You can’t rush a masterpiece! But at some point understanding the optimum time to safely start layering with oil paints becomes a real concern.
Of course you can touch, feel and hope – but this doesn’t really get to the heart of the question; how long does oil paint take to dry?
Drying Oil Paintings
As you’ll be well aware, we’re not talking about hours of drying time for oil paints – instead, we’re talking about a number of days before your oil paint is fully dry on the canvas.
Of course you’ll get some variations in drying time between the first layer of paint that goes directly onto the canvas, vs the 2nd and 3rd layers of oil paint which will be sat on top of another layer of oil paint.
The first layer of oil paint has the benefit of being sat on the canvas and having access to a level of oxygen in the air on both the front of the canvas, and via the breathable canvas to the back of the oil painting.
The subsequent layers of oil paint are only in contact with oxygen to complete the oxidation process, from the front side of the canvas and the layer of paint underneath isn’t breathable like the canvas.
So how long does oil paint take to dry?
As a general rule 1-2 days should be sufficient for drying.
If using white oil paints, it may take a little longer – maybe a full day longer.
Don’t be tempted to speed up the drying process of the oils by leaving your oil painting in direct sunlight. It’s very likely the oils will lose their shine and contract in ways that ruin your oil painting masterpiece!