You can find oil paintings in almost any museum no matter where you go. However, oil paint is notoriously volatile and difficult to master.
The biggest reason for this issue is the non-solid, non-dry state that oil paints tend to stay in for a significant amount of time.
And while the oil paint is wet, you won’t be able to add new layers without mixing it with the paint that is already on the canvas.
There are a number of techniques and additives that are designed to thin the paint and keep it moving wet. But there are not many shop-bought options to dry the paint faster.
Fortunately, not all is lost.
Here are 7 methods that will show you how to make oil paint dry faster.
These are in no particular order of efficacy, speed or popularity. You should look to try a number of these methods until you find what works best for you.
1. Location-Based Drying
This passive method involves planning ahead, in terms of where you choose to paint. To do this, pick as non-humid a space as you can that has a significant amount of ventilation.
The idea behind this is that the oil paints will start to dry up with little moisture in the air as well as a constantly moving stream of dry air. Opening windows, employing dehumidifiers and judiciously using fans can also help speed up the drying process.
If you choose to employ this method, it is advisable to clean and dust the workspace before you start painting and regularly maintain the room, because you don’t want the dust to settle on your painting.
2. Acrylic Underpainting for Oil Painting
For this technique you want to start with an underpainting of your work in acrylic paint. Unlike oil, acrylics dry at a significantly faster rate, and work very well as a base layer. Moreover, you can pretty much use any acrylic paint that you have available.
This has the effect of speeding up the overall process on any given piece. Working in this fashion also has the benefit of being more cost-effective than working solely in oils. Since acrylic paints are normally cheaper than oil paints.
3. Thin and Light Painting
The easiest and most practical method of drying oil paint faster is to work with as little oil paint as possible with individual strokes. You will still need to deal with a drying process, as with all oil painting techniques. However, the lighter and thinner layers of oil paint are, the faster they will dry.
However, this method can be tricky to get used to, because most artists are used to working with relatively thick layers of oil paint. So it can almost feel like you have to relearn all the basic techniques again.
4. Linseed Based Oil Paints
Oil paint can be made using a wide variety of different oils. And the difference in drying time can vary greatly between the various oils used.
Among the different oils, linseed oil in particular is known for drying faster than the others.
So if you paint with linseed-based oil paints your painting will dry considerably faster.
Most high-quality oil paints will list its ingredients online, and finding linseed-only products should be relatively easy to find via in-person shopping or online research.
5. Paint with Specific Types of Color
Another factor in the drying time of paints is the type of paint being used. This is not necessarily an issue with the shades of color (though some still tend to dry faster than others, especially most black paints), but rather where the basis for the pigments come from.
For example, paints with chrome, cobalt or manganese-based pigments tend to dry faster than paints that are based in cadmium. The most effective means of using this to your advantage is to use faster drying paints as an underlayer, which will help dry any paint you lay on top of it faster.
Also, as a general rule, most earth tones and iron oxide-based paints will dry significantly faster than most.
6. Using Absorbent Canvas
There are a number of surfaces you can use to apply oil paints, from wood to plaster to assorted canvas-based products.
If you use primed canvas (and there are a number of options of primer), you will find that most paints will dry faster during the regular painting process. But make sure that the canvas is primed with the right type of gesso for oil paints.
7. Drying Mediums for Oil Paint
Not all painters have easy access to specialty canvas or linseed-only paints. Thankfully, there is another option that is more easily available to most painters: paint additives.
If you mix drying agents like Liquin or Galkyd in with your paints, they will bind with the paint and dry significantly faster on the canvas.
You will want to do some research on the various types of drying agents. Some of them can give your oil paint a shiny or matte finish.
Additionally, the need to regularly clean brushes is more imperative when using drying agents, especially due to the nature of the drying agents themselves.
Oil painting involves a lot of trial and error, as well as learning a lot of brush techniques and material experimentation. However, much like any other enterprise that involves a lot of work and practice, the rewards can be both numerous and heartening, in a way that only other fine artists can tell you.
In today’s fast-paced world, it can be difficult for many people to slow down enough to make a physical piece of artwork that can take days to wait for paints to dry enough to continue working on, even when using different drying techniques.
These techniques can shorten the path to a finished work, but regardless of how long your final painted piece takes to be ready for the rest of the world, there is no sensation greater than the feeling of accomplishment of a piece of painted fine art, with the possible exception of seeing others react to and reflect upon your final art piece. How you get where you need to get is up to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for an oil painting to dry?
A normal oil painting will dry completely within 10 to 14 days. The drying time can be significantly influenced by the oil and pigment that the paints are made off, how thick the layer of paint is, and any additives mixed in with the paint.
Does oil paint dry faster in heat or cold?
Oil paint dries faster in warm environments compared to cold environments. However, you don’t want to expose a painting to extreme heat such as a hairdryer. On average an oil painting will take around 12 days to fully dry to the touch.
Does oil paint dry faster in the sun?
Oil paints dry faster in the sun since the sunlight will slightly warm up your painting. However, exposing oil paint to sunlight can also damage the paint, especially if your paint has a low lightfastness rating. Therefore, you want to expose the back of the canvas to the sunlight rather than the front.