Oil paint that won't dry

topic posted Thu, December 29, 2005 - 1:46 PM by  Camille
I'm new to oil painting and I recently started a painting using Rembrandt oil paints mixed with a "water-mixable" oil medium. It's been three days since I painted the lighter areas of the picture and now I'd like to start on darker areas and the light areas are still totally wet.
I'm in Vegas now and there's not much humidity.
Is this common? Is there a drying spray or something that would fix the lighter areas so that the darker colors won't bleed into them?
Thanks for any advice!
posted by:
SF Bay Area
  • Re: Oil paint that won't dry

    Thu, December 29, 2005 - 2:39 PM
    Uh, yeah. With straight oils, I'd never be suprised at things being wet for a week. There's not going to be a 'bleeding' problem, but instead you'll be picking up the old layers when you put on the new. Oil painting is a time consuming process, which is why so many people (not me) prefer acrylic paints.

    Also, if Rembrandt paints are mixed with poppy oil (which many oil paints are today to avoid any color change or yellowing), it could take weeks to dry to the touch. Poppy oil takes forever to dry. Look at the tube for the "binder" or "medium" to know- it'll be marked right below the type of "pigment" used. Even if it's linseed oil, if it's put on thick, it could take weeks to dry, also.

    Remember, oil doesn't "dry" by evaporation, it oxidizes, a chemical process that is affected by temperature, as high temp makes chemical reactions go faster, and colder temps slow things down. If you have the air-conditioner on, that'll slow down the process. If you put a heat lamp near your painting, it'll speed it up (do NOT burn down your house- those things get HOT!)

    This is the primary reason that we often use an alkyd medium (see other thread about "not using varnish" in this tribe) or a pre-made "painting medium" that dries more quickly than paint. Alkyd resin- like Galkyd from Gamblin or Walnut Alkyd Medium from M. Graham, is a quick-drying formula that when mixed with your oil paints, allows you to paint on a dry surface in a day or two. Watch out to make certain you're mixing the medium evenly, or you'll end up with a painting that has an uneven finish- some flat/matte, some glossy. Add a bit of Cold Wax Medium or even thinner to matte out the finish. Oil paint and alkyd both will result in a gloss finish.

    Good luck. I hope this helps.


    • Re: Oil paint that won't dry

      Thu, December 29, 2005 - 2:46 PM
      And welcome to our wonderful medium. Oil paints are more gratifying than any other medium I've used, and as a working artist, I've used just about everything from watercolor, pencil, pen & ink, photo, acrylic paint, oil paint, tattooing, sculpture in clay, metals and mixed media, and even building cars and motorcycles. Many of us find oils to be THE most rewarding, since if you can learn patience, you can do many wonderful things with oil paint.

      A painting instructor once told me "an oil painting will show every minute of work that you put in it- if you cut corners, it'll show". The point of this is that every hour of additional work you put into your paint will show as well. Yeah, I know, acrylic reflect effort too, but he was talking about oils at the time.

      Again, welcome.

    • Re: Oil paint that won't dry

      Thu, December 29, 2005 - 3:27 PM
      Thanks for the brilliant reply, T!
      The chemistry of oil painting is very interesting. I should've known that it won't evaporate.
      I guess that I'll just have to be patient even though I'm working on a belated holiday gift.
      You have some beautiful paintings in your profile.
      Thanks again!
    • Re: Oil paint that won't dry

      Wed, May 17, 2006 - 2:17 PM
      {my unasked-for 2¢: I really hate Galkyd, and really LOVE the quick-dry Walnut Alkyd Medium from M. Graham.}

      Also, different pigments have markedly different drying times, and if you do a little internet searching you can find some lists of pigment dry is one to get you started.

      >>>fyi a woman I met in Hawaii had troubles drying her oil paintings in the tropics. Her solution: put her wet paintings in her car (mine are waaay too huge for this but I suppose if you had big stuff a van would work) to a sunny grocery store parking lot, and park the car. Eventually the heat overcame the humidity and the paintings dried rapidly.
      • Re: Oil paint that won't dry

        Wed, May 17, 2006 - 5:23 PM
        Thats a great idea for drying small canvas'! I actually didn't know that it was heat that made oil paint dry faster, rather than just streaming air. I've been painting in a garage thats caked in concrete so it takes forever for anything to dry.

        By the way, I really like your artwork T.

        • Unsu...

          Re: Oil paint that won't dry

          Sun, September 10, 2006 - 9:46 AM
          I've found temperature to be such an important factor in the progress of my paintings. That why I like painting in the warmer seasons verses the winter. It would seem using a floor heater might help bring the temperature up in a room that tends to be cooler.
  • Re: Oil paint that won't dry

    Thu, May 18, 2006 - 10:33 AM

    Interesting that you are painting lighter areas first. I always paint the darks first, not just because they dry faster, but I find the progression from dark to light the most efficient way to work.
    • Unsu...

      Re: Oil paint that won't dry

      Sun, September 10, 2006 - 9:50 AM
      Interesting point. I've always worked under the principle of background to foreground. I'm finding that this doesn't always work when the background is a darker color and the foreground is lighter. If there is a slight overlap in areas that I want defined, it's difficult to go over the darker areas. On the other hand, I also agree with you, once the base color is on and especially dry painting in the detail in light hues works so well. I guess it really all depends on each individual painting.

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