How long does acrylic paint dry?

How long does acrylic paint dry?

Acrylic paint is a popular choice for many artists. Well known by those who practise Painting By Numbers - because most paint by numbers kits (including ours) use acrylic paints exclusively - its ability to dry quickly can sometimes pose challenges.

Have you ever wondered how long it takes for acrylic paint to dry completely? Or how to dry your acrylic paint faster, or how to recover dry acrylic paint? In this article, we'll explore acrylic paint drying time in detail, while sharing tips and solutions for how to best manage these crucial moments in the painting process.

Master the art of working with acrylic paint in your paint by numbers projects!

Introduction to acrylic painting:

With its versatile texture and quick drying, it is appreciated for its ease of use and its ability to adapt to a multitude of artistic techniques. For those who want to deepen their knowledge of this fascinating medium, we have prepared a comprehensive article dedicated to acrylic paint, discussing its characteristics, history and use in various art forms. Find out more in our detailed article on acrylic paint

How long does acrylic paint take to dry?

Understanding Acrylic Paint Drying Time

Acrylic paint is known for its relatively quick drying time, a characteristic that sets it apart in the art world.Typically, it begins to dry within a few minutes to an hour after application, which is especially handy for projects requiring multiple layers, like Painting By Numbers. However, it is important to note that several factors can influence this drying time:

  • Paint Thickness: A thick coat of acrylic paint will naturally take longer to dry than a thin coat. Techniques like impasto, where the paint is applied thicker, may require longer drying times.
  • Humidity and Temperature: Environmental conditions play a crucial role. In a humid climate, acrylic paint may take longer to dry. Conversely, a higher temperature or dry environment can speed up the drying process.
  • Ventilation: Good air circulation can also help paint dry faster. However, you must be careful not to create a draft which could accumulate dust on the fresh paint.

Understanding these variables will help you better plan your painting process and adjust your techniques accordingly, ensuring a successful and enjoyable experience.

Benefits of Fast Drying Time of Acrylic Paint in Art Projects

The drying time of acrylic paint is a major plus, especially for projects such as Painting By Numbers. Indeed, this characteristic allows artists to quickly superimpose layers without long waits, or to attack new areas of colour without being afraid of damaging the work by dragging paint that is not dry; this allows you to move from one colour to another without interruption, which is essential in techniques that require rapid progression. For paint-by-numbers artists, this means less downtime and a smoother progression in completing their artwork.

Controlling Acrylic Paint Drying Time

To maximise your experience with acrylic paint, especially on projects like Paint By Numbers, it is essential to know how to control its drying time. Here are detailed tips and techniques to adjust this time according to your needs.

Slow Down the Drying Process

Use of Retarders:

Drying retarders, available at art stores, can be mixed with acrylic paint to extend working time. For example, by adding a few drops of retarder to your paint mixture, you can extend the drying time by 10 to 15 minutes, allowing for better mixing of colours on the canvas.

Wet on Wet Technique:

This method involves painting on an already wet surface. Before applying a new coat, lightly spray the surface of the canvas with water. This creates a humid environment that slows the drying of the top layer, making it easier to mix colours for soft, graduated effects.

Accelerate Drying

Thin Layers:

Apply thin coats of paint rather than large applications. A thin coat of acrylic paint can dry in minutes, ideal for PBN projects where you want to progress quickly from one section to the next.

Adequate Ventilation:

Using a fan or working in a well-ventilated space can speed up drying. For example, directing a fan at your canvas will speed up the drying process without affecting the quality of the paint.

These tips will allow you to work with acrylic paint more efficiently, adapting the drying time to your techniques and your progress. Whether you're looking to explore complex colour mixtures or move forward quickly with your Painting By Numbers, these methods give you the flexibility you need to succeed with your artwork.

Exploring Creative Possibilities Related to Drying Time

Strategic Use of Quick Drying

  • Quick Layering Technique: Take advantage of the quick drying to apply multiple layers without long waits. This is particularly useful for creating depth and texture effects.
  • Texture effects: Apply thick coats for an impasto effect which, thanks to quick drying, will stay in place without running.

Exploiting Extended Drying Times

  • Blending and Shading: If you've mixed a retarder into your paint, take advantage of the extra time for more sophisticated blending and shading techniques, ideal for fine details or smooth colour transitions.
  • Watercolour Effects: By thinning acrylic paint, create watercolour-like effects, perfect for backgrounds or delicate details that require slower drying for optimal blending.

These approaches will allow you to exploit the unique drying properties of acrylic paint, opening the door to a variety of creative effects and techniques. Whether you're looking to create precise details or experiment with textures and layers, understanding acrylic paint drying time can completely transform the final look of your artwork.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

When working with acrylic paint, some artists may experience problems with it drying unevenly or drying too quickly. Here is a table that summarises the causes, solutions and preventive measures for these common problems:

Uneven dryingLayers of paint of different thicknessesUse a larger brush for more even applicationPlan the paint thickness for each section of the canvas
Paint dries too quicklyHot or dry environmentLightly dampen the canvas; use a self-timerWork in a cool environment; moderate heating/air conditioning
Paint doesn't dry fast enoughPaint applied too thick; high humidityUse a fan or increase the room temperatureApply thinner coats of paint; ensure good ventilation

By understanding these aspects, you can not only solve problems when they arise but also prevent them.

Drying Acrylic Paint with a Hair Dryer: Good or Bad Idea?

Using a hair dryer to speed the drying of acrylic paint is a commonly debated technique among artists. We're willing to bet that you've already heard of this tip at least once!

Let's see together the advantages and disadvantages of this method:


Speed: The evidence is there – a hair dryer significantly reduces waiting time, allowing artists to progress more quickly with their project.

Practical: This is a practical solution, especially if you are working on a project with a tight deadline or are eager to see the final result.


Risk of Cracking: Drying too quickly can lead to cracking or warping, especially if the paint layer is thick.

Uneven Heat Distribution: A hair dryer can heat some areas more than others, causing uneven drying and potentially affecting the final result.

Tips for Using the Hair Dryer:

Distance and Temperature: Keep the hair dryer a reasonable distance from the canvas and use a low heat setting to minimise the risk of cracking.

Constant Movements: Move the hair dryer constantly to avoid concentrating the heat on one area.

Drying acrylic paint with a hair dryer can be beneficial in some situations, but it is crucial to use it carefully to avoid damaging your artwork. If you choose to use this method, follow the tips above to ensure the best results.

Conclusion: The importance of controlling the drying time for acrylic paint

In summary, understanding and managing the drying time of acrylic paint is essential for any artist working with this type of paint, and particularly in Paint By Numbers projects. Whether it's by adjusting environmental conditions, using specific techniques to speed up or slow down drying, or even using tools like a hair dryer (with caution!), each method has its importance.

This know-how will allow you to overcome common challenges and explore new creative possibilities, turning each project into a successful and satisfying artistic experience. Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of acrylic paint, and let your creativity flow freely on the canvas.