How to Make Oil Paints Dry Faster

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Oil paints have been the go-to paints for many professional artists for hundreds of years. With oils, you can create textures and effects that you can’t always get when working with other mediums.

There is one drawback to using oils, and that is the fact that they seem to take forever to dry. 

How long does it take for oil paint to dry? 

It can take several months before an oil painting is completely dry.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t often teach oil painting techniques at paint and sip parties. On occasion, if oil painting is requested, I do teach these classes. But, I let everyone know that they have to be very careful with their paintings until they dry.

Is there any way to make oil paints dry faster? Yes, some things can speed up the process, and that is what we are going to talk about today. Keep reading to learn more.

5 Fastest Way to Dry Oil Paint

Here’s how to dry oil paint on canvas and other painting surfaces.

#1. Paint in a Well-Ventilated Area

There are a couple of reasons why you should work in a well-ventilated, dry area when doing oil paintings. First and foremost, there are a lot of fumes involved with some of the materials. Then, there is the fact that oxidation is what makes oil paint dry.

Unlike acrylic paints, which dry when exposed to air, oil paints go through a chemical reaction. It is this chemical reaction that hardens the oil.

So, it only makes sense that you paint in a dry, well-ventilated area. It also helps if there is plenty of natural light in the room.

I often suggest using a dehumidifier while painting with oils, because it will also help to speed up the drying process.

#2. Exposure to Heat Helps

You can use heat to help your oil paintings to dry quicker, but this is something that you need to be very careful with. The more heat, the faster a painting is going to dry.

I wrote a specific guide on how to use hair dryer for painting, feel free to check it out.

Put the Painting in Direct Sunlight

The safest way to dry a painting with heat is to place it in direct sunlight, such as a window on a sunny day. The sun and the heat will help the painting to dry faster.

You can also turn up the thermostat in the room to speed up the process.

Use a Heat Gun

Another option is to use a heat gun. But, you need to be careful with this method, because if it is set at 130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, it could cause the paint to yellow, or even worse, crack.

When using a heat gun, the setting must be less than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, make sure that the heat gun is continuously moving, and at least six to eight inches from the painting.

#3. Paint in Thin Layers

I always tell guests at paint and sip parties that when working with oils, they should paint in thin layers. Not only is this going to give their paintings added depth and texture, but it will also help to make them dry faster.

The thicker a layer of paint is, the longer it is going to take to dry. This is because not all of the paint is properly exposed to air, which is part of the oxidation process.

Use Solvents

You can make your paint layers even thinner by adding solvents to the oil paints to make them dry faster. The first layer should be the thinnest, which is also the best way to prevent the paint from cracking over time. This is known as the fat over lean principle.

#4. Chemical Drying Agents Can Help

There are several chemical drying agents that you can use to make oil paintings dry faster. I often talk about these at paint parties where I am teaching oil painting techniques.

Galkyd, a dryer made by Gamblin, is a good option. There are a few versions of this product, all offering different drying times. They will also give your paintings a glossy appearance.

Add a small amount of the dryer to your paint before you begin painting on a canvas.

If you are painting in thin layers, they can begin to dry within a couple of hours. Paint in thin layers, using the fat over lean principle.

#5. Try Using Alkyd Paints

Several years ago, I discovered alkyd paints. These are a type of oil paints, but they use oils that dry quickly. They may not dry as fast as acrylic paints, but your paintings should be dry within 24 hours rather than several weeks or months.

Mix Alkyds with Oils

One thing I love about alkyd paints is that they can be mixed with oils or used on their own. Even if you paint in thicker layers, you can expect an alkyd painting to dry overnight.

When mixing alkyds with oils, I like to mix them with whites and cadmiums, because they tend to dry the slowest.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the methods I talk to paint party guests about. I also like to offer other suggestions, such as using paints that are made with linseed oil as opposed to other oils that take longer to dry.

Some pigments dry faster than others. These include Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Prussian Blue, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt colors, and Manganese colors.

Another option is to paint on absorbent surfaces, such as a canvas that has been prepped with gesso or alkyd. Canvas is the best surface for oil paints.

It is also a good idea to learn about the various paint brands. Some brands dry faster than others, especially when they contain additives.

If you have older paints that have been used and the containers are no longer airtight, they will dry faster than brand-new paints fresh out of the tubes.

When it comes to the length of time it takes for oil paintings to dry, there really are no guarantees. I recommend experimenting with the methods we have talked about today to find the one that works best for you.

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