How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry? (All Factors Discussed)

Your abstract arts, faux finish, coating over colours, duplicate appearance, and decorative art are incomplete without acrylic paints. But the main hurdle while using these paints is dry time.

How long does acrylic paint take to dry? The question can’t be answered in a simple paragraph as many factors play their role in making the paint dry.

Please read the article thoroughly, as we have discussed every minor factor that can affect your acrylic paint dry time. There’s a surprise! We have expounded on some tips and tricks to speed up or slow the drying process.

Moreover, we have also talked about some of the best brands based on personal usage. So go on!

Composition of Acrylic Paint

You can’t be a good painter as long as you’re unaware of the composition or chemistry of the paints you use for your favorite arts. I’ll say:

To master the art, you’ve to master the chemistry of paints.”

The same applies to acrylic paints. We need to understand its chemistry.

So what are acrylic paints made of? They are mainly composed of three ingredients:

  1. Water
  2. Binder or polymer
  3. Pigment
  • Water plays a crucial role in drying out the paint. When the water evaporates, completely, solid or dried-out color is left behind. About 40% of the color is composed solely of water.
  • Binder, or simply polymer, is a material that helps the paint stick to surfaces and pigment. It’s a type of resin having adhering abilities. Acrylic paints may have 30-40% of binder.
  • The pigment is the visual ingredient consisting of different colors of our choice. It is added in small quantities to give the paint a specific tone. The amount of pigment can affect the paint density while applied to canvas or other surfaces.

Stages of Acrylic Paint Drying

The next most important thing you must consider is the drying process of acrylic paints. There are four stages of drying for bare acrylic paint.

  • Dry to touch is what we call the initial stage. It simply means the single upper layer of the paint is dry and can’t be affected by a minor touch like wind, fingertip, etc. But it’s still susceptible to higher pressure or heavy touch. Most acrylic paints take 10-20 minutes to reach the dry-to-touch stage.
  • Drying to minor pressure is the second stage when the paint has dried enough to accept a nominal pressure. Enough of the upper layers are dried out to bear the stress of your finger or a gentle coating. But remember, it can be affected by heavy pressure and vulnerable to stress.
  • Fully Cured is the ultimate stage, and your paint is ready to be coated with another layer or further processing. It has thoroughly dried out and can sustain the pressure of heavy touch or brushes. Generally, acrylic paint takes 1-2 hours to cure fully.
  • Aged acrylic paints are difficult to peel out as they firmly adhere to the surface. They can be removed with chemicals only. It takes days for acrylics to be aged.

Factors Affecting The Dry Time of Acrylic Paints:

How long does acrylic paint take to dry? You must understand the factors influencing the acrylics to make the color respond according to your choice. You can make the acrylic paint dry slower or speed up its drying.

A single factor can’t be enough to answer the question. All these factors wander around a single entity. That is water content inside the paint. We have discussed these factors in detail below.

1. Environmental Factors:

If you think you can paint using acrylics anywhere with desirable results, you’re wrong, buddy. Your surrounding can be proved the biggest hurdle in your way.

But the question is, “What does the environment do with your art?” The answer is simple. Environment affects the water content of your acrylics, which impacts the dry time.

  • Temperature plays a vital role in extracting the water molecules from your acrylics. Higher temperatures will evaporate the paint’s water or moisture, leaving behind a fully cured paint. Your acrylic drying response can’t be the same in summer as in winter. The acrylics may take time to cure at lower temperatures as the water content evaporates slowly and thoroughly. Indoor painting can delay drying while painting outside in the sunlight can fasten the process.
  • Humidity is the second factor that can’t be ignored. Humidity means moisture or water vapours in the air. If your surrounding has humidity, you should expect a delay in the drying of acrylics. A humid environment will mist your paint, which may retain the wetness. You have to wait longer before you apply coats or paint further. While in lower humidity, acrylics dry fast as no water vapors are available to be mixed with your paint. So if you’re thinking of painting in the middle of a forest, you should expect a delay in the drying process.
  • Air circulation directly influences the upper film of the paint and has a significant role in reaching the dry-to-touch stage. Air or wind can take away the water molecules primarily present at the surface of the layer. In simple words, air flow enhances the evaporation process. So if you wish to dry out your acrylics quicker, try to paint under a fan or outside in the open air. But be careful, as higher wind pressure can spoil your art. Air flow above the limit can damage the wet paint.

2. Application:

How you apply the paint on a surface has a lot to do with drying acrylics. Thick layers of color will not provide the same results as thin layers regarding dryness.

  • Thick layers remain wet for longer. The reason is apparent. Thick acrylic paint has more water content in it. Moreover, heat and air circulation don’t reach beneath the upper film. So, if your painting requirements are fulfilled under thick layers, you must wait longer for acrylics to dry.
  • Thin layers, on the other hand, have benefited over thick ones regarding drying abilities. Air circulation and heat reach equally to the lower side. Furthermore, thin layers have less water content as compared to thick ones.

Quality of Acrylic Paint (10 Brands Discussed)

Whenever we talk about an entity’s pros and cons, we should consider the brand and quality of that specific product. Acrylics are water-based paints and come in different grades. Different brands claim to have the best acrylics.

But what should be kept in mind while choosing a brand? It depends on your requirements and needs. As we are specifically talking about the drying feature of acrylic paint, we’ll see which brand has the potential to dry fast.

Acrylic Brands are available in the market with distinct drying nature. We have discussed different brands below. Choose the one that fits your art.

  • Liquitex takes 10 to 15 minutes to dry for a thin layer and approximately an hour for a thick layer.
  • Galeria Acrylic of Winsor and Newton takes 10-30 mins to dry for a thin layer and 1-2 hours for a thick one.
  • Golden (Heavy Body) takes 30 mins to dry to touch and three days to be fully cured.
  • Golden (Open Acrylics) take 24 hours to touch dry and 14 days to be fully cured.
  • M Graham Acrylic takes, on average, 30 minutes to get dried.
  • Grumbacher (Student quality) takes 3 to 5 days to get dried.
  • Arteza (Artist Quality) takes 15 mins to 1 hour.
  • Atelier Interactive has an unlocking formula and takes 20 minutes on average.
  • Tri-Art takes 5 minutes for a thin layer and several hours for a thick one.
  • Daler Rowney takes 5-10 mins on average to get dried.

Mediums are sometimes added to extend the dry time. These mediums are named retarders or extenders. When mixed with the paint, they retain the water content of the paint, which in return helps extend the dry time of acrylics.

Some brands come with retarders already present within the package. It enables you to select a dry time for your needs.

Retarders give you more time, but their downside is the dilution of the pigment. An appropriate proportion of the dye is present in the paint. When you add a retarder, the ratio is disturbed, and the vibrance of the paint is lost.

Some acrylics have a unique unlocking formula. For example, Atelier Interactive will dry out in 20 minutes, but adding the retarder, which comes along with its package, will retain its wetness for hours, providing you more time to work with the paint.


The surface you select for your art plays a different role in the dry time of acrylics. Smooth and rough surfaces have different interactions with the paint.

Moreover, types of surfaces have distinct absorbency. We have discussed some commonly used surfaces for art and their response to acrylics.

  • Canvas are white sheets designed for paintings. They are the primary choice for beginners. Canvas possesses a normal absorbing surface texture. The surface lets your acrylics dry in a decent manner. The paint dries according to the quality and environmental conditions.
  • Wood has a porous surface, making your paint dry late. Moreover, wood may get wet quickly and retain moisture for longer. It can affect the dry time of your acrylics. The water content of the wood surface gets mixed with the paint, which can disturb the overall response and tone of the paint.
  • Glass has a smooth surface. It can lead to complications in sticking the paint. Moreover, the dry time of the acrylics gets lengthy as the surface does not tend to absorb moisture from the lower layers of the paint. Try to varnish the paint after applying it to make it stick firmly to the smooth surface. How long does acrylic paint take to dry on glass? It depends on the quality and application. It usually takes 3-5 hours.
  • Plastic has a dry but uniform surface texture, but it depends on your choice of plastic. Furthermore, plastic absorbs heat more quickly. These features of plastic surfaces help acrylics dry fast. But still, you should not ignore the paint quality and surrounding environment.
  • Fabric can be one of the best choices if you want to dry your paint faster. The soaking ability of the fabrics is the reason behind the choice. Fabrics will extract water molecules from the acrylics leaving a bare solid paint free of moisture. The thickness of layers will still impact the drying process somehow.
  • Metal has a smooth and sliding surface. One of the benefits of using a metal surface for your paintings is the metal’s ability to get heated up. As we know already, heat directly relates to the evaporation of water from your paint. Metal accelerates the water molecules to leave the paint faster and helps the drying process. Please note that when applying acrylics on smooth and uniform surfaces, seal the paint with polyurethane or varnish to protect it from peeling and cracking.
  • Cardboard is made of paper material that has soaking features. It dries your paint quicker. How long does acrylic paint take to dry on cardboard? A single layer will be dried in minutes if the paint is not a type of delayed drying. In contrast, thick layers can take an hour or two, depending on the diameter of the layers.

How to make acrylics dry fast?

Keeping in mind the factors affecting your paint directly, some tips and tricks on drying the acrylics fast can extend your painting skills. If you’re looking to finish your art in a short time, you have to make the acrylics dry quicker.

Our tips are going to save you time. So please read carefully and fetch them in your brain.

How to make acrylics dry fast
How to make acrylics dry fast
  • Use dryer or heat spray: Have you ever thought a regular hair dryer at your home would be a helper to your paintings? Use the hair dryer to accelerate the evaporation process of water molecules inside your paint. But be careful while using the dryer, as high air pressure can damage your painting. Adjust the pressure to the lowest.

    Heat sprays are ideal for drying out acrylics. Increased temperature makes the moisture in acrylics fade away. It dries your paint quicker than a dryer. It’s more reliable as not much pressure is exerted on the paint.
  • Use a primer: Primer is a latex material or a primary paint applied to the surface to make it more absorbent. A surface coated with primer is much more absorbing than a bare surface. We recommend you use Gesso primer to smoothen the surface and make your acrylics dry faster.
  • Work near a window or under a fan: As we know, airflow influences the drying time of acrylics. Work under a fan for airflow or near a window for natural wind. It is undoubtedly going to help you achieve your objective.
  • Choose a dry and hot place: Try to paint in a dry environment with lower humidity. Lower humidity means lower water content—the lower the moisture, the faster the drying process. Choose a hot place to speed up the water evaporation.
  • Apply thin layers: Thin layers are exposed to the environment thoroughly, helping them lose water and dry quicker. So try to apply thin layers. But sometimes, a thick coating is the requirement of your art. In that case, apply thin layers with intervals. Let the previous ones dry first and apply the second ones later. It’ll surely save you time.
  • Use fast-drying acrylics: Try using fast-drying brands. Liquitex is a good choice. It is dried to the touch within 10-15 minutes.

How to slow down acrylic paint drying time?

A lot of ways are there in your reach to extend the dry time of acrylics. Some are worth paying, while others are free of cost. You need to be aware. We have expounded all the possible tips to slow down the drying time of the paint.

  • Use wet palettes: These are nothing but a type of trays explicitly designed for paintings. Keep your painted board inside the palette and cover it with the lid. It retains moisture and makes the inside environment air free, which extends the dry time.
  • Dilute your paint: Adding a small amount of water to your paint can enhance the water content of the paint, making it wet for longer. But the downside to dilution is that the pigment will lose its original dark color tone.
  • Spray the surface: Whatever surface you choose to paint with, if your concern is delaying the dryness, spray the surface before applying the paint. It provides moisture to the lower layers of paint, and the overall dry process increases.
  • Use retarders: An easy, convenient, and reliable method is using a retarder. Retarder is based on water, but it doesn’t affect the pigment concentration of paint. Many brands come with retarders. Retarders extend the wetness of the paint.
  • Use plastic cover: You can use a plastic cover for your paintings to make them dry late. Plastic covers are somehow wet palettes you can afford at home. They retain moisture.
  • Paints with longer open time: Try using brands with longer available time or simply longer dry time. Many brands are claiming extended drying. One of the commonly used paint is Golden (Open Acrylic). It dries in 24 hours.
  • Use non-absorbent surface: A non-absorbent surface like metal and glass is a good choice as they are water non-absorbent. They don’t remove water from your paint, keeping it wet for longer.
  • Work in lower temperatures: Try to work inside an air-conditioned room where the temperature is below 18 celsius. Because higher temperature plays a crucial role in drying out your paint.
  • Select a humid environment: An ideal environment is one with higher humidity if you want to delay the drying time of acrylics.


How long does acrylic paint take to dry fully?

Acrylic paint drying time varies according to the factors discussed in detail in the article above. The paint dries to the touch in 10-20 minutes without retarders. While fully cured paint takes up to 1-24 hours, depending on the quality and application of acrylics.

How can I make acrylic paint dry faster?

You can make the paint dry faster by knowing and utilising the factors affecting the dry time of acrylics. For example, High temperature and humidity, thin layers, absorbent surface, Air or wind, and heat sprays may help dry your paint quicker. For more tips, please read the article.

How can I slow down acrylic paint drying time?

You can slow down the time your acrylics take to dry by using retarders, misting the paint, applying thick layers, and working in a highly humid environment and low temperature. The dry time can also be enhanced by using open acrylics.

How long does it take for the first coat of acrylic paint to dry?

The first layer of your acrylic paint takes up to 1 hour to fully cure if it’s thin. In comparison, a thick layer may take up to 3-8 hours, depending on the brand quality and factors influencing the paint.

Can I speed up the drying process of acrylic paint?

Yes, you can accelerate drying by using a hairdryer on a low heat setting, placing the artwork in a well-ventilated area, or using a fan. However, be cautious not to overheat the paint or cause it to crack.

How long do acrylic paints last?

Acrylic paints may last from a few months to a year, depending on the storage. Protect the paint from direct sunlight, open air, contamination, and water. It’ll indeed extend the storage time of your acrylics. Learn more about how to store acrylic paint.


How long does acrylic paint take to dry? Because of their drying capabilities, acrylic paints are undoubtedly a good choice over oil-based paints. But it’s tricky to use acrylics in an appropriate way. We assure you after reading the article thoroughly; you’ll be able to use them the way they are designed for.

We have already explained every minor detail regarding the drying time of the paint.

For queries and appreciation, please leave a comment. Thank You!

Jose Scott

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