If you are fairly new to oil painting, you may notice that the drying time is quite different from the 30 to 45 minutes that you get with acrylic. If you’re wondering ‘why isn’t my oil painting drying’ then I’m happy to help. Oil paintings dry a bit differently, as it’s a matter of oxidation and curing as the paint reacts with the air. The different layers can also dry at different rates as well, depending on thickness and other factors. The room temperature can play an important part as well!
Today I’ll tell you a little more about the process so that you can try to narrow down what is occurring with your own painting and understand the process a little better. Let’s talk about oil paintings and their drying process!
Why does my oil paint take long to dry?
Oil doesn’t really have a fixed drying time, which can make things a little frustrating when you are first getting used to them. For instance, with the ‘wet on wet’ painting technique, there are oils that are specifically designed to stay wet longer. Another factor that can slow drying time is humidity, though if you live in area with a lot of humidity them a dehumidifier can help.
Certain pigments will also dry faster or slower than others. Some examples of fast drying pigments include Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, while Alizarin Crimson and Sap Green are well-known for drying more slowly.
One of the most common drying issues has to do with layers. If you are painting a thin layer over a thicker one, for instance, than you want to make sure that the thick layer has dried sufficiently, or you risk that thinner layer drying faster and then becoming cracked as the layer below it dries.
It can be a bit frustrating, but you can spend a little time with individual color streaks and timing how long it takes them to dry to get a better idea of what to expect but on average, it should be dry to the touch in about 24 hours.
How can I make oil paint dry faster?
There are a few tricks that you can use to make your oil paintings dry faster and I’m happy to share those with you today. If you’re not happy with your drying time, then try one or more of these methods below:
- Hair dryer – One trick that you can use is a hairdryer on the canvas, but you need to use it on the back – not on the front! Using it on the front puts you at risk of cracking the painting or blowing dust in the paint, but you when use a blowdryer on the BACK of the canvas then it helps those bottom layers to dry faster and increases your overall drying time.
- Fast-drying mediums – Certain mediums such as Walnut Alkyd medium and Linseed oil can be mixed with your paint to speed-up the drying time. Look for any mediums that list themselves as ‘quick trying’ and find your favorite!
- Odorless mineral spirit – Thin your paint for the first two layers with odorless mineral spirits and this will make them dry faster. After that, just paint normally and you’ll still have a better overall drying time.
- Dehumidifier – Oil paints dry best when the air is warm and dry, so adding a dehumidifier in your art room can help to speed up the drying process appreciably.
How long does an oil painting take to dry?
When an oil painting dries, it is very different from an acrylic painting. With acrylics, you’ve basically got plastic polymers which dry up into a semi-plastic fairly quickly, but this is not the case with oils. In general, oil paint will dry to the touch in about 24 hours but there is a caveat – the layers below are not fully dry yet. Those are going to take about 2 weeks to dry on average, but the process isn’t really over.
This is because oil paints also need to cure to reach their full level of hardness. That process can take months, although many artists will wait a full year before they consider it to be fully cured. A good way to get the best drying time is to always paint ‘fat over lean’, which means that you use paint thinned with a quick drying medium for your lower layers (at least the first two) so that they will dry more quickly before you’ve painted over them.
Some final words on drying your oil paintings
As you can see, oil paintings are quite different in how they dry, but you do have some options. You can make your oil paints dry faster by using the ‘fat over lean method’, employing a dehumidifier, and by checking the drying time on the specific paints that you are using so that you know you’ve got a ‘quick dry’ variety.
Speaking of paint drying, don’t forget the varnishing process. You can find a great 3rd party article here that will help to let you know when your painting is ready for that final protection of your work. Until next time, try to be patient – your painting will dry, it just takes time!