Oil paint straight from the tubes may take days, sometimes weeks, to completely dry. Many artists, myself included, do not like working wet on wet. For busy artists who are producing lots of commissions, or have a time limit to finish a series for an upcoming show, a faster oil paint drying time is imperative.
The main difference between oils and water based paints is the drying time. The water in water based paints evaporates, causing the paint to harden.
Oil paint, on the other hand, oxidizes, which is a much slower process. It is important to realize that oil paintings take months to fully dry before varnishing.
What we are referring to here is the oil paint hardening enough to touch or be painted over.
There are many things an artist can do to ensure their oil paintings dry in hours, rather than days. Please realize though that no matter what an artist does to speed up drying of oil paintings, they should allow at least a few hours before even testing the paint or painting over layers. With thin washes, it may even be possible to do several layers in one day. There is no way to make oil paint harden instantly during a painting session, but by using the following tips, you can significantly lessen the duration they take to dry.
How to Dry Oil Paint Faster
Use drying mediums.There are many drying mediums available for painting with oil paint. There are a variety of products available, and it is advisable to research which ones work best for you.
Also pay particular attention to the directions, and amounts to use for each product. Some are obviously very hazardous, and should be handled with great care.
Alkyd mediums – such as Liquin, Galkyd and Neo-Meglip
Turpentine – to thin the paint and make it dry faster, especially for base coats
EnvironmentLet the painting dry in a non-humid larger room with well circulated air. Try using a dehumidifier and a fan. Placing it in a well heated, well lit room has been proven to significantly reduce the time for drying of oil paints.
Paint in washes or thin layers.The drying time will be significantly decreased if you work in layers rather than thick impastos. For those artists who primarily create paintings by impasto, your drying time still can be lessened by using a combination of some of the other methods listed here.
Always abide by the thick over thin rule for oil painting, though – to avoid cracking. Thank-you Art of Cheryl O for pointing that out.
Different pigments and brands of oil paint having innate drying times.Ivory black and titanium white tends to dry very slowly, whereas pigments such as lead white and burnt umber harden at a faster rate.
Linseed oil.Combine thickened linseed oil with the oil paint on your palette, which will speed up the drying process. (This does not work for all brands of oil paint)
Use a fast drying paint.The very nature of oil paint requires a much slower drying duration. For art commissions and works with stringent time limits, you may do better by using a faster drying medium, such as acrylics, watercolor, gouache and even digital painting. Anyone who has tried oils and a variety of other mediums will realize oil colors are much more vibrant. Colors are easier to mix and blend together on the canvas. If you do not want to sacrifice this vibrancy and blending for a quicker drying medium, you may do better by working with oil paint instead of against it – realizing that paint drying time is a part of the medium.
Use acrylic paint for the background.To cut down on the whole procedure for a painting, some artists first paint the background with acrylic – quick drying paint, then the main elements of the composition in oils. This gives an interesting contrasting effect between the acrylic and oil paint.
Paint on flat surfaces.Oil paint on textured canvas tends to dry more slowly, as thicker globs of paint fill the crevices of the canvas. A flat surface such as board ensures the paint is evenly dispersed and dried.
As you can see, there are many methods of speeding up drying time for oil paintings. To quicken the process even faster, use a combination of these techniques. With a little experimentation, I think you will find that drying duration is no longer a problem, and oil paintings are created at a much faster pace.
How do you decrease oil paint drying times? Please share your experiences with us below.