Why Does My Oil Painting Look Dull?

Why Does My Oil Painting Look DullIf you’re fairly new to working with oil paints, then something you might see is a sudden dullness in a painting that looked bright and perfect before. If you are wondering ‘why does my oil painting look dull?’ then I may have a good answer for you.

‘Sinking’ is something that can happen to your painting which involves the top layer essentially being partially absorbed. This can come from using too much of your solvent, too little medium, or simply from painting on a surface that’s a bit too absorbent without a thorough priming.

There is a fix for it that doesn’t just boil down to ‘don’t do that’ and I’ll share that with you today. We’ll also talk a little more about sinking so that you have a better mental picture of how that comes to be and I’ll let you know how to make your oil paintings nice and shiny.

Let’s talk about keeping your oils exciting!

Why are my oil paintings dull?Why are my oil paintings dull

When your oil painting dulls like that, the culprit in the case is the drying times of your layers. Sometimes if you like to put your paint on thick, then it will look dry but it’s actually not yet ready for that next layer. To avoid this, give those thicker layers a little longer to dry, say 45 minutes to a half hour, before you paint over them.

Priming the canvas beforehand with an alkyd oil paint can help if the problem is a surface that is too absorbent, so this is another way to keep dullness at bay in your painting. There is also a way that you can fix it as you go, however so if you are in the middle of painting something and getting dull colors then let’s take a look at the solution.

How do you restore dull oil paint?

How do you restore dull oil paintThis little trick is a godsend when it comes to ‘dealing with dull’ but you’ll need a couple of things to do it. The process is called ‘Oiling out’ and what you have to do is get yourself some thickened linseed oil and also some mineral spirits.

Mix the two of these together at a 50/50 ratio and with a soft cloth, you want to rub it evenly into the dull surfaces. Carefully wipe away any excess mixture during the process and with an even application in place, let the painting dry again and take a look.

Your painting should be much brighter and have a much healthier sheen to it. If you want a little insurance on keeping it that way, then you might consider one of the newer quick-varnish options such as Gamvar to get your painting sealed-up and safe.

How can I make my oil painting shine?How can I make my oil painting shine

The easiest way to brighten up your color a bit and to make your painting shiny is going to be to varnish it. A nice gloss varnish will protect your work quite nicely and it really does sharpen things up, provided that it is applied slowly and evenly and that there is not a lot of humidity in the room when you do.

For best results, use the ‘oiling out’ technique that I described to you before you varnish and between these two, you should see a definite difference in the color and the shine.

If you are trying to make an older and unvarnished painting shine, rather than something recent, then this is doable as well. First, you’ll want to remove all of the dust carefully with a damp cloth and then you need to let it dry completely. After this, give it a thin coat of an oil medium and let it sit for a day in a place that won’t gather any dust.

After that, you should be set to paint any touch ups that you like!

In closing

If your oil paints are looking dull, just remember that it is likely ‘sinking’ in effect. The top layer of the paint is reacting to an unprimed surface that is too absorbent, you could be using too much solvent, or you could be using too little medium. Oiling-out the dull spots as you go can help to fix this, just be careful in the future when you are doing your layers and over time you won’t succumb to ‘sinking’ when you work.

While we’re on the subject of shiny, happy paintings, I’ve found a 3rd party link that will tell you how to make your own glaze paints that can really add a little zing to your color and overall composition. Just click here if you would like to learn more and I hope that you enjoy it… glaze really is a blast!

Until next time, happy painting!