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.

oil paint drying timeThe 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


  1. Use drying mediums.

    oil paint dryingThere 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 
    Lead Dryers
    Cobalt Dryers
    Turpentine – to thin the paint and make it dry faster, especially for base coats

  2. Environment

    Let 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.  

  3. Paint in washes or thin layers.

    painting paletteThe 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.

  4. 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.   

  5. 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)

  6. Use a fast drying paint.

    Touch People with your Art - Click Here!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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

Post a Comment Blogger

  1. Genesis is a brand of oil paint that will never dry unless you hit it with a heat gun included in the set. It's great for drying areas that you want to work on NOW instead of waiting days or weeks to get back to the details. They are great to use. You can work with wet areas forever...till you dry it. You don't even have to cover your palette...it won't ever dry up, thus never wasting paint. They aren't cheap but well worth it.

  2. @Anonymous
    Thanks for recommending Genesis oil paints... I'll have to give it a try. :)

  3. I use 'Winsor and Newton Liquin'. I start an oil painting by using 'Liquin Original', which improves gloss, as well as speeding drying. I use 'Liquin Light Gel' for glazing, as well as speeding drying. For fine details, as well as speeding drying, I use 'Liquin Fine Detail'.

  4. thanks, this really helped me with my project!

  5. this is really the best advice, thanks. (o)

  6. I've just finished a very large oil painting within a 4week timeframe (and deadline!), here's how:

    First 3 layers - approx 1 part linseed oil to 10 parts turps mixed with oil paint (I used Winton & Newton as well add Gregorian). Sponge application only. 24hrs to dry between each layer. Wet on dry only.

    Next composition layers - approx 50/50 linseed oil and turps mixed with oil paint. Combination of sponge application and brushes. Slowly building up the layers. 2 to 3 layers. 24 to 48hrs drying time between each layer.

    Final layers - approx 10 parts linseed to 3 parts turps. Trying to avoid thick layers, using a combo of different sized and tipped brushes and palette knives, but at the same time layering generously and using wet on wet in some sections and wet on dry in other sections. These layers took AT LEAST 48hrs to dry.

    Have just checked the paint after 48hr of applying final layer and its dry to touch but a tiny but sticky, maybe from the linseed??

    The entire 4weeks, the canvas has been fixed to the wall above the fireplace (although the fire was never lit during this time), in a large lounge room with a lot of natural light and sun-warmth throughout the whole day (when sunny of course).

    Air was always warm and dry. NEVER cold and moist. On colder evenings, I used a small oscillating fan heater, tempering the room at around 20 to 22oC.

    Painting should be ok to bubble wrap tomorrow after the 3rd day and transport carefully to a National Art Exhibition.

    I work full time during the day so an only able to paint in the evenings, which is how I get the "24hr" bracket each day.

    I'm also a self taught artist, only training I've had was at college, so I've been through many experiments /trials... resulting in many more errors! haha. but this has been my most successful "quick drying" oil painting I've accomplished!!

    I hope this is helpful.. I guess, maybe giving yourself a longer timeframe and deadline than what I have myself, could possibly help as well haha

    Don't be afraid to experiment!!! :)

    1. Great comment, so insightful!

    2. Liquin is good. Generally I do faster than that but I live in Northern NSW where it is nice and warm. Which helps a lot.

    3. Thank you so much for sharing. Really useful*

  7. I have never tried the Linseed method so I will be keen to give that a go this week. Becks comments seem to be very in dept and knowlegable.

    I am a full time oil painting artist so drying paintings in time for exhibitions and gallery openings is a constant battle. I used to the the above question all the time from other artists so published a post on techniques that I successfully use to try paintings in time -- http://www.sarapaxtonartworks.com/painting-with-oils-on-canvas

    I am sure there are many other methods but I find that only 4-5 really work affectively.

    Great post, thanks for sharing :)

  8. Using modern day oil paints which do not seem to be of the Windsor and Newton older day quality - I am now wondering just how soon is it safe to put a second layer of oils over a thin washed turpentine layer that is still not quite dry to touch?

  9. Please help me.
    I have work with camlin artist oil painting but this paint not drying easily after the painting so tell me what to do for drying fast ?


Thank-you for your comment!