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How Fast Do Acrylic Paints Dry?

how fast do acrylic paints dry

If you are interested in using acrylic paints for your various arts and crafts projects, then you should know how fast do acrylic paints dry. This knowledge is important because you will need to wait for the paint to dry before you can apply the next layer of colors.

Acrylic paints do not take nearly as long to dry as oil paints, which can sometimes take weeks but it is not quite as fast as color markers that only take seconds to dry. You still have to wait for a while and step away from the table to allow the acrylic paint to dry.

Still, the waiting period is not too long. Several factors will affect how quickly acrylics dry, and you will be learning about them in this article.

How Long Does It Take for Acrylic Paint to Dry?

how long does it take for acrylic paint to dry

For beginners, acrylic paint is one of the best choices to use when painting or any arts and crafts projects. Because of their chemical composition, their drying time is relatively quick. On average, acrylic paints can dry in less than thirty minutes. If you are only doing a single-layer painting, the drying time will only take ten minutes or less.

The reason why acrylic paint dries relatively quicker compared to other types of paint is that it is water-based. This means that you only need to wait for the water to evaporate so that the pigment will set on the surface. This makes acrylic paints ideal for beginners because they do not need to wait that long.

However, some artists would find this rather unforgiving and prefer using something a bit slower to dry. This prompted them to use retardants that can help slow down the drying process for a bit. Most retardants can extend the drying time of acrylic paints for around an hour or so, giving artists enough time to work with the paint.

How to Know if Acrylic Paint is Dry?

how to know if acrylic paint is dry

There are differences between the paint being “dry to the touch” and when it is completely cured. The paint might seem dry when you touch the surface but underneath, it might still be wet. This is especially true if you are painting in multiple layers.

If you are painting using multiple layers of colors, the rule of thumb is to wait at least 20 minutes before you can try to put another layer of paint. However, you have to check if there are no lumps underneath the dried layers of paint. Be extra careful, too, as acrylic paint starts drying from the outside in.

However, you should not apply varnish or sealant over the acrylic paint unless it is completely dried. Applying varnish or glossing over acrylic paint before it is completely cured can cause the remaining moisture in the paint to make the finish cloudy. You will need to wait a couple of hours to make sure that the paint is cured completely.

Acrylic paints go through several stages before it is completely dry, namely:

  • Wet paint, which is when you are still applying it
  • Touch dry, which is when only the surface of the paint is dry. This should take around 20 to 30 minutes after application.
  • Fully cured, which is when the paint is completely solid and bonded on the surface – This will take at least 12 hours. Once the paint has completely cured, the aging process would commence.

Acrylic paints are water-based, so you just need to wait for the water content in the paint to evaporate. This means that if the temperature in the room is somewhat high, the acrylic paint will dry quicker. After around ten minutes or so, the paint should be dry to the touch.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Wood?

how long does acrylic paint take to dry on wood

One of the great things about using acrylic paints is that they are very versatile. This means you can use them on different kinds of surfaces. Just like when you are painting over paper, you can also use acrylic paints on wood.

Just like on paper, acrylic paint on wood will be dry to the touch after at least 20 minutes. If you want to make sure that the paint is cured, you have to wait at least a couple of hours. However, if the environment is quite humid and the wood itself is not cured completely, the paint might need an entire day to cure.

How About When Applied to Plastic?

how about when applied to plastic

Applying acrylic paint over plastic is completely different compared to painting it over wood. For one thing, the texture of plastic surfaces is different. Plastic is non-porous, so you have to scuff up the surface so that there is something for the paint to hold onto.

As for how long does acrylic paint take to dry on plastic, the answer will still be relatively the same. It takes around 15 to 20 minutes to dry to the touch. It will also be completely cured after a couple of hours.

Aside from scuffing the plastic’s surface, it is also better to apply primer over the surface to make the paint stick better. Priming will prevent the paint from chipping and peeling off when it dries.


If you know how fast do acrylic paints dry, it will make it easier to use. Acrylic paint dries rather quickly, making them rather beginner-friendly. However, if you like to blend colors, you have to work quickly during the small window while the paint is still wet.

In addition, don’t trust paint that is “dry to the touch”. The reason is that underneath the dried surface, the paint might still be quite wet. So, if you will be painting over a layer or paint, wait for an hour at least to make sure that it is completely dry.

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