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Updated by Rosie Galvez on Mar 28, 2021
Headline for How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry?
Rosie Galvez Rosie Galvez
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How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take To Dry?

When it comes to drying, acrylic paints are much faster compared to spray paints or any other kind. This is mainly because of its properties and composition. If it is directly exposed to air, then the paint is likely to dry quickly. While other factors like humidity, exposure to wind and temperature can make the paint dry even more quickly. I


Quick background on Acrylic Paints

The credit for creating acrylic paints goes to Otto Rohm. He was amongst the founders of Rohm and Haas, a German chemical company. Rohm basically invented the acrylic resin which is a thermoplastic substance that is now used in many other paints. It is mainly because of its water-resistant, anti-staining, weather proof, anti-cracking, and adhesive properties.

This acrylic resin was later converted into acrylic paint. It took its time for developing from the 1930s to the late 1940s and then finally by the 1950s, acrylic paint was ready to be supplied in the market. Before this, almost all the artists from the 29th century had to mix their paints together until they reached their desired color and thickness. This was obviously challenging due to the paint’s fast-drying capability. It is much easier to change the flexibility, texture, and hardness of the paint with acrylic paints due to its certain characteristics. This can be easily done by adding the required amount of water. Acrylic paints are known to be soluble in water but as soon as they dry up, they become water-resistant.


How long Acrylic paints take to dry?

Acrylic paints are normally known to dry up quickly. They dry much faster than the watercolors in an ideal environment. If you use a thin layer of acrylic paint, it is likely to dry within a minute or two after being applied to the surface. However a thick layer of paint may take up to 30 minutes or even an hour, but this depends on the kind of surface it is being applied to and how thick the layer of the paint is. The time for its drying also partly depends on how much water is being used, to what extent is the surface porous as well as the environment for example how humid it is because acrylic paints dry much faster in hot weather and low humidity. For this reason, it is best if the paint is left to dry overnight before applying varnish or framing your painting. This also helps to prime the canvas with a layer of gesso which prevents the canvas from absorbing a lot of moisture.


Anti-Drying effects and retarders

Acrylic paints fast drying time can be seriously problematic for those artists or painters who are habitual of using regular art palettes. For this reason, many painters have discovered different ways to keep these paints from drying so quickly. But even then, there might be different outcomes depending on the kind of surface that they are applied on.

Some artists make use of a spray bottle and continuously spray some water on their palette to keep it wet ad moist at the same time. They refrain from adding too much water as it can change the consistency and the texture of the paint or can add more moisture on an unprimed canvas to dry out. In cases like such, it is preferable to leave the paint for two hours or even overnight to dry so all the moisture can be evaporated.

Some people make use of an acrylic gel which in other words is also known as a slow-dry medium or a retarder. This white mousse-like substance is mixed with the paint on the palette because it prevents the paint from changing its color and consistency, but only in the case where you do not add a lot of water. However, this step can extend the time for your paint to dry for a far longer period. If you decide to mix a retarder in your paint, then you might have to leave your painting for at least 24 hours. This acrylic gel is easily available in any art supply store, crafts store, or even online.


Professional drying time for Acrylic Paints

You might have noticed then in your art and crafts store, there might be professional acrylic paints available as well. These paints actually take much longer to dry than the normal ones. And just by their name “professional-grade acrylic paint” you can make out that they are obviously going to be more expensive than your normal acrylic paints.

Knowing that they take more time to dry is sort of an advantage to many artists as they will cause less waste on their palettes. Moreover, the painters can leave their paint back on the palette for a long time as it will not dry up quickly. However, it still adds to the disadvantage that it will take much longer to dry once they are applied to your canvas. And it will take even longer if retarders are added as well.

Professional-level acrylic paints are generally known to dry within 30 minutes given that a thin layer of paint is used and the conditions are suitable. On the other hand, thick layers of paint mat take up to two hours for drying.


Factors that influence the drying time for Acrylic Paints

  1. The amount of water used
    The amount of water you use for your paints can affect its drying time greatly. If pure acrylic paints are being used with minimal or no amount of water, then your paint will take a long period of time to dry. This is mainly due to the reason that pure acrylic paints have a thick consistency which normally takes more time to dry while on the other hand water can evaporate normally. But in cases where primed canvas or cardboard is being used, it will require more time to dry if a lot of water is mixed with the paint. This is because of its porous surface.

  2. Using Acrylic Gel
    The drying time of your paint also greatly depends on the use of acrylic gel. If one makes use of acrylic gels, retarders, professional acrylic paints, or any other products, it will automatically slow down the process of drying. It is because it slows down its natural drying properties and may even continuously affect the paint even while painting. For this reason, it is best to leave your paint for at least 24 hours to dry so it can dry completely.

  3. Weather and other environmental effects
    If you wish your acrylic paint to dry quickly, then make sure to be in a warm-weather where there is low humidity and enough ventilation in the room it is in so they are at least exposed to air and can dry quickly. High humidity level and cold weather, especially in a place where there is very low or no ventilation for the paint to be exposed to some amount of air may cause them to dry at a much slower pace.

  4. The paint’s thickness
    The thickness of your paint’s layer may also play an important role in influencing the time it may take to dry. If a thin layer of acrylic paint is applied on the canvas or whatever surface, it will take up to a minute to dry. Therefore layering it upon another layer slowly and gradually may actually give it enough time to dry quickly and will ensure a shorter waiting time period. But if you decide to go with thick layers of paint, then it may take up to 30 minutes or even more depending on how thick the layering is.


How can you display your acrylic art?

Because of some acrylic paint properties, you can either chose to display your acrylic art indoors or outdoors. Due to its weatherproof and water-resistant qualities, it neither fades nor cracks even when exposed to bright sunlight.

However, you may still decide to take precautions and protect your art from any damage caused by direct exposure to the natural environment. You can do this by coating it with one or two layers of varnish. This will help in saturating the colors and will even form a uniform sheen over your whole painting. This can further help prevent your paint from fading and will keep the colors vibrant.


Why some artists chose acrylics to work with?

With all of the above being said, you must be wondering what is so special about acrylic paints and why are they so fun to work with. Acrylic paint is simpler to work with than slow-drying oil paints. Moreover, the acrylic paints do not generally fade or crack, at least in a long time since acrylics were developed. Figuring out how to paint with acrylics is similar to water painting, a decent method to become familiar with the specialty of painting, however can be utilized by advanced-level artists and painters.

A great deal of artists lean toward acrylics since they dry so quickly, however, this can be a problem if the paint dries out on the brush or palette before you are finished with it. In addition, in the event that you need to blend paint on the canvas and make mixing impacts, it is simpler to utilize a paint that stays wet for longer measures of time.

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