Making oil paint dry faster can be achieved in a few ways. It’s important that we also acknowledge that different colors dry at different rates, so not all oil paint colors will need the same additives or change in process to speed up the oils drying.
Crimson and red oil paints are notoriously slow to dry taking multiple days.
The metal ore based colors like ochre, cobalt, umber etc. do tend to dry more quickly naturally anyway as they oxidise naturally quicker than other color oils.
Best ways to make oil paints dry faster
I’ll run through a few of the best ways we’ve found for making oil paints dry faster.
Use thinner layers of paint
Ok, this might not be a revolutionary way to increase the speed of drying for oil paintings. But if you’re inexperienced, or not even thinking about the thickness of the layers of oil paint you’re laying down on the canvas, this could be a quick win.
By slightly reducing the thickness of the layers, the drying process for the oil paints can drastically speed up.
So think about your layering.
Many artists tend to opt for thinner layers when working directly on the canvas, with increased thickness as layers are added.
Use Additives to dry the oil paints more quickly
White spirit and paint thinners provide some help when speeding up the drying process by evaporating off and causing oxidation at a quicker rate. This can be surprisingly impacting to drying time – so test this and get familiar with how much to use with your specific oil paints.
Liquin can also be used to make oil paints dry faster – gel or liquid forms have worked well for us.
The best and simplest way to dry oil paints faster? – White Flake
We’ve found (and several others have confirmed!) that using a touch of white flake or cremnitz white in your paints when mixing and preparing your Oil Paints can seriously speed up the natural drying process.
I’m not sure of the science exactly, but my understanding is the lead content (lead carbonate) is what helps the oil paint drying speed increase.
Change the atmosphere to accelerate drying time for oil paints
Oil paints tend to dry more quickly when exposed to light, heat and oxygen. This is because the oxidation process determines how long oil paints take to dry
Introducing moderate amounts of heat, light and a more oxygen rich environment are likely to naturally speed up the oils drying – without the use of additives or changes to your oil paint mix.
Summer is typically more warm, you can have windows open and the days are longer – so oil paintings will naturally dry quicker in the summer.
Winter is more challenging. Windows tend to be closed, meaning rooms can be more deprived of oxygen – even if the heat in the room is increased. Shorter days also mean less light – but that’s not such a bad thing as too much light can be really damaging to an oil painting.
Summary – drying oil paintings more quickly
You have a number of choices when it comes to making oil paints dry faster – experiment! We’d love to hear your feedback and find out what works for you!