How Long Between Coats of Acrylic Paint: Times to Dry

Understanding the properties of acrylic paint can help you achieve the best results in your artwork. Water-based and fast-drying, acrylic paints can be applied to various surfaces like canvas, wood, or even glass.

However, it’s necessary to allow each coat to dry before applying the next to prevent unwanted blending or mud-like mixtures.

Depending on the thickness and other factors, drying times can range from 10 minutes to a few hours depending on the type of acrylic paint so below I have listed the average drying times for the various types of acrylic paints.

The drying time between coats of acrylic paint can vary depending on the type of acrylic paint you’re using, the thickness of the paint, the environmental conditions, and the surface you’re painting on.

Here are some general guidelines for the three types of acrylic paints you mentioned:

  1. Heavy Body AcrylicsThese are thicker paints and take longer to dry than other types of acrylics. Generally, you should wait at least 30 minutes to 2 hours between coats. However, if the paint is applied thickly or in a heavy impasto style, it might take several hours or even days to dry completely.
  2. Soft Body AcrylicsThese are less viscous than heavy body acrylics, but still provide good coverage and color intensity. They typically take 15 to 30 minutes to touch dry, but you should ideally wait at least 1 hour between coats to be sure.
  3. High Flow AcrylicsThese are the thinnest type of acrylic paint and dry the fastest. They are often touch dry within 5 to 15 minutes. However, waiting at least 30 minutes to an hour between coats is best to ensure a smooth, even finish.

Time Between Last Coat of Paint and an Isolation Coat

An isolation coat is a clear, non-removable coating that serves to physically separate the paint surface from removable varnish. This coat also brings a consistent sheen to the work and protects the paint surface from the environment.

Before applying an isolation coat, you need to ensure that your acrylic paint is completely dry, not just touch dry or it will start to crack.

As discussed earlier, drying times can vary widely depending on the type of paint, thickness of the paint layer, environmental conditions, etc. For thin layers of acrylic paint, you may only need to wait a day or two.

However, for thicker layers, it’s recommended to wait at least a week. This gives the coat below enough time to fully cure and will ensure that the previous coat does not adversely affect the next coat.

The best practice is to wait at least 2-3 weeks after your last coat of paint before applying an isolation coat.

This ensures that even the thickest parts of your painting have had time to fully dry and cure. Applying an isolation coat too soon can cause problems such as smudging, lifting the paint or paint peeling off the canvas.

Once the isolation coat has been applied and is completely dry (typically takes 24 hours or more, depending on the product and conditions), you can apply a varnish to protect the painting and enhance its appearance.

As with all steps, following the manufacturer’s instructions when applying an isolation coat is recommended.

time to dry paint - picture of a clock

Do Different Surfaces Affect The Drying Time of Acrylic Paint?

So one thing I did find over the years and you have probably noticed this as well is that some surfaces make acrylic paint dry faster. How is that?

Below I have listed each of the different surfaces that can affect the drying time of acrylic paint and why. This usually has to do with the level of absorbency of the surface. Here’s how some common painting surfaces might influence drying time:


Canvas is a fairly absorbent surface, especially if it has been pre-primed with gesso. As such, acrylic paint tends to dry fairly quickly on canvas, but the exact time can vary depending on the thickness of the paint and the environmental conditions.


Like canvas, wood is quite absorbent, particularly if it is unsealed. Therefore, acrylic paint tends to dry fairly quickly on wood. The drying time might be slightly extended if the wood is sealed or primed before painting.


Acrylic paint usually dries quite quickly on paper, especially if the paper is absorbent. Some artists use acrylic gesso on paper before painting with acrylics, which can extend the drying time slightly.

Glass or Ceramic

These surfaces are non-absorbent, meaning that the paint will take longer to dry on them because it dries by evaporation rather than absorption. Also, acrylic paint may not adhere well to these surfaces without a special primer or medium.


Metals are also non-absorbent, so acrylic paint will dry slowly on metal surfaces, as with glass and ceramic, a primer or medium can improve adhesion.


Acrylic paint tends to dry slower on plastic, as it is a non-absorbent surface. Special preparation may be needed to get acrylic paint to adhere properly to plastic.

Key Callouts

  • Acrylic paint is versatile, fast-drying, and suitable for various surfaces ranging from 5 minutes for high flow acrylics to 30 minutes for thick impastos of heavy body acrylics.
  • Some acrylics may be touch dry when a skin develops but below the surface the acrylic paint may still need to dry completely.
  • The ideal time between coats depends on paint thickness and other factors.
  • Allowing each coat to dry properly helps achieve a professional finish in your artwork.
  • Artist quality acrylics and student grade acrylics tend to have similar drying times.

Understanding Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is made up of three main components:

  1. Pigment – These are finely ground particles that give the paint its color. Pigments can be derived from a wide range of sources, including minerals, metals, and synthetic compounds.
  2. Binder – This is what holds the pigment together and makes it stick to the painted surface. In acrylic paint, the binder is made of a type of polymer called acrylic polymer emulsion. When this emulsion dries, it forms a flexible, durable film that adheres the pigment to the surface.
  3. Vehicle or Medium – This is the liquid that carries the pigment and binder. The vehicle is primarily water in acrylic paint, which is why acrylics are water-soluble when wet but become water-resistant when dry. Because of the water, it tends to dry faster than oils used in other paint forms, such as oil paint.

Apart from these, acrylic paint may also contain other additives to improve the paint’s performance, such as retarders to slow drying time, flow improvers to increase the paint’s spreadability, or fillers to add body to the paint.

It’s important to note that the quality of the ingredients, especially the pigments and binders, can greatly affect the performance and longevity of the acrylic paint.

Higher-quality (or “artist grade”) paints generally have more pigment and better-quality binders, leading to more vibrant colors and longer-lasting results.

Artist quality acrylics and student grade acrylics tend to have similar drying times.

All of these have a bearing on acrylic paint’s drying time and how long to wait between coats of acrylic paint.

Water-Based vs Oil-Based Paints

When it comes to paints, there are two main types: water-based and oil-based. Water-based acrylics are known for their fast drying times and easy cleanup.

These paints are great for beginners, as they allow you to make changes quickly and easily. Since they’re water-soluble, cleaning your brushes and workspace is a breeze.

On the other hand, oil-based paints offer a richness of color and longer working times. These paints take longer to dry, allowing for more blending and experimenting.

Keep in mind that oil-based paints require solvents for cleanup, so be ready to handle this aspect.

Latex Paints

Latex paints are a popular type of water-based paint. They’re versatile, durable, and suitable for a wide range of applications, from walls to canvases.

Latex dries quickly, making it necessary to work swiftly or use additives to extend the drying time.

While selecting the right type of acrylic paint, consider these key factors:

  • Drying Time: Water-based acrylics dry quickly, while oil-based paints take longer.
  • Application: Consider the surface and intended use when choosing paint type.
  • Cleanup: Water-based paints are easy to clean with water, while oil-based paints require solvents.

Factors Affecting Drying Time

Let’s Talk Humidity

Humidity plays a key role in the drying time of acrylic paint. In an environment with high humidity, the paint may take longer to dry.

The moisture in the air slows down the evaporation process and may even cause the paint to appear uneven.

On the other hand, low humidity conditions can speed up the drying process, letting you add a new coat of paint more quickly.

Keep an eye on humidity levels to achieve the ideal outcome for your painting project. 

Temperature Influence

Temperature greatly affects the drying time of acrylic paint. High temperatures can make the paint dry faster, allowing you to apply a second coat without waiting too long.

But be cautious—extremely high temperatures might cause the paint to dry too quickly, leading to undesirable cracking or uneven surfaces.

Cold weather, in contrast, can slow down the drying process.

It’s a good idea to paint in a controlled-temperature environment to maintain consistency and prevent unwanted effects. 67 to 72 deg F is the ideal temperature for acrylic paint drying.

Room Circulation

Proper air circulation is necessary for facilitating the drying process of acrylic paint. Increased air flow helps evaporate the moisture from the paint more quickly.

A well-ventilated space is essential when painting, as it keeps the paint from retaining moisture and allows it to dry faster.

Moreover, air circulation prevents potentially harmful fumes from becoming too concentrated.

To ensure effective drying, consider setting up a fan or opening a window to maintain good air flow while you paint.

Remember, taking into account the factors of humidity, temperature, and room circulation helps ensure that your acrylic paint dries within an optimal time frame. Striking the right balance of these environmental conditions will help you create a masterpiece you can be proud of.

Different Mediums Affect Drying Time

Different mediums can also affect the drying time of acrylic paints. Here’s how a few common ones can influence your painting process:


Also known as slow-drying mediums, these are designed to slow down the drying time of acrylic paints.

They are particularly useful for wet-on-wet techniques, blending colors, and preventing the paint from drying out on the palette. Using a retarder can extend the drying time from a few minutes to a few hours or even longer.

Glazing Mediums

These mediums thin the paint and slow down the drying time slightly, allowing for more time to work with the paint and for better blending of colors.

Gloss/Matte Mediums

While their main function is to alter the finish of the paint (glossy or matte), they can also slightly extend the drying time of the acrylics.

Flow Improvers

These mediums lower the surface tension of the paint, which increases its flow and helps it spread more easily. They can also slow down drying time a bit.

Modeling Paste/Molding Paste

These thick, heavy mediums are typically mixed with acrylics to build up texture and give the painting a sculptural quality. These mediums usually extend the drying time due to their density.


These come in different viscosities and can be used to add texture and volume to the paint. They usually extend the drying time depending on their thickness.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using mediums with acrylic paint.

Overuse of a medium like a retarder, for example, can interfere with the paint’s ability to adhere properly to the canvas. The ratio of paint to medium should never exceed 1:1 unless specified otherwise by the manufacturer.

Applying Acrylic Paint

Tools and Techniques

To paint with acrylics, you’ll need a few essential tools. Gather a paint roller, paintbrushes, and a palette. Your work surface should be clean and protected.

When applying acrylic paint, choose the right brush for your project. Use a paint roller for large, flat surfaces. For detailed work, select smaller brushes with precise bristles. Maintain even pressure as you apply paint to the canvas or surface.

The Importance of Thin Layers

Acrylic paint dries quickly, so you want to work in thin layers. By applying thin layers, you can build up color and texture without creating unease when applying a second coat of paint.

Thin layers are vital for ensuring proper drying. A thick coat takes longer to dry and might appear uneven. Working in thin layers also allows you to control the thickness of the paint, making adjustments more manageable.

To apply thin layers, mix the paint with water or a suitable medium to create a consistency that flows smoothly but isn’t too watery.

Apply the first coat using a paint roller or brush, spreading it evenly across your work area. Wait for it to dry before adding a second coat of paint – drying time depends on factors like room temperature and humidity, but generally, acrylics dry to the touch in 10 to 30 minutes for thin layers and up to 2 hours for thicker coats.

Consider the following tips for applying thin layers:

  • Use a palette to mix your colors and control their consistency
  • Start with a small amount of paint and add more as necessary
  • Be mindful of your brushstrokes, ensuring they are even and smooth

By focusing on thin layers, you will achieve a professional, polished finish in your acrylic paint projects. Embrace a mixture of tools and techniques, and always remember the key benefits of working in thin layers to achieve the best results.

Drying Time of Acrylic Paint

When working with acrylic paint, understanding the drying time is key to achieving great results.

A general rule is that thin layers of acrylic paint take around 10 to 30 minutes to dry. Thicker layers might require roughly 2 hours. Keep in mind that these times can vary due to factors like room temperature, humidity, and air circulation.

To ensure your acrylic artwork turns out well, wait for the first coat of paint to dry before adding another layer.

For latex paint, four hours should be sufficient, while oil-based paint typically needs 24 hours. The drying process is vital because it prevents the wet paint from mixing with new layers, giving your artwork a clean and professional finish.

As an acrylic artist, applying light coats of paint can help speed up the drying time. Use this technique to build colors and create depth in your artwork without sacrificing time.

Avoid applying too much paint on horizontal surfaces, as this can slow down the drying process and delay your second coat.

When you’re waiting between coats, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the surface of the paint. If it’s been at least two weeks, wipe it gently with a soft, lint-free damp cloth to remove any surfactants and ensure proper adhesion of the varnish layer.

Remember, the drying time of acrylic paint is not only necessary for a polished result, but also a key factor in avoiding issues like color mixing and achieving the look you want in your art. So, be patient, let each layer of paint dry, and enjoy a beautiful and professional-looking finished piece.

Choosing the Right Moment for the Next Coat

Follow the Manufacturer’s Recommendations

To ensure a successful painting process, always refer to the paint manufacturer’s instructions on the product label. This valuable information will guide you on the necessary waiting time between coats of acrylic paint.

Typically, you will need to wait for about 4 hours before applying the next coat. Bear in mind that this is only an approximate amount of time. The actual waiting period may vary depending on factors such as temperature and humidity.

Acrylic paint usually dries from the first layer to the second layer within this 4-hour window. In ideal conditions, the first layer of acrylic paint will dry in about an hour. But to avoid any mishaps, giving it some extra time will help ensure proper adhesion between the layers.

The key to a successful paint job is being patient and giving your artwork ample time to dry. Of course, you may be eager to see the final outcome, but rushing the process may lead to an undesirable result. So, be careful and wait for the exact time recommended by the manufacturer.

Additionally, humidity and temperature play a vital role in the drying process. High humidity or low temperatures tend to lengthen the drying time.

Adapting to these environmental conditions and adjusting your waiting time accordingly will help ensure a smooth, seamless finish.

Remember, when it comes to applying the next layer of acrylic paint, patience is key. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, you will achieve a beautifully finished piece that you’ll be proud to display.

Working with Different Surfaces and Textures

When painting with acrylics, you’ll encounter a variety of surface textures. Whether you’re working on a smooth surface or a porous one, understanding how to approach each type of texture will enhance your artwork and make your painting process more enjoyable.

Smooth surfaces, like glass or plastic, are a breeze to paint on. Just ensure that your acrylic paint adheres well by cleaning the surface before you start and using a primer specifically designed for smooth surfaces. This way, your paint will glide effortlessly, creating sharp, clean lines and an even finish.

On the other hand, porous surfaces like untempered masonite or untreated fabric absorb acrylic paint more quickly. Unlike on a smooth surface, your acrylic paint will dry faster on porous surfaces, you’ll want to work rapidly to blend colors.

A benefit of painting on porous surfaces is that the paint seeps into the material, generating a rich and textured look.

Different surfaces require unique preparation. For example, when painting on fabric, try mixing a fabric medium with the acrylic paint for added pliability.

It’s useful for wearable art or pieces that are meant to be flexible. Don’t forget to use cardboard or another protective layer to keep the paint from seeping through the fabric.

Hardboard, like untempered masonite, is also a suitable painting surface for acrylics. While a primer isn’t necessary, applying a layer of acrylic gesso can enhance your ability to work with texture and ensure lasting color vibrancy.

Additionally, hardboard offers two distinct surfaces with varying textures – the front and back – providing you even more options for your painting.

Using the right techniques for different surfaces and textures is vital for achieving your desired effect and showcasing your artistic vision. By mastering the art of working with various surface types, you’ll unlock endless creative possibilities in your acrylic painting journey.

Unique Techniques and Paints

Fast-drying Paint

When working with acrylics, time is often crucial. Fast-drying paint is a popular choice for artists wanting to speed up the process.

With fast-drying paint, you can easily apply multiple layers in a shorter amount of time, allowing for more creativity and freedom. Be mindful that this option requires extra attention, as mistakes must be corrected quickly before the paint dries.

Overall, fast-drying paint can help achieve good results for those who wish to work efficiently.

Slow-drying Acrylics

On the other hand, slow-drying acrylics offer several advantages for artists seeking more control and flexibility. This type of paint allows for additional time to blend colors, fix errors, and make adjustments to texture.

The extended drying time leads to smoother and more even results. Slow-drying acrylics are a solid choice for those aiming for a relaxed painting experience and a highly polished final product.

Keep in mind extra care should be taken to maintain a consistent drying environment for best results.

Achieving Desired Results

When selecting acrylic paint, consider the desired outcome of your project. Some artists prefer to use a combination of fast-drying and slow-drying paints to achieve a variety of textures and details.

Mixing the two can produce unique effects, creating dynamic layers and enhancing depth in your artwork. Be sure to experiment with different techniques to find the balance that best suits your specific needs.

Remember that both fast-drying and slow-drying acrylics offer their own benefits, so explore the options available to you and find the perfect fit for your artistic process.

Popular Choices

Finally, it’s always a good idea to explore popular paints and techniques used by other artists. This can provide a wealth of inspiration and guidance in choosing the right acrylic paint for your projects.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and incorporate new ideas into your own unique approach to achieve the best possible results.

By carefully considering your desired outcome, the environment in which you work, and the optimal drying times necessary for success, you can create stunning acrylic art that truly reflects your creativity and skills.

Additional Tips and Tricks

When using acrylic paint, recoat time is vital to achieving the desired result. To be on the safe side, wait around 2-4 hours between coats for the best results. Keep in mind, factors such as humidity, temperature, and ventilation affect drying time. Patience is key!

Adding a clear coat to your painting adds an extra level of protection and enhances its appearance. Apply the clear coat after the paint has dried completely. If working with acrylic paint, this typically requires waiting a minimum of 2-4 hours. A good rule of thumb is to allow ample time for each coat to dry fully before applying another.

hair dryer can be a handy tool to speed up drying, but be careful, as it can also cause paint to crack or develop bubbles if the heat is too high or too close. To avoid these issues:

  • Set the hair dryer to a low or medium heat setting
  • Maintain a distance of at least 12 inches from your painting
  • Move the hair dryer in a back-and-forth motion, ensuring even heat distribution

In summary, paying attention to recoat times and using proper drying techniques, like a hair dryer, will help create a stunning piece of art. Be patient, stay focused on the task, and enjoy the creative journey while using acrylic paints.

How Long Between Coats of Acrylic Paint – FAQs

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions related to How Long Between Coats of Acrylic Paint.

How long should I wait between applying acrylic paint layers?

For acrylic paint, you should wait at least an hour between layers. However, this time may vary based on the thickness of your paint and the environmental conditions in your workspace. Allowing your layers to dry completely will result in a better-quality finished piece.

Is it okay to wait a week or more between painting coats?

Yes, you can wait a week or more between painting coats. Acrylic paint will remain stable as long as it’s protected from dust and dirt.

Taking breaks between coats might even help you improve your artwork, allowing you to refine your technique and ideas.

How long to let acrylic paint dry on wood before applying another coat?

On wood, acrylic paint usually takes up to 24 hours to dry completely. Be sure to check the surface before adding additional layers, as drying times may vary based on factors such as humidity and the thickness of your paint.

What is the ideal time gap between coats of spray paint?

For spray paint, it’s best to wait about 30 minutes to an hour between coats. This allows time for the paint to dry enough to accept another coat. But always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, as spray paint formulations can differ.

How long should I wait between painting wall coats?

When painting walls, it’s a good idea to wait 2-4 hours between coats. This helps the paint dry and adhere properly, ensuring a smooth, even finish. Drying times might differ depending on factors like temperature and humidity, so adjust your waiting time accordingly.

What are the consequences of applying a second coat of acrylic paint too soon?

Applying a second coat of acrylic paint too soon can lead to problems like lifting, cracking, or uneven texture. To achieve a professional-looking result, make sure each coat is completely dry before adding another layer. Patience is key when it comes to painting with acrylics.

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