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How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?

Acrylic paint is a wonderful type of paint to use, whether you’re doing a simple canvas, or a more complex acrylic pour. Due to the chemical properties in paint, the drying time is typically 15-30 minutes. If you are painting a simple one layer canvas, it can even dry in less than 10 minutes.

Acrylic paint is well known for having a very quick drying time, and some people may see that as either a positive or a negative. Oil paint is the complete opposite of acrylic paint. It takes anywhere from two to twelve days for an oil painting to fully dry.

This is why oil paint was so popular in the Renaissance era. It gave artists the freedom to pause their work, or even change the composition of their paintings. Can you imagine if the Sistine Chapel was done in acrylic paint? In this article we go over everything you need to know for painting with acrylics, and it’s drying time. If you are looking for a great acrylic set, I recommend this Arteza set from Amazon. I personally use these paints and they are amazing.

How Do I Know if My Acrylic Painting Is Dry?

Some slow drying acrylics, or acrylics with retarders added to them, may require extra drying time. There is also the issue with “to the touch” dry, and fully cured. Even if your painting appears dry, it can still be wet under the surface, especially if you used multiple layers.

If you are applying multiple layers, a good rule of thumb is to wait at least 20 minutes, and then double check that the paint doesn’t appear lumpy or have some wet spots. Acrylic paint will always dry first on the outside or surface due to evaporation.

Varnishing or glossing your acrylic paint when it’s not fully dry, can cause moisture that may make the varnish cloudy. Later on in the article I go over the dry time for varnishing.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Wood?

The great thing about acrylic paint is that it’s so versatile. You can use it on a canvas, fabric and even wood. Drying times may differ from surface to surface. Acrylic paint will usually take 20-30 minutes to dry “to the touch.” If you are looking for the paint to be fully cured on wood, I would wait a few hours.

Keep in mind that if the weather is particularly humid, it might take longer for it to be fully cured. The standard time for acrylic paint to dry on wood is anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on how many layers you applied.

Check out another one of my articles that talks about everything you need to know about using acrylic paint on wood.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Plastic?

Painting on plastic is completely different that painting on wood. The textured is very different, and plastic tends to be harder for the paint to stick to. The drying time for acrylic paint on plastic is around 15-20 minutes. I always recommend sealing the paint on plastic with a varnish, in order to avoid peeling or flaking later on.

I highly recommend priming your plastic with an acrylic paint primer like this one, to ensure the paint will stick to the plastic. It’s important to prime the plastic properly because the paint will inevitably chip or peel off later down the road. Plastic is a very tricky surface to paint on, especially with acrylic paint. I usually prime the plastic surface I’m going to paint, then wait for it to dry. Once I’m done painting it, I will wait to that to fully dry, and then I seal it with a varnish spray.

This ensures that not only the paint is properly stuck to the plastic, but the varnish will protect and seal it from any further chips or peels. It also gives it a nice glossy look.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry on Clay?

Painting on clay has become extremely popular recently, moreover with polymer clay. This article talks all about painting with acrylics on polymer clay. The typical dry time for acrylic paint on clay is anywhere from 10-20 minutes. As with any project, keep in mind that a humid environment can add some time to the drying process.

Clay is an excellent surface to paint on, especially with acrylic paint. It’s smooth and absorbent so the dry time is fairly short. Always remember though, if you are going to apply multiple layers, wait until each layer is fully dried, to ensure that your paint comes out even and smooth.

How Long After Acrylic Paint Is Dry Before Applying Varnish?

Sealing or glossing your acrylic painting is a very important step. You must first make sure your project is fully dry before applying the varnish. I recommend this Krylon spray from Amazon. Varnish gives your acrylic painting that smooth, glossy look. There are also many sealants that have a matte finish, if you prefer that instead of the glossy look.

It’s crucial to make sure that your painting has fully dried before spraying the gloss. A wet spot can cause the varnish to look cloudy or uneven in your painting. Simply apply the spray 6-10 inches away from the canvas, or other surface, and give it a nice spray. Make sure not to spend too much time on one area because it will thicken, and will be uneven from the rest of the gloss.

Check out my Recommended Products page for all your acrylic painting Q & A’s. Happy painting!

Acrylic Art World

Annick's passion has been painting with acrylics since her youth. She has a lot of experience with all sorts of projects, from simple acrylic painting to advanced techniques like acrylic pouring.

2 thoughts on “How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?

  1. In your article about oven drying acrylic on glass, I paint poured several jars using acrylic paint, including metallic and a shimmer. Will these effect oven drying?. Also my oven cooks from the bottom, so would i place the jars on the top rack instead of the bottom rack? Thank you in advance for your time…Lissa Schooley

    1. Hi Lissa! The type of paint shouldn’t affect the drying at all =) As for the rack placement, if you can do a middle rack placement that would be good.

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