How To Tell If Your Oil Painting Is Dry

There is a lot that goes into oil painting when trying to paint effectively, and one of that is the looonng drying time.

There are many different factors that are involved in trying to tell when an oil painting is dry, and there are also many variables involved in the overall drying process of an oil painting.  

Oil painting is typically on the longer end of the drying spectrum as compared to other mediums, such as watercolours or acrylics. It may make you feel apprehensive at first, but once you fully understand and experiment everything involved, you will be painting great art in no time. 

How To Check If An Oil Painting Is Dry

Take a lint-free cloth and dip a corner of it in a solvent, then gently rub a small amount of the cloth on the painting surface. If you can see any colour on the cloth, then additional drying time will be required. If not, then the painting is fully dry and ready to be varnished.

Drying Factors

The most common factors that will affect the drying time of oil paintings are:

  • Type of oil paint used
  • Type of medium used and amount
  • Thickness of layers
  • Environmental factors, e.g. temperature, light, etc.

What is involved in the drying process?

Oil paints dry unlike any other type of paints, and understanding this can seem like a daunting task for those that are new to the world of oil paints. Oxidation needs to occur for an oil painting to dry; this just means that the paint needs to be exposed to oxygen in the air.  

That is why when you are painting in layers with oil paints you usually need to wait until each layer is fully dry before starting the next one.  If you don’t wait long enough for the layer to dry before starting the next layer, this can potentially have a negative impact on the painting , such as parts of the paint sinking or developing cracks.

How to make oil paintings dry faster / Slower?

There are a number of methods that can be used to speed up / slow down the drying process of an oil painting:

  • Ventilation: In any case, make sure the space it is in is well ventilated. An oil painting needs air to dry
  • Colour: Some oil paint colours dry faster / slower than others
  • Drying Medium: Some drying mediums dry faster / slower than others
  • Layers: Thin layers dry faster than thicker layers

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