Paint Drytimes Explained by Professionals

This article will help our audience and clients understand paint dry times, the difference between curing and drying, and things to consider after a fresh coat of paint.

The average water-based house paint dries within 1 – 4 hours, and you can typically recoat in 1 – 8 hours. However, this rule has exceptions and varies for oil-based and other paint types. Oil paints require more dry time than conventional water-based paints. Expect dry times between 2 – 8 hours, and recoating can be upwards of 24 hours for oil paints. 

But there is more to the story than how long paint takes to dry. Paint dry time doesn’t mean the paint has completely cured and is ready for regular usage.

You can avoid damaging that fresh coat of paint once you understand paint curing and how to care for it until it fully hardens. We will outline ways to prevent losing paint adhesion and causing premature damage to your paint job. 

Spray Paint Dry Time

Spray paint is one of the fastest-drying paints, but not all spray paints are created equally. Oil-based spray paints from brands like Krylon dry in under 20 minutes. Fast-drying paint allows you to handle whatever you are painting more quickly.

Although most spray paints require 24 hrs to dry, recoating can take place within 2 – 4 hours for quick dry offerings.

Shellac-based spray primers dry the fastest, ranging from 5 – 10 minutes.

Oil Paint Dry Time vs. Water-Based

A common and normal question is, “How long does it take for paint to dry.” What if we told you dry times are less critical than paint cure times?

Paint curing is a way to measure how long it takes for the paint to harden. Oil-based paints dry slower, but soya alkyds harden faster than hybrid oils. In comparison, water-based acrylic paints take up to 45 days in high-moisture areas. 

Although under normal conditions, water-based acrylic house paint cures between 25- 35 days and is much easier to apply.

Exterior house paints are formulated differently than interior paints and can dry and cure faster under warmer conditions.

How to Make Oil Paint Dry Faster

Increasing air circulation is the most basic and effective way to accelerate paint drying. A constant airflow helps paint vapor and moisture dissipate, carrying it out and flowing into other areas that disperse or absorb the concentration. 

Increasing the surface temperature is another way to get paint to dry faster. Rising temperatures will also reduce the transfer of atmospheric moisture, helping the paint harden more quickly. But be mindful that surface temperatures exceeding 120 degrees could cause adverse effects, particularly with interior paint. So, tools such as heat guns are not recommended.

Applying oil-based paints in temperatures below 50 degrees can lead to drips and cause runs. Japan Dryer is a fantastic product to accelerate oil paint drying times.

Additives such as ammonia were once used in water-based paints. Thankfully, with increasing EPA standards, that’s no longer the case. And additives to make zero VOC paints dry faster are unnecessary, as this type of paint is already fast drying.

Paint Dry Time Factors

So, outside of oil vs. latex paint dry times, there are other application factors to consider. 

First, the number of coats will affect how fast the paint dries. If there are multiple coats of paint, expect more time between coats and additional time for the paint to cure.

Also, less expensive paints containing high levels of vinyl polymers take longer to cure, as vinyl resins dry sticky, allowing expansion and contraction; they consequently take longer to cure. 

The most overlooked factor related to paint drying is color depth. There are a few ways paint manufacturers ensure dark color cure times, but overall, every paint brand is affected by dark colors somehow. 

Prepacked dark colors like black will dry faster, but all tinted dark colors will likely take longer to dry. Zero VOC offerings also help dark colors dry faster, which is advantageous if you are experienced enough to apply the paint quickly.

Finally, the most obvious is the viscosity of the paint and how thick the paint is applied. Thicker paint rollers and brushes are more susceptible to applying heavy paint coatings, allowing better coverage, pronounced paint stippling, and longer dry times. 

Paint type, thickness, sheen, color, and how it is applied will all affect dry times.

Flat paint will keep walls wet for longer, but flat paint quickly dries to the touch. Generally, cure times are also faster for flat or matte paint finishes.

Proper cure times for satin and eggshell finishes, on the other hand, take longer. But once a quality satin finish has hardened, it provides enhanced durability.

Allowing Dry Time After Painting

A fresh coat of paint can revive inspiration for new furniture and design cues. Painting is also an invasive process. So, the anticipation and desire to get spaces back together are understandable. But it’s important to understand that fresh paint that appears dry on your walls, ceilings, or trim still needs more time. 

Stirring up dust or any abrasive actions could cause damage to any paint finish that is inside the recommended cure time. But there are more things to consider besides air circulation and limiting surface contaminates.

Things to Consider for Drying Interior Painted Surfaces

Here is a short list of things to consider for a fresh coat of paint on surfaces that have not cured:

  • Picture hanging before paint cure can cause scratches and scuffs. 
  • Hanging posters with adhesives or tape will peel and chip paint.
  • Wiping or scrubbing before paint curing will dull the finish.
  • Shoe rub or brushing across an uncured surface can cause peeling.
  • Fingerprints are easily picked up with new paint finishes.
  • Excessive dirt, dust, and pet hair can collect on new paint finishes.
  • Steam & hot showers before curing will cause watermarks and discoloration.
  • Moist cold air will lengthen cure times.
  • Electronics & appliances should remain pushed away from freshly painted areas for 24 hours.

Things to Consider for Drying Exterior Painted Surfaces

Here is a short list of things to consider to keep the paint from peeling or sticking on exterior surfaces:

  • Remove weather stripping from freshly painted exterior doors to prevent sticking.
  • Window screens should remain removed for 1 – 2 months to prevent paint peeling.
  • Open or crack windows daily for the first week to prevent windows from sticking to sills.
  • Prevent dirt and red clay splashback on all light-colored surfaces using landscape mulch, stone, or straw.
  • Colder and wet seasons will increase paint cure times.
  • No heavy scrubbing or pressure washing for 2 – 3 months.
  • Prevent foot traffic for approx 1 – 5 days on all horizontally painted surfaces.
  • Hire a professional to pressure wash every year.

How to Mitigate Indoor Contaminants

Several things can ruin a paint job. Luckily, the process doesn’t have to make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. A few basic preliminary measures and steps that require little effort can reduce the chances of paint contamination. 

Vacuuming carpets and hard surfaces are the most effective ways to reduce interior paint film contamination. Dust reduction is a straightforward method of reducing airborne and surface particulates. Cleaning before and after interior paint applications will also minimize dust collection. 

Limit the use of indoor aerosols before and after painting. Hairspray, cleaners, and disinfectant sprays will contaminate surfaces and cause paint bleeding and adhesion issues.

Kitchens are one of the most commonly painted areas in a home. High steam and grease usage will also increase the chances of surface contamination.

Paint Dry Time by Rooms

Here is a list of dry times and usage by room:

  • For bathrooms, allow 2-3 days before taking a shower. Make sure the next shower taken allows no collection of moisture – promote proper ventilation for 2 weeks. 
  • Shower rooms and water closets containing high moisture require bathroom-specific paints.
  • Kitchens that require immediate access after application should use fast-drying paints.
  • Kids’ bedrooms should utilize low-odor paints.
  • Living rooms with high ceilings will dry quickly due to air circulation and heat rise.
  • Outside walls are often colder and contain more moisture, consequently taking longer to dry. 

Paint Dry Time by Surfaces

Here is a list of areas to consider paint dry times. Most of these areas will require an enamel. Enamel paints allow long-term contact, like a book on a shelf, without causing the object to stick. 

  • Cabinets are painted in a wide variety of finishes. Lacquer offers the fastest dry time in just 5 – 20 minutes and allows recoating in less than 1 hour.
  • Fireplace mantels should remain object-free for at least 2 weeks. Fast-curing enamels prevent paint from sticking to things placed on the mantel.
  • Bookcases also require 2-3 weeks before placing books back on the shelves.
  • Doors can be one of the most controversial and overlooked dry-time concerns. Use good trim paint and allow 1 week before closing the door if the jam makes contact.
  • Windows sweat and carry moisture. Therefore, open the window periodically to help window sashes and sills dry.
  • All trim requires 30 days of dry time.
  • Flat ceiling paint dries quickly yet soft. Bathroom ceilings containing flat paint should be allowed one week before showering.


Painting new walls can be exciting, and waiting for the paint to dry is a lackluster task, but it’s essential. Understanding the type of paint you use and how it will affect dry times is worth discerning to optimize your results and turnaround time.

Some articles suggest that applying paint with different applicators will affect dry times. But as experienced painters, we have to object respectfully. 

For example, a good painter can evenly brush thick or thin coats, depending on the need and surface. A painter can also determine how thick the paint is applied using a paint sprayer. The paint type, coat thickness, and temperature affect paint dry time the most. All these factors can be altered and influenced by a painter, additives, and professional equipment unless it’s extreme weather.

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