How long does it take an oil painting to dry – Beginner’s guide

Drying an oil painting is a time-consuming procedure because oil doesn’t evaporate like water. Its oil contains fatty acids which prevent it from drying. The drying time of oil may depend on the amount of fatty acid. This is the reason that different oil paints have different drying times. Usually, oil-based paint can take up to 1 to 4 weeks to dry completely which time could vary in different situations and places. This drying time also depends on the thickness of the layer.

This blog post aims to deliver ways to boost the drying time of your oil paintings to save more time as they take a lot of time, sometimes months or years to dry completely.

How long does oil painting take to dry?

“Based on the method which has been used for oil painting, they can take as little as a week to get touch dry and as long as a month. To get completely dry, oil paintings may take up to 6 months. That’s why we always wait at least 6 months before varnishing”

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Why does oil painting take so much time to dry completely?

Oil paint takes so much time to dry just because of the presence of oil. Acrylic paints are also the same in nature, but there is no oil and they dry immediately. On the other hand, the oil contains fatty acids which slow the evaporation process. No evaporation means no drying. This is a major reason why oil paint takes a lot of time to dry.

Secondly, the absence of enough ventilation in the studio excessively accelerates the drying time of oil paints because fatty acids are unable to come in contact with oxygen for evaporation. This mistake can increase the drying time up to months or sometimes even years.

There could be another reason that the pigments you are using aren’t allowing it to evaporate faster. This is actually a chemical procedure in which oils react with atmospheric oxygen but some pigments slow down the drying time. Oil dries in the form of layers. The upper layer dries directly when it comes in contact with oxygen but the lower layer takes more time due to the presence of the upper layer.

example of oil painting
Layers are thick in this image

Does oil paint dry faster in the Sun?

Sun is a major source of heat which provide a proper temperature for the oil to dry. But you must have to take care of UV rays which can damage the exposure. You must have to moderate the sunlight to avoid damage. You can put it in front of a window with medium-intensity light and make sure to put the painting in a card box to protect it from direct sunlight.

Factors that impact the drying time of oil paintings

There are 5 major factors that slow the drying time.


Every color has its own composition which affects the drying time of the oil present in the paint. For example, white color is the reflector of light but black color absorbs it and gets warm easily. That’s why pigmentation in colors can affect drying time so much.

There are some fast-drying colors such as red, orange, and brown or any other which contains a good amount of oxygen. Avoid using carbon black, indanthrone blue or dioxazine and other shiner shades.

Here is a list of some fast-drying oil paints which can boost the drying time of oil paints.

  • Cobalt blue
  • Iron cyan blue
  • Natural earths
  • Transparent iron oxides
  • Burnt Umber
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Prussian Blue
  • Raw Umber
  • Naples Yellow
  • Chrome Red
  • Chrome Yellow
  • Genuine Aureolin
  • Cremnitz White
  • Flake White
  • Genuine Aureolin
  • Manganese Blue, Black, and Violet
Pigments for oil painting

Quality of oil paint

The brand of oil paint is also a good impactor. Obviously, every brand has a focus on providing the most suitable solution to the problem and the time factor is such a problem. Every brand focuses on providing such paints to decrease the drying time in order to give quality to their customers. If you want to know more about this, you can check our enlisted top fast-drying oil paints.

Amount of oil and paint

Oil paint gives a crispy look after drying. The oil present in it makes strong bonds that hold the particles and that’s the reason that oil paintings are more durable. The more oil and paint means the more time it will take during the drying procedure.

Next time, when you will create a drawing. Make sure to use a moderate amount of oil and paint which will not just decrease the drying time but also give a solid and hard shape to your art.

Surrounding temperature and humidity

If you ever have had an experience making paintings before then you must have observed that those paintings which you are left to dry at a pace with more temperature dried faster as compared to those which are placed in places having less temperature. The same thing is applicable to humidity. We recommend warmer and dry places.

An image of hygrometer and thermometer
Thermometer and hygrometer

How to reduce drying time for oil paintings

To reduce time to a minimum, you can take care of these 5 things

  • We recommend using safflower & linseed oil for the best results
  • You can use solvents also
  • Using Gesso
  • Use Alkyd based mediums
  • Make thinner layers

Ways to check whether oil painting got dried

At first, make sure to give 20 to 24 hours. Most of the oil and other paints get dry within this time but if you are curious and don’t want to take any risk then you can use the following ways to check it

  • Give at least two weeks of drying time. You will get a crispy look on the surface which will show you the dryness of the painting.
  • You can also use a solvent applied on cotton or cloth. Rub it slightly on the part of the painting. If your cloth gets paint then it is not dried yet.

Best way to dry oil paint faster

When you are mixing colors, add a little amount of flake which is also known as lead carbonate. It will fasten the rate of drying. Please avoid using the Alizarin Crimson color which takes so much time to dry. White is also an extremely slow-drying color. When you use lead with any pigment, it gives an extremely permanent surface that doesn’t get erased. So, using lead in pigment is the best way to dry oil paint faster.


What should a beginner start with watercolor or oil paint?

Watercolors are good for beginners because the oil painting is a stream of mistakes. You would even do mistakes at a professional level. Learn about colors and their texture properly by watercolor technique and then you can also get into it.

Is oil paint toxic?

Yes, it is, because it contains petroleum gas which can be harmful to respiratory parts. We recommend using a mask or any respirator to avoid the risk of toxicity.
We will be pleased if anyone asks anything because it will help everyone who wants to start oil painting. You can add any question to the form or you can


There is a need for proper guidelines to start with oil painting. It can take a minimum of 1 week for an oil painting to dry completely depending on the thickness of the layer but this time can go up to several months if you haven’t taken care of any prevention or didn’t add any kind of extra material to boost this procedure.

If you have any questions, please comment below or contact us.


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