Oil Based Paint Not Drying? 6 Tricks To Dry Oil Paint Faster!

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Oil based paints for arts, crafts, and design have become more and more popular over the last few years so it is only natural that we would see a steadily increasing number of questions relating to oil painting in general. Although we do tend to see a wide range of questions, we have noticed more and more people reaching out about their oil based paint not drying and asking how they are able to dry their oil based paint faster.

Due to so many people reaching out as well as due to oil paints tending to dry in a slightly different way to other popular paints, we have decided to publish this dedicated article. Our hope is that we will be able to help our readers get their oil paints to dry as fast as possible without there being any negative effects on their artwork or having to go out and buy expensive equipment.

All six of the methods that we will be going over in this article have been proven to be able to help you get your oil paints dry quicker with them working for both beginners and professionals alike. Although some of the methods do tend to get your oil paint to dry quicker than others, they all have their place in specific circumstances and situations but we will go into more detail for each below.

How To Dry Oil Based Paint Faster

Before we go any further, we would just like to quickly go over how oil paint drys in a slightly different way to other popular paints such as acrylic or watercolor paints. Where as other paints tend to dry by the water content in them evaporating, oil based paints dry by oxidising with the air around them meaning that heat does not play as large of a role in drying them as with other paints.

The easiest way to aid the oxidisation process for your oil paints is to increase the airflow around your artwork via a number of effective methods. Although heat can sometimes help speed up oxidisation in some cases, it really is not as beneficial as the majority of people seem to initially think with many people putting too much emphasis on heat when trying to dry their oil paintings and it offering little to no benefit.

On top of this, you are able to tweak the native properties of your oil paints by taking advantage of a medium too with some mediums drying considerably faster than others. That said though, no matter the medium that you use, you should easily be able to use the methods below to help get your oil paints to dry much quicker than they otherwise would.

Are You Using A Fast Drying Medium?

The quickest and cheapest way to help get your oil paint to dry as fast as possible is to use a medium with your oil paints that are able to accelerate its regular drying time. We have our ultimate guide on oil painting mediums that go over the most common mediums used in oil painting as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each and how you are able to use them.

In our opinion, going with some distilled turpentine could be your best option and we go over how to use turpentine for oil painting in this article. Another common but less popular option that dries faster than average is liquin and we have an article going over how to use liquin in oil painting too.

The majority of people tend to use refined linseed oil as their medium of choice for oil painting but it can still take a day or more to dry correctly. Switching out to a medium that dries quicker can drastically reduce the amount of time required for your oil paints to dry on your canvas. If you are looking for something to help you get your base layers down and dry as soon as possible, this is probably the best option you have available to you.

Do You Need Good Ventilation For Oil Painting?

As we touched on earlier in the article, oil paint dries via oxidisation of its oils rather than due to its water content evaporating so improving the ventilation in the room with your artwork can prove to be very effective. People instantly lean towards opening a window in the room but we actually recommend against this as dirt can blow in with the wind and get onto your wet paints causing problems.

The easiest way to improve the ventilation in the room tends to be with a cheap travel hair dryer or by picking up a No products found.. Both need to be used in different ways with the hair dryer usually needing to be held around 30cm away from the surface with your paint on while evenly spreading its coverage over the whole painting. As heat tends not to be a major factor with oil paints, there is no need to worry about the heat setting of the hair dryer during the process and the coolest setting is probably optimal.

Due to different fans working in different ways and having different settings, simply having the fan in the same room as your artwork is able to improve the ventilation without it even being aimed towards your artwork. Just increasing the general air flow in the room increases the speed of the oxidisation process of your oil paints helping to make them dry quicker than they otherwise would.

Is Your Oil Paint Applied In Thin Layers?

Although this may sound like common sense, it is scarily common for people, especially beginners to use much thicker layers of their oil paint than they require for their oil painting sessions. The thicker the layer of your oil paint the longer it will take to dry due to the oxidisation process needing longer to process the whole amount of paint and drying it out fully.

Although there are situations and styles of painting where you may need a thicker layer of oil paint where you can use one of the other techniques in this article to dry it quicker but for most situations, you can just use thinner layers of paint. As the oxidisation process works on an exponential scale, even a slight reduction in the amount of oil paint you use in your layers can drastically change the drying times.

There are a number of different ways that you are able to get used to using thinner layers if you have built up the habit of using too much paint. These techniques range from using smaller brushes to reducing the amount of oil paint that you press out of your tube but you will have to play around with different methods to see what fits you best.

Which Oil Paint Colors Dry The Fastest?

One of the most commonly overlooked factors for paint drying times is that not all paint is created equally and different paint colors have different minerals in their pigments. This tweaks the drying times for different colors of oil paint, some times by quiet a large amount and many people don’t actually realise that this is even a factor when it comes to drying time.

The colors that have pigments that tend to dry faster include raw/burnt sienna, raw/burned umber, Prussian blue, all cobalt variants, all manganese variants, anything that contains lead, chrome red, chrome yellow, and Naples yellow. If your artwork commonly uses these then your drying times for your oil paints will tend to be quicker than average and can get you used to your artwork drying much quicker than usual.

The colors that have pigments that tend to dry slower than average include all cadmium variants, most black paints, vandyke brown, vermilion, alizarin crimson, alizarin red, and zinc-based white paints. If you are used to working with colors that dry quicker then switching to these slower than average colors can make you think that something is wrong with your actual paints so keep this in mind but it is simply due to the minerals used in their pigments taking longer to oxidize.

What Is The Best Surface For Oil Paints To Dry Quickly?

The actual surface that you apply your oil paints can come into play with the expected drying time with some of the more common surfaces taking longer than others. You are able to use something like lead-primed linen to help ensure that your oil paints will dry as quickly as possible but this can increase the costs so we tend to only recommend it for professional level artists.

Although alkyd based priming of the surface you are going to be painting on is another popular option, it can also drastically pump up the costs needed so we tend not to recommend it. If you are wanting a cheaper solution then you can try to prime your surface with some cheap gesso and it may help to reduce the drying time for your oil paints.

That said though, there other factors that come into play and depending on what you are trying to do with your oil painting, this may not be an option for everyone but we just wanted to include it in our list. If you do decide to give gesso to prime a surface then be sure to follow the instructions on the label as different gesso products can requires slightly different application techniques.

Does Heat Help Oil Paint Dry Faster?

As we have mentioned a few times above, heat is not a major factor in the oxidisation process of your oil paints and usually has a minimal effect on the drying time of your artwork. That said though, there is one single use case where heat may be beneficial and that is if you are in an area that is particularly cold year round as other factors in the oxidisation process will slow down in very cold temperatures.

Due to the majority of people who do live in areas that are very cold all year having in-door heating that is able to warm their home, this tends not to be as large of an issue as most would expect. That said, if you do live in a particularly cold area and have converted your garage or shed into your art studio and it is not link into your home heating system, a small heater may be beneficial.

As different heaters work in different ways it is usually better to just put the heater in a safe location in the same room as your artwork and use it to raise the overall temperature of the room rather than aim the heater directly at your artwork. Again though, this is only a viable way to make your oil paint dry quicker in very particular situations and is not worth it for most of our readers.

Oil Based Paint Still Not Drying?

If your oil based paint is still not drying then there may be an underlying issue that is fundamentally wrong with your painting setup. The most common cause is that people who are used to using other types of paint try to use water as a medium with their oil paint and it all ends up going wrong. Although water does work well with other types of paint, it should not be mixed with oil paint as oil and water tend not to mix well.

If you are a beginner then this could be playing into why your oil paint is taking too long to dry so try to look for sources of water in your process. A less common issue could be using wet brushes that have been left in water and not dried prior to using it with your oil paints slightly extending the drying time.

If you live in an area with humidity issues then there is a very small issue that this could be coming into play too but it is extremely rare. If you do live in an area that does have humidity issues bad enough to cause problems with your oil painting drying time then there is a high chance that you will already have a dehumidifier that can help to prevent the issue and get your oil paints drying in their regular time frame.


That brings our article going over how to dry oil based paint faster to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you dry your artwork as quickly as possible as the more common causes of oil paint taking longer than normal to dry is usually down to user error. If your oil based paint is not drying then you should be able to fix it with any of our suggestions above with ease.