How Long Should You Wait Between Coats of Paint?

painting wall with a brush

Your first coat of paint is on, and you want to dive right back in with the second coat. But rushing through the painting process can ruin your finish. How long should you wait between coats of paint? There is a science behind this, and it’s important to understand it if you want a perfect paint job.

Drying StageWater-Based Latex PaintOil-Based Paint
Dry to Touch30 minutes to 1.5 hours6 to 8 hours
Ready to Recoat4 hours24 hours
CuredUp to multiple weeksUp to multiple weeks

Why Wait Between Paint Coats?

The wait time between coats of paint is crucial for achieving a smooth and even finish. Rushing the process can result in uneven texture and potential damage to the underlying layers. You may come across issues like visible brush strokes, streaks, or clumps of paint that haven’t fully dried. Patience during the painting process will ultimately lead to a professional-looking result that will stand the test of time. 

Factors That Affect Drying Times

white paint roller on the wall
Photo Credit: primipil / Canva Pro / License

There isn’t a single perfect answer to how long you should wait between coats. Several factors affect drying times. Let’s go over them.

  • Temperature: Higher temperatures generally accelerate the drying process, while lower temperatures can slow it down. The right temperature to paint at varies based on the type. But generally, the best temperature is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Humidity: Low humidity can also speed up drying times, while high humidity can prolong them. The best humidity is between 40 and 70%.
  • Rain and wind: If it’s raining or windy, it is best to avoid painting outdoors because it can really damage your hard work. Learn more about the best weather for painting in our guide.
  • Ventilation: Whenever you paint, make sure you let sufficient air in. It helps dry the paint faster and dissipates fumes. 
  • Paint type: Your paint type also affects drying times. More on that below.
  • Application method: Spray painting applies the thinnest coats, helping the paint dry quicker. Paint rollers are also better at applying thin coats than paint brushes.

The Stages of Drying

Just because the paint is dry to the touch doesn’t mean that it’s OK to start the second coat. But you can recoat before your paint is completely cured.

There are three stages of drying paint:

When is Paint Dry to Touch?

Water-based paint feels dry to the touch in 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. For oil paint, it’s 6 to 8 hours. At this point, the paint is still in the process of drying and hardening. Don’t apply paint at this stage.

When is Paint Ready for a Second Coat?

The amount of time it takes for paint to be ready for the next coat is longer. You need to wait at least 4 hours to recoat water-based latex paint. However, matte paint will dry slightly faster. On the other hand, wait at least an extra 30 minutes if you use high-gloss paint. Check out more differences between high-sheen and low-sheen paints in our paint sheen guide for external paint.

As for oil-based paint, you need to wait at least 24 hours. It’s crucial to allow the paint to fully dry and cure before applying a second coat. But take note that, as mentioned above, all these times can vary depending on factors such as humidity, temperature, and ventilation. 

When Does Paint Become Cured?

The last stage of the drying process is when the paint becomes cured. You can add a second coat before it cures, but remember that cured paint becomes more durable and washable. Your paint’s curing time depends on your type of paint and the weather. It may take multiple weeks.

How to Help Paint Dry

blue painted wall in an empty room
Photo Credit: Suriya KK / Canva Pro / License

Although you can’t control external factors like humidity and temperature, there are a few tips you can follow to help improve paint drying time and quality.

  • Don’t paint wet surfaces: If you had to clean your surface before painting, or if you’re painting outside and it rained recently, wait before painting; it’s best if the surface dries fully. 
  • Apply thin coats of paint: The thinner the coat, the faster it dries. Paint sprayers apply paint thinly. If you’re more of a manual painter, use a paint roller.
  • Use water-based paint: Water-based paint dries significantly faster than oil paint.
  • Use matte paint low in VOCs (water-based painting): If getting the job done quickly is important to you, choose paint with a lower sheen.
  • Paint in suitable weather: The best temperature for painting is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 to 70% humidity. You want minimal rain, wind, and sunlight.
  • Change the temperature (indoor painting): Of course, if you’re painting indoors, it’s as easy as adjusting your heating system.
  • Increase ventilation (indoor painting): Ventilation lets in air to help paint dry.
  • Use a fan (indoor painting): For even more airflow, try using a fan.
  • Use a dehumidifier (indoor painting): No matter how good of a job you do with your painting project, humidity can destroy your masterpiece. Using a dehumidifier may solve the problem.
  • Use an accelerator: This option is available for some types of paint. It should speed up the drying times. Make sure you pick the right paint and accelerator and follow the instructions.

FAQ

Can paint dry too quickly?

Yes, paint can dry too quickly. If it does, it may not adhere properly to the surface and can result in a poor finish. Warm weather, direct sunlight, and low humidity can all lead to this problem.

Can paint dry too slowly?

Yes, paint can also dry too slowly. It may not adhere properly and even crack or peel. Cold weather and high humidity make it especially likely for paint to dry slowly.

Does my application method affect drying times?

Drying times should usually be similar whether you use a paint brush, a paint roller, or a paint sprayer. However, there are slight differences between application methods.

Your application method will affect your paint drying times if you’re applying thicker coats of paint. Generally, paint rollers apply thinner layers than paint brushes. But paint sprayers apply even thinner layers.

Also, if you create a rough texture on your wall, expect that to have a different drying time. 

How to clean up paint spills and drips?

The sooner you clean up paint spills and drips, the better. If you can clean them up before the paint has dried to the touch, you’ll get rid of them a lot quicker. Here’s a guide to cleaning up paint.

DIY or Hire a Pro

Before you embark on your next DIY venture, you have to make sure you’re on the right track. This includes the typical paint drying times as well as how weather affects them. But it’s also fine to acknowledge that your painting project may need a touch from an experienced painting pro. Find painting services near you.

Main Image Credit: bdspnimage / Canva Pro / License

Judith Gallova

Judith Gallova is a freelance writer living in Slovakia. She found her passion for writing when she created her first blog at the age of 10. Later on, she started working in marketing, and eventually combined her writing and marketing skills to become a freelance writer. In her free time, she often studies the Bible, goes to the gym, spends time with loved ones, and enjoys all things art and design.