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Oil Paint and Temperature

Hello. I have had to move my studio into a detached garage. It gets really cold here in Oregon during the winter. How will the cold affect my oils in regards to drying time? (Especially on my palette.)It will get into the low 40' s inside the space sometimes lower.  Thanks. 


  • The cold will dramatically slow the drying time, and is the reason why some of us put our palettes in a refrigerator.  As Mark states several times in his videos, putting the painting in a hot vehicle, or attic, that is around the 100F temperature is how you get "fast" drying times measured in weeks rather than months.

    I'd be more concerned about *you* in that environment than the paint.
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited November 2017
    in the cold, your fingers get stiff and hurt when you paint, the paint will get stiff too even if not drying prematurely. A big box, ply-wood or cardboard with a small incandescent light (night light is enough) for heat is a good place to store your tubes, palette and WIP between sessions. Use a space heater during the sessions. Your fingers will thank you. Keeping the whole shed above 50F would be better.
  • I have heaters running in there while I'm working. That's not a problem. Its while I'm gone and the oils are sitting out in the cold is what I'm curious abouy. I do recall Mark saying he puts his palette in the fridge to keep paint fresh.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited November 2017

    The cold is not such a problem with tube paints, may just be a little thicker, harder to work and more difficult to mix. The big problem is the effect of cold temperatures on painted surfaces, finished works.
    Picture (pardon the pun) the finished work as a palimpsest of organic and chemical layers in a sandwich.
    Each layer expands or contracts at different rates and extents, or doesn’t, with every change in temperature.
    Each layer expands or contracts at different rates and extents, or doesn’t, with every change in humidity.
    A varnish outside layer my become quite brittle at cold temperatures and a wood panel may shrink in a dry cold. The result can be a network of fine surface cracks, left exposed to the elements the cracks can widen and chips of paint fall off. 
    Using heaters as you describe will accelerate this shrinkage and expansion effect.
    This is the reason museums and galleries must be environmentally controlled to fine tolerances 24/7.
    I seem to recall that the danger zone starts at 45 degrees Fahrenheit.


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