Photoacoustic tomography (PAT) is an emerging modality that combines the high contrast of optical imaging, with the spatial resolution and penetration depth of ultrasound, by exploiting the photoacoustic effect. As with any new imaging modality, reliable physical phantoms are needed to: calibrate instruments; validate performance; optimize signal-to-noise; perform routine quality control; and compare systems. Phantom materials for testing small animal PAT systems should also mimic both the optical and acoustic properties of soft tissue, while for calibration purposes should be resistant to degradation over long time periods. We show here that polyvinyl chloride plastisol (PVCP) phantoms enable calibration and performance validation using two PAT systems with distinct designs (Visualsonics Vevo LAZR and Endra Nexus 128) across a wavelength range of 680 nm – 950 nm. Inclusions between 2 and 3.2 mm in diameter were fabricated from PVCP using a range of dye concentrations (0 % to 0.256 % Black Plastic Color, BPC) in a custom mold. A calibration phantom was imaged repeatedly on both systems, over time scales of minutes, hours and days, to assess system stability. Both systems demonstrated good reproducibility over time, with the coefficient of variation in the measured signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) being less than 15% over the course of 30 days. Imaging performance was optimized by plotting SNR as a function of different system parameters. The visualization of objects embedded in optically absorbing and scattering backgrounds was also assessed. PVCP is easy to work with and provides stable phantoms for assessing PAT system performance.