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I think varies greatly on many factors. Shiny light colors like golds don't last very long, while dark matte colors like black or purple last much longer. It also depends on the usage, use it everyday and it will dry out super fast.

I'd estimate that a medium used (once or twice a week) mid-tone color would last about a year or two.



To get it back in shape just add more water when it becomes gunky.
 

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If you really want to make sure:

1. Open up the paint and look inside, if it looks gunky or thicker than it should then go to 2, if not then go to 3. It most likely will.
2. Put a few drops of water in there, and a small bead as an agitator. Michael's sells these glass beads in packs of 100 that work great. Shake like hell.
3. Put a bit on a palette, water it down, and paint it on a spare sprue. Let it dry.
4. If it looks pasty, starts to flake, or the color looks very wrong, then the paint is kaput.
 

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From my own experience.. Yes. Paint does go bad.

Yes it will thicken over time as the water is evaporated from the pigment. That is the easy fix.. You can simply add water to rehydrate it..

Of course, the paint sometimes becomes a solid chunk of pigment, and becomes almost impossible to reconstitute.

Then there is the mold factor. I have in fact had a paint that when opened, smelled like mold. You can't see it, but the odor is there. I have painted with this before, and after it dries, the smell is gone. And the miniature does not ever actually show mold. I would call that an expired paint in most cases.
 

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And on the other hand, I know several guys who are still painting with paints that dropped out of production nearly two decades ago!

It all comes down to whether the paint dries out over time or not. A well sealed bottle of paint that gets a little water once in a while to keep it wet can last for a very long time, indeed.
 
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