Fading watercolor paintings: how to protect them

Every form of art has its limits as to how long it will last, so how long does a watercolor painting last, and will it fade?

If stored out of direct sunlight and humid environments, watercolor paints and paper will not fade for several decades. Be sure to always buy high-quality supplies for your painting to ensure that it will last. Otherwise, the paint will fade and the paper will turn yellow.

woman painting with watercolor

Do you need any special materials to prevent fading?

It all comes down to the quality of your paper and your paint. If those two are of bad quality, it doesn’t matter how good you take care of the painting, it will lose its quality marginally faster.

Given that you take art more seriously, I would definitely recommend not being cheap with those supplies. You can happily use lower-cost paints and paper if you don’t care that much about your paintings lasting that long.

As a semi-professional or professional artist, I would always recommend going for the better quality options, though.

This is imperative to ensure the longevity of your paintings if you want to sell them one day. Be sure to include those higher supply costs in the price of your work. This is also a good way to advertise your paintings.

Schmincke and Winsor & Newton are generally considered to be excellent manufacturers of watercolors. However, you can still achieve similar results with more affordable paint.

The best paper to use is always 100% cotton paper that is at least 300gsm in weight. There are tons of companies out there, so just pick one, try it out, and you should be fine. I’ve found that Arteza has some good watercolor papers at an affordable price.

What are the main dangers of watercolor paintings?

Watercolor paintings pose two main dangers. The first is water. In the event that a watercolor painting gets wet, the paints will just float away and the painting will be destroyed.

If a room has a very high moisture level, your painting may also grow mold if not stored or framed correctly.

Here’s more information on how to store a watercolor painting, and here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to frame watercolor paintings.

Since there are quite a few things that can go wrong, I recommend reading those two articles. Both of them are very condensed, filled with facts, and easy to read.

Sunlight and its UV rays are another danger. It causes paper to turn yellow and paint to fade over time.

This can be seen in old books as well as in old storefronts, where their color and brightness have faded over time.

watercolor paint with a brush

How can you keep your paintings safe?

As just mentioned, there are two articles on this site that go into more detail, but I will give a short overview now. 

Firstly, keep your painting away from humid environments. For example, humid basements, a shed, the kitchen or the bathroom. Basically, anywhere your painting could become wet is bad.

To counteract the UV issue, if you are framing the painting, you should not hang it directly in the sun. I would always advise to consider using UV-protected glass, in order to offer even more UV-protection.

Lightproof folders are best if you just plan to store it. Put your paintings in there and store them in a safe place out of the sun and danger, e.g. in a drawer.

To get step-by-step instructions on all of these tricks and ways, see this and this article, which I mentioned earlier.

Another method on how to protect watercolor paintings might be laminating them. Whether that’s a good idea can be found out here, it might surprise you!

How do watercolor paintings age?

As long as they aren’t damaged, watercolor paintings can last a lifetime.

As long as you keep the painting out of direct sunlight, and don’t opt for cheap paints, the painting should last a couple of decades without fading too much.

While they will last for a long time, they can’t be restored as easily as acrylic or oil paintings. Especially the yellowing of the paper will become a big problem after a while, so always keep your eye on the environment you store your work in.

Here is an article on how to make your watercolor brushes last a lifetime and this article shows you how and when you need to use gesso for a watercolor painting.


You’ll need to use high-quality materials for your painting in order to make it last a lifetime, while paint and paper play the biggest factor. In addition to the materials, you will have to frame and store your painting in a safe, UV-light-free environment to prevent yellowing or damage to the paper. Watercolor paintings can generally last centuries if they are stored and treated properly.

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