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A substance that catalyzes the drying of oil-based paints, alkyd paints, varnishes and inks via free-radical autoxidation of the oils with air. Siccatives (also called driers) are usually metallic salts of organic acids (i.e., metal soaps). Examples are cobalt linoleate, cobalt oleate, and cobalt naphthenate. Organic acid salts of most heavy metals, such as manganese, cerium, lead, chromium, iron, zinc and zirconium, can also be effective driers. Some pigments also act as driers, such as Lead oxide and Manganese oxide. In recent years nonmetallic driers, such as orthophenathroline, are being used as replacement for the toxic heavy metal driers.

Synonyms and Related Terms

drier; dryer; drying agent; cobalt drier;


  • Heavy metal compounds are toxic by ingestion and inhalation.
  • Excess driers can cause surface skinning and wrinkling.

Resources and Citations

  • Wikipedia: Oil drying agent (Accessed June 2023)
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Dictionary of Fiber & Textile Technology (older version called Man-made Fiber and Textile Dictionary, 1965), Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Charlotte NC, 1990
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • George Savage, Art and Antique Restorer's Handbook, Rockliff Publishing Corp, London, 1954
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996