How Long Can Primer Sit Before Painting?

Primers are your go-to for many types of painting projects. It creates a base and helps prepare uneven surfaces for paint. Using primer could reduce your likelihood of the paint peeling or chipping later as well. But the process takes time. Have you ever wondered, “how long can primer sit before painting?”

Most primers can remain on a surface anywhere from a few hours and 30 days before you paint. The time varies based on the paint and primer type, how long the primer takes to dry, the surface you’re painting, and environmental factors like heat and humidity. 

In this article, you’ll find all the details you need to know. We’ll explain how long each type of primer takes to dry and what other factors worth considering so you can see stunning paint results each time.

How Long Can Primer Sit Before Painting

Can You Paint Without Primer?

Any painting project requires the proper preparation. While you could probably paint without primer, the results may not turn out so great. Most of the time, adding a primer coat before painting a surface will help the paint stick better. The result? Brighter colors and less peeling.

Primer helps with:

  • Uneven surfaces
  • Color transitions
  • Adding a glossy base

However, the steps you take to prime vary based on the paint type and surface you’re painting. Not every paint job requires primer either. If you’re repainting a wall to change the color or only covering a tiny area, you might be able to omit the primer.

Any porous surface will not hold the paint well without using a primer, like wood or a wall. High-gloss surfaces are another example. You might be able to skip using a primer if your surface is not porous or glossy.

Another exception is self-priming paints. Consumer Reports show that you don’t need to use a primer or seal the surface when you use self-priming paints. These brands have paint and primer in one to save you time and money.

How Long Can Primer Sit Before Painting?

The amount of time a primer can sit on a surface before you start painting depends on the type. Some latex primers can sit for 30 days, while oil primers can’t sit for more than 14 days. Extended-stay primers add to the amount of time you have.

To know exactly how long your primer can sit on a surface, unfinished, check the label. The can should display the maximum amount of time the primer can sit before you need to re-prime. Heat and humidity could alter these standing times, so consider your environment as well as your primer type.

If you leave the primer longer than the maximum time, you’ll need to re-prime the surface. Dust and grime can cover the surface after a certain time, not ideal for your paint or the surface’s texture. Your primer may also decay, causing the primer to no longer grip the paint or appear uneven.

How Long Does Primer Take to Dry?

How long does primer take to dry

You want the primer to dry before you paint, but you don’t want to leave the primer on the unfinished surface for too long, either. So knowing how long your primer takes to dry could help you determine the amount of time you have before you absolutely must paint.

Most primers take between 30 minutes and an hour to dry. Some options could take an entire day. However, dry times vary. Factors like the primer type, humidity, and temperature may alter the time required.

To know exactly how long your primer takes to dry, look at the instruction manual or product label. Leave your primer to dry for at least 24 hours before painting to ensure longevity.

Latex Primer (Acrylic)

primer dry time before paintStandard latex primer is water-based, helping them become less likely to crack or peel after drying. This makes them last for up to 30 days. You can paint on them anytime after they dry. After 30 days, you would need to re-coat another layer of primer before painting.

Latex primers work well with acrylic or other water-based paints. They’re flexible and dry quickly. Due to the water base, they’re also super easy to clean using soap and water.

Most latex primers dry within three to four hours. They’re an excellent primer choice if you want to paint something in a day, making them best for interior and exterior uses like drywall, masonry, plaster, woodwork, and painted metal.

Oil-Based Primer

primer cure timeOil-based primers are also known as alkyd primers. They’re made up of oil and have a broader range of applications than latex primer. Oil-based primers are suitable for both oil and latex paints and a range of different surfaces. You can use this primer for interior and exterior uses, such as painting wood or metal surfaces.

People love oil-based primer because it handles temperature variation well. The paint film expands or contracts, so it’s flexible as it dries. This feature makes the paint less likely to require paint thinners.

This primer type also has a stain-blocking element, helping them prevent stains from showing through the paint. They fix stains from ink, water, and nicotine.

The downside to oil-based primers is that they dry slowly. It requires around 24 hours or more for most of these primers to dry. They also release high amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during this type, which are harmful in high concentrations or long exposure.

The oil base also makes these primers best within the first 14 days of application.

Shellac Primer

how long to paint after primerShellac primer is a highly adhesive and fast-drying option. It’s ideal for interior painting and small outdoor spots, and you can use it with both latex or oil paints. People go with this primer because it’s great for blocking stains. It also works well in areas with smoke or severe water damage.

Shellac primer dries in about an hour on surfaces like:

  • Wood
  • Plastic
  • Metal
  • Plaster

Expect a Shellac primer to dry in about an hour. You’ll need denatured alcohol for thinning and cleaning the paint as well.

Urethane Primer

how long primer dryUrethane primer is great for layering paint, sanding, and producing stunning colors. It’s ideal for surfaces like steel, iron, aluminum, fiberglass, and other previously painted surfaces. These features make it the primer of choice for automotive undercoats.

In painting cars, the urethane primer is a filler primer. It’s what you use when the bodywork is complete. Urethane is a primer surfacer, which means it fills pits in the surface faster than other primers. Unlike epoxy, they don’t provide any chemicals to prevent rust. You may need to apply epoxy or an etching primer before urethane to prevent rust from appearing on the surface later.

However, urethane primer is also used for wood, concrete, or some plastic surfaces. It provides enough adhesion and a hard surface for these projects.

The fast-drying primer can handle as many coats as you desire. You can apply another coat between 30 minutes to 18 hours after applying the primer. However, it’s best to sand the top before you can paint.

Epoxy Primer

how long between primer and paintEpoxy primer is a primer with a non-porous finish. It’s effective for sealing bare metal and preventing moisture.

It offers strong adhesion and chemical resistance against wetness or high-humidity, making epoxy primers an excellent base coat for keeping rust or corrosion from steel, fiberglass, or plastic. An epoxy primer’s design also makes it great for hiding dents or cracks, so it’s common in automotive work.

Most epoxy primers take between 30 minutes to an hour to dry. If you leave epoxy to dry for longer than a week (either as a primer or sealer), you’ll need to clean and re-sand the surface with 500-grit sandpaper before you can paint.

Acrylic Lacquer Primer

acrylic lacquer primerAn acrylic lacquer primer is a premium surfacer with automotive painting in mind. It provides a durable finish and adheres well to metal. Once it dries, you have a high gloss sheen appearance.

The benefit of acrylic lacquer primer is that it’s easy to apply and ideal for people with little to no car painting experience. Lacquer primer is often one of the most expensive options, but this acrylic type is much more affordable. However, that’s because it doesn’t last long.

Most acrylic lacquer primers are fast-drying. They might feel dry to the touch after 20 minutes, but they don’t typically fully dry until 24 hours. You want to wait at least 24 hours before sanding or buffing the primer and applying the paint’s topcoat.

Primer Type Drying Time Best For
Oil-Based 24 hours or more Wood and metal
Latex Primer 3 to 4 hours Drywall, plaster, masonry, wood
Shellac Primer About an hour Metal, wood, plastic, plaster
Urethane Primer 30 minutes to 18 hours Steel, iron, aluminum, fiberglass, and other previously painted surfaces
Epoxy Primer 30 to 60 minutes Steel, fiberglass, or plastic
Acrylic Lacquer Primer 24 hours Automotive

How Long to Let Primer Dry Before Spray Painting?

How long to let primer dry

Primer needs to dry before you can spray paint as well, so you’ll want to account for extra time to complete your project. You cannot paint or add another layer of primer if the first layer is still wet.

Spray painting also works better in cooler temperatures. For ideal paint adhesion and fast-drying, aim to work outside when the temperature is between 65 and 85 degrees F, and there is little or no humidity.

Adding coats of primer or paint too soon could cause the paint to wrinkle. For the best results, spray all your primer coats on the piece within an hour. If you don’t have the time, wait at least 48 hours to apply a new coat.

The length of time you allow the primer to dry varies by the brand. However, a thin coat of primer typically dries all the way in about an hour. Always double-check the spray paint and primer labels to make sure.

How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting a Car?

How long should primer dry before painting car

Automotive painting varies from other projects. Primers are important undercoats because they fix unlevel surfaces, providing a smooth surface. They also hide and prevent rust or corrosion.

Most primers should sit on a car for around 24 hours before applying the base coat of paint. Some primers may dry in as little as 30 minutes, but experts say to apply the primer 24 hours before painting for the best results.

Factors That Affect the Primer’s Sit Time

Although each primer has a standard time to sit before you paint, some factors alter the duration. In some circumstances, the primer may take longer or shorter to dry. Consider these factors to save time with your painting project.

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and humidity are the two biggest factors in the dry time. The hotter and more humid your area is, the longer primer takes to dry. Painting in a hot or humid environment could require more time for your project.

Low temperatures of around 74 degrees F, on the other hand, allows more primers to dry in about an hour. Maintaining an equal temperature is also ideal. When it comes to humidity, maintain low levels.

Dust and Debris

Dust and debris can get into the primer as it dries, causing more issues. This is a massive reason why you should paint over a primed surface immediately. The longer you wait for the primer to dry, the most likely it is for dust and debris to accumulate on the surface.

When dust or debris sticks to the primer, it causes the painted surface to have an odd texture. You want to clean your work area before starting and always wipe off the primer surface with a wet towel before painting. Ensure all loose dirt is gone.


How you apply the primer and paint could also affect the dry time. If you thin a primer to apply it using a spray gun, the process is shorter. Spray painting also tends to apply the primer in thin layers, which speeds up dry time.

How Do You Make Primer Dry Faster?

There are a few excellent tips and tricks you can use to speed up a primer’s dry time.

Consider your environment first. If you’re in a high humidity area, try turning up the air conditioning. Likewise, turning the heat up could help primer dry more quickly if you’re working in an area that’s too cold.

Primer tends to dry faster at low humidity. If you’re using a water-based primer and know you’re in a humid location, use a dehumidifier to counteract the effects. Lowering the humidity level allows the water in the air (and your primer) to evaporate quickly.

How many coats you apply may also affect the dry time, so applying thin coats of primer helps speed up the process. Thick layers or too many coats take longer.

Finally, improving air circulation is a great option. Air circulation reduces humidity and minimizes moisture for faster evaporation. Try adding a fan or open the doors and windows to allow outside air into your workspace.

Can You Paint Over Tacky Primer?

If your primer is still tacky, it’s not fully dry. Wait for the primer to dry all the way before applying the paint. Otherwise, you may notice paint slippage issues. Never leave your primer to sit too long or not long enough for the best results.

Tacky paint could also result from using a primer in the wrong environment (too cold) or applying the layers too thick. Some projects may allow you to paint over the tacky primer. However, it’s not highly recommended.

Fix tacky primer before painting. You could boost the heat and get some moving air on the surface to help it dry faster. You can also fix tacky primer by applying talcum powder to dry the extra moisture. Apply it to a small surface area first to make sure it’s working well.

How Many Coats of Primer Should You Use?

The number of primer coats you apply depends on your project. The surface and the type of prime and paint you select also affect how many primer coats you need. For example, when spray painting, you can get the best coverage with two or three light coats. Some other primers and projects may thrive with a single coat.

However, some projects require more layers. If you have rust, stains, or an uneven surface you’re trying to hide, the primer may require more layers. You might also need to apply more primer if you’re switching from dark to light paint colors.

Too much primer could also cause problems like chipping or cracking. When in doubt, applying two coats of primer should suffice.


Now that you know how long primers can sit before painting, you can create stunning painted projects with ease. Understanding how your primer alters based on the type and how you use it allows fewer mistakes in the application process. Whatever you do, never paint over primer that’s more than 30 days old for the best results.

Did these tips help you create stunning paint finishes? If you enjoyed reading our primer article, please share it with your friends and family. We’d love to hear about your primer experiences and how these tips helped you in the comments below as well.