If you’re gearing up for an acrylic painting project, you might be wondering, how long does acrylic paint take to dry?
Acrylic paint is a popular medium because it dries faster than many other types of paint.
But knowing just how long it’ll take, and what factors might affect drying time, is important to ensure your project has that beautiful, long-lasting finish you’re looking for.
Without further ado, let’s get a better understanding of drying times for acrylic paints.
- In general, quick drying professional acrylic paint will take anywhere from 10-30 minutes to fully dry.
- But there are other factors that influence acrylic paint drying time, like paint brand, paint layer thickness, environmental factors like temperature and humidity, and the surface you’re painting on.
- To make acrylic paint dry faster, add heat, minimize moisture, and increase air circulation.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Different Surfaces?
If you use a quality quick-drying acrylic paint brand, a thin coat should take around 10-15 minutes to dry. A thicker coat may take closer to 30 minutes to 1 hour to fully dry.
Before we get into the factors that influence drying time, let’s talk about the properties of acrylic paint.
Acrylic is a water-based paint made of pigment that’s dispersed in a binder of acrylic polymer emulsion. The role of water in acrylic paint is essential to understanding what affects drying time of acrylic.
The drying process of liquid acrylic has to do with how fast the water can evaporate.
That’s why the climate in the room and the porosity of the surface you’re painting will really determine drying time.
Here’s a quick look of the average drying times depending on the surface you’re painting.
|Average Acrylic Paint Drying Times
|How Long to Dry on Wood
|20 – 30 Minutes
|How Long to Dry on Canvas
|15 – 20 Minutes
|How Long to Dry on Polymer Clay
|2 – 3 Hours
|How Long to Dry on Plastic
|15 – 20 Minutes
|How Long to Dry on Cardboard
|How Long to Dry on Fabric
|How Long to Dry on Drywall
Let’s discuss the factors that will impact the drying time of your acrylic paint job.
Factors That Impact Acrylic Drying Time
Here are the main factors that will impact the drying time of your acrylic paint job.
The temperature in the room.
The water in acrylic paint will evaporate faster when exposed to warmer temps. Cold temperatures will slow down the drying process.
The humidity levels in the room.
You know how a wet beach towel takes forever to dry when you’re on a tropical vacation? This is a great metaphor for wet paint.
Acrylic paint faces the same issues with humidity as damp fabric. The more humid the environment, the longer the paint will take to dry. So beware of painting in high humidity.
How diluted with water the paint is.
If you’re painting a watercolor with acrylic, this might play a role in drying time. Mixing a lot of water into the paint will slow down the drying process, making it take longer to dry.
How absorbent the surface you’re painting is.
The water-resistance or porosity of the surface you’re acrylic painting on will impact drying time. An absorbent surface will soak up the water in the paint, causing the pigment to set faster.
How thick the coats of paint are.
This one seems obvious, but it bears mentioning. Thin coats of acrylic paint will dry super speedily, while applying thick layers will cause it to dry slower.
Whether the paint is mixed with another slow-drying medium or not.
Adding any wetting sprays, slow-drying mediums, or retarders to acrylic paint will slow down drying time. But this may actually be beneficial for certain acrylic paintings, when it’s necessary for some of the thicker layers to dry slowly.
How Long for Acrylic Paint to Dry On Wood
It generally takes around 20-30 minutes for acrylic paint to dry on wood. Remember, drying time is not the same as cure time. Paint will dry faster to the touch than it will cure.
The type of wood will also impact the drying time. If you’re painting on oak, one of the more porous surfaces, it will dry acrylic paint faster than a water-resistant wood like cedar.
Wood takes acrylic paints very well. It’s also straightforward to remove acrylic paint from wood, which is an added bonus if your paintbrush slips.
Note: it’s recommended you apply a primer before you apply acrylic paint. And an acrylic binder or primer takes a little longer to dry than it takes acrylic paint to dry.
How Long for Acrylic Paint to Dry On Canvas
Many quick-drying acrylic paints were designed to dry quickly on canvas.
So if you’re creating a lovely landscape painting on a bare canvas surface, rest assured that thinner layers should by dry to the touch in around 15 minutes.
But keep in mind, it’s best practice to prime your canvas before applying paint.
How Long for Acrylic Paint to Dry On Polymer Clay
Many artists like to paint their polymer clay creations with acrylic paint. You can paint the clay either before or after you bake it, with a few considerations to keep in mind.
If you paint before, you’ll have to make sure you let it dry for a 2-3 hours. If you paint after baking, ensure your clay has 2-3 days to dry before painting.
Because of the potential for ruining the integrity of the clay and the need for long baking and drying times, this is a slower-drying acrylic surface than the others.
How Long for Acrylic Paint to Dry On Cardboard
Acrylic paint on cardboard will take a bit longer to dry than on canvas. Expect the paint to be dry to the touch after 1 hour, which doesn’t include the full priming and curing time.
With cardboard, you should give yourself a full 24 hours for the entire drying and curing process.
Priming the surface prevents the cardboard from warping, and lets the paint itself fully set.
How Long for Acrylic Paint to Dry On Fabric
Acrylic on fabric will take much longer to dry than on paper or canvas. Expect the paint to take around 24 hours to dry to the touch.
But even if the paint seems dry on the surface, chances are that some paint trapped in the fabric’s fibers will stay wet for much longer.
Because of this, you should be careful about moving or touching the piece. If possible, wait until day 2 or 3, when it should be fully cured.
How Long for Acrylic Paint to Dry On Plastic
Acrylic paint dries quite fast on plastic. It’ll take around 15-20 minutes to fully dry.
While this can be a good thing, acrylic also runs into problems on these types of smooth, flat surfaces.
It may not adhere strongly to the plastic, causing cracking or flaking. Because of this, it’s a good idea to seal in your paint with a varnish.
The layer of varnish will add a little extra drying time, but it’s an important step for acrylic paint on plastic that lasts.
This fast-drying quality can also be a nuisance when it immediately crusts over your brand new acrylic paint brushes before you can wash them!
How Long for Acrylic Paint to Dry On Drywall
So how long does acrylic paint take to dry on drywall? Luckily, a thinner coat of acrylic paint on drywall dries in as little as 30 minutes!
And if you need to add more layers, just wait at least 2 hours for it to be fully cured.
But keep in mind, there are a lot of other factors at play here. Painting a drywall with acrylic isn’t as simple as throwing on a few coats and calling it a day.
For the best outcome, applying an acrylic primer first is essential.
And once the layers of acrylic paint are all applied and dried, you should also seal it with a water-based varnish.
This gives the paint a beautiful finish and seals it in, preventing cracking and yellowing.
How to Make Acrylic Paint Dry Faster: 6 Easy Ways
Now that you have a better understanding of the acrylic paint drying process and how different surfaces affect it, you might want to know how to make acrylic paint dry faster.
Maybe you’re in a hurry to get your painting finished, or frustrated that your home improvement project is taking forever.
The good news is, there are definitely ways to speed up drying. I’ve got six quick, easy methods to share that you can use right away. Let’s get into it!
Use a Hair Dryer or Space Heater
This is a trade (not-so) secret of painters everywhere. As you know, acrylics dry faster in the heat. So all you have to do is employ a bit of heat, and voila! Faster drying.
Set your blow dryer to its lowest heat setting, and hold it at least 1 foot away from the drying paint. This prevents any bubbling, blistering, or cracking of the paint.
If you’re working in a cold room, you can also set up a space heater in the room a few feet away from the drying paint. Don’t set the heat too high, as excess heat can compromise how the paint dries.
Paint in a Dry, Warm Room
To make sure the paint dries speedily without ruining it with excess heat or cold, it’s crucial to paint in a dry, warm environment.
The acrylic paint should be at a temperature of at least 60F, and no more than 75F to dry efficiently.
Interestingly enough, acrylic paint won’t cure at all at temperatures of 45F or less.
It also won’t cure properly in temperatures over 75F. In extreme heat, the paint will rapidly quick-dry, creating a top layer of paint film that blocks the lower paint layers from drying properly.
Use a Fan on Low-Speed with Open Windows
Increasing the circulation in the room is one of the most fool-proof ways of speeding up paint drying.
When the air in the room is humid and stagnant, the water in the acrylic will evaporate out of the pigment much slower.
By placing fans in the room at low speed and opening the windows, you’re allowing the water molecules to release from the pigment quicker.
Just be sure not to blow too much direct air onto the paint, as this may impact how smooth it comes out.
Place Item in Direct Sunlight
Remember what we said about applying heat? This is why direct sunlight works.
If you’re really desperate to dry your painting faster, place it in direct sunlight to speed up the drying process.
This won’t compromise the integrity of the paint, or create any bubbling or cracking.
But keep in mind, keeping your painting in direct sunlight for long periods of time isn’t the best for its longevity. Paintings that sit in the sun for months or years are prone to fading.
Avoid Using Wetting Sprays, Slow-Drying Mediums, and Retarders
Artists may be familiar with the use of wetting sprays or other slow-drying mediums to slow down the drying process and improve color blending.
But these should be avoided if your goal is to dry the acrylic paint as fast as possible. Don’t use any retarders or slow drying acrylics like Liquitex either.
Instead, opt for a quick-drying acrylic paint formula with no added mediums. Caliart offers a fast-dry formula, but there are many others on the market.
Apply Thin Coats with Proper Drying Time
The last tip for speeding up the acrylic paint’s drying time is to apply it in thin coats, allowing each to thoroughly dry before layering on another.
For example, if you’re painting on drywall, let the first thin layer dry completely for 2 hours before applying more thin layers.
With thick coats, the drying time may take hours. And if you continue layering on the next coat of paint instead of allowing it to fully cure, the paint may come out bumpy or flaky.
Does acrylic paint dry on its own?
Yes, acrylic paint naturally dries on its own. But if the paint is drying in a really cold or really humid environment, it will take much longer for the water in the paint to evaporate.
You can speed up the drying process by applying heat with a blow dryer, increasing the air flow in the room, and only painting in thin layers.
How long between coats of acrylic paint?
If you’re painting a wall with acrylic paint, you should wait at least 2 hours between coats.
If you’re painting a high-value work of art where a beautiful finish is imperative, wait for 8-12 hours before applying a new coat.
Can acrylic paint dry in 2 hours?
Yes, acrylic paint can dry to the touch in as little as 10-30 minutes. But the full curing time will take longer, depending on the surface and the climate in the room.
So, how long does it take acrylic paint to dry?
In most cases, it should take around an hour to dry, but there are many factors that can speed up or slow down the drying process.
Jessica Vaillancourt is a freelance writer and blogger obsessed with the Travel, Wellness, and Personal Development industries.
She has 5+ years of experience helping human-first agencies, global companies, and entrepreneurs crush their content marketing goals, and serve more people. Jessica’s work has appeared on leading websites like UpgradedHome.com, BetterHelp.com, and TheDiaryofaNomad.com.
Today, her sole focus (besides finding the world’s best coffee shop) is writing to serve humans, and slow traveling abroad to expand her mind. You can get to know her work at JessAnneWriting.com.