How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry

One of the beauty of the acrylics is how fast they dry and how fast we can enjoy the results. I think this is the best thing ever for beginners, boom… and your painting is dried and amazing.

How long acrylic paint will dry fully depends on the temperature, humidity, paint type, thickness of layers and some other factors. In general, thin acrylic paint layer will dry in 10-30 minutes, while thick acrylic paint layer can take up to 2 hours to dry to touch. It takes about 24 hrs to be fully cured. There are also some slow and fast-drying techniques and mediums.

I suggest you read my post to deeply understand the drying process, its stages and find out 18 popular brands dry time. Also I share easy and almost free methods to make acrylic dry slower or faster.

In this article we will talk about:

  1. How long does acrylic paint take to dry
  2. Acrylic paint Dry time by brand (18 brands included)
  3. Why and how acrylics dry
  4. Why acrylic paint don’t dry
  5. 5 ways to make acrylic paint dry faster
  6. 15 ways to make acrylic paint dry slower

How long does it take for acrylic paint to dry?

Almost all acrylics are fast drying. When we ask about drying time, we should keep in mind that there is a difference between acrylic paint dried to touch and fully cured or dried paint. Dry time, mentioned by brands, probably means “dry to touch”. When we read product sheets we will see a range of drying time of acrylic paint.

How long does it take for acrylic paint to dry

In general, it takes 10-30 minutes for acrylic paint to touch dry – I will explain below what does it mean – and about 12-24 hrs to be fully cured. For fast-drying acrylic paint it can take less than 10 minutes, for slow-drying acrylics it can take up to 1h to be dried to touch.

Acrylic paint is water-based. The paint composition defines the main characteristics of the acrylics and the drying time of the paint.

Acrylic paint is made of:
  • pigments that give color to paints
  • binder (polymer) that assure waterproofness, gloss, and fast and even drying
  • water + binder – drying water evaporates and leaves a film
  • other agents that provide durability.
Acrylic paint composition

The process of acrylic paint drying is water molecules and some other agents’ evaporation. Binder and pigment stay and stick to each other.

In fact, there are 2 stages of drying for acrylic paint:

  1. Fast dry stage – we call it dry to touch, it means a soft film has already formed on the top of the paint. This also means for us that water will no longer dilute paint, but the paint is still sensitive to pressure. Still it is not a full dried painting.
  2. Second stage is when the whole paint body, even under the thin dried film, will dry. After this, the painting is completely dried or cured. The water evaporates completely during this stage. This is why thickness if the paint will affect the drying time – all paint should be dried.

The visible difference between stages is almost non-existent. Consider time more than visual aspect. Some brands will be darker when fully cured.

Tip from Tri-Art Manufacturer: touch the back of the painting support, if it is cold then there is still water left in the paint that needs to evaporate.It means it is still drying. 

After this, acrylic paint starts its aging process. You can see how much water we have in wet paint and how it shrinks over drying.

Why does acrylic paint dry fast?

But…drying depends on several factors that can easily affect how fast or how slow acrylics dry. Some of them are:

  • environment: temperature, humidity, air flow
  • paint quality and brand. There are some special products that dry slower or have options to stay open longer. We assume that students-grade paint dry faster and they are cheap, and artist-grade dry a bit slower. In practice, it is not always the case. But it is true that the quality of paint will be different.
  • the thickness of each layer: thin layer (1mm) will dry faster, thick layers (depending on how thick they are) can dry up to 1-2 hrs.
  • what kind of palette you use
  • what kind of surface you paint on
  • if you use other mediums or water
  • etc.

We will talk about each of them below.

To be sure you acrylic paint dries as fast or slow as you want, let’s learn how acrylics dry and how to influence the drying process to make it faster or slower.

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Dry time by brand

Almost every paint brand posts on their website the full product sheet for paints and mediums. Usually, that sheet will provide you all the technical information you may need.

I will save your time and give you the full list of dry time by brand in the table below. I also provide links to official manufacturers websites where you can double check all the information or read further materials.

*I will mark N/A if the brand says nothing about dry time and the real testimonials differ. In that case, consider that the dry time is standard – 20-30 min.

BrandDry timeSource
Liquitex10-12 minutes for thin applications,
longer for thick applications
source 2
LascauxN/A, assume 20-30 min
Utrechtthin layers 10-20 min
thicker application up to 3 days
Winsor & Newton
Professional Acrylic
thin layer 20-30 min
thicker layers up to 1-2hrs
Winsor & Newton
Galeria Acrylic
thin layer 10-20 min
thicker layers up to 1h
PebeoN/A, assume 20-30 min
Golden OPEN AcrylicsStay wet 30-60 min.
Touch dry 24+ h
up to 14 days fo fully cured
Golden Heavy BodyStay wet for less than 5 min.
Touch dry for 30 minutes.
Atelier InteractiveIt has a unique opportunity:
mixing with unlocking medium you can slow drying
without it it will dry normally
M Graham Acrylicopen up to 1hsource
MatisseN/A, assume 20-30 min
Sennelierdries rapidly, I assume 10-20 minsource
Daler-Rowney5-10 min but there is no official statement about it,
so I would still assume it 20-30 min
Amsterdam Expert SeriesThin films dry in 30 minutessource
MaimeriN/A, assume 20-30 min
Tri-ArtThin layers – dry to the touch within a few minutes,
thicker – several hours.
Holbein Heavy BodyHas longer working time, but no exact mention
I assume it will be still up to 30 min
Arteza AcrylicsN/A, assume 20-30 min.
But also they mention on the blog that
acrylics dry in 15 min.
Old Holland“quick-drying”, I assume 10-20 min
Sargent Art N/A, assume 20-30 min

As you can see, the general dry time is about the same for all acrylic paint brand. I will say it again – the drying time is more sensitive to other factors than how it was made. Sure, some manufacturers try to save our time and efforts and create paint and mediums for every case and technique we may want to use. But, still, the temperature, the amount of water to dilute paint, humidity, type of mediums and surface you choose will play bigger role in drying process.

Golden Open acrylics dry time

The Golden Open Acrylics paint by Golden Artist Colors is the most slow-drying acrylic paint and stays open (workable) up to 1 hour. It means it will be still wet on the palette and you can continue painting. It happens because this paint already has some retarder in it. I have to mention that Open acrylics can dry slightly lighter and less opaque than Heavy Body or other acrylics. You can try to make them opaque by mixing colors or adding underlying layer of Titanium white or Cobalt Black. With OPEN acrylics you can work with paint and create smooth surface, shape objects, experiment.

Golden Heavy body acrylic dry time

On the other hand, Golden Heavy Body is one of the most fast-drying acrylic paint – it stays wet only 5 minutes. You can also mix the two paint and achieve standard drying time.

Personally, I like Golden brand a lot: they always give extremely full and in-depth recommendations on their website, they have large variety of paint and mediums. The downside is the price, they are more expensive than Liquitex.

Atelier Interactive helps drying

One of the most unique acrylic paint is Atelier Interactive acrylic paint. They created a full set which help you work in slow-drying techniques or make the paint dry faster – up to 20 minutes. In general, you need to use Unlocking medium to slow down drying time. The Unlocking formula is a unique medium created by Atelier Interactive to control drying of acrylics. The formula will allow you to slow down the drying, reopen acrylic paint as many times as you need and easily keep it wet while you’re painting without changing or damaging paint properties (this is the case when you use water). Usually, you can directly purchase the whole set of paints and mediums for about $25-35 (it includes 12 paint tubes, Slow medium, thick slow medium, unlocking formula & mister)

Liquitex basics acrylic paint dry time

Liquitex pretends to be a fast-drying high-quality acrylic paint. It takes 10-12 min to dry to touch if you apply Liquitex acrylic paint in thin layers. Liquitex is one of the biggest manufacturer and of course they try to make their product range wider, that’s why, you can also buy Liquitex Slow-Dri Fluid medium to keep acrylic paint wet and workable in heat. The medium slows down dry time by 40%, which means if normally it was 10-20 min, with slow-drying medium it will take acrylics 14-28 min to dry to touch. Liquitex mediums are also good not only for slow-drying but to increase flow, transparency, viscosity (if you mix it with heavy-body).

Mediums that slow down drying time are also called retarders, extenders, slow-drying mediums.
Winsor & Newton acrylic paint dry time

Another fast-drying paint brand is Winsor & Newton, they have two grade of paint: Galeria and Artist or professional paint. Winsor & Newton Galeria will dry in 10-20 minutes, while Winsor & Newton
Professional Acrylic needs about 30 minutes to dry to touch. Both will take more time to dry if you like thicker application.

M Graham acrylic paint dry time

M Graham High-Solid Acrylic Emulsion contains more solids (60%) and offers up to 1 hour workable (open) time for artists. They don’t add any other mediums or retarder in paint.

Lascaux seems to dry in 20-30 min. They also provide retarders. In fact, 16 other Lascaux mediums have slow-drying effect, like paste, retarders, impasto gel and matte mediums.

Pebeo, Matisse provides information only about mediums.

Some brands don’t mention the exact time the acrylic paint will take to dry. I recommend to assume that it’s close to standard, as the paint composition is quite common and if you don’t see any unknown titles on the paint label, consider waiting 10-30 minutes to dry to touch and up to 24 hrs for fully cured painting.

You can also create your own table of dry time based on your experience and notes, especially if you work in your authentic and unique technique. Just make notes and take photos when you try something new and keep them until your next painting.

What can affect how long acrylic paint dries?

As I already mentioned there are some important things influencing acrylic paint drying. First of all, we talk about environment, quality and choice of surface, paint and mediums.

“Dry slow” for standard acrylic means to dry to touch slower than 30 minutes. If you worry about it, please, check the full list of factors affecting acrylic paint drying and make your acrylic dry faster or wait a little bit and enjoy the finished painting.

The main factors changing drying time:
  • Thickness

Number of layers of paint, right amount of time between all coats of paint, thickness of your paint can affect your good results. You applied thick layers (more than 1 mm) and thick layers dry slower. Some brands say that thick layer can stay wet up to days! Thin layer of acrylic paint will dry faster. For thick application, it is highly recommended to paint in thin layers of acrylic paint. Successive applications rather than apply one thick layer can offer the best results.

The first layer of color usually dries faster.

  • Surface

As we know, acrylic paint is good for many different surfaces. If your painting surface is glossy or non-absorbent at all, it means it is hard for paint to adhere to the surface. Make sure you prime your surface and use appropriate supplies – good surface preparation means a lot for good results.

On the contrary, if you use unprimed wood or other absorbent (or uprimed) surface, it will soak all paint quickly and you will need more and more layers.

Unprimed paper is also generally more absorbent than pre-primed canvas. But unprimed canvas will be more absorbent than paper.

  • Palettes

you use stay-wet palettes. It can be homemade wet palette of from a shop. The main goal of these palettes is to keep your paint from drying. Try to choose plastic or glass palettes if you don’t aim to slow your paint drying time.

  • Paint brand and quality

you use brand of paint with a longer open time, as Golden Open. This paint stay wet up to 1 hour. Or you use fluid acrylics with thin application – this will dry faster.

  • Slow-dry Medium

using any of these mediums: extenders, retarders, slow-dry medium, wetting spray. They are all made for make acrylics dry slower. Check the properties of the medium you use.

If you need one of this, check my 11 recommended slow-drying mediums.

  • Water

you are used to spraying the back of your canvas or paint while working. If so, acrylics are likely to dry slower than usual as much water remains on the surface.

you added too much water to the paint that slows down the evaporation process and damages paint quality. Thinning paint with water is something I don’t recommend: first of all, water dilutes pigment and binder and change the bonding properties. Second, it slows down drying, because as we remember drying = evaporation.

  • Environment

Environmental factors such as temperature changes, humidity level, direct sunlight, air circulation, use of air conditioner, and others impact the dry time of acrylic paint and pour paintings. If you paint in high humidity (50%+), the temperature in your room is below 65F (18C) – you will slow down the drying of acrylics. You paint in warm and dry room – you make acrylic paint dry faster as high temperatures make the water evaporate faster.

The air-flow can also affect the drying process. Using a fan can help. But do not place the fan or a heater directly in front of the painting. Heat plus increased air flow makes acrylics dry faster.

The ideal environment for acrylic painting:

Temperature: 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 24 C).
Humidity level: 40-50%
  • After painting

you used to cover your painting with plastic. It will keep moisture and slow down the drying process.

If you thinks one or a couple of these factors may have place, your paint is likely to dry slower. There is nothing wrong about it, just try to avoid it next time if you want quicker results.

There are some methods how to make your paint dry faster if you are not satisfied with actual drying time. They are very simple and almost free.

I also share 15 methods to make acrylics dry slower below, you can save it for future 🙂

I hope all your paintings dry as fast as you need!

How to make acrylic paint dry faster

General guidelines of how to make acrylic dry faster:

  1. Apply thin layers
  2. Paint in a warm room and dry environment
  3. Use a hair dryer or heater
  4. Use fast-drying paint
  5. Do not use these mediums

Need more information? Check the full post about How to make acrylics dry faster on my blog (it will be open in new tab, don’t worry).

How to make acrylic paint dry slower

There are 15 ways to make acrylic paint dry slower. I’ve tried to make a useful post with all How-to and homemade recipes.

  1. Planning and sketching
  2. Painting in the right environment: low humidity, cold weather,
  3. Painting outdoor
  4. Using primed surface
  5. Moisturizing the back of the canvas
  6. Using wet palette: homemade or buy one
    • 4 recommended wet palettes
    • Homemade wet palettes
  7. Using non-absorbent palettes
  8. Spraying the palette with water (use an old spray bottle)
  9. Spraying the palette with wetting spray
  10. Use paint with a longer open time
  11. Use artist-grade acrylic paint
  12. Use paint retarders
  13. Using acrylic glazing liquids
  14. Thicker application
  15. Using plastic wrap after finishing

The best way to learn more about each method is to read the post 15 Ways to Make Acrylic Paint Dry Slower