The drying time of oil paints can be intimidating compared with acrylics and watercolors. Compared to them, oil can feel painfully slow. That’s why learning how to make oil paint dry faster will be a great skill to have.
Oil paints are prized for their blending and staying wet long enough to mix layers over time.
However, this positive can quickly turn into a negative when you are hoping to dry many layers.
This article goes over many methods that you can use to dry your oil paint faster in a variety of circumstances.
Of course, the best option will depend on your specific project.
There are also a few dangers in drying methods that we explain how to avoid and why they happen.
How long does it take oil paint to dry
There is no one drying time for all oil paint. It depends on a variety of different factors, including:
- Different pigment colors. Different pigments dry at different speeds. Titanium White, Ivory Black, and Cadmiums dry especially slowly, whereas the burnt tones and Prussian blue dry quickly.
- Temperature. Oil paint dries faster in warmer temperatures and dries slower in cooler temperatures.
- Medium. Different oils and the amount of oil to pigment ratio within the paint changes the drying time. Using drying agents can also significantly speed up the drying process.
Due to these differences, average times must be taken with a grain of salt.
However, on average, you can expect oil paint to begin to harden within 8 hours and be dry to the touch within 24 hours.
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How to make oil paint dry faster
There are many ways to make oil paint dry faster. However, we should first go over some common mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t try to dry the paint under direct sunlight. Sunlight damages pigments, turning them yellow over time. Sunlight also can produce cracks in the drying process.
- Don’t leave it outside to dry. Particles, pollen, and dust in the air will get blown into the paint and stuck to the wet surface. This goes for dusty rooms too where a lot of particles may end up clinging to the canvas.
- Don’t use a hair dryer to dry a painting from the front. The intensity of the heat will dry the layers unevenly, hitting the top layers more intensely and making the paint more likely to crack over time.
Instead of these methods, here’s how to speed up the drying process successfully:
One common technique is called “thicker over thinner.”
Thinner layers of oil paint dry faster than thicker layers.
Therefore, you can begin with thin layers first which will allow them to dry quickly, allowing for another layer to be applied quickly.
If you leave the thickest layer for last, its long drying time won’t be too much of a problem because you don’t need to wait to apply another layer.
Use the right oil for a faster drying time. For example, linseed oil, gamblin galkyd, and liquin are all faster drying.
You can also use a thinner such as turpentine or mineral spirits in your first few layers to not only speed up your dry times but to allow later layers to bind better.
Third, a trick you can use is to mix faster drying pigments with slower drying ones.
Darker colors especially can take a lot of another pigment within them without changing their color while reducing their overall drying time.
How to make oil paint dry faster on canvas
On canvas, you can prime the painting with gesso or matte medium to allow the paint to bind more effectively to the flat surface.
This will speed up the drying process overall.
You can also underpaint in thin layers with a paint thinner or use acrylic paint.
Both techniques significantly speed up the time it takes for the initial layers to dry.
This applies both the thick over thin principle and uses thin layers with paint that is prepared to dry much quicker overall.
There are also techniques that are especially effective with canvas, which has the ability to use a hair dryer from behind it.
How to dry oil paint overnight
Generally speaking, oil painters know that a layer of oil paint will dry overnight.
So there’s nothing special you have to do except wait, but there are ways to protect the painting so it dries from any dust or debris getting stuck on the wet surface.
The warmer and dryer the room, the better it will dry the paint.
Does oil paint dry faster in heat or cold environment
Oil paint dries faster in hot temperatures than cold temperatures, but there’s a balance to be struck.
If you use too much heat at once, the paint will crack due to the surface layers of paint drying faster than the deeper layers.
Therefore, it’s essential to increase the temperature of the room slowly over time and make sure the heat is penetrating the deeper paint layers.
You can do this by placing the painting in a cardboard box to protect it from sunlight and dust and then placing it in a warmer space.
Some options include:
- In front of a heater (but make sure it’s only warm and not too hot)
- In a car trunk
- On the highest floor of your building, where the heat rises to
- In a shaded area of a sunroom.
Also, try lowering the humidity with a dehumidifier to dry the air, allowing the paint to dry faster.
Do not keep the painting in humid areas, such as the bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen.
How to dry oil paint faster with a hair dryer
You can also try using a blow dryer on the back of the canvas (Don’t use it on the front).
Extreme heat will damage the paint over time.
However, using a blow dryer on a low heat setting will gradually heat the paint through the bottom layers first up through to the top layers, reducing the chance of any damage.
Using a hair dryer on the front of the painting causes cracks to appear over time. By focusing on the back of the painting, there’s much less risk of cracking.
This technique only works on canvas and not with other materials.
Some oil painters also like to use a heat gun, as long as it is not turned up higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher can it might start to crack or yellow the paint.
How to make oil paint dry faster on wood
Oil paint dries faster on wood just by it being wood.
This is because the wood absorbs the painter faster than most other materials and achieves thinner layers overall.
Wood also does well with a traditional gesso primer.
Most people would use an acrylic gesso for canvas, but traditional gesso is made from rabbit skin glue.
Traditional gesso is best used on a hard surface like wood because it dries to a brittle coat, which can crack on canvas or other flexible surfaces.
A gesso-primer is more absorbent than an unprimed surface and will thereby dry faster.
What medium makes oil paint dry faster
There’s a lot of different ways you can use various mediums to make oil paint dry faster.
Chemical drying agents such as Galkyd or Liquin are made for fast drying.
They are not great for the first layer of paint, which should be thin, as they add to the thickness of the paint layer.
However, you can use a small amount for even thin oil paint layers.
For thicker layers, adding some Galkyd or Liquin will decrease the overall drying time significantly.
They are also great to use with a fast-drying medium.
Note: If you do use a drying agent, always clean your brushes thoroughly afterward. If you don’t, they will become hardened and unusable.
Compared to poppy seed oil, safflower oil, and walnut oil, linseed oil medium is the fastest drying.
Look for paints that use linseed oil paint medium exclusively.
This is the most commonly used oil, but some manufacturers do use others.
There are good quality reasons to use other types of oil, but if you are looking for the fastest drying, linseed oil is the best choice.
Use Alkyd Paint
Lastly, you can use alkyd paint, a type of oil paint made with an especially quick-drying oil called alkyd mediums.
These are especially useful when using thick paint applications, as those would typically take days to dry otherwise.
Often people will mix using both standard oil paints and alkyd paints depending on the pigments.
For example, they may use the faster drying alkyds for slow drying pigments to make the drying times more consistent overall.
Can you put a painting in the oven to dry faster
Surprisingly, yes, you can. Of course, you have to be careful with it and keep the temperature to less than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- First, naturally dry the paint for a couple of hours before starting the oven process.
- Never allow the oven to go higher than 200 degrees fahrenheit.
- Do not use this technique with pressure-treated wood.
To use the oven for drying oil paint, allow it to dry in the oven for about 10 minutes.
It might not completely dry during that time, but it’s better to let the final stages of drying happen naturally.
Then, if it is still exceptionally wet, you can put it in for another 10 minute round after at least an hour of natural drying.
Something to note is that there will be a weird smell from the oven using the method.
That’s just the oils, it shouldn’t be toxic.
However, it will prevent you from using the oven for good purposes for at least until the smell disappears.
Leaving the oven open for a few hours should solve the problem.
How to make oil paint dry faster on clothes
First, make sure you use a gesso priming layer when using oil paints on clothes.
Without it, the oil paint will rot away at the fabric.
Some people like to use oil paint on clothing because it allows for a lot of control and the use of great painterly techniques.
However, it’s not too common because of the drawbacks compared with other paints on clothes.
You can use all the same techniques to speed up painting on fabric as you would with other painting surfaces.
However, oil paint will crack overtime on fabric, and so you may want to use fabric paint instead for best results.
How to make oil paint dry faster on metal
Depending on the reason for painting on metal, different oil painting techniques can be used.
If the metal is going to be outdoors, it is crucial to protect it from cracking and chipping using a good finish, and it will fade away over time in the sun.
Using a primer is the best way to make oil paint dry faster on metal, as the metal is non-absorbent.
The primer gives a surface for the oil paint to absorb and speeds up the drying process.
How to make oil paint dry faster on plastic
Oil paint will dry on plastic faster using all the same methods as other surfaces like canvas, but a good primer is the best way to help it.
This is because plastic doesn’t absorb the paint well, whereas a primer does, speeding up the drying process.
Depending on whether the plastic is meant to be outdoors or indoors, it can matter what finish you use on the paint.
Temperature, medium, and pigments are three main factors that go into the speed at which oil paint dries.
One of the main methods to speed up the process is using a primer and increasing the temperature during the drying times of your work.
You can also use the “thick over thin” principle which states that a few thin layers of paint that will dry quickly is a good starting point before adding thicker layers that will dry more slowly.