When referring to a particularly boring obligation, people often say, “It was like watching paint dry.” This, of course, infers that waiting for paint to dry is an equally tiresome endeavor. However, there are many types of paints, each with their own characteristics. Each requires a different application, clean-up, and drying time. When choosing paint for your project, make sure you’re aware of your options and educate yourself about the proper drying time to ensure success.

The first thing to note is that there is a difference between dry to the touch and cured. While a paint may feel dry within a few minutes of application, it might take weeks before it is cured to the point that setting items on it or wiping it down will no longer have an effect on the paint. There is also a wide variation of dry times depending on the level of humidity, heat, and ventilation. You should never paint in temperatures lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit and higher humidity will increase dry time. Using ventilation such as air conditioning, heat, and fans will decrease drying time. If you are painting outdoors you should allow a minimum of 4 hours for the paint to dry before rain or snow falls. However, 24 hours is a more effective length of time.

Aerosol Spray Paint

If you are using light coats, spray paint is typically dry enough to apply an additional coat within five minutes, but you can improve adherence if you wait until it is dry to the touch, which takes about 30 minutes. If you need to move the project or flip it over to access the other side, wait for 1 to 2 hours to allow the wet side to set completely. Your aerosol spray paint should be fully dry in 24 hours and can be moved to a different location at that point.

Latex Paint

Latex paint is the most commonly used household paint today. That’s because it is water-based, which makes it easy to clean up. It also dries fairly quickly making it easier to complete projects in a shorter time. Interior or exterior latex paint will likely feel dry to the touch within an hour in a moderate-temperature environment. Applying the next layer too soon, however, can result in flaking and peeling so hold out and apply additional coats about 4 to 6 hours apart. The kicker with latex paint is that it will take 2 to 4 weeks to completely cure so keep the spray bottle away from it or you could end up with streaking, color bleeding, or fading.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint shares many qualities with latex paint, except it is typically used for art applications. When using acrylic paint on cloth, canvas, or ceramics, allow the paint to dry for 20 to 30 minutes in between coats. A thicker coat might take up to an hour to dry.


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