A Look At Why Your Oil Paint Is Not Drying!

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Although oil painting tends to be a little more expensive to get into as a hobby than acrylic painting, it has seen some large growth in its popularity in recent years, particularly in recent months. This has resulted in a large number of people tasking up oil painting as one of their hobbies as well as as a way to express themselves.

As you can probably imagine, this has also resulted in the number of questions that we have seen people asking relating to oil painting to try and help ensure that they get the best end result possible. One of the more common questions that we have seen people asking is based around “why is my oil paint not drying?” and this is a very common area where we see beginners make mistakes time and time again.

This is commonly due to people not understanding how oil paint dries and presuming that it follows the same process as a water based paint. We will be going over the most common reasons that your oil paint may not be drying in this article as well as a few tips and tricks to avoid these common problems to get your paint drying as quickly as possible.

Why Is My Oil Paint Not Drying?

The most common reason that your oil paints won’t dry is due to poor air flow slowing the oxidisation process of the oils in your paint. You can increase air flow to the room by opening a door or window or using a fan to increase the circulating air to help your oil paints dry quicker.

Another common mistake that beginners who are new to oil painting make is that they will go with the cheapest possible oil paints that will have way too much oil in them causing them to take a long time to dry. A decent quality oil paint set Is usually only $5-$10 more than the cheapest ones but the oil ratios allow the paints to dry considerably quicker.

A less common reason that your oil paints may take longer to dry is due to you using way too much oil medium. If you are a beginner then this is a very common mistake as well as using the incorrect medium. Our article going over if you even need an oil medium as well as our ultimate guide to oil paint mediums will be able to help you workout if you need a medium for your oil paints as well as the best medium to use for your situation.

What Causes Oil Paint To Dry?

Unlike water based paints, oil paints dry via oxidisation that removes the oil from the paint formula to leave the pigment behind. This means that heat does little to nothing to help your paint dry and that air flow is the superior technique to speed up drying times of your oil paints.

We have a dedicated article going over six tips and tricks to get your oil paint to dry faster that you may find helpful. Although the methods in that article are spread out over a number of different experience levels and budgets, there should be something in there for everyone to help you get your oil paint to dry.

In addition to that, we also have a dedicated article going over how to dry oil paint with a hair dryer too. Although this may sound simplistic, it is a surprisingly simple method that you are able to use to help dry your oil paints quicker by increasing the air flow around them to speed up the oil oxidisation process.

Increase The Airflow In The Room!

As we have touched on above, the most common reason that your oil paints will take longer to dry is due to a lack of airflow in the room causing the oxidisation process to occur slower than usual. A large number of beginners presume that oil paints dry via evaporation similar to their water based counter parts but as we touched on earlier, this is not the case and oil paints dry via oxidisation.

The most obvious options to increase the air flow to your oil paints to help them dry quicker is to open the doors or windows in the room but this can be a double edged sword. For example, if there is a large amount of wind outdoors then dirt or debris may be blown through the window and attach itself to your oil paint in its wet state so you have to factor things like this in.

This is why more and more people use a hair dryer if they are able to stand there to use it or a small, cheap fan if they will have to leave the room to increase the air flow to their room. Using a small fan on a very low setting can be a great way to help reduce the drying time for your oil paints in most situations that is often overlooked.

Use A Decent Oil Paint Set!

We are fully aware that the initial costs of getting involved in oil painting is higher than getting involved in acrylic painting and so many beginners go with the cheapest possible products. This is a mistake though as the poor oil ratios in the paints will cause them to take much longer to dry than the competing oil paint sets.

In addition to this, a decent quality oil paint set is often only around $5-$10 more than the absolute cheapest oil paint sets too. The better sets not only have optimised oil ratios to help keep the paints drying time as short as possible but they also tend to use higher quality oils too.

For example, something like linseed oil will dry considerably quicker than poppy oil. With the cheaper, lower quality oil paint sets on the market making their main goal to keep their costs low and profits high, they will always use the cheapest oil they have available to them during the production process.

Avoid Using Water At All Costs!

Water and oil don’t mix well and many beginners to oil painting have found this out the hard way. Not only can trying to add water to your oil paints cause issues with consistency and color but it can also cause problems with the oil paint drying correctly.

In our opinion, there is no reason to try to add water to your oil paints as a beginner and it should be avoided at all costs. If you do want to add a medium then it should be oil based like Linseed oil or solvent based like Refined turpentine as they both work well with oil paints and can actually reduce their drying times.

Although there are some advanced techniques that do try to intergrate water into the painting, they are advanced and tend not to be beginner friendly so should be avoided. Even then, they are down to personal preference and often make the painting look worse in our opinion.


That brings our article going o ver why your oil paint may not be drying correctly to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you understand the drying process for your oil paint as well as how you are able to speed the process up. Although oil paints do dry in a different way to water based paints, it is still relatively easy to get them to dry quickly provided you use the correct techniques.