While painting is an inexpensive and easy renovation method for rooms and furniture, it’s not always the fastest.
Drying times can take hours or even days when you factor in primer and multiple topcoats, and less-than-ideal drying conditions can make it take even longer.
In this guide, learn how to make paint dry faster, as well as factors that make your paint dry more slowly.
While you can’t control every single factor that plays into paint drying times (such as sudden weather changes), you can employ some tips and tricks to make your paint dry faster than it would on its own.
Use A Fan
As mentioned, great ventilation speeds up paint dry times dramatically (and helps get rid of lingering paint odors). But besides general ventilation in your work area, you can also aim fans directly at your painted surfaces to encourage evaporation.
Put A Dehumidifier In The Room
You can’t always wait for a day with perfect humidity, but you can create ideal conditions in your workspace. Adjusting the thermostat and adding a dehumidifier to your painted room (or area where furniture is being painted) can get humidity below the ideal 50% range and temps to the right ballpark.
Try A Heat Gun Or Hair Dryer
For stubborn areas (like corners or edges where you had to cut in with a brush, where paint layers might be extra thick), try aiming a heat gun or hairdryer on low at the paint.
Use steady, even motions to apply heat and increase evaporation.
Change Your Application Method
Paint sprayers leave behind thin but even layers that dry remarkably quickly compared to brushes or rollers.
Although priming a paint sprayer and prepping the area against overspray takes time, the trade-off of shorter application and dry times is worth it.
Work In Multiple Rooms/On Multiple Pieces At Once
True, this won’t actually make paint dry faster—but it does help you make use of those long wait times.
If you have multiple pieces or rooms to paint, consider priming and painting in a rotation. As soon as you finish one room or piece, the previous one might be ready for its next coat.
Start With Primer
Primer reduces how many topcoats you’ll need for full coverage. So, while it doesn’t make those later coats dry quicker, it will cut down how many you need—and how long you have to wait overall.
Use Quick-Dry Formulas
Some paints are marketed as quick-drying. They use formulas that evaporate faster than typical paints, and can require as little as an hour between coats, with full dry times being reached in 24 hours or less.
How Long Does It Normally Take For Different Paints To Dry?
Besides factors like humidity and application, the kind of paint you use can determine how fast or slowly it dries, too. This is because different formulas evaporate at different speeds than others.
Water-Based (Latex) Paints
Latex paints have pigments and gloss components suspended in mostly water, which evaporates pretty quickly. You’ll notice most latex paint varieties dry to the touch in an hour, with additional coats being safe to apply roughly every 4 hours.
The oils in these paints take a lot longer to evaporate than water. Allow 6 to 8 hours for coats to be dry to the touch and a full 24 hours between coats. Although these take a while to dry and cure, their durability is impressive—and for some people, that makes the longer wait worth it.
These can be water- or solvent-based, although the former is much more common. As such, acrylic dry times are comparable to those of latex paint, but can vary from 30 minutes to two hours depending on thickness.
Most spray paints that come in cans are oil-based, but they don’t take nearly as long to dry. The main reason spray paint dries so much faster is the application method: because they’re applied with aerosol through a small opening, the paint goes on in a very thin layer.
Lacquer spray paint takes only 2 or 3 hours to dry fully, but enamel spray paints can take longer, about 8 to 10 hours. The touch-dry times for most spray paints are very short, at 5 to 30 minutes for most formulas.
Although puffy paint—also known as dimensional or 3D paint—can be made with quite a few different recipes, most are water-based and dry in just 2-4 hours. The downside is that, because these paints usually go on clothing, they need 24 to 72 hours to harden completely after expansion before the item can be washed or worn without damaging the paint.
The amount of time it takes for primer to dry will depend on its formula, since primers can be water- or oil-based. Like topcoat paints, water-based formulas dry faster. You also don’t have to wait too long before applying your topcoat—about 1-2 hours for water-based primers and twice as long (at least) for oil-based ones.
The surface type, weather, and other factors that affect topcoat drying times will also dictate primer drying times, along with the other paints on this list.
Factors That Can Affect Paint Drying Time
The drying time of paint will usually follow guidelines given on the paint’s instructions, but certain factors can make paint dry more quickly or slowly than it normally would.
When the humidity in a room or outdoors exceeds 50 percent, the moisture in the air keeps the solvents or water in your paint from evaporating at the rate they should. This means your paint stays wet for longer. When the air is dryer—50 percent humidity or less—you’ll notice the dry time is much shorter.
Overly warm or cold days will also slow down your paint’s drying time. It’s best to use latex paint in 50-85°F weather (or adjust your room's thermostat) and oil-based paint in the 40-90°F range.
When you simply can’t achieve the ideal temperature, such as an exterior project, too-warm days are better than too-cold ones; paint will dry better in heat. Whenever possible, however, paint when temps are in the right range for your paint type.
Not only is airflow important for your safety—so you don’t inhale the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in paint—but it also helps your paint dry faster. Stagnant air, besides being hazardous, slows evaporation of the water or solvents in your paint. Turn on fans, open windows and doors, and keep the air moving.
Unfinished wood, never-before-painted walls, and other surfaces can absorb paint more readily than others. There’s also little to no color to cover, requiring fewer coats (sometimes). These kinds of surfaces will dry a lot faster than previously painted ones—especially if you’re covering an entirely different formula of paint, such as oil-based over latex.
Thin layers dry faster than thick ones, so how you deposit your paint can dictate its dry time. Paint sprayers leave the thinnest layers and result in faster dry times, with rollers coming in second and brushes taking the longest.
Paint Drying FAQs
How do you make Rust-Oleum paint dry faster?
Thin coats applied on days with warm weather, low humidity, and good ventilation will dry much faster. You can also add a fan to speed the process along.
Does watered-down paint dry fast?
Watering paint down results in thinner layers, which will dry faster than thick ones. Make sure the formula you’re using allows for water to be added, and take caution not to overdo it.
What happens if you paint a second coat too soon?
When you don’t give each layer of paint the right amount of dry time, you’ll notice streaks, peeling, and blotches where the pigment doesn’t apply evenly. Although it’s tempting to apply a second coat as soon as the first is dry to the touch, you’ll ultimately cost yourself more time (and money). Follow the instructions on your paint to know how long you should wait between coats.
How long does paint need to dry before rain?
This varies by formula and how heavy the rainfall is, but in general, you'll need 2 hours for acrylics or latex paints and 24 hours for oil-based paints.
Can you dry paint in 5 minutes?
Very rarely will any kind of paint completely dry in 5 minutes, no matter what methods you employ or what kind of paint it is. You can, however, make thin layers of some paints (such as spray paint or acrylic) dry to the touch in as little as 5 minutes with heat and high ventilation/airflow.
How can you make oil-based paint dry faster on wood?
Besides painting in ideal conditions, you can apply heat either by increasing the room’s temperature or using a heat gun or hairdryer.
Is there a way to make paint dry faster on rocks?
Painted rocks can dry faster if you put them in the oven for 10 minutes at 250°F. Keep a close eye on them, however, to make sure the paint doesn’t start peeling or bubbling.
Can you make paint dry faster on cardboard?
The best way to speed up the dry time of painted cardboard is to increase airflow. Place the cardboard in front of a fan, or put the piece outside for a while—about 15 minutes.
Waiting for paint to dry can be frustrating, especially if you know you need additional coats. By painting in ideal weather conditions, changing your application method, and using other tips and tricks, you can speed the process along and use your painted room or furniture much sooner.