If you’re starting a do-it-yourself home project or a crafting, knowing what the drying time is for all paints that you’re considering using is important. Acrylic paint is a popular paint for many professional and rookie artists, due to its fast-drying nature and ability to layer.
But, how long does it take for acrylic paint to dry?
Most acrylic paint is dry and ready for an additional coat in about 20 to 30 minutes, but it’s not that “cut and dry”. Let’s learn more.
What is Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint is a fast-drying paint that has been used by artists since the 1960s. Acrylic paint is water-based, so depending on how much water is added, the consistency of the paint can range from very thin—like watercolors—to very thick, like oil paints. Additionally, acrylic paint becomes waterproof once it has dried, making it a unique medium and unlike other paints.
Acrylic paint has three components—pigment, binder, and vehicle.
- Pigment: the color within the paint
- Binder: allows the pigment—or color—to stay in place once the paint has dried
- Vehicle: in acrylic paint, this is the water which helps bring the pigment to the binder
Acrylic Paint Drying Times
As we know, acrylic paint is water-based. So, as the water evaporates, the paint dries. But, it is a bit more complicated than just that. Something that is unique about acrylic paint is that it does not require a long wait time in-between coats.
With the ideal setting (we’ll get into that in more detail below) the drying times for acrylic paint is the following:
- 5 minutes—still wet to the touch
- 10 minutes—beginning to dry
- 30 minutes—dry to the touch
- 3 days—completely dry
Factors That Impact Acrylic Paint Drying Times
There are three main factors that impact the drying time for acrylic paint:
As mentioned above, acrylic paint consistency can vary a great deal depending on how much water is used and therefore the thickness of the paint. Additionally, depending on whether you’re putting on a thin coat or thick coat, this will determine how much additional drying time is needed.
As the painting is completed, the water within the paint begins to evaporate leaving only the pigment behind on the surface that was painted.
Now that we are aware of the application and the evaporation process, there are factors within the setting that will affect the drying times of acrylic paint, which are temperature and humidity:
Acrylic paint should be used ideally at about room temperature that is about 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for a high and nothing below 49 degrees Fahrenheit.
For acrylic paints, the humidity of the room in which the paint is drying in should be around 30 to 60 percent relative humidity.
Acrylic Paint Dries Quickly—Is There Anything That Can Slow the Process?
Depending on the setting, acrylic paint dries quickly. But for some artist and craft enthusiasts, acrylic paint might dry too quickly. Don’t worry; there are things that can be done to help slow the drying process.
Try these options if you find your acrylic paint is drying to fast:
- Sketch out what you want to paint so the paint is not exposed to the air as long
- Paint inside in a dimmer light that is not exposed to wind
- Paint in the morning or evening when the sun is not as strong
If that is not working for you, check at your local craft store for an acrylic paint retarder or other slow dry products.
What is Acrylic Paint Used For?
In its conception, acrylic paint was used as house paint. But, that quickly faded and acrylic became more popular for paintings and crafting. Though you could still use acrylic paint on interior walls, that will be much more expensive than using paint specific for walls. Hence why you won’t see too many acrylic options at the home improvement store.
Acrylic paint is a favorite choice for artists because it can be used on nearly any surface. These are just a few of the common surfaces that acrylic paint can be used on:
- Walls—typically for murals
The drying time on the different surfaces will vary somewhat depending on how much the surface absorbs water from the paint. E.g. glass or metal surfaces would not absorb any acrylic paint, therefore increasing the drying time when compared to something like paper, cardboard, or even wood which do readily absorb moisture thus reducing the time needed for the paint to dry.
That said, most acrylic paints are dry to the touch within 30 minutes of application. To determine and keep track of how long your acrylic paint has been drying for, check out our hours calculator.
Emily is a freelance writer and teacher. Originally from New York, Emily now lives and works in Europe.