Acrylic paint has a reputation as a quick-drying option. But how long does acrylic paint take to dry based on the brand? Are they all the same?
In general, fast-drying acrylic paint takes an average of 20 to 30 minutes to dry. However, many variables alter the dry time. The specific brand, paint type, thickness, application, humidity, temperature, air circulation, and the surface you paint all play a part.
In this article, we’ll discuss every consideration that could alter your acrylic paint’s dry time. Check out our table below for specifics based on popular paint brands and tips on adjusting the drying pace.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry?
Acrylic paints take an average of 20 to 30 minutes to dry. Most brands dry to the touch in as little as 10 to 20 minutes. However, many other factors affect the drying time.
The most crucial considerations are the brand and paint type. For example, slow-drying acrylics remain wet on a canvas for hours. The longer time allows you to achieve smooth blending and soft edges. You can also use all the paint before it dries. Some manufacturers also make unique formulas with retarders in them to extend the time your paint is workable.
The exact time also depends on the conditions when you paint, such as the humidity, temperature, air circulation, and surface type.
The dry time is susceptible to damage until it cures fully, and the cure time for acrylic paint changes based on the thickness you apply the paint as well. Thin layers of acrylic can cure in a few days. Thick layers of paint could take weeks, though.
The Actual Drying Times of 20 Popular Acrylic Paints
Various acrylic paint brands also differ in drying time. You’ll find the major brands of acrylic paint and their average drying times in the table below.
You can also use approaches to speed up or slow down the time it takes for acrylic paint to dry (more on this later). For example, Atelier Interactive has a unique unlocking formula. They dry in 20 minutes, but you can mist them with water to keep the paint wet. You can go from touch dry to workable paint in moments. Once the paint cures, you cannot reset them.
Most manufacturers use a retarder to slow the dry time. This ingredient is helpful if you want to save on the time you spend adding a retarder to your paint before you can get to work. Slow drying paints like Golden’s Open acrylics stay wet for over 24 hours. For comparison, their heavy body acrylics dry in 30 minutes and cure in about three days.
The downside to retarders is that they remove some of the paint’s opacity. Heavy body acrylic paints are more vibrant for this reason. It’s the same as when you add retarder to acrylics. Adding retarder dilutes the number of pigments in your paint.
What’s the Difference Between Dry to the Touch vs. Fully Cured?
A critical distinction in understanding a paint’s drying time is the difference between dry to the touch and a fully cured paint. First, let’s discuss how acrylics dry.
Acrylic paint is water-based. As it dries, the water evaporates from the paint. The water molecules disappear, leaving a solid paint film.
An Acrylic paint that’s dry to the touch could still be in the middle of its drying process. In this stage, the paint is still susceptible to damage. You could remove the top layer of paint with a slight wrong move.
Some acrylics also have retarders in them, designed to help slow the drying time. Most slow-drying acrylics require waiting at least 30 days before varnishing or sealing the paint. Golden’s Open acrylic paint line takes 30 days to fully cure, for example.
Factors That Impact Acrylic Paint Dry Time
The time required for acrylic paint to dry also depends on the environment. Therefore, you can control your workspace to control how long the paint takes to dry. There are a few factors that impact the dry time of acrylic paint. Let’s talk about them more in-depth below.
Type of Paint
Some paints are thicker than others. A thick paint typically takes longer to dry. Unique, slow drying formulas extend the dry time, while fast-drying formulas normally dry very quickly.
The way you apply acrylic paint affects drying time. You could use a roller, brush, or spray to deliver the paint.
Spray paint is typically even and thin, so it can dry to the touch in about 30 minutes and be ready for another coat in an hour. Rolled or brushed-on paint is heavier. These applications take the most extended amount of time to dry between coats. It’s also best to wait for the layers to become fully dry before adding the next coat.
Temperature and Humidity
The temperature and humidity of your environment affect how quickly the water in acrylic paint evaporates. High temperatures can speed up the process, while high humidity extends the drying time. It’s all about the amount of moisture in the air.
For example, painting with acrylics in arid climates could result in rapid dry times. Painting outdoors can be challenging because the paint dries too quickly, causing cracks. You may need to add retarders to the paint to prevent overdrying.
Painting indoors provides more control over the temperature and humidity levels. Central heating and air conditioning remove the humidity from the room. However, some heating systems have a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Certain rooms of your house also have varying humidity levels and temperatures. The basement is typically more humid and colder than the rest of a house. Painting in a basement may require you to use a dehumidifier in some locations to prevent mold growth.
You may need to include a wet palette or keep your paints from drying out on hot days. Likewise, a humidifier could help if the air is too dry in your home.
For this reason, you may need to consider the season and your climate to determine how long it takes for the paint to harden.
The thicker your paint, the longer it takes to dry. You’ll notice that brands with thinner films of color dry faster. How many paint layers you apply to a painting also affects the time. A thin layer of fast-drying paint can dry in a minute. Use slow layers to ensure acrylic paint dries quickly.
Air circulation can speed up the paint’s dry time. Protect your painting from drafts to keep paint from drying too fast. Never set your work area near air conditioning vents or under a heating duct. Ceiling fans and open windows can also affect how quickly your paint dries.
If you work outside on a windy day, expect your paints to dry quickly. Set your easel near a wind block to reduce the wind if you need it.
Acrylic paint dries faster if you use an absorbent surface, like when you prime a canvas. Priming with Gesso provides an absorbent surface that will dry slightly quicker than painting on a bare canvas or unprimed paper. The material absorbs the moisture, causing the paint to dry sometimes before you can even blend the paint.
Even paper that’s for acrylic paints absorbs moisture from the first layer of paint. Using primer seals the paper and provides a decent dry time for your paint to come out evenly.
How Long Does It Take for Acrylic Paint to Dry on Different Surfaces?
Of course, the type of surface you paint on plays a crucial role as well. Some surfaces are more porous than others. The surface texture can extend your acrylic paint’s dry time.
Most fast-drying acrylic paints dry to the touch on canvas in 10 to 20 minutes. An unprimed canvas may take longer to dry, while slow-drying formulas may stay wet for hours. These times greatly vary based on your working environment as well.
Acrylic paint dries on plastic in around 15 to 20 minutes, on average. However, the paint tends to have more difficulty adhering to the smooth surface. Seal the paint to the surface with varnish to avoid flaking or peeling later.
On average, acrylic paint takes around 20 to 30 minutes to dry to the touch on a wood surface. The paint does not fully cure for anywhere from six to 12 hours. However, the dry time depends on how many layers you apply. Particularly humid weather will also cause wood to stay moist longer, extending the dry time.
Acrylic paint takes an average of 24 to 72 hours to dry on the glass. However, you need to cure the painted glass properly and use primer for the best results. An acrylic paint formulated for glass surfaces is also ideal.
Depending on your formula, most acrylic paints dry on fabric within three to four days. It may dry to the touch in about 24 hours. Make sure to wash and dry the fabric before painting and heat set the paint for the acrylics for longevity.
Acrylics dry on cardboard in around 24 hours. You must prime the cardboard to keep the paint’s moisture from warping the material and seal the paint afterward. The cardboard should flatten when it’s fully dry.
Acrylic paint will dry on metal in an average of 48 hours. You should always sand the surface to help the paint stick to the smooth surface, and you may need a primer and sealer if you did not use outdoor paint and want your project to be waterproof.
How Can I Make Acrylic Paint Dry Faster?
Acrylic paints already dry quickly, but you can speed up the dry time even more with a few tricks. Try painting in a warm, dry location. Slightly windy conditions and low outdoor humidity is helpful.
If you’re inside, working near a fan or window could be beneficial. Circulating the air helps pull moisture from the paint’s surface.
According to Just Paint.org, you could also try using heat lamps, hairdryers, or heat guns for winter projects. Make sure to use the low setting and avoid getting the paint too close to the heat source, or it may crack or bubble.
Applying your paint in a certain way could also increase the dry time. Mix slow-drying paints with regular acrylics to help them dry faster. Avoid thick layers of thick, heavy-bodied paints.
How Long Should Acrylic Paint Dry Between Coats?
How long should you wait in between painting coats of acrylic paint? The amount of time it takes for the paint to dry between coats depends on your environment, paint type, and how thick the coats are. How long you wait may also rely on the effect you’re trying to achieve.
Waiting for a layer of acrylic to dry before moving to the next allows you to make sure your painting lasts. It prevents the paint underneath from lifting or peeling away. Allowing each paint layer to dry before adding another also will enable you to paint multiple colors on top of another.
Thin coats of acrylic paint take around 10 to 20 minutes to dry. Thicker coats of acrylic paint dry between coats in about an hour or two. If the layer feels dry to the touch, you can paint the next layer on top.
How Can I Slow Down Acrylic Paint Drying Time?
You can slow down the drying time if you place your acrylic painting in a cool, damp location with no air circulation. Avoid using fans or heaters near your workspace. Using any of these techniques could help you extend the dry time for a few minutes.
If you want to leave a project for a while longer, consider a product to extend the time. Unique acrylic paint formulas allow you to wet the surface for re-workable paint after it becomes touch dry.
You can also extend the dry time for a longer time with a wet palette. They’re airtight containers that keep your paint moist for days or weeks. Wet palettes are ideal for taking an extended painting break. You simply set the lid in place, moisten the foam layer, and come back later.
Consider adding a retarder to your acrylic paint to slow down the dry time as well. Retarders like acrylic gel extend the available time you can work with the paint. Sometimes they’re called slow-dry mediums or palette wetting sprays.
Although acrylic paint is generally fast-drying, various brands use ingredients that may make the dry time differ. Like all paints, environmental factors and applications also play a massive role. You can alter the dry time by understanding how these elements affect each other.
Did you learn something new about how long acrylic paint takes to dry? If you found our tips and table helpful, let us know in the comments. Please share our article with your friends as well.