How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry?

When you’re working on a particular painting projecting, you should be aware that each task takes time. Generally, acrylic paints are fast drying materials. However, even though it may be dry to the touch, you should wait at least one week before you add varnish just to be sure that the paint is dry through and through.

Although the acrylic paint may appear dry on the surface, it may still be wet underneath. If you apply a varnish or a top coat while the paint isn’t fully dry, the varnish or coating may trap up the moisture and end up looking hazy.

During my first painting project, I redecorated my plain old white kitchen cabinet and replaced it with a fiery red paint. I was excited to see the results and rushed through the process. You can guess what happened next. I ended up with a dull-looking cabinet.

I realized that I had messed up the paint by applying the varnish too soon. Apparently, the acrylic paint was not yet fully dry. This is why I decided to come up with this tutorial. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help other DIY painters such as yourself to avoid making the same mistake. Knowing how to paint correctly the first time will prevent you from wasting money, time, and effort. In this tutorial, we’ll help answer your question:

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry?

Drying vs. Curing

First, let us identify the difference between drying and curing. Technically, an acrylic paint goes through two stages which involve drying and curing. It is important to know that drying is entirely different from curing so you won’t get confused.

An acrylic paint usually dries quickly and normally takes about one to two hours. On the other hand, curing takes one to three weeks.

During the first stage of drying, the solvent evaporates making the paint feel dry to the touch even though it may still not be fully dry. If the application is thick, it can take more than 24 hours to dry.

The difference when you are curing the paint is that the paint’s coating is a hundred percent dry and hard through and through. At this stage, the solvent in the paint is entirely gone. Thin applications can take days to cure while thicker paints take months to completely dry.

Drying Time

To help you determine the best time to apply varnish or coating over the acrylic paint, here’s a general timeframe to guide you. This will give you an idea what to expect.

Water-based or Latex Paint

  • Drying Time: 1 - 2 hours
  • Cure Time: 21 – 30 days

How To Make Acrylic Paint Dry Faster

There are many factors that can affect how long the acrylic paint dries and cures. Here are some ways on how to make your acrylic painting projects dry faster.



  1. Apply thinner coats. The drying time can be affected by the thickness of your paint. The thicker the consistency, the longer it will take to dry and cure. Applying thinner coats can significantly speed up the process.
  2. Apply few coatings. The same thing applies to the amount or number of coatings applied. The more coatings you apply, the longer it takes to dry. So stick to fewer coats for a faster drying time.
  3. Use light colored paints. The color of your acrylic paint also affects the drying and curing time. Darker shades tend to dry longer. If you prefer a quicker process, then you can opt to use lighter shades and colors.
  4. Let it dry in a well-ventilated area. Once you’ve finished your painting job, keep your painted item in a well-ventilated area so it can properly dry. Storing it in a humid or high-temperature room with no appropriate air flow can cause the paint to dry longer. At the same time, it can also affect the consistency of the paint. In some cases, a milky film can develop and ruin your paint.
  5. Choose a brand that has quick drying properties. Some brands of acrylic paint contain faster drying properties while other brands are specifically formulated for longer periods.
  6. Paint over an absorbent surface. The drying process also depends on the type of material or surface you are painting on. An absorbent surface such as canvas can quicken the drying time compared to a non-absorbent surface.
  7. Skip the painting mediums. Adding painting mediums or gels can prolong the drying time.

How To Quickly Check If The Paint Is Dried And Cured

Basically, the only way to find out is to test and feel the surface with your finger. If it doesn’t feel sticky and is dry to the touch, then it is probably dry. Just make sure you test a small area of the paint and preferably somewhere that isn’t visible.

So, how do you know if the paint is cured? You can try a simple fingernail test. Just press your fingernail on the painted surface. Make sure it’s in a small hidden area so that it won’t damage the paint.

If your fingernail leaves a dent on the paint, it means it isn’t fully cured yet. However, if the surface feels hard and doesn’t leave any mark, then you are good to go.

Patience is a Virtue

Now that you are familiar with the basic factors that affect a paint’s drying time as well as the estimated drying and curing period, the most important thing you need to have is a lot of patience. As I mentioned above, all things take time especially when you are redecorating your home.

Painting the walls, furniture, and other surfaces in your home should never be rushed. If you want to achieve a successful painting job, you should learn how to research before you start any project. Look for the best tips, guides, pros and cons on using various types of paint, painting techniques, and other Informative solutions to your painting task.

Did this article answer your question? If you find this write-up useful, don’t forget to share this with your family and friends. Also, if you have any feedback, comments or suggestions, you may send us a message and we’ll be happy to reply and address your concerns.

Related Post:

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: