How to Make Oil Paint Dry Faster

Oil paint is perfect for so many painting styles, but its slow drying time can be a real pain. Oil paint is made up of pigments and linseed oil; the ratio depends on how thick it needs to be produced. Once the oil painting is made, it then needs to dry. Sometimes, though not often, an oil painting requires more than two weeks to dry at an average room temperature. To speed up the drying process, artists need to be aware of how to make oil paint dry faster.

It’s a common frustration among many artists, but just because it’s frustrating doesn’t mean it’s not solvable. Drying can take days or even weeks, which means that the last stage of painting can be a long wait.  Although oil paint may take a long time to dry, the drying process can be expedited with a few helpful techniques. This article will look at ways to help speed up the drying process.

Drying Time for Oil Paint: Factors to Consider

drying oil paint

Painting with watercolors and acrylics, which dry through evaporation, is one of the faster drying paints. By contrast, oil paint dries much more slowly due to oxidation. You will notice the browning of the food item’s flesh when it oxidizes, as it does in apples or avocados. Oil paints do not turn brown from oxidation but instead slowly dry and harden through the oxidation process.

Many factors affect the drying time of oil paint, including the brand, the climate, and other variables that we will face below. The drying of an oil painting may take anywhere from eight hours to a few days and months to dry correctly. In order to better understand why these factors have an impact on the drying times of oil paint, let us examine them.

Paint Layers Thickness

Depending on the thickness of the oil paint you apply, it will take longer to dry. The process will take longer when you use a thicker layer than a thinner one. Certain painting techniques use heavier layers of paint, such as impasto, which might not be dry to the touch for a week. You may get quicker results with the wet-on-wet or alla prima techniques.

Oils Used in the Paint

Depending on the oil used in oil paint, the drying time can vary. In comparison, about two days are needed for linseed oil to dry, whereas around three days are needed for safflower oil. The poppyseed oil takes the longest to dry compared to the others. Linseed oil is one of the most widely used oils as it dries the fastest.

Brand of Oil Paint

Varying brands of oil paint have different drying times. This is because each brand and manufacturer uses different ingredients and formulas. There are many good-quality oil paints available on the market that contain more pigment and binder, while fewer or no additives decrease the quality of the paint. Oil paints that are more “pure” will possess a more pleasing appearance and perform better.

Paint Pigment

In addition, different pigments tend to dry at different rates because their structures differ. Paints with earth-toned colors, such as brown and orange, and those containing iron oxide, tend to dry faster than others. 

Environment for Painting

The first factor that affects drying time is temperature. The drying process will be sped up in warmer climates, while it will slow it down in colder climates. Additionally, the humidity will slow the drying process down as more moisture is present in the air. It is possible to speed up the drying process by painting outside a slight breeze. It is also ideal if the weather outside is sunny, dry, and warm.

Painting Surface

Paint drying time can be affected by the surface on which it is applied. The drying time can be reduced when you paint on an absorbent surface. Paint takes longer to dry when applied to a less absorbent surface or one primed.

Age of the Paint

Painting can also take longer to dry if the paint is old. The paint tube may have been sitting unused for years, and the seal may have worn off, or it may be damaged. By the time you put the paint on, oxidation would have already started. It will harden before you even apply it.

How to Make Oil Paint Dry Faster

sunset represent in oil paint

You can find out how to dry oil paints faster now that you know about some factors that influence their drying time. If you do not wish to blend or apply a wet-on-wet technique, layering oil paint can be a waiting game. It is possible to speed up the drying process in numerous ways. The following are a few methods for quickly drying oil paint.

The Best Place to Paint

Our surroundings can significantly impact the drying time of paint, as we’ve already defined. Simply working in a well-ventilated, dry area can speed up the drying process. There should be a lot of natural light to help keep the room warm. Using a fan or simply opening a window can help circulate more air. When using a fan, keep an eye out for dust and clean the fan thoroughly so that no additional dust particles are dispersed. The drying time can be sped up by using a dehumidifier.

Expose Your Painting to Heat-But Be Careful

You need to be careful with this one, but it is effective. Adding heat to your painting will speed up drying time considerably. If you increase the heat, it will dry faster. On the other hand, cooler air will make it take longer. 

Your painting can be heated in different ways. The safest way is to put it in a window on a sunny, warm day. In addition to the warmth, the sunlight accelerates the process. The other way to make your studio warmer is to simply set the thermostat higher, either overnight or during the day if you like it warm.

Heat guns are sometimes recommended for oil paintings. Ensure not to exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit if you are using a heat gun since higher temperatures can result in yellowing the paint or even cracking. Place the gun several inches away from the painting as you move it slowly over it. Make sure that the gun does not touch the painting during the process. Remember that many paintings panels use heat-activated glue.

If you will use any type of heating device, be sure not to overdo it and keep it safe. Paint should be allowed to dry for a few days before touching it rather than ruin a painting or burn down your studio.

Use Dryers Such as Galkyd or Liquin

It is a great idea to speed up the drying of subsequent coats of paint with chemical drying agents such as Galkyd and Liquin. They contain a petroleum distillate base that acts as an oil solvent. When applying paints on canvas, can add a small amount of a drying agent to the paint mixture. The paint can become tacky within an hour and may still take a day or more to dry if it is thick.

If you use chemical drying agents, make sure you clean your brushes thoroughly. If you fail to do so, your brushes will become hard and unusable. You can clean and restore your brushes with Turpenoid Natural if this happens. 

Use Alkyd Paint With Your Oil Paint

Oil paints containing an alkyd base, such as walnut alkyd, are just oil paints that are made with a quick-drying base. Although alkyds do not dry as quickly as acrylics, they usually do so within a day.

Alkyds are great because they can be mixed and matched with oil paint or do an entire painting with alkyds. Even thicker paint applications on an alkyd painting will normally dry overnight.

When mixing and matching colors, it is a good idea to use alkyds for colors that dry more slowly, such as whites and cadmium, and stick to regular oils for the rest. Alkyd paints should only be used in conjunction with alkyd-compatible media, such as dryers.

Damar Varnish

Damar varnish is one of the best ways to dry oil paint overnight if you have ever wondered how to do it. Turpentine is mixed with damar resin crystals to make damar varnish. In addition to thinning and sealing oil paint, acrylic sealant adds a glossy finish. Using a fan to dry the surface of the painting can speed the drying process. It enables paintings to dry in 45 minutes. It is important not to breathe in varnish fumes since it emits fumes.

Acrylic Paint as a Base Layer

Paint can be applied in many layers, and each one must be allowed to dry before the next can be added. To begin with, acrylic paint may be used instead of oil paint. Color values and colors can then be created by applying acrylic paint. Acrylic paint dries quickly and is easy to apply. Using this method, you need to follow the rule of “fat over lean” since the thin paint layer will serve as a foundation for the subsequent more dense layers of oil paint.

Chemical Drying Agents

Adding a small amount of drying agent to the paint before applying it to the canvas is one of the best ways to speed up the drying of oil paint. It can either be mixed with your chosen paints on your palette or dipped into the bottle and applied to your painting in the same manner as water.

Linseed Oil

Despite its versatility, linseed oil has been used since the 15th century as an unrefined or cold-pressed medium. In addition to Michelangelo’s famous paintings, it is also likely that other drying oils used linseed oil that polymerized when exposed to oxygen. This chemical change in the oil gives the oil paint an encasing and maintains its vibrancy. Within 18 to 24 hours, linseed oil dries with a flexible film, limiting its tendency to crack. However, the orange pigment tends to turn yellow when exposed to white oil paint, so many artists avoid it.

Applying Thinner Layers of Paint

It will take longer for thick layers of paint to dry than thin ones. Thicker layers of paint dry slower than thinner ones. Adding a thin layer first will help subsequent layers dry more quickly and help create depth by adding layers of depth. You should follow the “fat over lean” concept in order to prevent cracks and other problems from occurring when the paint dries. Your first layer should be the thinnest, and the next layer can be thicker. Mineral spirits or turpentine are two solvents that you can use to thin oil paints.

Toxic fumes from these solvents can be harmful if breathed in, so you need to use them carefully. Furthermore, there are non-toxic and odorless solutions that are made specifically for this purpose. A citrus-based medium or spike lavender oil, for example, can be used.

Paint On an Absorbent Surface

The universally primed canvas you see in art stores tends to result in slower drying times for oil paint, and this is a common misconception among beginning artists. There are several options to choose from:

Lead-Primed Linen

Lead-primed linen is one of the best surfaces for painting. Lead white is a beautiful primer to use when painting on a canvas with a smooth finish.

This surface slightly clings to the wet paint, so you can paint wet on wet. However, it won’t stain, and it is non-absorbent so that can completely wipe off wet paint. Even though oil paint is non-absorbent, lead-primed linen dries much faster than universal oil-primed canvas or regular titanium oil-primed canvas.

Toxic lead is dangerous to consume, so avoid ingesting it at all costs. Moreover, it can be difficult to obtain and costly due to its toxic nature. A few manufacturers make it, but you may have to do some research. You should ask the vendor specifically before buying linen that says it is lead-primed when it is not.

Alkyd-Primed Surfaces

A surface primed with alkyd is more absorbent than a surface primed with titanium oil or lead oil. Rather than spreading as easily and soaking in as much, the paint dries faster.

Gesso-primed surfaces

A traditional gesso made from rabbit skin glue and an acrylic gesso made from acrylic resin is two gesso types. Since gesso is brittle, it is meant for rigid surfaces such as wood panels. An acrylic primer is also known as acrylic gesso, but it is not actually gesso. Oil paint will dry faster on gesso-primed glue chalk surfaces because of their absorbent surface.

A Summary of Chemical and Oil Additives Drying Times

yellow oil paint in dark background

We have shown you how to dry your oil paints faster than if you did not use any additives with many types of additives available. Normally, oil paint will take between six and eight months to completely dry. As we have mentioned in this article, the following table displays the drying times for all additives.

Type of AdditiveDrying Time
Poppyseed oil5-7 days
Walnut oil4-5 days
Safflower oil72 hours
Liquin24 to 72 hours
Pure gum spirits turpentine24 hours
Walnut Galkyd24 hours
Galkyd24 hours
Linseed oil18-24 hours
Alkyd paints16 hours
Mineral Spirits6-8 hours
Damar varnish30-45 minutes

Mistakes to Avoid

The biggest challenge in oil painting is making the paint dry faster. No matter how skillful an artist you are, if your paintings take a week to completely dry, you will never be able to complete a large painting before your artistic skills deteriorate. Let’s look at what mistakes to avoid to speed up the process of drying.

  • Exposing the painting to direct sunlight. Over time, this will damage the pigment, yellowing it and possibly causing cracks to appear.
  • Hair dryers are blown directly on the canvas. As a result, nearby dust and debris will get stuck to the canvas. Surface layers of paint dry before bottom layers due to the intense heat from the dryer. In the long run, this may lead to cracking.
  • Paintings are left in dusty environments or outdoors. These conditions may also make debris adhere to the painting.

Final Words

There are many ways to significantly reduce the drying time of oil paint so that you don’t have to wait several months before you can touch your paintings again. The general rule of how to make oil paint dry faster is that oil paint will dry faster when the temperature is warmer.   Whether you don’t have time to wait for the paint to dry, or you would like to speed up the drying process, thеѕе methods will make a painting with oil paints faster and easier. 

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