How Long Does Spray Paint Take to Dry?

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It’s a common occurrence. You apply a fresh coating of spray paint and aren’t sure whether it is fully dry or not. Like most people, you probably debate with yourself over how long you need to wait for it to dry. Then, in your attempt to see if it’s dry, the surface ends up blemished and you have to do a touch-up paint job. Wouldn’t it be easier if you had the answer to the question how long does spray paint take to dry?

We’ve put together a handy resource so you can tell when that spray paint is dry.

The Four Stages of Spray Paint Drying

Before you can determine how long it will take the paint to dry, you need to understand the four stages of spray paint drying. All paint goes through these stages before completion.

Surface dry – This takes place when the solvent of the paint evaporates. You’ll notice a thin layer on the surface of the paint during this stage. This layer easily sticks to anything it touches.

Touch dry – During this stage, the paint becomes harder. If you touch it, it could stick to your finger or not. When slight pressure is applied to the surface, the paint will come off.

Hard dry – During this stage, the paint layer is harder and will not come off. Despite that, you still could leave your fingerprints or a smudge on the surface if enough pressure is applied.

Thorough dry – Every part of the surface is dry and ready for use.

Other Factors that Affect Paint’s Drying Time

Now that you understand the drying stages, it’s important to learn about the various factors that affect your paint’s drying times.

The Surface Being Painted

Obviously, the most important factor is the surface you are painting. This has the most effect on how long the paint will take to dry. Painting metal surfaces will depend mainly on the condition of the environment at the time.

That’s because spray paint dries slowly in humid conditions on a metal surface. Ideally, you’ll want a hot environment with little humidity if you are hoping to dry paint on a metal surface quickly.

This time will be cut down quite a bit if you are painting brick or concrete. These surfaces dry faster than metal.

In addition, it takes longer for the spray paint to dry on a wood surface mainly because the paint is fully absorbed into the wood instead of lying on top. If you want your spray paint to dry quickly, make sure you purchase a formulation designed for the surface you are working with.

The Paint Layer’s Thickness

Next, you’ll need to consider how thick of a paint layer you have applied. This plays a large role in determining the time it takes to dry. A thick coat of spray paint is going to take longer than the same formulation sprayed on in a thin layer. Thankfully, spray painting normally means that you’re left with a thinner coat than if you brushed on the paint.

If you want to control the level of thickness, you can mix spray paint with various solvents or thinners depending on what you’re using. In addition, if you need to apply multiple layers, don’t move onto the second until the first layer is thoroughly dry.

Environmental Conditions

Just like we discussed briefly above, the condition of the environment does have a part in how long spray paint takes to dry. If you are looking for the fastest way to dry paint, you’ll want a hot and less humid environment.

Type of Coating Applied

The final factor in how long it will take to dry spray paint is going to be based on which coating you’ve applied. Each formulation has a different composition which creates its unique drying time. We’ll look at these more in-depth in a minute.

Spray Paint Drying Process

There are various forms of spray paint on the market. Each one features its own unique formulation that plays a huge role in how long the drying process is. Remember, these times are just gauges. Some of them will be affected by the factors listed above. Let’s take a closer look.

Enamel Paint

Enamel or latex spray paints begin to dry in just a few minutes. That’s mainly because of how the solvent evaporates. Inside these formulas, you have the presence of air which cross-links the polymers and leads to the formation of a hard surface.

Surface dry tends to occur anywhere from ten to thirty minutes after application. A hard dry is accomplished in eight hours or less. Rarely, drying will take the entire day, but normally only if the paint was sprayed in a thick layer.

Lacquer Paint

When you work with a lacquer spray paint, you’ll notice a faster drying time. This is because the evaporation of the solvent is all that needs to occur. This even happens in some forms of latex paint if water is used to thin it.

Because they are made from a thermoplastic polymer, the surface dry occurs in as little as three to five minutes. Touch dry is complete within ten minutes and a hard drive is usually done within three hours.

Epoxy or Polyurethane Paint

When you are using epoxy spray paint or polyurethane paint, you only need to wait for a chemical reaction between two ingredients to occur. That makes these formulations the fastest drying on the market. A surface dry occurs within five minutes while a hard dry is normally complete within an hour.

Testing the Dryness of Spray Paint

Make sure you don’t ever check the paint with your hands. This leads to the possibility of fingerprints, smudges or you could mess up the paint job completely. If you want to test the dryness of your paint, smell it instead. If you still smell the paint, it isn’t cured yet.


We all know how frustrating it can be to wait for paint to dry. Whether you are waiting to do another coat or you want to use the item you’ve painted, patience seems to be a difficult thing to remember. To decrease your wait time, ensure that you’ve purchased the right paint for your job.

Then, you can adjust the factors we’ve discussed to make odds play out in your favor. In no time, you’ll be enjoying the fruit of your labor.


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