Can Acrylic Paint Freeze? Appropriate Temperature

Yes, most water-based acrylic paint will freeze at temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or 7.2 degrees Celsius. However, you don’t need to worry about alcohol-based acrylics (acrylic ink), as the freezing point of alcohol is below 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, if you want to freeze your acrylic paint for storage purposes, we must warn you against it, as freezing and thawing acrylics can ruin their chemical chemistry. 

So, can acrylic paint freeze? Let’s dive deep to find the answer and learn how freezing affects different types of acrylic paints.

Effects of Low Temperature on Acrylic Paint

First things first, let’s understand the chemical composition of acrylic paints. According to the research,(1) most acrylic paints contain 3 main ingredients −

  1. 41% vehicle/solvent 
  2. 6.5% pigment and additives
  3. 32% binder

In most acrylics, water is used as the solvent.

Some acrylics like Tamiya, Gunze, and Revell use alcohol as the solvent. As mentioned, such acrylics don’t usually freeze unless the temperature is extremely low (below 0 degrees Celsius), thanks to the alcohol and glycols.

So, we will only be talking about water-based acrylics here. Here’s what happens when acrylic paints freeze

Separation of Ingredients 

Acrylic paint can survive freezing and thawing a few times without any major damage to the ingredients. 

When it starts getting bad, the consistency of the paint is targeted. As the solvent (water) gets frozen, the solvent and pigments start to separate.

The pigment and solvent are responsible for color quality and ease of application. 

So, in this case, you’ll find applying the paint on your canvas difficult. This issue can be solved by mixing some extra solvent or pigment.

Shake or stir the paint and keep mixing the ingredients until you regain the paint’s consistency.

Paint Becomes Lumpy 

Once the paint has undergone the freezing process multiple times, the binders also get affected. As binders work as a glue to keep the ingredient together, they are responsible for the thickness and overall quality of the paint. 

So, once the binders are affected, the paint becomes lumpy, stringy, or runny, which is very difficult to work with. 

However, by mixing enough solvent or using a strainer, you might still be able to use this paint. You’ll have to discount the paint quality and longevity, though.

Paint Starts Cracking 

If the temperature is too cold, the water turns into snowflakes, causing the paint to crack. Also, the binders and additives become brittle. 

Frozen paint on a canvas can also crack at extreme temperatures. The paint can’t be fixed at this point, and you should throw it away.

Can I Use Frozen Acrylic Paint?

Yes, you can use frozen acrylic paint if the paint was frozen for quite a short time. If the paint was frozen solid all winter, it’s best not to re-use it.

So, for the first case, you need to go through a few steps because you can’t use frozen acrylic paint directly. Here’s what you can do.   

Step 1: Defrost Paint

First, you need to thaw the frozen acrylic paint. The best way is to keep it at room temperature and let it defrost naturally.

However, if you want to speed up the process, you can take the paint in a metal bowl and place it in warm water. You can also stir the paint occasionally to dissolve the lumps. As we are using warm water, the properties of the paint ingredients will remain unharmed.

Step 2: Check for Lumps

To check the paint quality, visually inspect the consistency first. Take some paint on a stick or a knife and check if there are any lumps or inconsistencies in the paint. You can also test the paint texture using your fingers. The paint has gone bad if there are lumps and something feels odd and sandy.

Step 3: Apply The Paint on A Surface

Apart from visual inspection, you can test the acrylic paint by applying it on a surface. Spread the paint on a piece of paper and see if the paint sits well. Let the paint dry and check for cracks after drying.

Step 4: Test by Drying the Paint

Finally, you can be sure of the paint quality by drying it. Spread a small amount of acrylic on a sheet and put it under a heat lamp. It will take only 20-30 minutes to dry up.

Once it’s dried, see if it’s flexible. Also, mix it with water to check whether it’s insoluble in water. Good-quality acrylic paint dries flexible and insoluble in water.

If you want a more formal approach, you can also perform a scratch test. 

Summary

To get your frozen and thawed acrylic paint quality tested, you need to defrost the paint and then get it tested for lumps. Once done, apply it on a surface and test it by drying the paint.

How to Prevent Acrylic Paint from Freezing?

If you want to prevent freezing, you must store the paint in the right way. Temperature and humidity are the two main factors responsible for freezing the paint and altering paint properties. 

Here’s what you can do to prevent the freezing of acrylic paint −

Storing in Appropriate Temperature 

The optimal temperature for storing acrylic paint is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 24 degrees Celsius). So, it’s best to store it at room temperature.

Although acrylic paint can withstand up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not the best temperature to store the paint, as too much heat can dry the paint up or ruin its balance. 

So, ensure the temperature doesn’t exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit or below 49 degrees Fahrenheit.

Airtight the Storage Can 

To prevent damage by humidity, you must keep air out of the storage container. 

  • First, wash the can with soap and water, and let it dry. Make sure there’s no water remaining inside the paint can, as it will ruin the texture.
  • After filling the can with paint, use plastic wrap to seal the opening. Also, place a rubber mallet to keep the seal airtight.
  • Finally, place the lid and fit it snugly on the can. Make sure to store the paint in a warm place away from direct sunlight.

Provide Insulation 

A proper insulating material can protect the paint can from heat and cold. The most available and cost-effective insulation material is Styrofoam. You can wrap the outer surface of the paint can to protect it from freezing temperatures. 

Some also go for batt insulation. Made of woven fiberglass strands, this industry-standard material can effectively protect your paint from the toughest frost for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can acrylic paint be stored outside?

No, acrylic paints should not be stored outside as environmental factors can affect the paint’s properties. If you wish to store acrylic paint for a long time, select a well-ventilated area where the moisture can’t get into the container. Also, the paint container must be airtight. 
As for temperature, it shouldn’t be too hot or too cold. The optimal temperature for storing acrylic paint is 65°F to 75°F.

How long does acrylic paint last?

In general acrylic paint can last 2 to 6 years as long as you store them correctly. You need to store acrylic paint in a dry, clean, and climate-controlled room where moisture and dirt can’t reach.
The official shelf life of unopened Liquitex paint is 5 to 7 years. Winsor & Newton acrylic paint can last 7 to 10 years and Chroma Atelier acrylics last about 5 years.

Can I store acrylic paint in the garage?

Yes, your garage is an ideal location for storing acrylic paint as the paint remains protected from moisture and sunlight.
However, the garage shouldn’t be too cold or too hot as it might ruin the paint. Also, you must store the paint in airtight containers and wrap them so that the paint doesn’t go bad.

What happens if you use acrylic paint that has been frozen?

If the frozen acrylic paint maintains its physical and chemical properties, you’ll get the perfect outcome without any major issues. However, in most cases, freezing temperatures ruin the chemical composition of acrylic paint, causing it to go bad.
When you use frozen and bad acrylic paint, the color of the paint might seem off. Also, it becomes difficult to apply such paint, and the finish will be uneven and dull.

Does acrylic paint crack in cold weather?

Yes, acrylic paint can crack in cold weather if the temperature is too low. Acrylic paints are water-based and the liquid base will freeze in cold weather. As a result, the paint will crack on canvas, paper, wood, and even metal surfaces.

Wrapping Up!

So, can acrylic paint freeze? Now you have the answer. While it’s not recommended to completely freeze the paint, keeping it at a low temperature is actually a good way to prevent drying out of the paint solvent.

However, be careful not to lower the temperature to 49 degrees Fahrenheit or less, as it can ruin the paint balance.

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