Can Watercolor Grow Mold (Watch out for this!)

You could assume that watercolor would mold since it is painted with water. See how you can prevent it and when it is possible!

When not stored and cleaned properly, watercolor can definitely mold. After painting, always clean your brushes and palettes and let them dry before closing everything up. You should also always space a painting off the glass when framing it, or it might mold due to air humidity.

woman painting with watercolor

How to avoid getting a moldy watercolor palette

I have never seen one personally, but I have heard about artists’ palette moldings. This is especially painful when using more expensive watercolor paints.

Given that watercolor is painted with water (who would’ve thought? ), it doesn’t take much moisture to mold a watercolor palette. Mold grows very easily in humid environments.

This is why you’ll find mold under leaking roofs or sheds, where the rain can easily seep in. Since the water cannot flow away, it remains in the area. Voilà, mold is growing.

What can you do to prevent that? It’s not neuroscience at all. Ensure that you remove all the water from your palette with an old towel or let it air dry, ideally in the sun, before storing it away.

You should be fine if you don’t close and forget about it while it’s still wet. You should also make sure that the place where you store your paints is not wet.

What causes a painting to mold?

There are different reasons why paintings may mold. A watercolor painting is very unlikely to mold, as they dry very quickly. On the other hand, oil takes months to dry completely. 

Oil paintings could potentially mold if they are also stored in a humid environment.

When framed, watercolors are more likely to develop molding. It is common for artists to place their painting directly on the glass. As a result, the painting may mold over time.

The frame is filled with air, which contains water. Sunlight will easily cause water to condense on glass and run down. Direct contact between the painting and the glass will allow mold to grow very quickly.

watercolor painting teacher and student

What can you do to prevent a painting from molding?

It’s not too difficult to avoid this problem. Your painting needs to be spaced away from the glass. You can do that with practically anything if you don’t have a mat (also known as passepartout).

I can only recommend choosing a mat, since it is very easy to use, cheap, and upgrades the paintings’ look.

Alternatively, you can cut out a rectangle from a large piece of paper yourself. 

Then you’ll have to put the mat in the frame before framing the painting, and here you go, you’ve got yourself a beautiful passe-partout and a protective barrier against fungus.

Additionally, you should check the air humidity. It should be between 30 and 50%. However, a higher level of humidity could pose a problem. 

A more detailed article about how to frame watercolor paintings can be found here.

How to deal with a molded painting

It is strongly suggested that if you come across a molded painting, you throw it away. You should never put your health at risk for a piece of art.

Make sure you protect yourself with rubber gloves and a face mask, while removing it.

Would laminating be a good option to protect a painting? Check this article to find out more about it.

watercolor with a watercolor swatch and a flower

Can watercolor brushes mold?

It is also possible for watercolor brushes to grow mold if not treated properly. After each painting session, you should thoroughly wash your brushes. Be careful not to store them while they’re still wet, as this could lead to mold.

Make sure they’re dried first, ideally in the sun. If you want to ensure their heads stay in perfect condition, I recommend laying them down on a clean, flat surface. 

I like to lay my brushes on a table outside in the sun. However, I always use paper or newspaper, so they don’t get dirty from the table. However, any clean surface should do.

If you forget them outside, it’s possible they will be blown away by wind, or they could be damaged by rain, cats, birds and other natural disasters. 

Set an alarm to ensure you don’t forget them, otherwise you may have them destroyed by mother nature.

Read more about cleaning watercolor brushes here.

As long as you don’t store your brushes while they’re still wet, they shouldn’t mold. If they still do, you should definitely check the place they’re stored in. It might be wet inside.

If you have a molded brush, you should throw it away immediately, while wearing the same precautions I mentioned earlier.

If you’re wondering, if you can use an easel to paint with watercolor (and how it can be a terrible mistake), read this article.

Can watercolor and acrylic paint be used together? I’ve discussed this question here and found some interesting results.


On rare occasions, watercolor palettes, brushes, and paintings can mold. You should avoid storing your supplies in a wet environment or while they are still wet. Be sure to space your painting away from glass and to keep your air’s humidity at 30-50%, if you want your painting to avoid molding.

3 thoughts on “Can Watercolor Grow Mold (Watch out for this!)”

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