How to revive dried up Citadel paints

Posted in Top Tips by Jonathan on the October 25th, 2009

If, like me, you’ve still got some old acrylic Citadel paints from years ago that you perhaps haven’t taken out of the drawer for a while, chances are that they’ve dried up, especially if they’re those hexagonal pots with the screw lids (which they’ve thankfully now changed for a flip-lid design).

Do not fret!  Salvation is at hand.  Being water-based, all it takes to bring these paints back to life is, you guessed it, water.  I don’t think this will work on paints that have turned into a piece of plastic, the test is whether or not you can push a match stick (or similar) into the paint, it should have the consistency of putty or clay.

Chaos Black Citadel paint

Chaos Black Citadel paint

The process is very simple – just add about four drops of water, stir, then repeat until you have it at the consistency you want.  Initially you should stab the paint with a match stick, a couple of millimetres of water in the pot should help it to break up and soften, some shaking with the lid on helps too.  At this point I added a metal ball bearing to help things along a bit when shaking, any small metal object will do.  Squash the lumps of paint against the inside of the pot and keep working at it with the match stick, adding a few drops of water at a time, eventually the lumps should dissolve back into a liquid form.  You may not recover every bit of paint as some may be dried up completely, more on how to deal with those later.  Remember that Citadel acrylics are quite thick originally so don’t get carried away with the water, test it with a brush on a model if necessary to make sure that it still gives good coverage.  I took my black a little too far but it’s surprising how well these paints perform even when slightly diluted.

There is a knack to adding the water – if you want ultimate accuracy then use a pippet, but for the rest of us who don’t have access to a science lab one trick I use is to turn the tap on and then gently off, and just catch the last little dribble in the pot before the water stops completely.  It’s best to have a few test runs to see how much water comes out according to tap pressure, etc.  If you have one of those taps that doesn’t drip at all then you’ll have to find another way of doing it, maybe with a measuring jug.

After this process you should end up with a nice pot of paint ready to use again!

Chaos Black revived

Chaos Black Citadel paint revived

So, what about the hard bits that won’t dissolve?  This involves the use of a larger pot, a plastic spoon, and a tea strainer.  Do all of the above until you have your paint mostly OK, doesn’t matter if there are a few stubborn lumps still in there as these will be dealt with now. Using your larger pot (I used a shallow glass jar), place the tea strainer over it and pour out your paint from the Citadel pot into it; push the paint through using the spoon, keep pushing until as much of the paint, including the lumps has gone through the tea strainer.  You may need to scoop some from underneath the strainer and push it through again (add a tiny amount of water using the spoon).  The tea strainer should catch the bigger dried bits.

Now wash the tea strainer (I know it seems like a waste of paint, but we don’t want those hard bits going back in) and the original Citadel pot – use the flat blade of a screw driver or similar to scrape off the hard paint from the pot, paying special attention to the lid and screw, we want to make it as air-tight as we can, so make sure the top edge is perfectly flat and devoid of paint.  Now we can pour the paint back into the Citadel pot, again there will be some waste but it won’t be a great deal, this paint was useless before this procedure so any that we get back into the pot is a bonus.

So there we have it.  I’ve recovered several pots using this method, not all of them required the tea strainer procedure, and some pigments can survive surprisingly well being slightly thinner than they originally were.

Good luck!