How Long Does It Take For Primer To Dry Before Painting?

Nobody likes the extra step of using a primer before painting, but taking that time to apply it makes less work for yourself down the road.  Primer makes your paint look better and last far longer. Primed surfaces also require fewer topcoats by sealing the area you’re painting, thus giving your paint a less porous surface to adhere to.  

In this painting guide, you’ll learn the most crucial factors that affect your primer’s drying time, how long it takes typical primers to dry, and ways to speed up the process so you can move on to the rest of your project as fast as possible.  

  • Application
    How you apply your primer matters when it comes to its drying time, even though both sprayers and manual means (brushes or rollers) can provide beautiful, even applications. Spray paint drying times vary from those of traditional painting methods due to the formulations you’ll use. Frequently, spray-on primer goes on thinner and takes only a few hours to dry. 
  • Temperature and Humidity
    Even if you’re painting indoors, the weather conditions will affect your primer’s drying time. The lower the temperature, the longer it will take. If you’re painting indoors, using a space heater or cutting the AC for a while can help. Similarly, since humid weather can increase primer drying time, placing a dehumidifier in the room where you’re working can speed up the process. If painting outdoors, try to wait for a warm, dry day to apply your primer. 
  • Indoor or Outdoor Projects
    Besides the variations in temperature and humidity that can occur between indoor and outdoor conditions, you’ll also have to consider light exposure and airflow. Dry time for your primer will decrease significantly if it’s sunny outside with a nice breeze, and increase on overcast, muggy days. Moving indoors (if possible) might be preferable when outdoor conditions aren’t ideal. 
  • Ventilation
    Outdoors, achieving proper ventilation is pretty easy: the air is almost always moving, even if it’s minimal. For indoor projects, however, getting the airflow and ventilation just right can be challenging. At the very least, open your windows and turn on a fan. Not only will you remove strong paint odors so breathing is easier (and safer), but you’ll also increase air circulation to the primer, helping it dry more quickly. 
  • Brand & Composition
    Your primer formula plays a bigger part in drying time than you might think. Some brands boast much faster drying times than others, especially if they contain less oil. A water-based primer will typically dry faster than an oil-based one. 

How Long Does It Take For Primer to Dry? 

Your painting surface also affects the drying time of your primer. Some of this is due to the surface itself (how porous it is, how thick the primer needs to be for proper coverage, etc.), and some is due to the specific formulas you need for various surface types.  

1. Wood Primers 

How Long Does It Take For An Oil-Based Primer To Dry On Wood? 

When painting wood surfaces, you may choose an oil-based primer because of its ability to seal the grain. This stops the possibility of tannin bleeding—when the wood’s oils stain your paint color.  

Oil-based primers should be thinned before application, to avoid a tacky coat with visible brushstrokes and other imperfections. Although this increases the drying time of your primer, the smooth result is well worth it. On a sanded wooden surface, expect an oil-based primer to require eight hours to fully dry.  

Once your primer is dry, you have 2 weeks of a “workable” surface.  This means if you wait longer than that to apply your paint, you’ll need another coat of primer first. The exception would be if your primer uses an extended formula.  

paint brush
How Long Does It Take For Latex (Water-Based) Primer To Dry On Wood? 

Latex or water-based primer takes much less time to dry on wood than oil-based.  With great ventilation and humidity, you should expect a dry time of an hour or two before you’re ready to paint.  

With that in mind, don’t wait too long: after 30 days, you’ll need to reapply another coat of water-based primer.  This is because primer seals your surface for painting, and after a certain amount of time, that sealant is compromised and requires reapplication.  

2. Metal Primers 

How Long Does It Take For An Oil-Based Primer To Dry On Metal? 

Oil-based primers will dry to the touch, in ideal conditions, in about 4 hours on metal surfaces.  Wait 24 hours before applying a second coat of primer.  

While it’s tempting to reach for a latex primer to paint your metal projects, that faster dry time comes at the cost of much worse adhesion.  Oil-based primers are thicker and “grip” the surface better, whereas latex primers sit on the surface.  As a result, you’ll probably notice peeling or chipping very soon, requiring you to complete the project all over again.  

man in a coat

3. Plastic Primers 

How Long Does It Take For An Oil-Based Primer To Dry On Plastic? 

You’ll want to wait about 8 hours before applying a second coat of primer to your plastic surfaces, and up to 24 hours before applying your paint. Like metal, plastic won’t take water-based primer very well: it will sit on the surface and compromise your paint later.  

4. Concrete Primers 

How Long Does It Take For An Acrylic Or Latex Primer To Dry On Concrete? 

Latex primer will take 4 hours to dry enough for a second primer coat, and 8 hours after the final primer coat before you can paint your concrete.  For acrylic primers, ideal conditions will provide a dry time of about 4 hours as well.  

Because concrete tends to be very porous, it may absorb your primer quickly and give the impression of much faster drying times.  Be careful not to rush ahead with a second coat before the full time is reached, however, as you can still have wet primer below the surface.  

Additionally, avoid using an oil-based primer on most concrete surfaces, as it will peel or chip faster than latex. Some people do have luck with oil-based primers on concrete, depending on the floor type.  Garage slabs, which tend to sit directly on the ground (providing less ventilation and more moisture absorption), will not take oil-based primer and paint as well as patios with a crushed stone foundation, for example.  


Most Popular Primer Brands & Their Drying Time 

  • Rust-Oleum Primers 
    Virtually anyone who’s ever painted anything has heard of Rust-Oleum. This ubiquitous brand is known for its enormous range of products and colors, including primers formulated for almost every surface imaginable. It’s the most popular primer brand by far. Some Rust-Oleum primers can be recoated in as little as 1 hour,  although complete drying times average 24-48 hours for most of their formulas.  
  • Zinsser Primers  
    Zinsser may be lesser-known, but it is actually a subsidiary brand of Rust-Oleum—one of over 35 brands within the larger company. Their primers include basic interior formulations, deep-tint options (for bold or dark topcoats), and even mold-killing varieties that are ideal in bathrooms, basements, and other damp areas. Most of the primers from Zinsser require just 1 hour of dry time before recoating or applying your first topcoat. They also offer a 2-in-1 paint and primer combination known as SmartCoat, which dries in 4 hours.  
  • Kilz Primers 
    Typically, Kilz primers require 1 hour of dry time for recoating or topcoat painting. This is comparable to Zinsser primers, which tie with Kilz as the fastest drying primer brand. Compared to aerosol products from Rust-Oleum, most Kilz products dry faster (within an hour).  

How Can I Speed Up The Drying Time Of Primer?

Waiting to apply your topcoat is annoying—and sometimes it’s downright impossible, if you’re on a tight schedule or have other renovation projects in the pipeline. To help your primer dry faster, try these tips and tricks:  

1. Use a heat gun or hairdryer

The ideal temperature for fast dry times varies based on primer formula and brand, but 75 degrees Fahrenheit is a good target.  Besides turning up the heat (or cutting the air conditioning for a while), you can speed up your primer’s drying time by using a heat gun or hairdryer.   

Sweep it back and forth over the surface evenly to help the solvents in the primer evaporate more quickly.  This method also increases air flow‚ which is another trick to make your primer dry faster.  

2. Open the windows and blast some fans

Keeping the air moving doesn’t just decrease fumes; it also helps your primer dry much faster than if the air remains still.  Furthermore, great circulation can decrease humidity.  

3. Don’t move around too much

When priming, it can be tempting to start low and then hit the higher areas or do all your easiest areas first.  Instead, focus on completing one entire wall or big space at a time.  This will allow each section to dry thoroughly, allowing for a second coat of primer or your first topcoat much sooner than waiting on a bunch of half-dry walls or corners.  

4. Use a paint sprayer instead of a brush or roller

Since paint sprayers apply primer in thinner coats, you won’t have to wait nearly as long between recoating.  What’s more, spraying paint on your surfaces is faster than constantly fiddling with brushes or rollers, and puts far less strain on your wrist and arm.  


People Also Ask (FAQs)

How long should you let primer dry before painting furniture? 

Depending on the surface you’re priming, dry times can take as little as one hour, all the way to 1 or 2 full days. Read the primer instructions carefully to get an accurate idea of dry times.  

 

Since furniture sees more contact than walls, it’s wise to allow for a complete dry time between all primer coats and topcoats.  This will increase your paint’s durability against cracks, scuffs, and kicks down the line.  


How long should you let the primer dry before painting a car? 

Generally speaking, car primer requires 24 hours to dry before you can apply your automotive paint. However, some products such as Rust-Oleum’s Automotive Auto Body Primer need only an hour to dry.  


How long should you wait for primer to dry before sanding?  

Experts advise waiting 24 hours before sanding to ensure your primer is completely dry since sanding can penetrate the dry outer layer and reveal a tacky, wet layer underneath—resulting in a messy and uneven surface you’ll have to sand and prime all over again.  


Should I dust or vacuum before applying primer?

One advantage to painting indoors instead of outside is that you have more control over the environment, especially errant pollen, dirt, or leaves. Indoor areas, however, can still have dust and debris that might kick up and stick to your wet primer or topcoats.   

 

Always clean your surface and work areas prior to priming and painting, especially if you plan on running fans later to decrease dry time.  These can kick up even more dust and dirt.  


What happens if you don't wait for a primer to be totally dry? 

Primer is composed of resins that seal your surface so the paint can adhere properly, providing a durable and smooth finish. If you paint over primer too soon, you can encounter peeling and streaking, or an uneven application that doesn’t look good.  


Is primer always necessary?  

You don’t always have to apply primer before using a topcoat. Recently painted walls can get by just fine without priming, especially if you’re going to a darker color or higher sheen than the previous application. With that in mind, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry: a quick primer can provide a smoother finish and better coverage, requiring fewer topcoats and touch-ups.  


Conclusion

A beautiful paint job relies just as heavily on its primer as its topcoat quality, if not more so.  Think of primer as the foundation of a house: it provides an even, stable surface for everything that follows. Choosing a quality primer and allowing for proper drying times will ensure your topcoats adhere better, apply more evenly, and last much longer than if you skipped this crucial step.  

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