How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?

how long does acrylic paint take to dry

Acrylic paint has many reasons it is widely adopted as a choice of paint. However, everyone loves its most obvious characteristics- quick drying. Despite these qualities, how long does acrylic paint take to dry has been a question everyone wanted an answer to. However, acrylic paint dries quickly depending on the brand.

A few factors can be responsible for the quick-drying features of the acrylic paint such as temperature, layer thickness, and other contributing factors. Generally, you can have a dry layer of thin paint after its application within a few minutes, say 10 to 25, at most 30. On the other hand, you may have to wait up to two to three hours before you can have a dry layer of thick acrylic paint, even before you can touch them.

Drying Time for Acrylic Paints

We all know that acrylic paints are suitable for emergency paintwork due to their fast-drying abilities. However, when we ask how long it takes the paint to dry, we demand a specific time of dryness.

Generally, all acrylic shares the same quick-drying features. However, when we talk about the time it takes to dry, we should not always forget that a dried acrylic paint to touch is different from a fully cured one. Acrylic paints are water-based. The drying time of acrylic paints is determined simply by what they are composed of. A few breakdowns of these compositions include

  • Binder and water: evaporation of dry water leaves a film
  • Additional agents: helps to provide durability
  • Color pigments: Adds color to the paint
  • Binder: This provides quick and even during capability, glossiness, and waterproof assurance.

Back to the above question; how long does it take acrylic paint to dry? This may vary for different acrylic paint brands. As said earlier, the average drying time of mist acrylic paint is usually ten to thirty minutes.

It takes a long time for slow acrylic drying paint to become dry when applied on canvas, even up to hours. This, however, depends on the condition of the weather. Day-to-touch acrylic paint may be damaged if it doesn’t take enough to cure or dry.

While acrylics dry fast quickly, it may take days for the layers of thin paint and you can wait for weeks for layers of thick acrylics to dry.

Touch to Dry vs Fully Cured Paint

All acrylic paints dry faster. However, when questions are asked about how long does it take acrylic paint to dry required to distinguish certain things between a touch-to-dry and fully dried acrylic paint. Although both acrylics dry faster, something differentiates their drying process from each other which makes them ready for use. Acrylic paints dry by evaporating water molecules. Acrylic emulsion coalesces into a solid paint film as the evaporation process takes place.

Dry-to-touch acrylic paint may still be undergoing the drying process. The paint is always prone to damage or stain from external factors during the stage of drying. Furthermore, the application of a varnish coat to a painting that is yet to dry can cause the moisture to make the varnish cloudy. As a painter, you don’t have to worry about this problem when you, painting in relatively thin layers. Thankfully, you just have to wait for a few days to have it cured.

Wondering how long it’ll take acrylic paint to dry may be longer when it comes to slow drying acrylic. Moreover, if you use paint that contains retarders, you will need to wait a little longer than the usual time to dry.

However, the required time for each acrylic brand to dry varies. While some take a longer time, some become dry within a few minutes. With the breakdown of the following drying time for each brand, you can easily find out how long it takes acrylic paint to dry. Some brands and their drying time include:

  • Pebeo: While they dry quickly, they also resist the ageing process
  • Liquitex: Dries within ten to twenty minutes. Thick paint film may begin to dry in an hour to a few days
  • Daler Rowney: Averagely takes five to ten minutes
  • Amsterdam: Dries quickly
  • Golden Open Acrylic: The wet ones can take thirty minutes to an hour
  • M Graham: Takes up to sixty minutes, depending on the temperature

Factors That Affect The Drying Time of Acrylic Paint

The time it takes for acrylic paint to dry depends on many factors (temperature, humidity, thickness, air velocity, paint type, etc.). Below is a list of all the factors you can control and how they affect your work.

Paint Thickness

The thicker the paint, the longer it will take to dry. The thinner the paint coat, the easier it is to dry. How many coats of paint you put on a painting can also affect the timing. A thin coat of quick-drying paint dries in under a minute. Use a slow layer to ensure the acrylic paint dries quickly.

Thin films dry in 10 to 20 minutes, while thick films take an hour or more.

Professional acrylic. Films of professional acrylic will dry in 20 to 30 minutes, while thicker films may take one to two hours. This will vary based on environmental conditions.

Professional acrylic paints stay usable on the palette slightly longer than many other acrylic paints. Longer working hours allow artists to waste less on their palettes and give them more time to mix on canvas, as the colors are still available for 30+ minutes.

Temperature and Humidity

Heat can speed up drying time through evaporation, so paint dries faster at higher temperatures.
Some artists don’t like to place their painting near a radiator because it dries too quickly and the whole job is too rushed! Temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit are not recommended, too much temperature will ruin your work.
Higher humidity in the environment will cause paint to dry more slowly.

Air Velocity

High airflow helps evaporate moisture from wet surfaces, resulting in faster drying times. Protect your painting from wind to prevent paint from drying too quickly. Do not set up your work area near air conditioning vents or under heating ducts. Ceiling fans and open windows can also affect how quickly your paint dries.

If you work outside on a windy day, your paint will dry quickly. If you need to, place your easel near a windbreak to reduce wind.

Materials for painting surfaces

Acrylic artists who paint on canvas take more time than those who paint on wood; because the smoother the painting surface, the easier the paint will dry evenly and be less prone to brush marks.
Primed with plaster provides an absorbent surface, which is a bit faster than painting on bare canvas or unprimed paper. The material absorbs moisture, causing the paint to sometimes dry before you even stir. Acrylic paint will dry faster if you use a highly absorbent surface, such as a canvas.
Paper used for acrylic paint will also absorb moisture from the first coat of paint.

Drying time of acrylic paints on different surfaces

Canvas
Most fast drying acrylic paints will dry on canvas in 30 to 60 minutes. Unprimed canvases may take longer to dry, while slow drying formulations may remain wet for several hours. These times also vary depending on the environment you are working in.

Wood
Acrylic paints take an average of 30 to 45 minutes to dry on the surface of the wood. The coating will not fully cure for 12 to 24 hours. However, drying time depends on the number of layers you apply. Extremely wet weather will also keep the wood wetter for longer, thus extending the drying time.

Fabrics
Depending on your formulation, most acrylic coatings will dry on fabric in three to four days. It may dry to the touch in 24- hours. Be sure to wash and dry the fabric before painting and heat-set the acrylic coating to extend its life.

Plastics
The average drying time for acrylic paints on plastics is 10 to 20 minutes. However, paints tend to be more difficult to adhere to smooth surfaces. Seal the paint to the surface with a varnish to avoid flaking or peeling later.

Grass
Acrylic coatings on glass take an average of 36 to 72 hours to dry. However, you need to properly cure the glass being painted and use a primer to get the best results. Acrylic coatings formulated for glass surfaces are also ideal.

Metal
The average drying time for acrylic paint on metal is 48-72 hours. You should sand the surface often to help the paint adhere to a smooth surface, and you may need a primer and sealer if you are not using outdoor paint and want your project to be waterproof.

Paperboard
The drying time for acrylic paint on cardboard is approximately 24-48 hours. You must prime the cardboard to prevent moisture in the paint from distorting the material and then seal the paint. When the cardboard is completely dry, it should be pressed flat.

Primer

Primer is a paint that acts as an adhesive layer between the surfaces to be painted. The acrylic paint applied over it protects your painted surface and reduces drying time by providing an even coat that dries in seconds. There are many different types of primers (such as Gesso) that provide excellent adhesion but require longer drying times than any other primer; use a primer to seal the paper and provide proper drying for your pigments time so that it appears evenly.

Types of Pigments, Viscosity, and How to use them


Slow-drying formulas will take longer to dry, while unique quick-drying formulas usually dry quickly. Sticky paints are a bit thicker than others. Thicker pigments usually take longer to dry.

The way you apply the acrylic paint will affect the drying time. You can deliver paint with a roller, brush or spray. Spraying acrylic paint is usually the easiest way to let the paint dry. Roller or brush paint is thicker and less prone to drying than spray. You need to wait for the previous coat to dry completely before moving on to the next coat.

How Long Should Acrylic Paint Dry Between Coats?

Waiting for one layer of acrylic paint to dry before proceeding to the next will ensure your painting will last. It prevents the underlying paint from being lifted or peeled off. Allowing each layer of paint to dry before adding another layer also allows you to apply multiple colors on top of another. So how long should acrylic paint dry between coats?

A thin coat of acrylic paint takes about 15 to 30 minutes to dry. A thicker coat of acrylic paint dries in an hour or two. If this layer feels dry to the touch, you can apply the next layer on top. The drying time of the paint between coats depends on your environment (temperature, humidity, air circulation), the type of paint, and the thickness of the coat. How long you wait also depends on the effect you want to achieve.

How to Make Acrylic Paint Dry Faster

There are 4 ways to make acrylic paint dry faster:

  • Ventilation
  • Heating system
  • Application of thinner paint coat 
  • Lower humidity

1. Ventilation

A well-ventilated workspace allows your acrylic paint to dry as fast as possible. Although many artists prefer natural airflow, you won’t go wrong if you create a ventilated environment by switching on a fan to blow the paint to dry. Excessive ventilation means you are allowing more airflow to the acrylic which helps it to dry faster. 

2. Heating system

Placing a heater or hairdryer near your acrylic paint is an effective way to dry acrylic paint faster. Higher temperature is equivalent to faster drying times. Flipping the calendar into summer may not be possible for the quick drying of your acrylic paint. But the installation of a heater can bring summer weather closer than you think. When you warm the air around your environment, your acrylic dries faster than usual. Make sure you focus the heater or hairdryer on the section of the paint that’s drying too slowly. This will help you move on to the next coat layer.  

3. Application of thinner paint coat 

Excessive paint may not allow quick penetration of air. If you are using excess paint, your acrylic paint may not dry sooner than expected. Thinner coats decrease the time for the acrylic to dry and may leave you wondering how to dry acrylic paint faster. 

4. Lower humidity

Humidity will not only keep acrylic paints from wetness but will also prevent them from drying faster. Unfortunately, it may cause the painting’s works to drip and can eventually ruin everything you have done. It also increases the chances of contaminating dust or particles. For a quick drying of your acrylic paint works, you may need to reduce the humidity within your environment. You may do this by running a humidifier to make it dry faster. 

There are some important things to keep in mind when using these items. Please keep the following points in mind to avoid messing up your masterpiece

  • Always use the lowest possible setting.
  • Don’t put your painting too close to a heat source.
  • If the paint gets too hot, it may blister or crack.
  • If the paint is too dry, it will start to crack, so keep an eye on your painting.

How to Slow Down The Drying Time of My Acrylic Paints?

Increase humidity: You can slow down drying time if you keep your acrylics in a cool, humid area with little air circulation. Avoid using fans or heaters near your work area.

Use slow drying formula paints: Unique acrylic paint formulas allow you to dampen your paint for reworking after it has become touch dry.

Use wet palettes: You can also use wet palettes to extend drying time. They are airtight containers that will keep your paint wet for days or weeks. Wet palettes are ideal for extending the remaining painting time. You simply leave the lid in place, get the foam layer wet, and then come back out.

Add a retarder: Consider adding a retarder to your acrylic paints to slow down drying time. Retarders like acrylic gels can extend the time you have to use the paint. Sometimes they are called slow drying agents or palette wetting sprays.

FAQs

How long does acrylic paint take to dry on metal?

On average, acrylic paint applied to metal will take up to 40 hours. However, you should not touch acrylic paint on metal earlier than 48 hours. This is to ensure that the paint completely dries before using it. You can also rest assured that the project’s outcome will be high-quality. Here’s the reverse: you may not need to seal the painting if you decide to go for exterior acrylic paint.

How long should I leave acrylic paint to dry?

It depends on the result you look to achieve and the kind of surface the paint is applied to. Generally, most of the acrylic paint brands around will take 15-25 minutes to dry. The
Acrylic paint on canvas may stay moist for several minutes before it dries. Depending on the brand and the drying conditions, some may take several hours to completely dry. If the paint is dry to touch but not fully cured, it can cause damage to the project. You should wait for as long as the paint dries before you apply it.

How long should I leave acrylic paint to dry?

Final Thoughts

How long does it take acrylic paint to dry; is down to a painter’s choice of application. Although all brands and types of acrylic paint are known to have quick-drying features, some may take longer than usual depending on the brand and weather conditions. Bottom line: don’t rush or force drying.

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