Can watercolor absorb water from air? (Watch out for this!)

Since some small amount of water is always part of the air, it seems obvious that a watercolor painting will absorb this water over time. But will it? Here’s the answer and how you can avoid other dangers.

Watercolor paintings can absorb slight amounts of water from the air. You won’t have to worry about your painting getting damaged as long as the air contains a normal amount of humidity. By spacing your painting off the glass with a mat border, you will ensure that it will not mold.

framed pictures and paintings

What air humidity can do to your paintings

Watercolors are water soluble. This means they “dissolve” in water. This is how we can use them to paint. We dip our brushes in water and apply that to the pan of paint. When the paint pigments are dissolved in water, they will spread instantly, allowing us to paint.

We can also counteract this in some way. After you’ve already painted something and it has dried up, you can reactivate the paint by applying water to it. You won’t be able to completely erase the watercolor paint, but to a large extent you will succeed- even if you don’t want to.

Also read: How outdoor watercolor Sketching can help everybody

So if you spill water onto your painting, you will obviously ruin it. Does this also apply to air humidity? 

Yes, to some extent. Humidity will affect your painting in some way. You won’t have to worry about it getting soaked wet, but if you don’t protect it properly, it can mold. Here’s how you ensure this doesn’t happen.

Watercolor paintings: how to protect them

Different types of situations require different approaches. Depending on what you decide to do with the painting, you may wish to hang it up, or you may just wish to keep it somewhere, maybe to sell it in the future, or just to keep it in your portfolio.

In both cases, I will explain how to protect your artwork.

If you’re also interested in when your watercolors expire, check out this article.

The proper way to store a watercolor painting

The best place to store a watercolor painting is somewhere that’s dry, secure, and safe. Your basement or shed aren’t good places to store it.

There is a lot of potential for damage to the paintings in both places. The area is prone to flooding during storms or is very humid in general. 

Your living room drawer, bedroom drawer or, if you have one, your art room drawer would be ideal. It is recommended that you do not store art works in the bathroom or the kitchen as these two areas are also very humid.

Now that we found a place where to store the painting, I’ll show you how. 

The best place to put that would be in a drawer, as mentioned before. You can either just lay the paintings in there, or you can put them in a plastic box that can be sealed. This way your paintings would be protected, if anything were to happen to the drawer, like something being spilled on top of it.

In conclusion, I suggest that you keep your paintings in a drawer in the living room/bureau/art room, ideally in a plastic box that can be sealed. 

How to hang a watercolor painting up – the right way

The best way to hang up a painting has always been to frame it. It protects the painting from dust and gives it a more professional or artistic appearance.

However, there are some things to watch out for. If you’d like a detailed tutorial on this, I’ve written a comprehensive article about it. Those who are just interested in a quick overview can read on.

You should first space your painting away from the glass. Otherwise it might mold over time, because of the air humidity, which will always get into the frame, especially with common frames.

I would recommend using a mat border to make this look good. (Read more about it in the article I mentioned previously)

UV-protective glass is also something you should consider. How come? Sunlight is one of the biggest threats to any painting, especially a watercolor.

No matter how UV-protected the glass is, you should not hang your painting in direct sunlight. Let the light bounce off a wall first.

All of this was very basic and general. My detailed article will provide you with more details.

Waterproof watercolor – how do you do it?

As we just learned, watercolors are water soluble, so making them waterproof seems like a good idea. 

Despite that, it doesn’t need to be done. As long as you store your painting in a room-temperature environment, it will be absolutely fine. However, you shouldn’t spill your coffee on it.

Check out the article I wrote about waterproofing your painting if you still would like to learn more about it. Spoiler: Don’t use hairspray!

Is laminating a good option for protecting watercolor paintings? Check this article.


Your painting can be affected by air humidity, but it’s barely noticeable. If you store your paintings in a dry and safe place, they will last a lifetime. If you decide to frame it, though, you should use a mat border. It is best to put it in a sealing plastic bag when storing it in order to keep it safe.

3 thoughts on “Can watercolor absorb water from air? (Watch out for this!)”

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