Importance of Drying Time in Oil Painting

Drying time is important in oil painting because usually the paints are applied in many layers, and the rate at which each layer dries in relation to the others greatly affects the painting’s appearance and integrity.

If you don’t give your paints enough time to dry, you could very well ruin your painting.

Many artists have great frustration when learning how to oil paint because of the fact that they take so long to dry. It requires great patience to be an oil painter.

You can’t go to your painting and finish it off in eight hours when a great stroke of creativity strikes, because you need may need to give each layer time to dry before applying the next. This depends on the paints you’re using, the thickness of the subsequent strokes and how you want the painting to look.

Drying time is very important because if you don’t wait long enough, your subsequent layer of paint will mix with or peel off the initial layer. Oil painting can be done “wet on wet” or “wet on dry” depending on the effect you want.

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Wet on wet will create thicker, more swirling colors as the paints combine with each other. Wet on dry is the more traditional way, in which you create multiple layers of paint that sit firmly on top of one another, creating more texture and depth.

Additionally, drying time is important when it comes to the all-important “fat over lean” rule for oil painting. This rule states that the first layers of paint should be leaner than each subsequent layer. What this means is that the first layer should have less oil than the second, and the second should have less than the third, etc.

Paint straight out of the tube is fat paint, whereas if you add turpentine or another solvent to it, it becomes leaner. Adding linseed oil or another fatty medium will make the paint fatter. This rule is important because fatter paints dry slower than lean paints.

If the top layer of paint dries before the layer underneath, the painting will end up cracking. The last thing you want is for the oil painting that took you so long to make to crack and be ruined. So respect the drying times of fatter oil paints.

Generally, fatter paints take longer to dry, but the exact drying time of your paint depends upon a lot of factors. The brand of paint, thickness of the layer, type of medium used, and even color of your paint will all make a difference in the drying time. Once you have a lot of oil painting under your belt, you’ll be able to guess more accurately which paints will take longer to dry.

To test if a layer is dry, gently touch the thickest area with the tip of your finger and see if it’s still sticky. If it is at all sticky, you need to wait longer. Always respect the drying times of oil paints. Your patience now will pay off when you have a beautiful, un-cracked, flawless painting at the end.

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