While acrylics can dry in 30 – 45 minutes, you don’t get that kind of luxury with oil paints. It’s not just a matter of water drying, after all, but more of a chemical process that hardens the paints slowly. If you are wondering ‘why is my oil paint not drying’ then there are a few things to keep in mind.
If your oil paints aren’t drying, it could be a matter of the additives that you are using, the temperature of the room, humidity, or even simply thicker lines that will naturally take longer. Oil paints generally take around 24 hours to dry to the touch and with thicker lines… let’s just say that it might be awhile.
In today’s article I’ll tell you a little more about oil paints and how they dry, as well as what you can do to speed things up a little so that the process can be a little less frustrating.
Let’s talk about old paints and drying!
Is it possible for oil paint to never dry?
Usually, your oils paints will dry… eventually. There are indeed certain scenarios, however, where they aren’t going to dry (or will dry as an absolute mess). Most commonly this will occur if you are using a household oil, such as a cooking oil, to mix with your paints. In such a scenario, the paints will not dry or if they do, it’s going to produce a mess that doesn’t look like the lovely paint you intended to put on canvas.
Cold can slow drying down, but it won’t stop it. While cold is brutal on drying acrylics, oil paints are… well, oil. Oil has a natural resistance to cold and so it’s not going to be phased by the temperature –beyond the addition of some hours to the drying time.
It will still polymerize and eventually dry just fine.
What do you do when oil paint doesn’t dry?
If your oil paint isn’t drying, first consider what you are mixing with it. Using poppy seed oil instead of linseed, for instance, will definitely slow down the drying time of your oils. If you aren’t mixing in a new medium, try improving ventilation in the room with a fan and if it’s sunny out, you might consider sun-drying your painting. This brightens up the colors a bit and it’s won’t hurt your painting and this is the way that many old masters used to dry their work.
Consider your colors as well if your painting is drying very slowly. Some colors dry faster than others, such as Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna, while other colors dry much slower, with Alizarin Crimson and any Black colors being great examples of this.
If it’s humid out, this is definitely a factor that can affect your drying time, but you can balance things out by investing in a dehumidifier for the room where your paintings will be drying. Beyond sunlight, ventilation and getting rid of excess humidity in the room, you can also get your paint to dry faster by mixing in the right oils or other additive into your paint.
Let’s take a look at some of your options in the next section so that you’ll know exactly what you need!
How can I make oil paint dry faster?
The easiest way to speed up drying time is going to be adding a drying agent, such as Liquin or Walnut Alkyd. These can greatly speed up your drying time, just be sure to work fast! There are also various types of linseed oil that will dry faster than others, with ‘drying linseed oil’ being the fastest while you can get a minor speed increase by using ‘cold pressed linseed oil’.
You can also speed up your overall drying time by simply painting thinner layers. You can do a lot with very little, with a bit of practice, and it’s a worthwhile experiment to spend a few days working on a composition and trying to apply your paint as thinly as possible.
Beyond this, just make sure you’ve got good ventilation and a dehumidifier and you should see at least a small increase in speed but you won’t really see a dramatic difference unless you go with quick drying linseed or with the drying agents. Oil goes through a lot of changes as it hardens, so it’s simply not meant to dry very fast.
Some closing words
In this article I’ve answered the question ‘why is my oil paint not drying?’ and as you can see, the most common reason why oil paints dry slowly is that it’s about more than just drying out water. Your oil paints undergo a lot of changes as they slowly polymerize and aside from good ventilation, the only thing that you can really do to safely speed it along is going to involve mixing drying agents or different linseed varieties with your paints.
Before I go, I’ve got a 3rd party link that you might enjoy that will give you some tips on getting your paint to dry overnight. You can see it here and it should give you some additional useful information for speeding up the slow process of drying.
Don’t worry – your paints will dry! It’s just going to take a little patience.