Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Raising the dead

Nice and gloopy - exactly how your paints should not look
I have developed something of a reputation amongst our friends for being the “Paint Whisperer”, and practicing the black art of Paintomancy. This is due to my habit of resurrecting pots of paint that seemed to be on the verge of death, or beyond. Its a source of amusement for some, but it really comes down to being sensible.

Save me!
A lot of people seem to give up on their paints too quickly. As soon as it has turned to the consistency of a paste, they decide the paint is a goner and go and get a replacement. I have inherited large piles of other peoples old paint pots over the years, and often a few of them are unusable. However, most of them can be saved.
Collecting your own paints and those of others can lead to some funny stockpiles. Here we have a family of Codex Grey paints. I have at least this many Snakebite Leathers...
In truth, it is not very hard to revive a pot of paint that has turned gluey, or even started to harden a bit. The paints we all use are water-based, so all that is required to save some paint that is on its way out is to add water and stir it. Just how much water and stirring are involved depends upon the state of the paint pot. If the paint is just thickening a bit, you only need add a few drops of water and give it a shake. If its actually started to harden up, you will need to take to it with a stirrer and add plenty of water to have any chance.
...and after

In the past when a paint started to thicken up, I would take it to the tap and try to run a controlled amount of water into it before mixing it up. It saved a lot of paints, but it was also rather imprecise. Add too much water, and the paint becomes unusable because its too diluted, and that is much harder to fix. I guess you could leave the lid off for an extended period, but I wont vouch for the results. A while ago I bought an eye dropper, and this has made the renewal of paints a far more controlled process. It allows me to add small amounts of water to the paint, mix it, then assess if I need to repeat the process.
The instruments of paint salvation. An eye dropper and a clean supply of water
For me, reviving pots of paint that are past their best is really just a question of practicality. Its quite easy for paint to start to gum up and become unusable, especially if it hasnt been used for a while. I know some people who paint rather infrequently, and every time they do, they discover half their paints have turned to goo. It happens to my own pots when theyre colours I rarely use, or I have too many of the same colour and it results in some sitting unused for extended periods. It generally wont happen to a brand new pot, but as soon as it has been opened and used, you can no longer really trust the seal of the pot to keep the contents safe indefinitely.

When I hand over money for a pot of paint, I like to think to myself that it will last forever. This is obviously not the case, however it can take a very long time to work your way through the pot if its not a commonly used colour. I still have some extremely old pots of paint kicking about in my collection, as the picture below illustrates.
The old and the less-so-old. And a Vallejo pot thrown in for good measure, since I use some of those now too
My point is, I expect the pot of paint to go the distance be usable for years, right up to the point where Ive really scraped the pot dry. I dont want the paint hardening up on me and resulting in me having to buy another when I still had half a pot left.

He didnt make it…
Now I am not saying that all paints can be salvaged. There are limits. Ive generally found that I can revive a pot so long as there is some level of gooeyness left in it. Even if it looks dry, if I can sink the handle of a paintbrush into the surface and find any real amount of moisture there, I figure its worth a try. But sometimes the paint really is dry, and no amount of water and stirring will fix it. A number of the old paints I have received from people have been declared DOA, followed by a brief ceremony and them being dumped on the rubbish heap.

Actually, they dont go into the bin. I have a growing pile of discarded paint pots that I plan to clean out and use as mixing pots. GW used to sell empty paint pots for this purpose, however I decided they were great and started to buy them, so they discontinued them (this seems to be how their thought processes work, so Im going with it). Anyway, you can no longer buy them and are left to your own devices. I figured I could clean out dead paint pots and use them, but I am yet to try it. People assure me its not hard to clean the old paint out, but I cant vouch for it first-hand.
The paint graveyard at the end of my painting table. Including a stack of 3 dead Red Gores - apparently not a good colour to be
Like all such things, the real key to saving pots of paint is prevention. Every time I open a pot of paint, I assess whether its liquid enough. I generally work with the older range of GW pots (which I think were the best, and I have no idea why they shifted to the current batch, even if it is nice to be able to see the colour through the lid), and I open the pot and let it drip some of the paint from the lid down into the main pot. If it doesnt release a few drips relatively easily, I figure its getting thick and add a couple of drops of water and re-shake it. My rough goal is to keep the paint the consistency it was when it was produced (I am not one of those who waters everything down and applies multiple coats).

The other thing I tend to do is to add agitators to my pots of paint. These are generally metal tags cut from models, folded up into a solid little lump, and dropped into the pot. This then bounces around merrily (and noisily) when I shake the pot, helping it mix. Ive seen this tip mentioned in a number of places, and I do believe it helps prevent build-ups of gunk in an otherwise liquid pot of paint.
Agitators in waiting
Its probably worth quickly checking through your paint collection occasionally, just to check that they all make mixing noises when you shake them. Its always a bit sad when a paint falls beyond the point of salvation through neglect, and its a terrible waste of money to have to buy a replacement when you had what you needed already, but could no longer use it. Look after them, and you may yet have paint pots that last forever.
If your paints all act like this, they need help...

1 comment:

  1. Many other paint companies produce empty mixing pots, meaning you do not need to rely on GW to supply these.