Acrylic paints are an increasingly popular option for painting a variety of surfaces. It can be used on metal, plastic, drywall, wood, and more. This kind of paint can be comfortably used by novices and experts which results in an amazing finished piece of work. As with all paints, patience is needed to allow them to fully dry.
Acrylic paints are often dry to the touch in anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Most acrylic paints will fully cure, or harden, in 24 to 48 hours. However, thicker applications, humidity and temperature levels, air circulation, and differing brand formulations can all affect how fast paint will dry.
Read on to learn more about painting on a variety of surfaces and what you can do to speed up drying times.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry?
Acrylic paint will dry at different rates on different kinds of materials and surfaces. Other factors related to the composition of the paint can determine how fast they dry as well.
Keeping this in mind, the following information provides general, average drying times on different kinds of surfaces.
Acrylic paint can be used on metal objects such as desks, cabinets, tables, shelving, outdoor furniture, garage doors, railings, handles, and more.
Acrylic paint generally dries on metal in about 48 hours (2 days). However, since metal is a smooth surface, some prep work needs to take place.
This prep work involves the following:
- Strip off any rust or old paint.
- Wipe the metal clean and run fine sandpaper and a wire brush over it. This will help the acrylic paint to adhere.
- Wipe off any sanding particles, and then sand it again.
- Wipe clean with a soft cloth or alcohol wipes.
- Apply two coats of an acrylic primer or one that is formulated to work with acrylic paint and metals. This protects the metal from corrosion and helps acrylic paint stick.
Once the primer is dry, acrylic paint can be used. Consider if you want to use an acrylic spray sealant for a waterproof or protective finish.
Acrylic paint can be used on plastics and can dry in as fast as 15 to 20 minutes, but give the surface a full 24 hours to fully cure.
Plastic is very smooth and non-porous so acrylic does not adhere well or as consistently across its surfaces. It can also peel or flake off the plastic with any disturbance.
If you want to successfully use acrylic paint on plastic surfaces, you can do some prep work
This includes the following:
- Clean with soap and water or degrease the plastic’s surface, even if you cannot see anything on it. Allow it to fully dry.
- Lightly sand the plastic surface with 180- to 220-grit sandpaper. Or, consider using a liquid sander for glossy plastic surfaces instead.
- Wipe with a damp cloth to clean off the dust. Allow it to fully dry.
- Apply 1 or 2 coats of primer formulated to work on plastic.
- Then use your acrylic paint.
- If desired, use a clear acrylic spray sealer to help the coat of paint last longer.
Using acrylic paint on drywall is becoming an increasingly popular option instead of using latex-based paints. The chemical additives in acrylic paints make them water- and ultraviolet-light-resistant.
Generally, acrylic paint takes 2 to 3 hours to dry on drywall. However, it can take days for it to be fully cured. Waiting longer ensures that the solvents have evaporated and the paint has cured, or fully hardened, to the surface.
There are a few considerations to keep in mind when using acrylic paint on drywall:
- If the drywall is already covered with oil-based paint, you will need to cover it with a primer that is not oil-based.
- Consider sanding drywall surfaces before painting. Wipe down the walls to remove any sanding debris.
- New drywall is porous and should have an application of primer first.
- Make sure each application of acrylic is fully dry before painting another one on.
- Wait a full week before hanging anything up on the walls. Keep hands off of the surface.
- Apply acrylic in thin applications to get an even texture.
- Consider sealing the walls afterward to protect them in high-traffic areas.
- Be sure to check if your acrylic paint is toxic.
Untreated wood is porous and acrylic paint works well on this type of material. On average it will dry to the touch in 20 to 30 minutes.
However, it is recommended that you wait for another 6 to 12 hours for it to fully cure. If it is humid, the paint will take longer to dry.
To paint with acrylic on wood surfaces, do the following:
- Prepare the wood by sanding it with 140- to 180-grit sandpaper. (Remove or sand any finished wood to open up the pores.)
- Wipe off any dust debris.
- Add a wood-formulated primer, and allow it to fully dry.
- Add the acrylic layer. If adding more than one layer, let each layer dry to the touch first.
- Apply a sealant to prevent the paint from peeling or chipping.
What Factors Affect Drying Time?
Several factors can impact the drying time of acrylic paint. The color pigments used, the brand of paint, application methods, and environmental factors can impact how quickly or how long drying takes.
You can influence the drying times regarding some of these factors (more on that below).
Color pigments are tiny granular particle solids that remain suspended in the paint. They can be natural or synthetic or organic or inorganic.
The composition of acrylic paint also has a polymer binder, water, and other agents to help it to evenly dry and be durable. Binders and the color pigments stick to each other as water evaporates as it dries.
Some pigments “grab” oxygen faster, and therefore dry faster. Commonly the fastest-drying colors are earthy browns, blues, violet, and greens. Slower drying colors are red, black, and some yellows.
Each brand of paint will have information that tells how long it typically takes for an application to dry. Many brands will boast a dry time of 20 to 30 minutes, but other factors can affect that overall time as well.
Generally, the chemical composition (additives) of paint is what determines how fast it will dry. Each brand will have a slightly different formulation.
Some brands of paint have mediums in them called extenders, retarders, or slow-dry mediums, which makes acrylics dry more slowly. Check the informational label to see if these are in the formulation.
Here are a few examples:
- Utrecht: A thin application takes 10 to 20 minutes, and a thick one takes up to 3 days
- Winsor & Newton Professional: A thin application takes 20 – 30 minutes and a thick one takes 1 to 2 hours
- Pebeo Studio Acrylics: An application take 30-60 minutes to dry, but cures in 1 to 8 days
The application of paint can affect drying times considerably. The thicker the application (1 millimeter or more), the longer it typically takes to dry.
It is also important to make sure any second coats are applied after the first coat has dried to the touch. Successive thin layers will provide much better results than one thick layer.
The quickest way to apply acrylic paint is using a spray version that offers a very thin layer. However, this may not be your first choice depending on your paint project.
If the surface has not been prepped for the application of paint, as described above, the surface may not readily absorb the paint and may not dry evenly or as fast.
If you have added water to your paint, or the surface is wet, your paint will also take longer to dry.
Temperature changes, humidity levels, sunlight exposure, air circulation, and heating and air conditioning are environmental factors that impact drying times.
For example, if you paint in high humidity (over 50% relative humidity), yet your area of paint is below 65°F, it will take longer for the paint to dry. This is because the air is already saturated with moisture, and cannot absorb as much from the paint.
If you paint in a warm and dry room, acrylic paint will dry faster. This is because the warmth heats the paint and the dry air can evaporate (and absorb) the water.
When air can circulate, taking moisture out of the room, drying can speed up. Fans and open windows can help with this.
Paint exposed to cold temperatures or ultraviolet can dry inconsistently or crack.
How Can You Make Acrylic Paint Dry Faster?
You can make acrylic paint dry faster by improving air circulation, temperatures, and humidity levels. You should also apply acrylic paint in thin layers so that it can dry evenly and consistently.
The following are some methods that you can try.
Apply Thin Layers
Applying paint in thin layers is an easy way to get paint to dry faster. Before you apply any second coats, make sure the layer is dry to the touch.
Refer to the label for more information. Consider using this method in conjunction with the other ones listed below.
Paint In Warm And Dry Environments
Check the weather forecast and paint on a day that is warm with low humidity. Ideally, acrylic-painted surfaces dry best in temperatures that range from 70°F to 85oF with humidity under 75%.
If you have a warm room, but cannot get the humidity under control, use a dehumidifier.
Use A Hair Dryer Or Heater
A heater or hair dryer can help speed up the drying process.
However, do not concentrate heat directly on the surface since it can dry paint out too quickly, resulting in a cracked or bubbled surface. Use the lowest setting of heat on your device.
Increase Air Circulation
Increasing air circulation can help control temperatures and humidity inside. You can do this by opening windows, and using table or ceiling fans.
Make sure you do not have items that can blow around the room and mess up your paint job.
Never point a fan directly at the painted surface since the force of the wind can damage or crack the paint.
Purchase Fast-Drying Acrylic Paint
While many acrylic paints boast their ability to quickly dry, they can vary by brand or formulation.
Look for paints that indicate that they are fast drying. Avoid using ones that have slow-drying mediums in them such as extenders or retarders.
Many acrylic paints are fast-drying taking only 20 to 30 minutes to dry to touch.
When you take steps to increase air circulation, lower the humidity, and paint thin layers in a warm area, the paint may dry even faster.
Acrylics can work on a variety of surfaces such as plastics, wood, and even metal. It is important to prep the material by sanding and cleaning it first, then add a primer, to get an even and consistent look.
Make sure you wait a few days before using painted items to ensure that the paint has fully cured and hardened to the surface.
Our team includes many home improvement professionals such as painters interior decorators and architects. Collectively, we have over 30 years of experience.