Waiting for paint to dry can really test anyone’s patience. Instead of guessing how long it will take, it’s best to know a more accurate timeframe. In this article, I’ll give different paint drying times and factors that determine how long it takes for paint to dry.
How long does it take paint to dry? Oil-based paints dry within 6-8 hours, but you may need to wait another 24 hours before the surface is ready for recoating. Latex paints dry in a faster amount of time – only about 1 hour – and you can safely apply a second coat within 4 hours.
The drying time of different types of paints varies due to many factors. Read on to learn more about how long it takes different types of paint to dry, and the factors that determine the total drying time.
How Long Does It Take for Paint to Dry?
There are many factors that determine the drying time for paint. Below, I’ll list how long different types of paint dry based on these factors.
Factor #1: Temperature and Humidity
Humidity and temperature are two very important factors that affect how and for how long paint dries. The ideal temperature or humidity level mainly depends on the weather and the type of paint you’re using. So, what happens if you paint when the weather is too cold or too hot?
Colder temperatures – below 50ºF (10ºC) – make it difficult to apply paint smoothly and to achieve a consistent color. If you’re going to use oil-based paints or alkyds, they could become thicker. On the other hand, water-based paints (sometimes called acrylic paints or latex paints) are highly susceptible to freezing when exposed to low temperatures.
When the weather is too hot, the paint could dry faster. It could also cause the primer (also referred to as the base coat) to lose its adhesion to the topcoat, which eventually leads to peeling. To help avoid this problem, follow the shade so you don’t paint in direct sunlight.
High humidity can affect the drying time of both oil-based and water-based paints. The extra moisture in the air makes the solvents in latex and acrylic paints evaporate much faster than water in the paint. As a result, drips, dust contamination, and cracking or bubbles (due to moisture trapped under the paint) could happen.
What temperature should it be inside or outside of your home to avoid these problems?
Manufacturers usually indicate the minimum and maximum recommended temperatures on the labels. In general, water-based paints require a temperature between 50ºF and 85ºF (10ºC and 29.4ºC). For oil-based paints, it’s 40ºF to 90ºF (4.4ºC to 32.2ºC). The optimal humidity levels for painting is between 40-70 percent.
Factor #2: Type of Paint
Factor #2 in answering our question “how long does paint take to dry?” is the type of paint. There are various types of paints on the market. Their applications and drying times also greatly vary. We’ll discuss eight of the most common types of paint below.
1. Oil-Based Paint
Oil-based paints are usually used for doors, walls, windows, and steel structures. They don’t dry thoroughly in humid weather. If you want them to dry faster without any problems, apply them during warmer weather like summer or in temperatures of at least 70ºF (21ºC).
Drying Time: Under normal circumstances, it could take 6-8 hours before oil-based paints become dry to the touch.
2. Enamel Paint
Enamel paint, also called oil-based enamel paint, is used for painting surfaces that are constantly exposed to variations in temperature. The main advantage of enamel paint is that it creates a durable and glossy finish.
Drying Time: It depends on the type of enamel paint you’re using. If it’s oil-based enamel (also called alkyd-based), you’ll have to wait for 8-24 hours before it dries completely. If it’s water-based enamel (also called latex or acrylic), you’ll have to wait for 1-2 hours, or possibly less, before it dries completely.
3. Emulsion Paint
Emulsion paint is a water-based paint that’s popularly used for walls and ceilings. It is low-odor, easy to apply, and dries relatively fast.
Drying Time: Water-based emulsion paints are dry to the touch within 1-2 hours after application. However, you’ll have to wait for another 4 hours before applying a second coat.
4. Bituminous Paint
Bituminous paint is used for protecting concrete, wood, and asphalt, including ferrous and non-ferrous metals, from the outside weather elements and corrosion. In most cases, it lasts longer if you apply it on materials with porous surfaces, which aren’t exposed to long hours of direct sunlight.
Drying Time: The majority of bituminous paints dry within 2-4 hours.
5. Cement Paint
Masonry paint, also known as elastomeric paint, is the paint of choice for cement because it’s capable of contracting and expanding. When applied correctly, it could last up to 10 years.
Drying Time: Masonry paint takes 4-6 hours to dry completely. However, it may take longer to dry if the weather is too cold or too humid. Wait for at least 24 hours to recoat.
6. Aluminum Paint
Aluminum paint is a mixture of aluminum flakes and oil varnish. It’s often used on metal surfaces that are well prepared to give them an aluminum finish that’s strongly resistant to corrosion and rust.
Drying Time: If it doesn’t contain other color pigments, aluminum paint should completely dry and harden within 1-2 hours on warm weather.
7. Cellulose Paint
Cellulose paint is used for a wide variety of purposes, such as painting a classic car. It’s easy to use, very forgiving, and useful for situations that require shorter drying time.
Drying Time: Cellulose paint is completely cured after around 12 hours.
8. Silicate Paint
Silicate paints are classified as inorganic, zinc-rich paints. Meaning, they have the distinct ability to protect ferrous metals, such as stainless steel and wrought iron from corrosion. This type of paint is long-lasting, eco-friendly, and weather-resistant.
Drying Time: Silicate paints completely dry within 1 hour, but you need to wait for another 6-12 hours before applying a second coat.
Factor #3: Level of Ventilation
Ventilation affects the drying and curing time of paints. Combined with high humidity and extreme temperatures, poor airflow could lead to relatively slow drying times, uneven curing, and poor-quality finish.
Let’s say you’re using a water-based paint, which contains 60-70 percent concentration by volume of water, to paint your room’s walls and ceiling. Once you’re done, around 3,000 millimeters of water is added to the air. This process causes the paint to have a slower drying time because of the increased humidity, while sufficient airflow could speed up the process.
How long should you wait before settling into your room with poor ventilation? It depends, but you might need to wait a day or two before you start moving things in.
The drying time isn’t the only reason why you should make sure there’s proper airflow when you paint an object or space. Chronic inhalation of toxic fumes from paint has been known to cause adverse health effects, such as mild asthma, nausea, dizziness, and severe headaches.
Tip: Widely open windows and use fans to improve ventilation while painting. Depending on the type of paint you’re using, you might need to keep using fans for 48-72 hours afterward, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. 
Factor #4: Painting Application
The rule of thumb is the more layers of paint you apply, the longer you have to wait to do your second coat. You also have to wait longer for the paint to dry if you apply a very thick layer of paint.
To avoid these problems, know how long you should wait between coats of paint. Below are the types of paint finishes and their recoating time:
- Matte – from 30 minutes to 2 hours
- Glossy – from 1 to 2 1/2 hours
- High Gloss (Alkyds) – within 24 hours
In general, you can expect a recoating time of 1 to 2 1/2 hours.
Another thing you could do is to thin paints. Most water-based paints, like latex paints, have a thicker consistency than oil-based paints. You can thin them using water. On the one hand, you can use paint thinners to thin oil-based paints.
Some good-quality paints are ready to use, so they don’t require thinning. Here are simple ways to check if your paint requires thinning before use:
- Dip a stick (or any stirring tool) into the paint you’re going to use.
- Take it out and see if the paint starts to drip off the stick quickly. If it does, no need to add a thinner or water to make it less viscous.
Factor #5: Material Painted On
The material, including its current condition, and intended use will affect the drying time of the paint. Below are some common types of paint used today and their respective drying times, including some materials painted on.
Latex Paints (Water-Based Paints)
- Plaster (for internal walls and ceilings) – 1 hour
- Drywall – 1 hour
- Concrete – 2-4 hours
- Wood – 1 hour
Enamel Paints (Oil-Based Paints)
- Plaster (for internal walls and ceilings) – 6-8 hours
- Drywall – 6-8 hours
- Concrete – 6-10 hours
- Wood – 6-8 hours
Wood and Concrete Stains
- Wood – 1-3 hours (don’t expose to water for another 2-4 days)
- Concrete – 2 hours
Factor #6: Mediums Mixed with Paint
The last factor to consider when answering our question “how long does it take paint to dry?” is mediums mixed with the paint. Household paints contain mediums that shorten or lengthen their drying times. Slow-drying alkyd paints, or oil-based paints, are often pre-mixed with drying mediums, such as Galkyd, Liquin, and Neo-Megilp. On the other hand, water-based household paints don’t normally require any chemicals to dry faster (or slower).
Drying mediums for household paints are classified into three groups:
1. Primary Driers
Examples of primary driers, also referred to as top driers, are cobalt, cerium, manganese, and vanadium. The main purpose of primary driers is to encourage surface drying.
2. Through Driers
Examples of through driers are lead, strontium, and zirconium. The main purpose of through driers is to make sure that the paint will dry uniformly, not just the surface of the film.
3. Auxiliary Driers
Examples of auxiliary driers are barium, calcium, and zinc. They’re often used together with other primary driers, such as cobalt and manganese because they don’t have any drying action on their own. Their main purpose is to change the effect of the other paint driers.
Tips to Make Paint Dry Faster
If you’re running short on time, there are many easy ways to make latex or oil-based paints dry a bit faster. Here are a few of them:
- Use thinner coats of paint for even and faster surface drying time.
- Try not to paint the side of your home facing the sun to prevent the paint from blistering or bubbling. Most south-facing homes get the most sun at the front, while north-facing homes get the most sun at the back.
- Use a hairdryer, heater, or dehumidifier if you have to paint in humid weather.
- If you know the weather is going to be freezing for several days, you might want to reschedule it in spring or summer.
- Keep all the windows wide open to allow the proper flow of air through the room.
- Run several box fans in or near your windows to allow the air to circulate through the room better.
Conclusion – How Long Does Paint Take to Dry?
So, to recap, how long does it take for paint to dry? The temperature of your surroundings, the humidity level and ventilation in the area, the type of paint you’re using, how you apply them, the presence of drying mediums, and the material you’re going to paint on are just a few factors that affect the drying and curing times of household paints. To ensure a smooth, flawless finish, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the label.
Oil-based paints are slow-drying paints, so they take a much longer time to completely dry than water-based paints. Their usual drying time is around 6-8 hours. However, it is not advisable to add a second coat for another 24 hours. Water-based paints, like latex paints, are dry to the touch within an hour. With water-based paints, it’s best to apply another coat after four hours.