting with the help of a varnish or a frame with glass. If you choose to frame the painting with glass, make sure there is enough space between the surface of the painting and the glass for the artwork to breathe properly. 

Make sure to follow all my tips and recommended products to ensure you watercolor paints don’t crack or dry out. Also, don’t forget to check out my other articles for all your painting Q&A’s. Happy painting! 

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