How Long Does It Take Oil Paint to Dry? Things You Must Know!

For the uninitiated, oil paint “Does” take a long time to dry up. At least, longer than watercolor, acrylic paints, and the contemporary mediums we artists use.

The obvious question is, “How long?” Will we have to wait for ages before varnishing the painting for an exhibition? Will it never dry? I’d say, it will. But the time your oil painting takes to dry up is dependent on a wide variety of factors.

Oil Paint Drying Time

I can understand artists being flabbergasted and somewhat reluctant in using this medium. Why wouldn’t you? Several factors influence drying time and the overall look of oil painting to various degrees. Well, I’ll be attempting to answer all the questions that people have.

In this little article, we’ll be going over some of the factors that have some degree of influence over the matter. Also, I’d be going over things that can actually speed up the process to a considerable degree.

Let’s jump into it, shall we?

Why Would I Have to Wait for It to Dry?

The shortest answer to this question is “Oxidization.” Oil uses oxidization to bond with the materials and other components of a painting. Let’s say we didn’t have oxidization in play, what would happen then?

The answer: Oil won’t evaporate. It won’t “Completely” dry. That’s because there are no water components in oil for it to evaporate. Yes, the water component in the pigments will dry up.

But the actual oil in the paint will be as it was before. If your paint is using linseed oil pigments, they’ll react with the oxygen and harden. [source]

Yup, this thing is rather complicated. This is why you’d need to follow a specific procedure and allow it time to dry up. Also, if you’re varnishing, use specific types of varnishing material for specific pigments.

Note to all the artists: Acrylic paints are at an advantage here as they dry up through evaporation. There’s no additional component for us to be worried about.

Things That Play A Role in Delaying the Curing Process of Oil Paints

-Now that we’re done with explaining why Oil dries slowly, let’s go into the factors that often cause time dilation in the first place.

-The time it takes for an oil painting to dry depends on your surrounding environment. I’d take the room temperature, light, and the wind.

-The type of pigment you’re using impacts the process as well. Some pigments dry faster, others dry up slower than usual.

-Pigment quality is also an issue. Some pigments (linseed oil) will harden if you leave them out to dry for a long time. Some pigments like sunflower oil have exceptional drying qualities. The medium you choose will depend on your painting preference.

-Many of us don’t pay much attention to the brand of painting we’re using. However, different brands use different pigments and manufacturing conditions. We often mix two types of paints together. That averages out the time it takes for them to dry.

-Layers of paint matter as well. Basically, thin layers of paint will dry faster than if you use multiple layers. If you’re using thick paint, it’ll naturally dry slow.

-Very often, the color we use tends to impact the drying process as well. For example, yellow paint might take a somewhat short time to dry up. But if you’re using white, best of luck. You might end up waiting for weeks just to touch your work.

-The surface you paint on is crucial. Professional artists aren’t limited to paper “Only.” Rather they oil paint on glass, wooden surfaces, and brick or concrete walls as well. Naturally, with spray guns. Curing time of the paint varies depending on the surface.

How to Make My Oil Painting Dry Faster Than Usual?

This is the question of the hour, to be honest. Since we know that this type of artwork will take time to dry up and actually be presentable, it’s best to think of a countermeasure rather than groveling in uncertainty, rescheduling, and postponing our exhibitions.

Tip One: Choose Your Paint Carefully!

choose your paint

Look, the paint you’re using is most likely the main culprit when the painting isn’t drying as quickly as you expected. My advice to you is to correct things from the beginning. Choose the brand of paint carefully. Look for the ingredients in them and what they’re mixed with.

If we go technical about stuff, I’d say using paints made from iron oxide is a good start. This fits better into things when we need to paint earth-centric colors. I’d advise against using products that have cadmium in them. You already know why, don’t you?

I had a good run with cobalt or lead-based paints if you’re going for other colors. These are well-known for their drying properties. I look for linseed oil in my paints as well.

Honestly, there are numerous types of fast-drying paints to choose from. If you can’t find any, there’s a simpler solution. Just add linseed oil to your existing color palette. Trust me, it’ll work like a charm.

Coat Your Canvas with a Fast-Drying Agent

In other words, I’m telling you to use a sealant. My recommendation would be Gesso Chalk. We call this “Primer” in the world of art. Applying this on an empty canvas prolongs its lifespan. Just coat your canvas with a thin layer to begin with. The process is easy.

Just dip your paintbrush into the primer, apply it on the canvas and let it dry for some time. Don’t move into oil painting before the entire canvas is ready. Otherwise, it may cause color fading or cracking.

Use Solvents for Drying Oil-Based Paints

Let’s say, you can’t find any kind of paint, primer, and even linseed oil to do the job for you. What then? Huston, we’ll need to improvise! We’ll need to find solvents that quicken the curing/drying process. Turpentine can be a good place for a start.

This solvent makes the slowest of oil paint pigments dry faster. I’ve seen people use Alkyd-based drying medium such as liquid as well. Now, I must tell you… solvents need a bit of care when you’re handling them. I’d not advise touching them with bare hands.

Note: Try and buy an odorless solvent brand. Otherwise, people with allergies will have a hard time. The smell can become pungent over time and cause various conditions to appear.

Paint Strategically So Your Artwork Dries Faster

Oil Paint Strategically

A big part of art is presentation. For example, the surface we paint on decides how well the paint will behave. Personally, I advise people to use flat surfaces like glass or polished wood. Don’t get me wrong, oil painting can be done on textured surfaces as well.

However, you’ll need to be cautious. Watercolors and oil-based colors are different. The oil will get stuck within the crevices. This will result in parts of the art being sloppy, wet, and choppy at the same time.

If you’re looking to get creative with your projects, use copper pots or surfaces made of the material even if they’re not flat. There’s a secret that manufacturers and artists don’t tell us. Oil oxidizes and thus, dries faster on copper.

I must warn you, there will be a greenish touch to your artwork.

For fans of a hybrid work (using other paints besides oil-based ones), I’d suggest going for acrylic paints. The trick here is to do an under-painting of certain objects in scenery with them. Acrylic dries faster than oil.

BUT… there’s a tradeoff as well! Once dry, acrylic portions will become darker. There’s an easy solution to this dilemma. If your scenery has dark and well-lit parts, paint the darker tones with acrylic and use oil paint for the rest. You’ll thank me later, I know!

Painting in Layers is a Good Idea!

I know, I know! I mentioned people using layers and the pigments hardening over time. Just hear me out on this one. You’ve got to paint using thin layers. I understand that thick layers make paintings more realistic. But the base layer “Has to Be” the thinnest.

Just a Tip: If you “Have to Go” for realistic paintings, make sure the base layer is the thinnest. Move from thin to thick is all I’m saying. Apply the thickest layer last.

Choosing a simple subject at first is the key if you need your painting to dry fast.

Layering is also a part of sketching. I always sketch out my artworks first just to have a reference.

Paint in the Right Environment

Temperature is a vital element when dealing with oil painting. I paint in a warm room. This way, my paintings oxidize and dry faster than normal.

However, too hot of a room can result in your artwork being cracked and choppy. There’s no set bar for the temperature to be too hot or cold though. Just make sure your room is well-lit for the oxidization to happen.

Side Note: I can’t stress enough on choosing the right paint for the job. Some paints dry when water in them evaporates, others dry and harden. Choose one best suited to the type of project you’re going for.

If you’re not from a tropical climate, using a dehumidifier is a good idea. Otherwise, the artwork can (and most probably will) fall a victim to dampening over time.

My advice would be to keep the air in the room well-circulated. This will fasten oxidization. People use either a box fan or a ceiling fan for the job. Just keep them in the “Medium” setting and you’re good to go.

Let’s Put the Discussion to Rest!

Well, now you have the answer. Hopefully, how long does it take oil paint to dry and subsequent questions are no longer a mystery to you. Also, people know how to minimize the time as well. My favorite option is to regulate the room temperature.

Some people use Liquin and Turpentine-based mediums as well. If you ask me, slow-drying has its benefits as well. This will give artists time to blend colors together and create lifelike shadows when they need to. The bane, however, is the long waiting time.

No matter what’s your style, as a painter… you need to be prepared for every scenario. Hopefully, this article will help you in coming up with the curing problem of your oil paint-based artworks. Let’s hope that you get your next batch of paintings ready for an exhibition!

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Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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