How do I reactivate my dry tube of gouache?

Gouache is a paint that can last for years if stored properly. If you keep your gouache in a cool, dry place and close each tube after use, it will last for a long time. However, if your gouache has dried in the tube, you can still reuse it.

Gouache paint can last a long time.

The shelf life of a tube of gouache depends on the brand and type of gouache, but it’s typically around five years, but it can last much longer. Gouache shelf life is less than oil paint or acrylic. Gouache with a shelf life of fewer than two years is not recommended for professional use or fine art purposes.

A few things can cause your gouache to harden, but the most common is air. As tubes and wells are not completely airtight containers, they allow some oxygen in over time. If you don’t use your gouache frequently enough, this can lead to it drying out.

Wells and tubes are both excellent storage options for gouache, but tubes have one advantage for long-term storage: they’re less exposed to air than wells, so there’s less risk of hardening. Himi gouache, for example, is sold in large wells that are not sealed, so they’re more exposed to air than tubes. 

To extend the shelf life of Himi gouache:

  • make sure you permanently close the box lid very tight
  • store your box in the fridge (constant temperature)
  • spray your paint with water weekly to keep it moisturized
Spraying Himi gouache with tap water before painting

You can keep your gouache fresh by storing it properly.

To keep your gouache fresh, store it in a cool, dry place to prevent the paint from drying out or deteriorating. If you live in a humid environment, consider storing your gouache in an airtight container or plastic bag to prevent moisture from seeping into the paint tubes.

Gouache paints can last for years if stored properly and not exposed to sunlight or high temperatures. If you’re using gouache for Plein air painting, ensure you keep the tubes away from direct sun. Even during a single painting session, this may cause your paint to harden. 

Gouache paint is water-based, which can dry out if left uncovered or in a hot environment. The best place to store your gouache is in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. Store your tubes with their caps screwed tightly on.

You can use an old tube of gouache if it hasn’t hardened completely.

If you notice that a tube of gouache has become hard and difficult to open, don’t worry. 

To soften your old gouache:

  • Place the cap head in hot water for about two minutes (or until it becomes loose).
  • Remove from heat and allow the tube to cool slightly before opening (to avoid steam burns).
  • protect your hands and table (if you don’t want to clean after!)
  • Open the tube with scissors or a craft knife. Careful not to cut yourself! 
  • take the paint out from the tube with a palette knife
  • and place the paint in an airtight palette

You can watch this video, tip #8 to see how to do this:

You won’t get back to initial consistency.

You’ll never get the same creamy consistency from the fresh paint, no matter what you do.

Not all brands reconstitute well. Don’t be discouraged by this. It’s a common misconception that all gouache brands are the same. Each brand will have unique properties, but they won’t all reconstitute at the same rate. Artist quality grades are easier to soften than cheap brands. 

Not all colors will soften well. Earth tones like Yellow ochre, for example, are prone to harden, even on the palette when painting. When storing my colors in an airtight palette, Yellow ochre is always the first color to harden, followed by Magenta. And this is valid for every brand I have tried. 

If your tube is dry, you can still reuse it.

If your tube is dry, you can still reuse it! If your gouache has gone from liquid to solid: 

  • protect your hands and table (if you don’t want to clean after!)
  • open up the tube with a pair of scissors 
  • Empty all of the dried paint. You can get like little rocks of paint at this stage, or even powder. 
  • You can rehydrate this by adding water (which you may need to boil) and Arabic gum, the standard binder in gouache paint.
  • Add water little by little while mixing to make more fresh paint with the powder.
  • Mix these in a mortar until they form a paste
  • place the paint in an airtight palette
Placing the gouache in an airtight palette.


Gouache can last for years if you store it properly. The key is to keep the tube capped when not in use and avoided exposure to direct sunlight or heat sources like a radiator. Maybe if your gouache is hardening, it’s that you don’t use it enough! You can find ideas to fill your gouache sketchbook here. 

Cecile Yadro

I believe that art can help you express yourself, find your voice, and discover who you are. And I want to help you do that. I've seen how powerful my classes can be for more than 20,000 students. In my classes, I focus on giving you the tools you need to express yourself and make your creativity take flight!

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