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How to Make Oil Paint Dry Faster

Oil paint is a type of paint that does not usually dry fast. It seems to me, that it takes forever to dry! Read the article to find out different ways to make oil paint dry faster.
ArtHearty Staff
When I was in 8th grade, I participated in a painting contest. I painted a pretty picture and used oil paint to fill in the color in some small parts. This was my first attempt at using oils, I did not know much about using oil paints. What I did know was that oils took longer to dry, so I'd used them very sparingly and made the layers pretty thin. What I didn't know was that 'longer' meant more than a day! When the stipulated time was up, the supervisor came around to collect our sheets and in spite of my pleading to let my painting dry, she put my painting in the stack and moved on to the next guy. I didn't manage to win even a consolation prize in the contest, and that killed my mood for the next several days... The next time before using oil paints, I decided to first learn all the tips, tricks and methods to make oil paint dry faster, so that I wouldn't be caught in a similar situation. I'll share with you what all I learned.

One should remember that oil naturally takes more time to dry than other mediums, and at the most you can hurry up the process by a few hours. There is no way that you can make oil paints dry within a few hours, so if you want a finished painting urgently, use another medium. Acrylic polymer can be used to get a good effect and it dries much faster than oils. So all the tips will help make the oils dry faster than usual, not immediately/ soon. Here are a few tips to help you get your paintings to dry faster than before...

Making Oil Paint Dry Faster

Pigments in the Paint
Let's start off with the very basics of choosing the paints. Oil paints are made up of powdered pigments that are responsible for the various colors that we get. These pigments have their own unique properties, and depending on these properties their drying time varies, when mixed with oil. The type of pigment is usually mentioned behind the tube of the paint, and you can understand from this information which pigment, and oil has been used for that particular color. Earth colors are usually made from iron oxide, and they generally dry faster than others, so try incorporating more of these colors if you want your painting to dry faster.

Fat Over Lean Practice
Fat over lean oil painting technique means, using more flexible layers under the lesser flexible layers. This will help your oil painting to dry faster if they are impasto. The flexibility is increased by adding various mediums to the oils and so, going from the bottom to the top, the flexibility of the paint should reduce, which means the amount of medium added should also reduce. Also, there may be cracking of the paint, due to the upper layers drying faster than the lower ones. This is one of the best ways to get oil paint to dry quickly.

Thick Over Thin Technique
Painting in thin layers below the thick layers, will help in drying the painting faster. The oils dry when they absorb the oxygen from air. So if you put in thin layers below, and thick layers on top, they will dry pretty much at the same time, unlike when you paint thick layers under the thin ones. If you do that, your upper layers will dry before the lower layers, causing your painting to crack, and thus ruining the effect and effort. Put in thin layers, so that they dry faster and are ready to be painted over. If you paint a thick layer starting off, you will have to wait an impossibly long time to add in the next layers.

Use Thinning Mediums
When you use thinning mediums, it helps in getting the painting to dry faster. You can try using odorless solvents, or other quick drying media, like Liquin, Liquin Original, Liquin Impasto, Liquin Light Gel Medium, and Liquin Fine Detail Medium, for oil based mediums. Alternately, you can use Artisan Water Mixable Mediums like AWM Impasto Medium, AWM Linseed Oil/ Safflower Oil/ Stand Oil, etc., AWM Painting Medium and AWM Fast Drying Medium, for water mixable oils. You also get liquid cobalt and lead driers, but I cannot vouch for them. You can also try Alkyd's or Maroger's Mediums. The thinner the layer, the faster it will dry, and the quicker you can paint over it. Avoid using varnishes as mediums in any layer of the painting, since they are re-soluble.

Baking and Heating Guns
I've heard that baking oils helps in drying them faster, but I haven't tried it yet. Baking at really high temperatures can cause your painting to turn yellowish, so if you wish to try this method, keep the baking temperature to below 130F. Try this with an oil painting that has gone wrong which you don't wish to correct, or a less important one. If it works, well and good, else you do not want your good work to be ruined. But as far as I've heard, there is nothing wrong with this method. I'm just too chicken to try it. Alternatively, you can try using heat-set paints, and once you are done working with them, you can use the heat gun to cure the oils. This way, you can resume work on the dried layers almost immediately, but the longevity of the painting may be compromised because of the use of heat guns.

The Oil Base and Gesso
The oil that is used to mix the powdered pigment is usually mentioned behind the tube. Try to stick with the oils that dry faster than others. Linseed oil based paints dry faster than those mixed with walnut oil, which in turn dry faster than poppy or safflower based oil paints. As far as possible, go with the linseed oil based paints, unless you have some genuine reason not to want to use linseed oil (I cannot think of any!). The gesso can make an equally important difference in the drying of the oils. Depending on the type of gesso used, oils can dry faster or slower. Having a gesso that will absorb some of the oil from the base layers, will help in drying the oils faster. Glue chalk gesso works well.

Lastly, make sure you do not have too many layers in your painting, if you are pressed for time and need to reduce the drying time of oil paints. If you are an amateur experimenting with oils, you may first want to try out the oil painting techniques for beginners, before moving on to more advanced techniques and bigger canvases. These were some of the tips I gathered. If you have any more tips, I'd appreciate it if you shared them with me. Now that you know how to make oil paints dry faster, enjoy your painting!
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