Is it pointless to buy large tubes when you mostly paint small?

As hard as I try to paint constantly and I throw away a lot of scrapings from my palette, those big tubes of paint seem to stick around for ever. I guess this is because I mostly paint on small boards. Is it pointless to buy large tubes of paint? And what is that gunk that collects on the end of the tubes anyway, making them hard to get closed?

It’s not pointless if it saves you money. If sealed, oil paint in the tube can last for years–decades, even. I have some tubes I don’t use that are 40+ years old and still soft. I think the “gunk” is oil that separates from the pigment and seeps out.

Small tubes are handy for plein air painting. (paint is heavy!)
But I totally agree with Connie on this… buy large tubes for the studio as they are cheaper.
A trick I use is to calculate the price per ml and then you quickly see that it’s well worth it to pay up for the large tubes.

Same with other things like linen for example.
A 2m10 by 10m Claessens roll + stretchers costs a lot less than the equivalent in pre-stretched canvas (here in Belgium, at least).

You never know when you may get the urge to paint something BIG! For me, I am still trying out several different brands/colors…so small works for me.

Hi Sunny,

By the way I like your work. I agree about the tubes. Large tubes are pointless unless they are an absolute necessity for a large work at hand, though even when I do large work I still prefer the small tubes. I am not much for impasto so I do not use much paint overall. It is mainly a matter of the mess since it seems all tubes deteriorate over time leaking and becoming difficult to close do to drying oil accumulation on the threads. By the way you might want to purchase tubes with large cap threads and a large diameter cap because they remain serviceable longer. I usually keep each tube, I only use three colors, in its own zip lock bag. This reduces the insidious spread of oil smudges somewhat.

I buy large tubes only for the colours I tend to use more frequently, eg white and ultramarine blue.

I have tubes of paint that are over 40 years old. The paint is still good. Getting the top off can be a challenge. Heat the top with a lighter to get them off more easily. I liked it better when the screw tops were metal not the plastic they use now which melts if heated too much.

Acrylics and water color will dry up in the tubes although you can at least reactivate the water colors by cutting open and wetting the hardened paints.