Choosing to use a paint primer is a common base coat for many when starting a new painting project, no matter what the surface is that is being painted. A primer is versatile. Not only does it help bind the paint to the surface in which it is painted, but also has many other capabilities. For instance, a primer can cover stains, make the paint last longer, protect the surface, and makes it so the paint will last longer in general.
There are four main kinds of primers that you might use: oil-based, shellac, latex, and self primer, otherwise known as primer-in-one. Each one of these types of primers is designed with different surfaces in mind, but typically, all primers take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to dry before the next coat of paint.
What is a Paint Primer?
A paint primer—which can also be referred to as an undercoat—is the first coating used to prepare the surface that will be painted. Paint primer is used as the first coat to help the actual paint to adhere better and to help make paint more durable—meaning that it can last longer is less likely to chip.
Primer is designed to allow the paint to adhere better and acts as a binding agent.
What Primer Should I Use?
Different surfaces and textures need to be treated differently when using primer. Using the right primer will help the paint adhere better and lend itself to longer-lasting and more durable paint. There are three main types of paint primer that can be used: latex, shellac, and oil-based. These three are independent primers and are not the all-in-one paint and primer options:
How Long Does It Take for Primer to Dry on Different Surfaces?
Depending on what kind of project you are working on, knowing how long it will take for the primer to dry will be important.
Similarly to acrylic paint, there are different factors that impact drying times, including the type of surface that is being primed.
How Long Does It Take For Primer to Dry on Wood?
Wood is typically a very absorbent material. Because of this, a primer will soak through more quickly, leading to a faster dry time. When applying primer to wood, the dry time will typically be about one hour. However, most cans of primer will indicate a needed dry time closer to three hours.
Looking at the chart above, oil-based primers can be used on all types of wood surfaces.
Tips For Priming Wood
- Know your wood
- Is it new?
- Has it been painted previously?
- Has it been stained previously?
- Sand the wood first
- Clean off the wood after sanding
How Long Does It Take For Primer to Dry on Drywall?
As stated above, when priming drywall it is best to use a latex-based primer. Typically, most latex primers are dry to the touch within one hour—however, there are some factors that contribute to drying times, like temperature and humidity. So, it could take up to three hours for latex primer to dry thoroughly enough.
Tips For Priming Drywall
- Repair any holes
- Sand walls until smooth
- Clean walls with a damp cloth
- Allow walls to dry
How Long Does It Take For Primer to Dry on Plastic?
According to the chart above, the best primer to use on plastic is a shellac primer. Shellac is the quickest drying primer out of the three main ones and can be dry to the touch within 20 minutes and can be recoated within 45 minutes.
Tips For Priming Plastic
- Clean with rubbing alcohol
- Sand lightly
- Dust off
What Are the Pros and Cons of Paint Primer?
There are always pros and cons when taking on any at-home project. There may be some factors to help you decide if using a primer before painting is right for you.
Pros of Using A Primer
- Cover stained walls
- Will help paint adhere better
- Cover up dark wall colors
Cons of Using A Primer
- Using a primer will take more time to complete the job
- Using a primer could more than double the cost of the initial job
What Can Help to Speed Up Drying Times?
While it is probably best to allow primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s directions, there are some things that can be done to aid in the drying time of primers.
- Apply a thin layer
- Use the cool setting on a blow dryer and gently dry the surface
- Increase air circulation
- Paint in ideal weather conditions
- Between 50 and 70 degrees fahrenheit
- 40-70 percent humidity
Time to Prime
Regardless of the project you are doing, priming the surface is most likely the best route to take to add to the longevity of the surface that was painted. Be sure to wait the recommended amount of time in between priming and painting. To help ensure that you are waiting long enough for the primer to dry, use our hours calculator to keep track.
Emily is a freelance writer and teacher. Originally from New York, Emily now lives and works in Europe.