How To Dry Oil Paint Overnight

Michael Daly
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Drying mediums

The watercolor artists’ ruling belief is that the wetter the paint the more vibrant will be the color and effect. Whenever possible, they prefer to use lots of water to dilute the paint.

If the paint is still completely wet that means it hasn’t had much time to oxidize to a shade darker than it is when you first put it down. So, you want to encourage the paint to dry with as little oxygen as possible.

A combination of gelatin and sodium alginate is a type of drying additive that helps you to dry your wet paint overnight. Gelatin is derived from collagen that comes from the bones and tissue of animals. It creates a slight film over the wetted paper that keeps the paper surface protected from the air.

Another way to use gelatin is by mixing it into the paint itself. On the other hand, sodium alginate is less versatile. It’s primarily used to create a drying medium by dissolving it in boiled water to create a viscous mix. The problem with sodium alginate is that it’s not affected by the color of the paint.

Which is why I am your biggest fan of the following product, developed by Winsor and Newton for just such a situation ;).

Thin Layers

Thinning paint is a great way to reduce drying times. Try doing multiple thin layers and wait until there is a breather of an hour or so between them. Be aware that thinning the surface of the paint will also change its look.

You'll have a much paler appearance and less saturation of color. Lighter colored paints dry faster, so these may be easier to dry overnight.

Nature At Work

The Chinese used the simplest of technologies to paint the Great Wall. Their main painting tool was the brush. But you could also thin the colors with water to make washes. And if you needed to move, you could simply wrap brush and paint in paper.

In Europe, the oil paint revolution took over the world. The medium to carry and preserve the paint was oil, the easiest medium to use for long distance painting. But oil dries slowly, so a superior method of drying was the key to success.

In the late 1600s, a Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer, discovered a way to dry oil paint in under half a day. First, he mixed a tint of his choice with oil. Then he applied the paint onto a canvas with linseed oil. He rolled the color-soaked canvas in paper, and this produced an impression in the paint. This color block is then dried in a warm, humid room, and the linseed oil released and evaporated. The paint dried on the canvas inside the paper.

You can digest this process in four steps to make drying oil paint an easy process.

Flat Surfaces

Runners and rollers are very useful tools for drying canvas.

They have corrugated or grooved surfaces and can be found at local art supply stores. Smoothing tools, on the other hand, can be made at home.

You take a flat piece of plywood, cut it in a rectangular shape, half an inch in thick, and staple a sheet from smooth, lightweight cloth to one side. Smooth the cloth with the flat side of a tool and it’s ready to go.

With all of the above, try to be as even as you can. Moderate areas of richer paint, but don’t try to sheer an area down too far.

Use An Acrylic Paint Background

Acrylic paint is an ideal medium for beginners just starting out with oil painting. Acrylic paint is basically pigment in a medium that is a combination of chemical solvent, plasticizer and a non-drying oil. The peculiarity of acrylic paint is that after it is applied to a surface and dried, the drying surface layer may then be re-applied or washed off with water to dissolve and remove it.

It is exactly this quality that makes acrylic paint suitable for creating a painting surface that supports multiple layers of painting, including an oil painting layer.


Rarely pop out of the canvas like they look on a computer screen.

Some colors might look muddy, or others look dull and lifeless. These are the colors you have to ignore and focus on the others.

When working with these colors, your goal is to bring them out of the paint and put them onto the canvas.

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There are several ways by which you can ensure that the painting is kept dry overnight. Here is a list of such ways.