Is Your Paint Watery? Here’s What To Do

Watery paint is a problem that many artists deal with at some point or another. This issue has the potential to derail your artistic process, stall your painting project, or ruin your artistic work completely. Many wonder what to do about watery paint. I’ve done the research to help you with this issue.

Is your paint watery? Here’s what to do. In order to fix watery paint, there are several things to try. The solution could be as simple as stirring or shaking your paint. Sometimes, when the paint is watery, it means that it has gone bad and should be thrown out. Also, there are times when paint thinner or thickener should be used.

I’m sure that you want to get back to your painting project, and in order to do that, you need to get your paint to return to the right consistency. Continue reading to find out exactly what you can do to fix your paint.

What To Do With Watery Paint

There are several things that you can do with watery paint. From Shaking and stirring it to using thickening agents, you can get your paint to a better consistency in no time.


Sometimes when paint sits out for an extended amount of time (especially in the heat), solid components of the paint sink down to the bottom and the liquid components begin to float to the top.

In this case, the easiest way to fix watery paint is to shake or stir it.

If you are working with a can of paint, stirring the paint with a long wooden stirrer would do the job. You could also use BBs or mixing balls to mix the paint thoroughly. In cases where the paint is stored in a bottle, and it is coming out watery, a shake could restore the paint to its original consistency.

Use Paint Thinner

If your paint is oil-based and is coming out with a liquidy/watery consistency, paint thinner may fix the problem for you. It may seem that thinning out your paint wouldn’t help at all, but it can work by thinning out thick chunks of paint and evening out the paint entirely.

How To Use Paint Thinner 

  1. Pour your paint into a container you’ll never use for anything else.
  2. Add 1 part paint thinner for every 3 parts of paint.
  3. Mix the paint thoroughly.
  4. Test your paint by brushing it onto a flat surface.
  5. If the paint is still not the desired consistency, you may need to add more paint thinner and mix it again.

Note: This will only work for oil-based paints.

Thicken Your Paint

Thickening your paint is a great solution as well, as it will give the paint it’s usual thick texture.

Thicken Latex Paints

If you are working with latex paint, you can thicken it with hydroxyethyl cellulose.

Follow these steps to thicken your latex paint: 

  1. Transfer your watery latex paint into a bucket that is large enough to hold your paint that you want to thicken and allows extra room for the paint thickener. You’ll also want to make sure that there will be room to allow you to stir the mixture.
  2. Slowly add your hydroxyethyl cellulose to the paint, stirring and inspecting the thickness of the paint as you pour it in.
  3. The amount of hydroxyethyl cellulose should not exceed ¼ of the amount of latex paint. This is important because if you add too much thickener, you’ll have paint that’s too thick to use properly.

When you thicken your paint with hydroxyethyl cellulose, you shouldn’t notice a difference in the concentration of the paint’s color, which is a huge plus.

Thicken Oil Paints

If you are experiencing thin/watery oil paints, don’t worry. Below are a couple of ways to thicken oil paints.

Lay On Multiple Layers

A quick way to remedy the watery paint problem is to lay on multiple layers of paint. This way, the paint will have less of a translucent, watery look.

If you lay down multiple layers and there is no improvement, you can try the next option.

Note: There may be a problem if you have to use multiple layers for multiple colors of oil paint. You could end up using up an unreasonable amount of paint. To prevent this, always get your hands on the highest quality of oil-based paint that you possibly can.

Add Dry Mediums

You can improve your paint by thickening it with dry mediums.

You can use: 

  • Sand
  • Marble Dust
  • Pastes

Using dry mediums with your paints is easy. Simply add them to your paint and stir them in. You’ll see a change in your paint’s texture – it will likely be less watery. Try a small amount of either of these dry mediums and slowly increase them until you get the consistency that you prefer.

Keep in mind that some dry mediums might give your paint a visible texture that you may or may not want.

Throw It Out

Many may not be aware that paints don’t last forever, and watery paint may indicate that your paint has gotten old.

Water-based acrylic and latex paints last up to 10 years if they have not been opened. Once these have been opened, they can last up to 2 years if they are stored properly (closed tightly and stored in a cool, dry place).

Unopened oil-based paints can last up to 15 years. Once opened, oil-based paint will last about 1 year.

Old Paint: If your paint is old based on these guidelines, and you have tried all of the above measures to bring it back to life, you’ll need to throw it out.

New Paint: However, if you try everything that you see in this article and you still aren’t getting good results, there is another option to consider. You can consider returning the paint for a replacement.

Reasons Why Your Paint Is Watery

Below, you will find some reasons why your paint is watery.

  • When paint (especially latex or acrylic) sits around for an extended amount of time, it has the tendency to get watery. The longer it sits, the more watery it can get.
  • Oil paint is known to separate after it’s been unused for a long time. When you finally open it up, you may notice that there is excess oil (which may have the look of water).

Older paint is more likely to have a watery/liquid consistency. You’ll also notice the following:

  • A rancid smell upon opening your can of paint.
  • A gooey or solid consistency after inspecting the paint under the surface “skin”.
  • Stirring doesn’t return it to a favorable consistency.
  • It could just be that you got a bad batch of paint or that the paint store (or whatever merchant you made your purchase at) hasn’t properly stored the paint.

Know The Characteristics of Paint

It’s important to know how different types of paint behave.

Even if you’ve bought different colors of paint from the same brand, you may find that some colors are thinner or thicker than others. This is just the nature of some paints. 

Once you realize that you don’t particularly like the texture of specific paint color, you can alter it accordingly using one of the methods explained in this article.

You may find that you hate the texture of all paints from a particular brand. Take note of the brand that you are using, and if it constantly gives you problems, avoid that brand in the future. 

Happy Painting! 

Watery paint can be a bummer. It has the potential to completely ruin your project. But with the information and tips presented previously, you can remedy the problem quickly and get back to your painting endeavors.

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