It’s evident that oil paints existed and have been used as early as the 7th century. Then it became famous in the renaissance period. And up until now, oil paints are still the most trusted by artists. Especially for artists who are painting on canvas. Why is that? Well, for instance, oil paints give more confidence to the artists since these are incredibly customizable. And it’ll give off better color, texture, and overall quality than acrylics, watercolors, and more.
Although you might expect a good result, you’ll need to work hard and smart to get the product you want. You’ll face problems like uneven drying, cracking, and painting stress. In this article, we’ll teach you how to make oil paints dry faster and make your painting habits a bit better. And most importantly, the things we’re going to teach can be your tool to achieve that masterpiece your mind holds. Grab a drink or a snack, relax, and keep reading. Enjoy!
What you need for this tutorial
Not all oil paints dry at the same rate, some will dry quicker, and some will dry more evenly.
- Transparent Colors
- Large Color Selection
- Recommended Mainly for Intermediate and Professional Artists
In this tutorial, we will try to manipulate your oil paints’ drying times using mediums and additives. Here are some mediums we recommend getting for this tutorial.
Galkyd mediums (can dry overnight in some cases)
- Made from alkyd resin
- Medium adds binder and speeds up drying time
- 16oz bottle
Liquin mediums (1-2 days to dry)
- General purpose semi-gloss medium
- Speeds drying, improves flow and reduces brush stroke retention
- Resists yellowing
Linseed oil (3-4 days to dry)
- Glossy finish
- Odor Free
- 2.5 Fluid Ounces
That’s on you if you would like to use slow drying mediums like Poppyseed and Walnut oils, but for the sake of getting that sweet fast drying times, it’s better to stick with the mediums listed above.
Oil painting toolset
This one will be for you to decide. Get your favorite brushes, canvas, an easel, and your trusty palette. Get the ones you’re comfortable with since working on oil paintings will take quite a while. If you’re a beginner, try tons of brushes such as rounded, fine tips, flat tips, and fan brushes, try them in different sizes and get a feel of what’s comfortable for you. We recommend keeping a very broad brush or a roller around. It’ll help prime your canvas.
As with what most artists would say, we recommend using canvas for your surface. This surface will help dry the oil paints the quickest.
- 100 % Cotton Watercolor Canvas
- Pinewood Stretcher Bars
- Triple Primed Gesso
If you want to explore a bit, you can try experimenting on wood, paper, and more.
Desiccants or a dehumidifier
These might do very well to improve your work’s drying process, especially when you’re in a humid location. You can simply get and plug your electric dehumidifier. Or if you don’t have that, you can get a car moisture absorber for cheap.
You can use a hairdryer, heat gun, and your room heater to help the oil paint dry. Although I’ll give a warning right from the start: this should only be used in specific situations.
How to make oil paints dry faster
Before jumping into the Tutorial, we have to discuss and identify our problem: the long drying time of oil paints. The thing is, oil paints aren’t drying in the sense that the liquid evaporates and leaves the pigments on the surface. Instead, oil paints go through oxidation.
With oxidation, oil paints need to be exposed to a lot of warm, dry air for a chemical reaction to take place. That reaction will cause the paint’s binders to polymerize or solidify, which also encases the pigment into a permanent finish. Thus, giving the impression of being “dry.” But, for the sake of ease, let’s use the term drying instead of oxidizing.
How long does oil paint take to dry?
Oil paints typically take around a whole day to be touch dry. Although, oil paints will fully dry for around 2-5 days. If you’re a beginner, you should know that tons of different oil mediums are used on oil paints, and using different ones will bring different finishes for your painting. So here are some of the most common mediums used with oil paints. Make sure to take note of their characteristics. And I’ll also include how long does each medium takes to dry thoroughly.
- One of the most used oil mediums is Linseed oil. When this oil is used as a base, the paint will be easy to handle and glide on a surface. Linseed oil also makes the paint easier to blend and flow. Not only that, but this oil will also polymerize and protect the pigment’s vibrancy for a long time. Linseed oil is versatile, and you can use it on either the first or last layer of paint since it’ll dry up in 3-4 days.
- Galkyd mediums and Liquin are two similar mediums known as dryers. These will help you speed up drying times. Now, Galkyd mediums will make paints transparent, and it’ll also level brush strokes. At the same time, you can get Liquin original, which is similar to Galkyd mediums. And you can also get the Liquin gels, which are significantly thicker and will hold brushstrokes better. All these mediums are best for the first layers since these will dry in 1-2 days, even overnight in some cases.
- Poppyseed oil and Walnut oil are two of the best mediums for finishing, both of these yellows less than other mediums, and both will also produce a soft rubber-like film protecting the pigments. It’s recommended to only use these oils for finishing since these will dry up in 4-6 days. But some variants of these oils can take up to 14 days to dry.
- Extracted form the seed of the poppy plant
- Slows the drying time of oil paint
- Useful for painters using wet into wet techniiques
Now we can use this information to come up with a solution to help your artwork dry faster. We can take different ways to allow your oil paint to dry more quickly; there’s your technique, additives and mediums, environment, and preparation. Feel free to try any step here. Without further ado, let’s get on with the Tutorial.
1. Slow over fast rule
This rule is crucial to learn from the beginning, and still, many artists seem to forget or disregard this rule. This will not only help you understand how to make your work dry quicker, but this will also prevent your work dry more evenly, thus preventing damages like cracking in the long run. Here’s what you have to do:
Do you remember the oil medium drying times we discussed earlier? The slow over fast rule refers to the drying time of mediums, and you have to put the fastest drying paint for the first layer and leave the slowest for last. Here’s an example situation:
- Before going ahead to paint your first layer, make sure that your primer, gesso, or any bases are completely dry. And even though most gesso and primers dry up in minutes. Make sure to let it dry for at least 24 hours. So, better do this step a couple of days before you start painting.
- Go ahead and paint your background. It’s recommended that the paint you use on the first layers are combined with Galkyd mediums or Liquin. You can also use solvents to make the drying time much quicker. Then, make sure that each layer is completely dry before moving on.
- As you work your way up, use fewer solvents to help you work on your textures and tiny details.
- You can also use solvents even on your last layer to make your drying times significantly faster. However, this might compromise your ability to finish with textures and brush strokes since solvents make the paint runny and smoother.
Painting over slower drying paint will affect all the layers’ drying times over the slow drying paint. I know that doing this and waiting for days for each layer might seem counter-intuitive to our goal. But, trust me, it’ll make the difference with your work’s drying time once it’s finished.
2. Improve your environment
Oil paints will dry and finish better in specific environments. The ideal drying environment for oil paints is a warm, dry, and well-ventilated room. Here are some things you can do right away to help you improve your painting environment:
- If you’re in an area with windows, open as much as you can. Don’t paint in a room without windows. Not only will this prevent your work from drying up faster, but it’s also a health hazard, especially if you’re working with solvents that release toxic fumes.
- If you don’t have any windows available or if there isn’t enough airflow. Try working on an area that has an exhaust fan or an exhaust vent.
- If you live in a cold place, always turn your room heater. This will make sure that the paints you’re working on will harden and cure properly.
- If you have a ceiling fan, make sure it’s clean. And make sure it’s circulating air, not blowing down to you and your work.
- Another thing you need to control, especially if you’re in a hot and tropical area, is humidity. Too much humidity will damage your work in the long run, and drying times will be significantly slower. You can buy an electric dehumidifier for your room, or for a cheap alternative, you can buy car desiccants from your local hardware store.
- If you want a DIY solution, try to collect as many silica gel packets as possible and put them in a cup with a cloth on top. Then put your DIY dehumidifier in a small ventilated room with your canvas. This trick won’t be a guaranteed solution but should help even for a bit on extreme scenarios.
3. Work with nature
This tip is a bit of a continuation of improving your environment. And this might be a bit simpler. All you need is to go outside. Depending on your location, nature might give you a dry humidity with a fair amount of winds. And a bit of sunlight can also help your mediums dry and polymerize. Here are some perfect locations for painting.
- Your home’s rooftop or balcony (if you have one)
- A local park (given that it’s breezy and not humid)
4. Use heat
Before going into this option, we’ll get on with a disclaimer. Extreme heat from hairdryers or heat guns will not directly help the oil paints to dry up. If not used carefully or if used too much, excessive heat will cause your painting to crack. So, please proceed with caution.
Oil paints dry better in warm temperatures. But, this method should only be used in certain situations. For example, you should never use this if you’re in a cold and humid area since the heat might condense cold air. Use this in cold and dry places. Now, if you think it’s beneficial to try this, here’s what you have to do:
- Turn on and preheat your hairdryer. Turn it on to the lowest heat setting if possible.
- Blow air to your canvas while the hairdryer is at least 3-4 feet away.
Now, do this if your oil paint is just taking up too long to dry up due to humidity, extreme cold. Again, prevent from doing this if you’re in a warm and dry area. I can’t stress this enough; this can cause more harm than good when misused!
5. Work better and smarter
Sometimes, we need to work smarter, not harder, which applies even with helping you dry your oil paintings. Here are some simple practices you can make to allow your work to dry faster. Or make it seem like your works are drying more quickly.
- It’s easier said than done, but you can try to make your paint layers thinner.
- If you’re a professional artist, we recommend that you try working on several oil paintings at once. You can let your artwork dry while working on another, this might not speed up drying times, but you might feel like drying isn’t a long wait anymore.
- Do not varnish too soon. More specifically, don’t varnish your work while it’s not thoroughly dry. Sure, waiting for your final layer to dry seems a long wait, but if you apply varnish too soon, it’ll take longer for everything to dry up. Not only that, your work will be prone to damage.
- If you want to let your work dry faster, then say goodbye to the gloss and rubbery finishes of walnut and poppyseed oils.
6. Use faster drying colors
Oil paints are essentially made from two things; pigment and binder. Indeed, you can easily manipulate the oil paint’s characteristics by using different binders and mediums. If you want to take it up a notch, you can work on specific fast-drying colors. This applies to most brands of oil paints since the pigments are what causes these faster drying times. Here are some examples of faster drying colors:
- Raw Umber
- Cobalt Blue
- Burnt Sienna
On the contrary, you might want to prevent using slow drying colors such as:
- Titanium White
- Reds (Especially Cadmium)
- Yellows (Especially Cadmium and Naples)
Did you enjoy the Tutorial? I hope you found this helpful, and now you know some of the facts behind oil paint’s drying times and how to use them to your advantage. Try to apply these tips and tricks to your next work. But be careful on dangerous methods like using heat (I can’t stress this enough). Even though painting can get hazardous, dull, or amusing, remember to give your all in every artwork you make, and always enjoy and admire your work since every work is a success.
Let us know what you think in the comments below, and share this with your friends if you found it helpful!