How Long Does it Take for Oil Paint to Dry on Wood? Easy Guide

Image of oil base paint but How Long Does it Take for Oil Paint to Dry on Wood?One of the reasons artisans use oil paints is to provide enough time to craft projects due to their slow drying time. The paints are also well known for their durability since they resist water and other natural inhibiting factors, therefore ideal for outdoor use. Some oil paints come with a grainy-like finish, while others are smooth, begging the question, how long does it take for oil paint to dry on wood?

Oil paints take roughly between 12 hours to 12 days to fully dry on wood. Their drying period is mainly affected by the weather conditions, color pigmentation, the thickness of application, and quality of the paint.

It’s also right to say that oil paints don’t have a specific drying time. But the best thing is that you can never go wrong with the color choice since the oil paints dry the same as the original color you used.

Why Is My Oil-based Paint Not Drying?

The main reason your oil based paint is not drying is that you may have over-applied by painting thick layers over each other. If you don’t give the last layer time to dry by painting over it, a small dry layer forms on the outside edge. The layer then blocks air from the paint below, preventing it from drying completely.

Drying Times of Different Oils

In oil painting, you can use several mediums to make your paint flow easily. Such mediums include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, and safflower oil. You can also use an alkyd since it’s a synthetic oil. 

Below is a summary of the varying drying times of these oils.

Fastest drying

Moderate drying

  • Safflower.

Slowest drying

  • Poppyseed oil.

The most preferred is oil linseed, but you can also consider poppyseed oil for keeping your paintbrush wet while painting.

How Can I Make Oil Paint Dry Faster?

  • Paint In A Dry Well Ventilated Area

Oil paints dry through oxidation by undergoing a chemical reaction which causes the oil to harden. You can also have a fan run on your painting, expose the surface to natural light, or open the window provided it’s not humid outside. Another way of ensuring a dry ventilated area is by running a dehumidifier.

  • Apply Your Oil Paint In Thin Layers

It would be nice to note that thicker paints take longer to dry. The reason is that the entire mass of paint doesn’t get exposed to air. If you find applying thin coats quite challenging for you, you can consider using solvents, dryers, or thin paint applicants. You should note that if you use oil to thin your paint, it will extend the drying time.

Another way of thinning the oil paint is by scrubbing it aggressively with a bristle brush. You should also ensure the initial layer is the thinnest with the least amount of oil content. The unique thing about using this method is that the initial layer of light paint speeds up the drying time of the other layers.

  • Use Oil Paints that Contain Linseed Oil Only

Even though there are different oil mediums for oil paints, linseed oil drys faster. For this reason, you should consider using oil paint with linseed oil.

  • Expose Your Paint to Heat (But Be Careful) 

You have to be very keen on this one but be rest assured that it works well. If the heat is higher, the paint surface will dry faster. You can employ several heating techniques, including sticking the piece in a window on a warm, sunny day. A heat gun can also work, but ensure you maintain the settings under 55 degrees since higher heat levels could result in yellowing or cracking the paint.

Even though heating is a good technique of speeding up the drying period, ensure you keep it safe by not going overboard.

  • Use Dryers Such as Liquin or Galkyd

You can add small amounts of Liquin or Galkyd to your oil paint before applying to speed up the drying period. For Galkyd, there are different versions with different drying rates. They also give the paint a glossy appearance.

You only have to follow the prescribed instructions. You won’t want to remain with a hardened, unusable brush. Therefore, ensure you thoroughly clean your brushes after using chemical drying agents.

  • Paint With Faster Drying Pigments

You’ll find certain pigments or colors that dry faster than others. Therefore, consider toning your surface with a quick drying color to help speed up the drying time of the subsequent layers.

Below Are Some of the Colors that Dry Faster.

  • Naples Yellow
  • Prussian Blue
  • Chrome Yellow Red
  • Manganese colors such as Manganese Blue, Manganese Black, and Manganese Violet
  • Burnt and Raw Umber
  • Cobalt colors including Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Yellow, and Genuine Aureolin
  • Colors that contain lead including Lead White, Flake White, and Cremntiz White

Colors that Dry Slowly

  • Zinc White
  • Vermilion
  • Cadmium colors such as Red, Yellow, Green, and many more
  • Vandyke Brown
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Black such as lamp, ivory, charcoal, and carbon


Some manufacturers will mix the fast drying colors with slow drying oils. Also, don’t use slow-drying colors for initial paint layers. Another point of consideration is that adding quick-drying color over a slow drying can cause cracks on the final painting finish.

How To Stop Your Oil From Drying On Your Palette Between Sessions

The simplest way to stop your paint from drying on your palette is by wrapping the palette in baking paper to prevent the paint from drying out. Even so, you might still notice some paint marks on your palette, but they will not be that much compared to if you had not covered the palette.

Can I Paint Directly on Wood?

No, you can’t since bare wood is amongst the trickiest material to paint. Wood has natural fibers that tend to absorb a lot of paint. Thus it needs some priming before you paint. The variation in the wood grain can also result in an uneven finish. For the best result, consider priming before painting. 

How to Paint Wood

Below are some of the critical steps of painting wood.

Step 1: Preparing Wood for Painting

Even though it might seem the overlooked part of the wood painting process, it’s the most critical part that you will want to pay attention to. You must ensure to remove cracks, dents, holes, or other imperfections by sanding.

Step 2: Remove Any Old Paint from the Wood as Necessary

Suppose your intended wood surface has some paint on it. You may have to remove it before repainting. You can use a putty knife to scrape away as much paint as you can. It would help if you didn’t worry about scrapping the surface since you’ll sand away the remaining paint before you finish the surface preparation. 

Things to note about removing old paint

  • Don’t use chemical strippers unless the existing surface is an oil-based stain or finish. You should scrape as much as you can then use trisodium phosphate (TSP) solution to clean off the remaining loose paint and grime. Finish by thoroughly rinsing the surface.
  • You should apply TSP to your wood, mainly if it has a satin or finish, but don’t focus on removing the stain or finish. Instead, do some cleaning and sanding to give the paint a porous surface to adhere to. 
  • You can also paint on existing coats, but you may want to use a primer if it doesn’t stick well to the previous coat. 

Step 3: Fill All Dings and Deep Gouges With Quality Wood Putty, If Possible

Using a flexible putty knife, fill all the areas that need attention. It would be best if you used too much than not enough since you can sand down after it has dried and hardened. Consider using a regular spackle or joint compound for small or shallow scratches. Also, try using spackle with an included primer, then wait to dry before sanding.

For areas with long and deep cracks, use a tiny bead of caulk, smooth it out well then wait for it t dry well before sanding.

Step 4: Sand The Surface With Coarse Sandpaper and Finish Off With A Fine One

If you want to get an even surface, start by sanding the areas you have used putty or any wood filler, then move to the rest of the surface. Using fine-grade sandpaper with 80 to 100 grip, remove any paint still on the surface.

You can then finish off with fine 150 grit or higher sandpaper to smooth out the surface, getting it ready for priming. It would be best to remember to work the sandpaper with the wood’s grain and keep the power sander moving.

Example of sanding tools

  • Random orbital sander: It’s powerful, requires sanding disks, but it’s expensive.
  • Sheet sander: It’s cheap, best for flat surfaces, uses regular sandpaper, but it’s less effective.
  • Sanding block: It’s ideal on small projects or finishing touches. It’s also very labor-intensive. 

Step: 5 Clean Off Any Dust or Wood Residue With A Tack Cloth

You can either use a vacuum or tack cloth to wipe off the dust or residue, then finish off with a damp cloth for this step. It would be best to let the surface dry since paint and primer can’t adhere well on dirty surfaces.

Step 6: Tape Off Any Parts of That You Don’t Wish To Paint

Suppose you want to use different colors or section the wood, consider using tape to cover the parts you don’t wish to paint. I recommend using a specially treated tape design for latex paint, such as the Frog Tape. The tape can adhere to the wood surface and minimize paint seeping into the wood pores.

Step 7: Prime The Wood

You’ll never wish to skip priming since it helps the paint form a uniform rich look on the wood’s surface. You only require one coat for an even look at your final product.

Suppose it raises the wood’s grain, sand with fine-grit sandpaper, before applying the final coat of the primer. It would be best to follow all the instructions about the drying time between coats and the number of coats.

Consider using a grey primer for darker coats while a white primer for brighter coats of paint.

Step 8: Choose Your Type of Paint

You can choose to use 

  • Latex (water-based) paint
  • Oil-based paint: Dries slowly, leaving few brush marks, and forms a durable coat for heavily used items.
  • Conditioner or extender: you can add this to water-based paint to slow down drying and reduce the brush marks.

Step 9: Choose A Kind of Sheen for Your Paint

A gloss or sheen is the amount of light that reflects in the paint. Matte paints absorb light and hide imperfections, while high gloss paints appear to shimmer when exposed to light. 

Common types of sheen

  • Matte: Easier to clean and very slightly reflective.
  • Flat: It’s non-reflective, thus suitable for hiding imperfections. It has more color depth and easier to touch.
  • Semi-gloss, Gloss: They are the most durable and reflective sheens.
  • Eggshell, Satin: They are increasingly more reflective but tend to vary depending on the manufacturer.

Step 10: Choose high-quality brushes.

Step 11: Load your paintbrush with paint.

Step 12: With a loaded brush, start from the top of the wood and move downwards.

Step 13: Use an unloaded brush to pull the tips across the paint.

Step 14: Wait for the paint to dry before repeating the process, depending on the recommended number of coats.

Step 15: Determine if you need a sealer or clear top coat to preserve the paint on the wood surface.

Step 16: Prep the surface of the painted wood by lightly sanding and vacuuming off the paint residues.

Step 17: Apply up to three coats of sealer or topcoat of polyurethane depending on your topcoat direction and your preference.

Does Painting Wood Make it Waterproof?

You paint wood to protect it from inhibiting factors such as weather and many more, but not all paints can waterproof wood. It all depends on how you paint and the specific paint type.

If you properly maintain paint over wood and use a good paint seal in the wood joints, it will shed off the water, thus protecting the wood by keeping it dry. You should ensure your wood has no cracked paint seals since they permit water entry, which causes wood decay.

Three Ways To Waterproof Wood

  • Create a warm, hand-rubbed oil finish

The commonly used oil for rubbing is linseed oil and tung oil. The oils are ideal for dark-grained woods such as walnut and mahogany. If you blend these oils with other ingredients, they fasten the drying time and eliminate stickiness. A standard hand-rubbed oil blend has one part oil, one part polyurethane, and mineral spirit.

  • Use sealants for the best protection.

The most trusted and proved sealants with excellent waterproofing properties are polyurethane, lacquer, and varnish. You can either rub or spray onto a clean and sanded surface then allow it to dry.

You’ll want the best results. Thus consider applying in a room temperature environment. The point to note is that you should never shake or briskly stir the sealants before application since it will cause air bubbles that will remain on the surface even after it dries.

  • Work fast with stain sealant combos

If you are protecting a large project like a wood deck or want to finish your project on time, I recommend using a quality stain sealant combo. They add color to the wood while providing water resistance in just one step. The final finish can be transparent, opaque, or in between, depending on the pigment concentration.

If you are using the stain sealer on exterior wood, you’ll want to reapply yearly or after two years to keep your wood protected. The best thing about stain sealants is that they don’t build up on the wood’s surface.

Instead, they soak into the wood pores, and any excess evaporates. Consider using the alkyd-based stain sealants for interior wood items since they leave a light surface coating on the wood’s surface.

Final Thoughts

We have seen that even though oil paint takes longer to dry, it has outstanding features to the wood’s surface that make it preferable by many woodworkers. You only have to pay attention to the application methods to avoid running into problems such as over-coating and many more. The only remaining question is…

How Long Does it Take for Oil Paint to Dry on Wood?

Oil paint takes between 12 hours to 12 days to dry. The drying period will vary depending on different factors such as the environment, application method, color pigmentation, and pigment quality.

For these few remarks, I want to thank you for reading throughout the article. I hope you have gained from any detail in this article. If you still need additional information or have any suggestions, please reach out in the comment section below.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.