Will Oil Paint Dry? What You Need To Know


It is no secret that oil paint is much different from acrylics and watercolors. When working with oil paint, you have probably noticed that its consistency, while fun to experiment with, can be a pain to dry.

Sometimes, it may not even seem like it is drying at all. So, will oil paint dry?

Oil paint will dry, but it is going to take longer than other types of paint. Some people like that oil paint dries slowly because they can alter their paintings. Others wish that the oil paint would dry faster. Luckily, there are ways to both speed up and slow down the drying process of oil paint.

Read on to learn more about why oil paint takes so long to dry. It is helpful to find out why this is and how you can speed up or slow down the process. Depending on your goal for using oil paint, there are several ways the drying process can be manipulated.

How Long Does It Take An Oil Painting To Dry?

There is not a technical, solid answer for how long oil paint takes to dry. In some cases, oil paint can dry in two days or less.

Other times, it could take a few weeks, and even after a month or so, it may not be completely dry. Fortunately, there are ways to alter the drying time, but first, it is essential to learn why oil paint dries more slowly than other paints.

What Factors Affect The Drying Time Of Oil?

Oil paint may take longer to dry than other paints for several reasons:

  • The physical drying process
  • How much paint is used
  • The type of oil in your oil paint
  • The environment that the oil paint is in
  • The pigment, brand, and quality of the oil paint

First, it is essential to note that oil paint does not dry like water-based paints such as acrylic and watercolor. Water-based paints dry involves evaporating the water off the canvas, linen, or whatever you are painting on.

As the water evaporates, the pigments are left behind on your painting.

For oil paint, the process is much different. Oil paint goes through oxidation, meaning that tiny chemical reactions in the oil paint cause it to harden when exposed to air.

Because of the density of oil paint, this takes much longer than an evaporation-style of drying.

It would be best if you also took note of how much paint you are using. With the oxidation process, it will take longer for a larger clump of oil paint to dry. Since the inner layers of the oil paint are not exposed to the air, this can drag out the process.

Another factor involves the existence of different oil paints: 

  • Linseed oil and alkyd dry the fastest
  • Oil paints containing poppyseed oil and safflower oil will dry slower 

If you want your painting to dry quickly, you should consider looking at oil paints containing linseed oil or synthetic oil with alkyd.

Is Your Painting Environment Humid Or Extremely Sunny?

Something that can heavily influence how long it takes your oil painting to dry is the type of environment that paint is in. If your studio is humid, oil paint will dry extremely slowly.

If it gets too much sun, it can take longer to dry, as well as causing the oil paint to become deformed or change color. To make sure your oil paint dries faster, keep your studio cool and clean with the use of fans, dehumidifiers, etc.

Lastly, miscellaneous details of the oil paint can determine whether it dries faster or slower. Pigments such as: 

  • Blacks, reds, and dark oranges can take longer to dry
  • Cobalts, manganese colors, and pigments containing lead dry faster 

You might also notice a difference in drying times between varying brands or qualities of oil paints that you use. If you do not know much about oil paint brands, you should research popular ones before buying.

Does Oil Paint Dry On Its Own?

Oil paint will eventually dry on its own, but waiting for that to happen can be a bother. Assuming that you want to speed up the drying process of your oil painting, refraining from manipulating the process will result in a longer drying time.

Some oil paints may only take a few days to dry, while others could take as long as a month. In rare cases, you could be looking at an even longer process.

As long as your oil painting is kept in a controlled environment with dry air, it will dry on its own sufficiently. However, it is going to take some time.

For some artists, leaving the oil paint to dry on its own is preferred if they decide to make any last-minute changes. While this may not be very common for most instances, it is advantageous when the opportunity presents itself.

How Can You Make Oil Paint Dry Faster?

If you want your oil paint to dry faster, there are plenty of ways to manipulate the process. Below are several popular methods you can try to make your oil paint dry faster.

Keep in mind the importance of following these methods closely not to disrupt the art you have created with your oil paint.

Apply Oil Paint In Thin Layers

As mentioned above, the more oil paint you use, the longer it will take to dry. It is a good idea to carefully apply your oil paint in thin layers so that the oxidation process can spark those chemical reactions more quickly. 

Some people even choose to use water-based paint as the base layer of their oil paintings. This can help get the general idea of what you want to paint on the canvas without waiting for the initial layer to dry.

Mix Drying Agents Into Your Oil Paint

Chemical drying agents like Galkyd can be mixed into the oil paint. 

These drying agents help thin the oil paint before it is placed onto your painting. The thinner oil paint is, the faster it will dry. 

Do Not Use A Canvas For Oil Paint

This is not to suggest that using a canvas for oil paint is inherently wrong. If you like the way your oil paintings look on canvas, that is a perfectly justifiable reason for using canvas.

However, oil paint dries slowly on canvas. You can speed up the drying process by painting on lead-primed linen or other alkyd-primed surfaces. 

If the surface on which you paint has components that aid the drying process, you may not feel the need to add anything to the oil paint itself.

How Can You Tell If Oil Paint Is Dry?

If you follow any of the tips above and want to see if it helps the drying time, there is a simple way to test if your oil painting is dry, whether you want to call it complete or add another layer. All you need is a razor blade and a steady hand.

Ever so gently, putting the blade against your oil painting, lightly scrape some paint off. Do not push into the painting, or you could risk tearing the materials on which your painting lies.

Instead, drag the razorblade down and towards yourself. Look at the blade and observe the paint that is scraped off.

If the paint on the blade is powdery, the oil paint is good to go. However, it still needs time to sit if it comes off stringy, in clumps, or, obviously, wet. You can test out this method every few days to monitor the drying time of your oil paint.

Takeaway

Oil paint will dry, but it takes much longer than water-based paints. The evaporation process of water-based paint can be completed in as little as 30 minutes to an hour, while the oxidation of oil paint can take days, weeks, or months.

However, there are ways to speed up the drying process of oil paint. If you choose to use any of these methods, know precisely how you should do it.

Sources

https://drawpaintacademy.com/oil-paint-drying-time/

https://mysketchjournal.com/9-ways-to-make-oil-paints-dry-faster/

https://www.dickblick.com/products/gamblin-galkyd-mediums/

https://emptyeasel.com/2019/02/14/how-dry-does-my-oil-painting-need-to-be-before-i-can-paint-my-next-layer/

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