Waiting for oil paint to dry can be one of the pain points of painting.  Waiting for the bottom layer to dry to then apply the next, or waiting for larger slash thicker sections to dry so you can transport or finish a painting can be frustrating. There are also many other reasons why people are constantly searching for ways to make oil paints dry faster!

So this is why I have put together a list of methods I use to speed up the drying process of my oil paintings.  Every artist I have ever come across wants to know the secrets for how to dry oil paint faster!

So, lets answer the infamous questions on how to dry oil paintings quickly.  Oil paints, by their very nature, don’t dry with any speed at all.  They are very slow, and you have to be patient – it takes months for thick paint to fully dry (it doesn’t actually ‘dry’, it oxidises which is why the process is slow, read more about it here). However, there are a  few things you can do to speed it up.


5 Solutions on How to Make Oil Paints Dry Faster


ONE – Leave the painting to dry in a well ventilated open area where air circulates (a fan helps).  Also, paint is slow to dry in a cold environment, so a warm room is preferable. Avoid extreme heat like hairdryers as this will only make the process worse!


TWO –  Paint using thin layers and washes which will dry reasonably quickly.   If you use very thick layers of paint, a ‘skin’ will form on top but the paint underneath will still be soft to touch.  A painting shouldn’t be varnished until it’s all completely dry which could be several months.


THREE – Under paint your canvas with acrylic paint – this dries almost instantly and then you can go on to use oil paints on top. This works very successfully and is a method I use quite often. This can also save you some money as acrylic paint is more affordable than oils!


FOUR – Certain colours dry much faster than others due to the pigments.  You will work out which ones as you go along (reds/oranges for example are notoriously slow) and you can avoid these if you want your painting ready quickly.


FIVE – There are various drying mediums which can be used to speed up the process, such as Liquin, and you should research which would work best for you.  You can also use turpentine to thin the paint for a base layer (I find using it in subsequent layers results in ‘dull’ patches of paint, so not advisable) and this will dry quickly.


I have heard of artists that bake paintings in the oven, or spray them with hairspray! However, I’m not prepared to try either due to the potential cracking issue further down the track. There is no point painting a beautiful oil painting then ruining it in the final step!

I suppose the issue is really quite simple – if you want to use oil paints because you love the colours, the vibrancy and texture, you have to accept that the lengthy drying time is all part of that process. If you are setting expectations for a gallery, exhibition or person, keep this in mind. If you explain the drying complications most people will understand!

For additional learning, tips or painting ideas, you can follow my Facebook here where I frequently post and answer questions. 


Do you have any of your own tricks or tips on how to speed up drying time? 



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