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How Long does Acrylic Paint take to Dry : You’re probably familiar with acrylic if you work with paints.
Because of its rapid drying time, it is used in arts and crafts.Given the amount of time spent mixing acrylic paint to achieve the desired shade, it is critical to understand drying time.

How Long does Acrylic Paint take to Dry

The short Answer:

How long does acrylic paint take to dry? Can I speed it up or slow it down? It typically takes about 20 to 30 minutes for acrylic paint to dry. There are many variables that you can control to adjust the speed in which your acrylic paint dries.

Here’s an in-depth look at the best ways to both speed up drying time and slow it down.

You’ll also learn about products that can alter drying time and how the thickness and brand of paint can affect the time it takes a product to dry.


Capillary Action Forces Water Out

Acrylics dry as the solvent that carries them, which is primarily water, exits the film.
As water evaporates or is absorbed by the substrate, microscopic acrylic polymer spheres are forced closer together.
They eventually become so crowded that the spaces between them generate capillary forces, causing water to be drawn from the paint film.
This capillary action compacts the acrylic spheres in a honeycomb-like pattern, resulting in the formation of a continuous, cohesive film.
As this occurs, the polymer spheres, which are composed of long chains of acrylic, deform and partially combine in a process called coalescence.

Acrylics’ Two Drying Stages

Acrylic paints dry in two distinct stages, and thus drying times must be considered in two distinct time frames.
The first stage, which takes place over a relatively short period of time, results in the formation of a skin on the paint’s surface.
This time period is required for acrylics to “dry to the touch.”
At this point, the flow of water toward the surface is insufficient to maintain the wetness of the paint film.
Very thin films can feel dry in a matter of seconds, whereas thick films can take an entire day or longer to skin over.

The second stage of drying is when the film’s entire thickness is completely dry.
That is, the time required for all of the water and solvent (used as a freeze-thaw stabilizer and coalescent) in the film to evaporate and escape.
This is a critical time period, as the final physical properties of the film, such as adhesion, hardness, and clarity, do not develop fully until the film is near complete dryness.
This time period may be as little as a few days for very thin films, but months or even years for films with a thickness of 1/4 inch or more.

Numerous artists are unaware of this extended drying time.
This is why, a day or two after application, one may discover that a fairly thick layer of paint has not adhered to the surface.
Additionally, this same layer of paint will appear very soft.
Although the skin has dried sufficiently, the paint in the center remains wet.
With regards to the development of clarity in gels and/or mediums, one can allow a painting to clear, then store it and discover that it has become cloudy.
The film may have been partially cured and is still soft enough to absorb moisture from the air, reverting to a slightly milky appearance.
Given sufficient time for more complete drying, these properties should significantly improve.

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Is Paint Thickness Related to Drying Time?

The more thickly applied the paint, the longer it will take to dry.
Winsor & Newton produces two excellent acrylic paints with distinct drying characteristics.

Galeria: Thin color films dry in ten to twenty minutes, while thicker films can take an hour or more to dry.

Is Paint Thickness Related to Drying Time

Professional Acrylics: Thin layers of Professional Acrylic dry in 20-30 minutes, while thicker layers may take an hour or two to dry.
This will vary depending on the surrounding environment.

Their Professional Acrylic appears to be more workable than any other acrylic paint I’ve tried.
I’ve gained over 30 minutes of work time without the use of a retarder.

Additionally, these acrylics do not darken on my skin as they dry.
This enables me to achieve the exact shade I’m looking for.


Environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and airflow all have an effect on the drying times of acrylic paint films.
By exerting control over all of these variables, the artist can maximize their benefits.

I discovered that cool, damp areas are ideal for accelerating the drying process.
Additionally, a lack of air circulation will assist.


Additionally, there are products available to add to the paint to help speed up the drying process.
Not to worry; I’ll explain them later.

Acrylic paint dries relatively quickly, but the drying time can be accelerated if necessary.

If this is the case, begin by painting in a dry, warm room.
Additionally, windy conditions and low outdoor humidity will aid in the process.


Temperatures should be kept between 70 and 90oF during the drying/curing process.
Below 49oF (9oC), the polymer solids will not coalesce properly to form a continuous film, which may result in film failure (cracking, adhesion failure, powdered film, etc.).
While higher temperatures, such as those achieved with a hair dryer or heat lamp, can significantly shorten drying times, excessive heat can cause bubbling or burning of the acrylic film.
Similarly, lower temperatures will retard the drying process and can be used to one’s advantage “s advantage for extending the life of acrylic paints.

Relative Humidity

Relative humidity levels greater than 75% retard the evaporation of water from the surface, thereby retarding the drying process.
Temperatures between 70 and 85oF and a relative humidity of less than 75% are ideal for drying.

Flow of Air

While a moderate and consistent airflow in the drying area is beneficial for thorough drying, a strong breeze, particularly one directed directly at the paint surface, can result in film formation failure, such as cracking and/or wrinkling.

EFFECTS OF DRYING Using the Quick-Drying Tendencies

Acrylics’ inherent rapid drying time can also be a significant advantage.
Many of the most successful applications of acrylic paint result from individuals taking advantage of this property, which allows for almost instantaneous painting over.
Without these extremely rapid drying properties, unique acrylic glazing techniques, hard-edged applications, and rapid manipulation of the painting surface would be impossible.

Additional Acrylic Paint Layers

Additional acrylic paint layers are not restricted.
That is, an artist can apply acrylic paints while the underpainting is still wet, freshly skinned, or several years old.
If oils are to be applied over an acrylic underpainting, adequate curing time should be allowed to ensure the acrylics are completely dry before proceeding.
This can take between one and three days for thin films on canvas.
It may take several weeks for thicker films on less porous supports such as masonite to dry sufficiently to ensure proper adhesion.

Considerations Regarding Varnishing

It is best to varnish a painting after it has completely dried.
Otherwise, an excessive amount of water and/or solvent may be trapped, resulting in clouding or the varnish adhering poorly at first.
This is especially important when the varnish forms a relatively dense, impermeable film, as GOLDEN MSA Varnish does.
This is less critical when using more permeable varnishes, such as GOLDEN Polymer Varnish.

The substrate is another critical factor to consider when varnishing.
While a canvas allows trapped moisture, retarders, and other additives to escape, metal, masonite, or plywood make this migration more difficult and can affect the varnish layer’s adhesion.
In severe cases, it can result in varnish delamination or cracking.
(For a more detailed explanation of these properties, refer to the GOLDEN Varnish Information Sheet.)
By and large, the painting should not have a cool, excessively soft, or tacky feel to it.
These are all symptoms of an uncured acrylic paint film.

Accelerating the Drying Time of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is used because it dries quickly, but the dry time can be shortened if necessary.

There are several brands of fast-drying acrylic paints available, including Galeria by Winsor & Newton.

It has thin color films and dries in ten to twenty minutes, whereas thicker films can take an hour or more to dry.

Additionally, the physical environment has a significant impact on the drying time.
Paint in a warm, dry room.

Additionally, turn on a fan.
Circulating air is critical because it removes moisture from the paint’s surface.

Additional ways to expedite the drying process include the use of heat lamps, heat guns, and hair dryers.

When using any of those items, there are a few critical points to remember.
Bear the following points in mind to avoid ruining your masterpiece:

Always use the lowest possible setting.

REMEMBER NOT to place your painting too close to a heat source.

If the paint becomes too hot, it may crack or bubble.

If the paints become too dry, they will crack, so keep an eye on your work.


Storing Paintings

Generally, a painting should not be stored in a closed environment until it is completely dry.
The ideal conditions for drying paintings are ample airflow over both the front and back of the paintings, with no extremes in temperature or humidity.

When a painting is rolled while it is still curing (an inadvisable storage method in any case), it coalesces into a rolled film.
It will be curved upon unrolling and is more prone to crack in colder temperatures.

Considerations for Shipping Artwork

When shipping artwork, it is critical that nothing other than air comes into contact with the paint surface.
This includes glassine, paper, bubble wrap, and other plastics that may adhere to the surface and cause ferrotyping (transferring a texture to the paint surface).

When it comes to temperature and humidity control, conservators take numerous precautions when shipping artwork.
Allow time for the artwork to adjust to its new surroundings after packing.
Acrylics contract at lower temperatures and expand at higher temperatures, so it is critical not to roll, unroll, or disturb the painting excessively during this transitional period.
Carefully back the work with cardboard on flexible supports to minimize the “bouncing” that the artwork will experience during shipment.

If the work is being transported from room temperature to below freezing temperatures, it is prudent to place the packed painting in a cooler environment, such as 32-40oF, for several hours prior to taking it outside.
This will mitigate the acrylic’s stressful shock.

In the event that the painting is received, the same rules apply.
Do not unpack the piece immediately.
Allow it the same opportunity to acclimate to the warmer temperatures.
If it was exposed to freezing temperatures, place it in a cooler area, as was done prior to shipping.


Artists have varying requirements for preventing paint from drying too quickly, depending on their objectives and techniques.
They may necessitate more time mixing on the palette or more time blending on the canvas or other support.

Environmental Conditions in the Studio

There are as many methods for controlling the drying process as there are for controlling water evaporation.
Acryl paint dries slowly when exposed to high humidity, low temperature, little air movement, and non-absorbent surfaces.
On the other hand, dry conditions, high temperatures, significant airflow, and absorbent surfaces all accelerate the evaporation (or absorption) of water, and thus the drying process.

Without using additives or altering painting techniques, an artist can slow the drying of acrylic paints by reducing studio airflow, lowering the temperature, and increasing the humidity.
Bear in mind that many studios are already under-ventilated, and it may be preferable to simply ensure there isn’t any “t air blowing directly on the painting while you work.
It is critical to keep ammonia and other escaping paint additives out of the studio space.

Paint Additives

Certain circumstances necessitate the use of chemical agents that retard the drying of acrylic paint.
These are typically a mixture of several materials, most notably glycols.
Glycols, which evaporate at a much slower rate than water, keep the polymer spheres apart, preventing early coalescence.
Humectants (agents that absorb or hold water, such as glycerin) have also been added to retard or slow drying.
However, humectants must be used cautiously, as they have a tendency to percolate to the film’s surface during drying, leaving a residue that can reduce inter-coat adhesion.
Retarders are ineffective when paint is required to remain wet in thin films on highly absorbent surfaces.

Paint additives by themselves are unlikely to be effective at delaying the drying process.
They must be accompanied by appropriate environmental conditions, a low-absorbency working support, and other contributing factors.

Drying on the Palette

Along with additives, several techniques will assist in keeping paints moist on the palette.
The first and most critical step is to use an absorbent palette.
Glass, as well as plastics such as polyethylene, work well.
Glass remains clean and stain-free, is easy to clean, and performs well as long as it does not break.
The disadvantage of a glass palette is typically its weight.
A new commercial tempered-glass palette available in a variety of sizes features convenient hand-sized carrying holes.
Numerous artists create their own glass-topped taborets for acrylic painting.
The glass palette is portable due to its wheels, and the artist can use larger plates of glass without fear of over-weight or breakage.

Utilize a small amount of retarder to retard the drying of paints on glass or plastic palettes.
For up to six hours, depending on the atmosphere, approximately three to ten percent of GOLDEN Retarder will prevent a mass of paint from forming a skin.
Excessive retarder use, particularly when working in thicker impasto, will leave the paint skin feeling soft and gum-like, as the glycol may not completely release from the film.

Some people prefer to mist their palettes lightly with paint.
This is a very effective technique for increasing available time.
A simple plant mister, easily obtained at a hardware store, can be filled with either water (distilled or de-ionized is recommended) or a 10:1 water/retarder mixture.
Again, excessive retarder results in a weakened paint film that retains its stickiness.
Excessive spraying may result in color dripping or staining the support in undesirable ways.

Palettes that Retain Moisture

There are several covered varieties of moisture-retaining palettes on the market that aid in the preservation of acrylic paints.
The most effective method is the Stay-Wet Palette®, which capitalizes on what we know about acrylic drying: if one can control the environment, one can control the acrylic.
The Stay-Wet Palette® is a large plastic tray that is used to hold a large, flat sponge.
After soaking the sponge in water, it is covered with a special filter paper that acts as a palette surface.
The filter paper allows for the passage of water vapor, which helps keep the paints moist.
Without the use of a retarder, if the sponge remains wet, paints will remain wet for hours.
This palette includes a cover that extends the working time even further.
Although some artists claim that this tool slightly dilutes acrylic colors, if you intend to work outdoors with acrylics on a palette, it may be extremely beneficial.

When paint dries on a glass or plastic palette, the best way to remove it is to use a very wet sponge or rag to saturate the dried surface with water.
After 3-5 minutes, the paint should have dissolved and be easily scraped or peeled away.

Slowing Drying on the Substrate Surface

Sealing canvas and other substrates reduces absorbency, which helps keep acrylic paints wet on the surface.
Several years ago, an artist contacted us to express her dissatisfaction with the speed with which our Heavy Body Acrylic dried on her paper.
When she first encountered the issue, she decided to reduce the drying time of the paint by adding more water.
While her approach made intuitive sense, when she added water, the paint dried even faster.
In this case, drying was governed more by absorption into the substrate than by evaporation (paper).
The paper was not in any way sealed.
As she thinned the paint, its hold-out decreased and the water was more readily absorbed by the paper.
If she had first sealed the surface with GOLDEN Polymer Medium or a skim coat of GOLDEN Soft Gel Gloss, the substrate would have absorbed less water and dried primarily through evaporation.

Humidity Increase

A cool air humidifier may be beneficial in boosting localized relative humidity and thereby delaying the drying process.
Concentrating the flow of cool moisture on the painting surface maximizes the effect.
A less expensive alternative is to use a plant mister set to a very light spray setting.
Spraying across the surface at regular intervals significantly extends the paint’s wet time.

Soaking the Canvas’s Back

Another method for delaying drying takes advantage of the permeability of acrylic gesso.
Allow for complete drying of the gesso layers before attaching the canvas to a temporary stretcher.
Soak the back of the canvas in water and/or secure it with wet rags or sponges.
You have now created a canvas that will remain wet.
The dried gesso acts as a semi-permeable membrane, allowing water to pass through while maintaining the paint’s moisture content.
This technique enables you to paint with acrylics in relatively thin glazes for hours, but there are some limitations.
Cotton canvas has a tendency to shrink, warping the stretcher and necessitating restretching.
Additionally, water can wash dirt and impurities from the canvas and into the paint film.
This can result in noticeable discoloration in severe cases.
By using scoured (washed) cotton canvas, these issues will be minimized or eliminated.
Alternatively, use polyester canvas, which is not affected by moisture and is free of contaminants found in unwashed cotton canvas.

Slowing the Drying Time of Acrylic Paint

The same variables apply to paint drying, except that you reverse them to expedite the process.

A cool, damp room will retard the paint’s drying time.
You also do not want a fan blowing close by.

Bear in mind that this will assist you if you need to extend the life of the paint for a few minutes, but it will not prevent the paint from drying for an extended period of time.

Have you ever spent a long time blending paint to achieve the perfect shade, only to be called away from your project for an extended period of time?

When you return, there is your ideal shade, dried and unrevivable on the palette.

If this has ever happened to you, you are familiar with the struggle of recreating that shade.

Just so you’re aware, there may still be hope for reviving your paint in certain circumstances.
Check out our article on reviving dried paints for additional tips and tricks.

So what can you do if you want to extend the life of your paint beyond a few minutes?

Retarders and Agitators

While wet palettes are fantastic, there are times when a dry palette will work better for the project at hand.

In these instances, use an acrylic gel or medium that extends the “open” time of the acrylics, allowing them to remain wet for longer periods of time.

These acrylic mediums are commonly referred to as “retarders” or “slow-dry mediums,” and they must be mixed into your acrylics after they have been applied to your palette.

Liquitex Palette Wetting Spray is an excellent product that I frequently use.

You simply spray your palette before beginning to paint, and then re-spray as needed directly onto the paint to prevent it from drying out.

When spraying the paint, the colors will become transparent, so keep this in mind when using a retarder.

If you’re going to use a retarder that mixes into the paint, use an agitator or agitator mixing balls.

The agitator will assist in achieving a more consistent mix throughout your paint, which is beneficial if you’re mixing a large batch at once.

Because I don’t use a lot of paint at once, a spray is ideal for me.

Acrylic paint’s rapid drying time can pose a problem for artists who work with traditional art palettes.
As a result, painters have developed a variety of techniques for preventing acrylic paint from drying.
However, some of these factors may have an effect on how long acrylic paint takes to dry when applied to a surface.

Some artists use a spray bottle or mister to mist their palettes lightly to keep them moist.
Excessive water can alter the texture and, on unprimed canvas, add additional moisture to help it dry.
In this case, you may want to add an additional two hours (or even overnight) to ensure that all moisture has evaporated completely.

Others choose to work with acrylic gels, which are also referred to as retarders or slow-drying mediums.
This is a white mousse-like substance that you mix on your palette with acrylic paint.
This will have no effect on the color or texture of your acrylic paint (unless you add water).
It will, however, retard the drying process and allow acrylic to remain significantly dryer for a much longer period of time.
Additionally, you can purchase acrylic gel at a craft store, an art supply store, or online.
If your paint is mixed with retarders, you may want to allow 24 hours for it to dry.


Avoid storing paint near blowers or heaters to prevent it from drying out.
All plastic containers are slightly porous and allow for the escape of a trace amount of water vapor.
Additionally, it is critical to clean the lids and jars’ threads.
If paint builds up on these surfaces, the tops will fail to seal properly, allowing the paints to dry out.
To keep the paint fresh, some artists suggest spraying a small amount of water on top of it.
Use distilled or de-ionized water when spraying to avoid contaminating the paint.
Paints will retain their integrity quite well in the majority of basements, but should not be frozen.
While the majority of acrylic paints can withstand several freeze-thaw cycles, freezing is not recommended.


Keep tools wet to prevent paint from hardening on them.

Store brushes with the bristles/hairs facing upward.

Even a small amount of acrylic that accumulates over time will seep into the ferrule base and begin to harden the brush.

Maintain the condition of your brushes.
Regular hair conditioner works just as well as any brush-specific product.
This will assist in reducing the amount of acrylic that adheres.

A few drops of dish detergent in warm water aids in the removal of semi-dried paint from tools.

Most commercially available brush cleaners will work well on hardened paint, as long as the brush has not been abused.

Conditioning brushes with a small amount of conditioner prior to use significantly improves brush cleaning.
After cleaning a brush, pat it dry and apply a small amount of conditioner to the bristles.
Brush the excess onto a hand until it is no longer visible.


What is Acrylic Paint?

As the water molecules evaporate from the paint, the acrylic emulsion coalesces into a solid paint film.

What are the risks?

Another concern is that if you apply a coat of varnish to a painting that isn’t dry, the moisture may make the varnish turn cloudy.

What is the best way to dry acrylics?

Acrylic paint dries through the process of evaporation.

How long does professional acrylic dry?

Locked down: 14+ days”Same as above Winsor & Newton Professional“Thin films of Professional Acrylic will dry in 20-30 minutes and thicker films can take an hour or two.

What are the effects of high temperatures?

High temperatures will cause the water to evaporate from the paint faster, which will make them dry out faster than normal.

What size palette do you use?

I find the smaller one is easier to use outdoors because it fits into my Pochade box.

What is Interactive Acrylic?

Interactive Acrylics are unique in that they work like fast drying acrylics where they dry within 20 minutes, but you can mist them with water to prevent them from drying out.

How do I rewet my paint?

If the water doesn’t reactivate the paint you can use their “unlocking formula” to rewet them.

What is the difference between a locked down and cured acrylic?

By “locked down,” they mean cured.

What are the challenges?

In an arid climate, the acrylic paint is going to dry very rapidly and painting outdoors will be challenging.

What do you use to lower the humidity?

I use a dehumidifier to lower the humidity in my basement.

Where Can I Get a humidifier?

I don’t have this problem, but this humidifier from Amazon may be something worth looking into for your studio.

What is the best way to keep paint wet?

You can even spray water to keep your paint wet.

What is Evolve?

The iconic brand in floor care you trust.

What is the difference between dry and fully dried?

There’s a difference between dry and cured, cured meaning the paint has reached its maximum hardness and is fully dried..

What do you think are the best ways to get better ventilation?

Something else, open a window before you begin painting and get air moving through the room.

How do I use a heat gun for acrylic painting?

All you need to do is to place it somewhere near your paint and start blowing hot air on the surface.

What are the environmental factors?

Temperature, humidity and airflow are environmental factors that influence the drying times of acrylic paint films.

What is the best humidity for drying?

Temperatures of 70 to 85oF and humidity under 75% are ideal for drying.

What is the process?

As this occurs, the polymer spheres, composed of long chains of acrylic, actually deform and partially combine with one another in a process of film formation called coalescence.

What temperature should I use?

Ideally, the temperature should be around 70 to 90oF during the drying/curing process.

What is the first stage of drying?

The first stage, a relatively short period of time, results in the formation of a skin over the surface of the paint.

What is the time required for film to be thoroughly dry?

That is, the time required for all of the water and solvent (used as freeze-thaw stabilizer and coalescent) to evaporate and leave the film.

What should I do with the film?

Regarding development of clarity in gels and/or mediums, one can allow a painting to clear, store it away and later notice that it has become cloudy.


  • Their customer support responded that their acrylic paints contain 60% solids and this extends the drying times, and that many other brands of acrylics only contain 45% solids.
  • My basement has a humidity level of 70% without running a dehumidifier. (
  • This ideal environment is 70 degrees and 50% humidity at sea level. (
  • Relative humidity in excess of 75% will slow the evaporation of water from the surface, slowing down the drying process.
  • Temperatures of 70 to 85oF and humidity under 75% are ideal for drying. (
  • As this timeframe can vary due to environment and application, this article assumes a relative humidity range between 30–60%, and a temperature between 68-72 F.
  • According to the GOLDEN Product Application Sheet, Preparing a Painting Support , Gesso should be allowed to dry for a minimum of 3 days for proper mechanical adhesion of the oils. (
  • According to Golden Artist colors, the ideal temperatures for paints to dry are between “65-75° F (18-24°C) with Relative Humidity above 50%”.
  • Be careful not to increase the humidity beyond ~75%. (

How Long does Acrylic Paint take to Dry