Dried Paint In the Tube

I strongly prefer to buy watercolor paint in tubes, and I am picky enough about color that I only buy what experience has taught me are the best quality pigments. Sometimes, the tube dries before it is fully used and sometimes the tube becomes prematurely damaged, but there is no need to throw it away.

The benefits of fresh tube pigment are that it is very well protected from UV light and dust while in the tube. The soft pre-moistened pigment makes it very friendly for techniques employed for the finest details. Pre-moistened pigment from the tube is also gentler on your good brushes. When the pigment is dry on my palette or in a pan, as most artists do I mix the water in with an older secondary brush so the shape of my good brushes is preserved.

However, sometimes the paint dries in the tube before it is all used. Should that happen, you can still make use of those lovely pigments and ensure none of your investment in a quality paint goes to waste. Below, I list out a step by step photo tutorial on how to do transfer the pigment into a pan to use at home or in your travel tin.

To Be Considered

  • Environment: Ideally, you will want to work in your studio in paint-sling friendly clothing, away from pet curiosity. Paint pigment flakes could be a disaster on white carpet come shampoo day, half-dried pans could be licked at or dappled into by furry paws and tails, and your new white top could become permanently dyed. The kitchen can be an alternative if your studio space is a carpeted room with no sink.
  • Time: The pigment may need to cure in the pan for a couple of days till fully secured, especially true if you have a need for a second top off of distilled water. They should dry where they are able to be covered to prevent exposure to UV Light or dust and left undisturbed.
  • Clean-Up: You will want to clean all the tools in a sink. I find vacuuming the work area when the pigment is dry best, and damp cloth best if it is tarry.
  • Recycling: If you are able to recycle the parts of the tube. I am fortunate to be able to recycle both the metal tube and the plastic cap where I live.

I have made a mess of working with a tarry tube of Permanent Alizarin Crimson. So it may be best to open a tube and let it dry protected from dust instead of attempting to scrape out.

Step 1
Cut into the tube with a sharp pair of shears and peel away foil of tube. Brush away any papery powder they may have clung to the paint if your tube had a paper wrapper.

Step 2
Place the dried pieces from the tube into the watercolor pan.

Step 3
Make certain your dried pain only takes up about 3/4ths of the volume of the pan. Then, add distilled water to the top of the watercolor pan and allow a day for it to sit and absorb into the paint.
You should make certain to leave it covered so that the water does not evaporate.

Step 4
After the paint has been saturated by the distilled water. Mix and press the moist paint in the pan until it is even. Then let dry, covered, so that dust does not settle into the wet pigment. For some pigments you may have to repeat 2-3 more times, often true for opaque pigments.

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