Want to Save Money? Start Tubing Your Own Oil Paint!

By Janet Bonneau in Art Tutorials > Painting Tutorials

Have you ever considered tubing your own paint? It’s a great way to save money if you use large quantities of certain colors like white. Or, maybe you’d like to save the leftovers on your palette and blend them into a nice gray for later use?

Either way, the process is simple and all you need are empty aluminum tubes, a palette knife and large quantities of paint!

Here is a photo of my typical setup:


I’ve got a gallon of paint (white), a palette knife, one empty aluminum tube ready to be filled, one tube of white paint already filled and crimped, and a few other tubed colors.

You may also be wondering about the power drill with an attached rod, on the right side of that photo! With that “paint beater” I can mix some linseed oil right in the gallon can of paint, which both makes it easier to tube AND makes it easier to mix with other paint colors later.


(The beater was made by bending one end of a metal rod into an oval shape so it can reach the insides of the can more easily. It saves a lot of effort!)

If this is starting to sound appealing, you’ll want to consider which colors you use large quantities of. Many painters use a lot of white for mixing with other colors, myself included. That’s why I buy it by the gallon and tube it myself. One gallon will last me for a year or more.

The primaries—red, yellow, and blue—are a staple of most palettes. I don’t use them as much as white, so I buy those colors in quarter pints, half-pints or pints instead of gallons. Other colors like the umbers, blacks or grays may not be worth your time and effort to tube if you don’t use them as frequently.


Before you tube, make sure to WEAR PROTECTIVE GLOVES! (Yes, it will get messy!) The process itself is quite easy, however:

With the tube cap on, take your palette knife and scoop paint from your paint can into the open back end of the tube. I put some in, and then tap the cap end hard against the table to force paint further down into the tube.

Keep filling the tube until about a half-inch of space is left. Crimping the end twice should be enough to seal the tube securely. Label the tube with permanent marker or a dab of paint to identify the color.

Can you really save money by doing this? You bet!

As I write this, a gallon of zinc white oil paint from Daniel Smith is just over $120. Now compare that to the retail price of 40ml tubes of zinc white. Depending on the brand, they range from $5 to $12.

Since it takes a little over NINETY 40ml tubes to equal a gallon, you’ll spend a lot less on paint, even with the small cost of aluminum tubes added on. Those you can get at Utrecht or Dick Blick, usually for less than a dollar.

For more from Janet Bonneau, visit VermontPleinAir.com.


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