Oil Paint Drying Times

What Oil Painting Beginners Need to Know

The most frequent question asked by oil painting beginners is what are the oil paint drying times for various colors? The following information applies to traditional oils and water soluble oils.

There are several factors which influence the drying times, so I can only give you some guidelines to look at.

So What are These Factors?

  • Drying Oil used in the color
  • Oil you are using to mix with the oil paints
  • Individual color
  • Thickness of the application
  • Environmental conditions.

Drying Oil used in the color

The most commonly used oil is linseed oil. You can find out which oil is used by looking on the back of the paint tube.(You may need a magnifying glass if your eyes are old like mine)

Here is an example of Prussian Blue from Grumbacker Oils Paints. As you can see from the label, linseed oil was used as the base for this paint.

Other oils which may be used are safflower oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, hemp, sunflower oil, and soybean oil

Oils You Mix In

The most popular choice of oils to mix into paints to change the consistency is linseed oil. This oil also increases the transparency of the color and adds gloss to the paint as it dries

The best quality is the cold-pressed kind. It tends to dry slightly faster than the refined linseed oil which takes 3 to 5 days.

Linseed oils traditionally have yellowed with age so it is recommended that you use the linseed oil for the dark colors or for under painting where it won’t matter. Avoid using it with light colors and blues.

Walnut oil dries in 4 to 5 days, so it is a little slower than linseed oil. It also tends to yellow, but to a lesser extent than the linseed oil does.

Poppy seed and Safflower oil are good choices for lighter colors and blues since they tend to only minimally yellow if at all. The poppy seed takes 5 to 7 days to dry while the safflower oil is a little faster.

Individual Colors

Different pigments interact with the oils in different ways resulting in different drying times. Here is a chart to help you identify the difference.

    Colors that dry in

  • 2 Days are “FAST”
  • 5 Days are “MEDIUM”
  • More than 5 Days are “SLOW”
YELLOWS Indian Yellow Fast
Cobalt Fast
Naples Fast
Ochre Medium
Mars Medium
Hansa Slow
Cadmium Slow
ORANGE Cadmiums Slow
REDS Mars Medium
Alizarin Slow
Cadmiums Slow
BLUES Prussian Blue Fast
Manganese Fast
Phthalo Fast
Cobalt Medium Fast
Ultra Marine Slow
Cerulean Slow
VIOLETS Manganese Fast
Cobalt Violet Medium
Mars Medium
GREENS Phthalo Fast
Veridian Slow
Terre Verte Slow
Siennas Fast
BLACKS Mars Fast
Ivory Slow
Lamp Slow
WHITES Flake Fast
Titanium Slow
Zinc Slow


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