Oil paints, by its very nature, take a long time to dry. They’re slow, and you’ll need patience. Thick paint takes months to fully dry.
One of the most frustrating aspects of oil painting is waiting for the paint to dry. It can be aggravating to wait for the bottom coat to dry before applying the next, or for larger slash thicker sections to set before painting another layer or finishing a painting.
Well, it doesn’t truly ‘dry,’ it oxidizes, which is why the process is long. There are numerous additional reasons why people are continuously looking for solutions to speed up the drying time of oil paintings! There are, however, a few things you may do to speed up the process. So, let’s have a look at how to dry oil paintings faster.
How to Make Oil Paints Dry Faster?
Waiting for oil paint to dry can be a test of patience for artists who are used to faster-drying paints like watercolor or acrylic. The drying period of oil paint is well recognized as a reason why most painters dislike it. Even if it’s useful in some cases since it allows us to work on the details, we’d prefer it to dry faster in others.
As a result, I’ve compiled a list of tips for speeding up the drying time of my oil paintings. Every artist I’ve ever met is eager to learn the secrets to drying oil paint faster! In this post, we’ll look at nine alternative ways to speed up the drying time of your oil paintings, a few ways to reduce the time it takes for your paint to dry.
Keep a warm indoor temperature
Allow the painting to dry in an open, well-ventilated location where air may circulate. Natural light is also thought to be beneficial. A warm area is also preferred because paint takes longer to dry in a chilly atmosphere. Avoid using high-intensity heat, such as hair dryers, as this can just worsen the problem!
Paint in a well-ventilated, dry environment
Oil paint dries when its fully oxidized. It does not dry like acrylic paint where the water evaporates from the pigment. Oil paint, on the other hand, goes through a chemical reaction that causes the oil to solidify. Painting in a dry, well-ventilated environment can help the drying process go much faster.
Opening the window when it is not humid outside, running a ventilation fan is always a good idea when using solvents, and running a dehumidifier can all help speed up drying. The chemical alteration is aided by the continual exchange of air. If you run a fan that hasn’t been used in a while, make sure the fan blades, especially ceiling fans, are free of dust. You don’t want dust to circulate in the air and get into your painting.
The drying time is influenced by the medium
Depending on whether you’re using standard oil paint or water-soluble oil paint, this tip will be different. You most likely already mix a medium with your paint. But did you know that some of them will make your paint take longer to dry?
I’m mostly referring to the painting medium, but I’m also referring to linseed oil, safflower oil, and poppy seed oil. In fact, the more oil you use in your paint, the longer it takes to dry.
Allow your painting to be exposed to heat, but be cautious
This one requires some caution, but it works and works well. The drying time of your painting can be considerably accelerated by exposing it to heat.
Painting dries faster in higher heat. Cooler air, on the other hand, will slow down the drying process. You can heat up your painting in a variety of ways. On a warm, sunny day, one safe method is to place it near a window. Both the sun’s light and the warmth will accelerate the process.
Another option is to simply raise the temperature in your studio overnight, or during the day if you prefer it warm. I used to hang a completed painting on linen glued to plywood in the back windshield of my car when I did summer plein air events.
However, I discovered the hard way that this method requires extreme caution. My car’s interior became so hot at points that the linen began to split from the plywood, causing the plywood to warp. Many painting panels are created with heat-activated glue, so keep that in mind.
Excessive heat should be avoided
Avoid using high-intensity heat, such as hair dryers, as this can just exacerbate the problem! Some people recommend using a heat gun to finish your oil painting. I’ve never tried it because I prefer to work wet on wet, but they claim it’s effective.
If you use a heat gun, keep the temperature below 130 degrees Fahrenheit, since greater temperatures might cause the paint to discolor to yellowish or break. Slowly move the gun over the painting, keeping it a few inches away. During this operation, make sure the gun does not come into contact with the painting.
I’ve tried additional heating methods that I’m not going to reveal for fear of unintentionally inspiring you to accidentally damage your painting and your health.
Just make sure that if you use any type of heating treatment, you don’t overdo it and stay safe. It’s better to wait a few days for paint to dry before ruining your artwork or setting fire to your studio.
Paint in thin layer of oil paints
To speed things up, if we’re moving away from environmental influences and toward technical and chemical methods, the first one comes up is the application of paint. Using oil paints in thin layers will dry fast when painting.
Paint that is thicker takes longer to dry. When oil paint is exposed to air, it undergoes an oxidation process, which affects the chemistry of the paint. Because the entire mass of paint is not evenly exposed, the thicker the paint application, the longer this process takes.
A ‘skin’ will form on top if you paint in very thick layers of paint. But the paint underneath will still be damp and soft to touch. It’s best not to varnish a painting until it’s entirely dried, which might take months.
I understand that this approach is not obvious, because when we first begin painting, we prefer to use a lot of paint on both our brush and our canvas. It will also be difficult to quit this habit.
Oil paint can be thinned in a variety of ways. The most common way is to use solvents, but you can also use various types of oils, dryers, and thin paint application. If you have sensitivity or health issues with solvents, skip it. There are still many tricks to speed up the drying time
Keep in mind that using oil to dilute your paint will lengthen rather than shorten the drying period. You can alternatively thin the paint without using any thinners by scrubbing it hard onto the canvas with a bristle brush also known as tube consistency.
Work On A Even Surface
If you’re painting on rough surfaces, your oil paint will take significantly longer to dry. That’s why a canvas is one of the best paint surfaces to work with oil paintings. You can find them at any supply store.
Flat surfaces allow you to uniformly spread each color, allowing it to dry faster. We recommend giving it a shot if you don’t mind modifying your painting surface in return for a faster drying time.
Always use Thick over Thin method
Always make sure the first layer is the thinnest and has the least amount of oil content of any subsequent layers when painting with thin layers. This is the thick over thin/fat over lean principle, which must be followed if you don’t want your painting to crack, ghost, create dull, or worse.
The advantage of this method is that the first layer of thin paint will hasten the drying of subsequent layers. In many cases, the first layer is the one that takes the longest to dry.
Knowing this, you can use a warm earth tone like Transparent Red Oxide to tone your canvas, let it dry, and then begin painting. If you apply thin coats of paint, they should dry in a day or two, depending on other factors that we’ll go over later. Just remember to prioritize thick over thin/fat over lean.
When painting in layers, I’ll start with a very thin layer of paint and a squirt of Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits if necessary. With tube-consistent paint, add somewhat thicker layers, saving the thickest for last.
Use liquin to speed up the process
There are a variety of drying media that may be used to speed up the process, and you should do your experiments to see which one would work best for you. If you want to paint with classic oil paint, I recommend liquin.
The liquin will perform the same functions as your painting medium or linseed oil, but it has the added benefit of reducing the time it takes for your paint to dry. You can use the original liquin for glazing techniques or to make your base coats by mixing a small amount with your paint and not waiting too long to paint the details.
For fine details, there’s also considerably more liquid liquin to use. It’ll come in handy when you need to work on small things like stretching lines. As a result, you will be able to fluidify your paint while also speeding up the drying period.
Dryers for water soluble oil paint
There are some drawbacks to liquin if you are opposed to use chemical solvents. You’ll need some solvent to clean the liquid. Liquin, on the other hand, has no contraindications and can be used with water-soluble oil paints.
So I propose that you use it with traditional oil paint rather than water-soluble oil paint because you want to prevent all of these harmful compounds if you use water-soluble oil paint. Then ask your provider if there’s a substance that’s similar to liquin but can be cleaned with water.
Personally, I use Winsor & Newton’s Artisan water-soluble oil paint, which includes a quick-drying medium.
Use Galkyd and other Dryers
Chemical drying chemicals, such as Gamblin’s Galkyd or Windsor & Newton’s dryers, are excellent for speeding up the drying of succeeding layers of paint. Dryers are added to paint mixtures in modest amounts before they are applied to the canvas.
Because these and similar products contain petroleum distillates, which function like oil, they must adhere to the fat over lean guideline outlined above. Thin coats of paint can become sticky in as little as an hour, whereas broad strokes of paint might take anything from one to several days to dry.
Gamblin produces several different varieties of Galkyd, each with a different drying time. These dryers also impart a lustrous finish to the paint. Just make sure you follow the directions carefully because they can be hazardous.
When it comes to drying time, I’ve found that M. Graham’s Walnut Alkyd is definitely the fastest. The benefit of walnut alkyd over boiled walnut oil is that it is non-toxic. This will be my best bet whenever I need anything to be dry the next day.
The drawbacks of chemical drying agents
Whether you use liquin or a quick-drying medium, I recommend washing your brushes with a soap formulated exclusively for brush cleaning. There’s always some liquid or quick-drying material in the bristles, don’t you think?
After using any chemical drying agents, make sure to properly clean your brushes. If you don’t, your brushes will get stiffened and useless. If this happens, consider cleaning and repairing your brushes using Turpenoid Natural. Using a conditioning soap to finish your cleaning will allow you to restore the flexibility of your brush’s bristles.
Only use linseed oil-based oil paints
Although most oil paints are manufactured with linseed oil, certain producers may use safflower oil in white paint or light-valued cold colors because linseed oil tends to yellow after drying. Linseed oil dries faster than safflower and walnut oils, whereas poppy seed oil takes the longest. As a result, these hues will dry more slowly.
Avoid safflower, walnut, or poppy oil-based paints in favor of linseed oil-based paints if you want to speed up the drying time. Some brands only walnut or even safflower oil in some or all of their colors. Walnut oil is almost solely used by M. Graham in all of their colors. It’s a lovely, high-quality paint, but it won’t dry as quickly.
To thin out the base, use turpentine
Turpentine can also be used to thin paint for a foundation layer. It causes ‘dull’ spots of paint in later applications, therefore I don’t recommend it. This, however, will dry faster than only using paints.
Use Alkyd Paint with Your Oil Paint
The beautiful thing about alkyds is that you may use them in conjunction with oil paint or use them exclusively in a painting. Alkyd paints, like the walnut alkyd described above, are simply oil paints created with a quick-drying oil.
If you want to mix and match, using alkyds for slower drying colors like whites and cadmiums and standard oils for the rest of your colors is a wonderful method. This method is one I use when I go on painting vacations and require my works to dry quickly for transportation, but it may also be used in the studio.
While alkyds do not dry as quickly as acrylics, they normally dry within a day. Even with thicker paint applications, an alkyd-only painting will normally dry overnight. If you’re going to utilize alkyd paints with other mediums, notably dryers, be sure they’re alkyd-compatible.
Use pigments that dry faster
Certain colors or pigments will dry faster than others, assuming all other factors are equal. Because of the pigments, certain colors dry significantly faster than others. You can use some of these faster drying colors on your palette because many other color combinations can produce the same outcomes.
You’ll figure out which ones are slow as you go (reds and oranges, for example) and can avoid them if you want your painting done quickly. To help speed up the drying period of the successive layers, tone the canvas with a quick-drying color.
Cobalt, lead and manganese colors dries fast. Some of the faster drying colors are:
- Prussian Blue
- Cobalt blue
- Manganese Blue
- Sienna, both raw and burnt
- Genuine aureolin
- Umber, both burned and raw
- Manganese violet
- Flake White
- Lead White,
- Cremnitz White,
- Manganese Black
- Cobalt yellow
- Red and Chrome Yellow
- Naples Yellow
Keep in mind that some manufacturers will make the faster drying colors with a slower drying oil, such as safflower, to reduce the drying time.
Colors that take a long time to dry:
Red, yellow, green, and other cadmium colors dry slow. Some other slower drying colors are:
- Zinc White
- Alizarin Crimson
- Charcoal black
- Carbon black
- Lamp black
- Vandyke brown
For your first layers of paint, stay away from the highly slow-drying hues described above. Cracking can occur when a quick-drying color is applied over a slow-drying color.
Keep in mind that oil painting hardens rather than drying
If you don’t have the option but have to paint in thick layers for your creative style but still want to speed up the drying period, you can add a little liquin or any other drying agents to each of your combinations to aid in the drying process.
Painting in an Absorbent Surface
Many starting artists are unaware that there are alternative options for canvas and painting surfaces than the universal-primed canvas found in retailers which tends to cause oil paint to dry more slowly. Here’s a rundown of some possibilities:
Lead-primed linen is one of my favorite materials to paint on. Oil paint dries faster on lead-primed linen than it does on universal or standard titanium oil-primed canvas, despite the fact that it is non-absorbent.
It’s a wonderful feeling to paint on a smooth canvas that has been double or triple primed with lead white. The surface will adhere to wet paint slightly, making it ideal for wet on wet painting, but it will not stain and is non-absorbent, allowing you to wipe wet paint clean.
Lead white has a proclivity for yellowing with time. So don’t be surprised if you purchase lead-primed linen and notice that it seems somewhat yellow when compared to titanium-primed surfaces.
Keep also in mind that lead is poisonous, so avoid ingesting it in any way. It’s also tough to find and expensive due to its poisonous nature. Some dealers will claim that their linen is lead-primed when it isn’t, so ask before you buy. There are a few companies that make it, but you’ll have to do some investigation.
Surfaces Primed with Alkyd
Surfaces primed with titanium or oil or lead are more absorbent than those prepared with alkyd. Paint is less easy to distribute and soaks in more, but it dries faster.
Surfaces prepared with gesso
There are two variations. Traditional gesso, which is prepared with rabbit skin glue and acrylic gesso are the two varieties of gesso. Because traditional gesso is brittle, it should only be used on hard surfaces like wood panels.
Acrylic gesso is an acrylic preparation, not a genuine gesso. The absorbent surface of glue chalk gesso-primed surfaces will help oil paint dry faster.
The brand of the paint also affects drying time
The brand of paint used is another factor that can alter drying time. One kind of cobalt blue may dry faster than another, particularly if the former has a lot of chemicals.
Use Acrylic Paint for Initial Layers
Paint your canvas with acrylic paint first. Acrylic dries quickly which allows you to put oil paints on top. This method will speed up the whole painting process. This strategy works well and is one I do frequently. This will also save you money because acrylic paint is less expensive than oil paint!
Many paintings are constructed using a layering technique that lets the artist to quickly establish color and value masses from which to work off of. Instead of utilizing slow-drying oils for the block-in, acrylics that dry in minutes can be used. Use oil paint for the final layers once you’re sure the colors and values are correct.
This is a trick I teach in my classes and utilize practically all of the time. We come to prepare the base coat of our canvas in acrylic paint instead of oil paint, even if you do your subject in oil paints. This way you can accomplish all of your base in one day and even start details in oil paint the same day if you come to prepare all of your base in acrylic paint and keep the final layer of details for the oil paint.
As a result, you will save several days on the drying period of the oil paint. The other benefit of this method is that it reduces the risk of ghosting, or the dull areas that occur when layered oil paints dry. This is particularly true if you conserve the oil for the last layer. Your initial strokes will not only be narrow, but they will also be devoid of oil, ensuring that the fat over lean or the thick over thin rule is followed.
It’s vital to note that this approach requires a universal or acrylic-primed surface. Oil-based paint can always be applied over water-based paint, but not the other way around. As a result, you should never use an oil-primed canvas for this technique, and you should never paint acrylic over oil.
The manufacturing date of the paint influence drying time
You should also evaluate the paint’s age. If a tube of paint was poorly secured or sealed sitting in a retail storage for years, it will dry faster because the oxidation process has already started before you received it; it may also be stiff. It’s possible that the next time you get that same type, you’ll get a newer tube that takes longer to dry.
Other Factors Affecting Drying Time
As you can see, there are a variety of factors that might affect how long oil paints take to dry. So, if one of the ways above isn’t working, it could be due to a different factor. Let’s imagine you’re painting on a porous surface and the paint is taking an eternity to dry.
Back then I used a titanium white that was entirely comprised of safflower oil. I had a heavy stroke of practically pure white paint in one location on a painting that was supposed to go to an exhibition. There were paint containing a pigment like cadmium, which takes longer to dry. It will take significantly longer if the cadmium is prepared with safflower oil.
During the winter, I was also storing the painting in our dark, unheated basement to dry. It took nearly a month for that one picture to dry due to a mix of conditions including thick paint, safflower oil, and a cold, dark setting.
Try a few painting tips to see what works best for you
I’ve heard of painters that use hairspray to spray their paintings or even bake them in the oven! However, due to the possibility of cracking issue further down the way, I’m not willing to try either. It’s pointless to create a magnificent oil painting just to spoil it in the last step!
One thing I like to do is leave my paintings in my conservatory with the windows open. This works great and dries oils out rapidly.
Because it is hot most of the year where I live, I usually place my oil paintings that need to dry quickly in my car then leave it outside. Because the car is simply a metal box with windows, it gets very hot inside, and my paintings dry considerably more quickly. I often work on numerous paintings at the same time, so I always have something to do while one is drying.
Another suggestion is to turn the back of canvas towards the sun to prevent the oils from drying too quickly in the front of the painting. During the peak of summer, it is better to leave in for the night because it may get pretty hot outside during the day.
Given all of the variables stated, no one, including paint manufacturers, can guarantee how long oil paint will take to dry 100 percent of the time. The best thing to do is try out some of the aforementioned possibilities until you find what works best for your painting process, style, and surroundings.
I believe the problem is simple: if you want to use oil paints because you like the colors, brightness, and texture, you must accept that drying time is an inevitable aspect of the process. Keep this in mind while setting expectations for a gallery, exhibition, or individual. Most folks will comprehend the drying issues if you explain them.
I hope this information is useful.