How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry? Can I Speed It Up or Slow It Down?

If you work with paints, you’re probably familiar with acrylic. It is used in arts and crafts because it has fast drying speed.

Since you spend a lot of time mixing acrylic paint to get the perfect shade you desire, it is important to understand drying time.

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.

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?

Although the average drying time is 20-30 minutes, there are a few factors that affect the drying time of acrylic paints, such as how thick the paint is and what brand of paint you are using.

Other factors which influence the dry time of acrylic paint include:

  • Humidity.
  • Temperature.
  • Air circulation.

I discovered that to slow down the drying time, cool, damp areas are ideal. Also, a lack of air circulation will help.

On top of that, there are products you can purchase to add to the paint to help slow down the dry time. Don’t worry; I’ll tell you about those later.

Acrylic paint is a rather fast-drying paint but drying time can be sped up if you require it to be.

If so, start with painting in a dry, warm room. Windy conditions and low outdoor humidity will also help. There are also special paints that you can use.

Speeding up Acrylic Paint Drying Time

Acrylic paint is used because it is known as a fast-drying paint, but the dry time can be reduced if necessary.

There are brands of fast-drying acrylic paints that can be purchased, such as Galeria by Winsor & Newton.

It has thin films of color and will dry in 10-20 minutes, whereas thicker films can take an hour or more.

Also, the physical surroundings play a huge part in drying time. Try to paint in a warm room that is low in moisture.

Turn on a fan also. Circulating air is important as it pulls moisture away from the paint’s surface.

Other ways that you can speed up the drying time include using heat lamps, heat guns, and hair dryers.

When you are using any of those items, there are a few important things to be aware of. Keep the following in mind to avoid making a mess of your masterpiece:

  • Always use the lowest setting possible.
  • Do NOT get your painting too close to the heat source.
  • If the paint gets too hot, it may bubble or crack.
  • If the paints get too dry, it will start to crack, so keep a close eye on your painting.

Slowing Down Acrylic Paint Drying Time

The same variables apply for paint drying, except you do the opposite to slow things down.

A cool, damp room will keep the paint from drying too quickly. You don’t want a fan blowing close by either.

Now, keep in mind, this will help if you need to extend the life for a few minutes, but it won’t prevent the paint from drying over an extended time.

Have you ever spent a long time blending your paint to get it to just the right shade when suddenly something calls you away from your project, and you are gone for longer than you expect?

When you return, there is your perfect shade, dried on the palette, not revivable.

If this has ever happened to you, then you know the struggle of having to recreate that shade again.

Just so know, in certain instances, there may still be hope for reviving your paint. Be sure to check our article on bringing dried paints back to life for tips and tricks.

So what can you do if you want to extend your paint for a longer time than just a few minutes?

Wet Palette 

One way is to use a wet palette to paint. This keeps your paint wet with moisture from underneath the paint.

Also, wet palettes are airtight containers and good for keeping paint wet for days or even weeks. 

So, if you need to take an extended break, put the lid on the palette, come back later, and that perfect shade that you mixed is still good to go!

That’s definitely better than using a dry palette that doesn’t offer any protection at all.

I use The Army Painter’s Wet Palette

This consists of a lidded tray into which a paper is placed onto moistened foam, keeping the colors usable for days, provided the paper is kept moist and the lid replaced at the end of every painting session.

You can also make your own wet palette. As a matter of fact, I included step-by-step instructions for making your own wet palette in my article highlighting the best wet palettes.

All you need is the following:

  • Shallow, airtight and resealable container.
  • Sponge.
  • Baking/parchment paper or store-bought watercolor paper.
  • Scissors.
  • Water.

On top of the advantage it gives you in slowing the dry time, a wet palette can also save you paint and money. Most importantly, it will save you time, which we all know is priceless.

Retarders and Agitators

Wet palettes are wonderful, though there are times that a dry palette may work better for the project that you are working on.

In those situations, use an acrylic gel or medium that extends the “open” time of the acrylics so that the acrylics will stay wet for longer periods of time. 

These acrylic mediums are usually called “retarders” or “slow-dry mediums,” and you’ll need to mix these into your acrylics after applying them to your palette. 

A great product that I love to use is Liquitex Palette Wetting Spray.

You just spray your palette before you start painting, and then simply spray more whenever needed directly onto the paint to keep it from drying out.

Spraying the paint will make the colors transparent, so keep this in mind when you are using a retarder.

Use an agitator or agitator mixing balls if you are going to use a retarder that mixes into the paint.

The agitator will help get a more consistent mix throughout your paint, which is good if you are mixing a lot at one time.

I don’t use a lot of paint at a time, so a spray is perfect for me.

Does the Thickness of Paint Effect Drying Time?

The thicker your paint is, the longer it will take for it to dry. Winsor & Newton makes two great acrylic paints with different drying properties. 

  • Galeria: Thin films of color will dry in 10-20 minutes, whereas thicker films can take an hour or more. 
  • Professional Acrylics: Thin films of Professional Acrylic will dry in 20-30 minutes, and thicker films can take an hour or two. This will vary according to environmental conditions.

Their Professional Acrylic seems to stay workable for a longer time than any other acrylic paint that I have used. Without the use of a retarder, I have gotten over 30 minutes of work time. 

Even better, these acrylics don’t darken on me as they dry. This allows me to get that perfect color I’m looking for.

I can say learning about and writing about paint drying is a lot better than watching it dry.