There are many ways to make an oil painting dry faster like the use of turpentine, additives (such as driers) and fast drying oils.
In this post I’m going to show you how to make oil paint dry faster using the substances that I’ve mentioned above.
Before starting, I have to tell you that the drying time depends on a multitude of factors, such as the support, the type of oil used, the composition of the medium, the features of the place where the painting dries and the amount of paint used in every brushstroke.
Oil paint is “special”: unlike acrylic paint and watercolors, oil paint doesn’t dry because of the evaporation of the solvent. Indeed, the oil contained in the paint goes through reaction of polymerization which requires oxygen to occur.
How to make oil paint dry faster
Speeding up the drying process has the advantage of decreasing the waiting time. However, it’s also risky because if the paint is forced to dry too faster cracks may appear on the painting, maybe not right away, but they will.
Having said that let’s see some ways to decrease the drying time
Use fast drying mediums or driers
Fast drying mediums and driers increase the amount of oxygen that arrives to the oil, causing a rise of the speed of the polymerization reaction and thus decreasing the time needed for the painting to dry. Usually fast drying mediums and driers make the paintings dry overnight.
The drier is a substance which often contains metallic drying agents. The driers have a very high drying power, thus their use can markedly decrease the drying time. A drier can be used in two ways:
- it can be added to the oil and thus creating a fast drying medium.
- It can be directly added to the paint.
Because of their high drying power, the driers have to be added in very small quantities. Usually to create a drying medium the amount of drier required is less than the 2% of the total volume (2mL of drier every 100ml of medium).
Concerning the addition of the drier directly to the paint only few drops are needed. Since the amount of drier that had to be added changes depending on the type of substances contained into it, be sure to read the instruction before using it.
These mediums consist in a mixture of linseed oil, petrol-based derivatives and metallic drying agents, such as cobalt. As the name says the can be used right away and don’t need to be mixed with other substances.
There are also spray cans that contain a special substance that speeds up the reaction of polymerization.
If your paintings are realized by putting new layers of paint on older ones besure that the underneath layers have already dried when you use this product: this substance is sprayed directly on the surface of the painting so only the upper layers of paint undergo a fast drying and if the underneath layers are still a bit wet cracks may appear on the painting over time.
Use an oil that dries quickly
The oil used to thin oil paint derives from different seeds, such as linseed, poppy seeds, walnuts and safflower seeds. Every oil has different properties and different drying times. Between the ones that I’ve quoted below, Linseed oil is the ones that dries more quickly.
There are also types of linseed oil that are treated to dry faster. For example boiled linseed oil or sun-bleached linseed oil (produced by exposing linseed oil to sunlight for a long period -usually at least one month-). The processes these oils undergo cause a part of the oil to go through the reaction of polymerization making them dry faster than the normal.
If you don’t want to pass to linseed oil, e.g. because you can’t bear its smell, also in the case of the other oils there are versions that go through a process that makes them dry faster, like drying poppy oil.
Use a mixture of oil and turpentine
Many artists use a mixture of oil and turpentine as medium to speed up the drying process of the paintings.
Indeed, turpentine is a very volatile substances and, unlike the oil, it doesn’t go through the reaction of polymerization, thus it abandons the painting in the shape of a gas. Using a medium composed for example 75% by oil and 25% by turpentine can decrease the time needed by the paint to dry.
Here is an example:
Let’s assume that we have used 5mL of medium to paint a subject. If the medium is composed only by linseed oil we’ll have to wait for 5ml of oil to dry. On the contrary, if the solvent is composed by a mixture of 75%oil and 25% turpentine, we will have to wait only for 3,75mL of oil to dry, because the remaining part (1,25mL) is composed by turpentine and will evaporate in brief time.
Many artists use a mixture of 50/50 oil and turpentine to paint. However, if you paint using the fat over lean technique, be sure to decrease the amount of turpentine in the medium used to paint the higher layers of paint or they will dry faster than the underneath ones causing the formation cracks on the surface of the painting.
What not to do to make the paint dry quickly
- Expose the painting to high temperatures: many people think that to dry oil paint is enough to make the oil evaporate and to do so they use, for example, hairdryers.However, as I said before, the oil doesn’t evaporate but goes through a reaction of polymerization. Thus, the use of the hairdryer (which may work with acrylic paint) is not only useless with oil paint but also counterproductive.Heat can effectively speed up the reaction but exposing the pigments to high temperature may alter them. Moreover, by forcing the speed up process cracks on the surface of the painting may appear over time.
- Put the painting directly under the sun: sunlight prevents the painting from becoming yellowish. However, direct sunlight may heat the painting too much causing the appearance of cracks.
- exaggerate with the drier: As I said in the introduction oil paint needs time to dry. If the process of drying is to heavily forced on the surface of the painting may appear cracks.
To sum up the simplest way to make to oil paint dry faster is working on the composition of the medium by adding additives and turpentine or by using some oils instead of others. Keep in mind that also the conditions of the place where the oil painting is put to dry affect the drying time: a warm, bright and aerated place will make the oil paint dry faster and prevents it from becoming yellowish.
If you have any questions or you want to share your way to make oil paint dry more quickly don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I will be more than happy to answer!
Have a nice day,