How Long Does Spray Paint Take To Dry? It’s Complicated

Spray paint is a helpful tool when you want to bring a quick facelift to your old furniture. But is it really quick to see the results? How long does spray paint take to dry? And what can we do to speed it up?

Those are all reasonable questions if you’re not familiar with spray paint yet.

In fact, answering them is not as easy as it sounds, and we can’t give you a definite number. The drying process is complicated, and there are various factors impacting it.

So to understand the issue fully, we must begin with this process.

​Drying Stages

Drying stagesYou need to wait for the paint to dry first. Otherwise, you may risk ruining the whole thing you just have done and must start over again.

Before it is completed, the drying process goes through these four stages.

Surface-dry

That is right after you’re done with the paintwork.

In this first stage, you will find that the paint is still sticky every time you touch it. This is because the solvent in the spray paint just starts to evaporate, leaving a thick layer on the surface.

Touch-dry

In this next stage, while the paint is not fully dry yet, you won’t feel sticky when touching it anymore. This is when the surface is a bit more solid and harder.

It may come off if you put light pressure on the paint, even when there is nothing sticky in your fingers.

Many people make a wrong assumption, thinking the drying process is finished. As a result, there are many scratches and marks happening during this tough, dry stage.

Hard-dry

The paint now has become more solid compared with the tough dry stage. You can apply a very light pressure without risking scratching it.

But remember: we don’t recommend you to do so since with enough pressure, damages may still happen.

On top of that, if you press your fingers firmly on it, you will see their mark, although the surface is no longer sticky.

Thorough-dry

The final stage is also when the surface is ready to use. Given enough time, the paint will dry completely, and no pressure from your fingers can damage it.

Factors Contributing to the Drying Time

Though the paint goes through the same stages every time you spray paint, the exact drying time varies. Let’s get started with the formulas and ingredients, which play a major role in this.

Type of Paint

Type of paint

  • Enamel (Latex) paint: Enamel paint begins to dry within just a few minutes, mainly thanks to the evaporation rate of the paint solvent. The presence of air between the links of the polymers creates a firm finishing surface.
    Once you’ve done the painting, the surface may take up to 30 minutes to have a tough-dry. And you need to wait 8 hours for a hard-dry surface.
  • Lacquer paint: The drying time is shorter with lacquer paint.
    The desertion of solvent is typically the only requirement for the paint to completely dry. In some Enamel products, you can use the water to weaken it before using to get the same effect.
    Made of thermoplastic polymers, the drying process of Lacquer paint starts just after three or five minutes. And usually, within three hours, you can have hard-dry paint in your furniture.
  • Epoxy (Polyurethane) paint: This is the fastest paint to dry.
    With Epoxy paint products, you need to mix and wait a bit to let the special chemical reactions take place. But once you’re done the paintwork, Epoxy paint will get to the hard-dry stage within just one hour.

The Surfaces You’re Painting on

The surfaces you're painting onThe properties of the surface you want to spray paint on affect how to it takes it to dry.

To understand this point, we’re going to have a look at the most common surfaces: rubber, plastic, glass, metal, and cardboard.

  • Rubber: Since rubber is porous, we recommend waiting for 30 minutes before you apply a new paint layer.
    Also, remember that on rubber, spray paint needs at least 24 hours to come to the dry stage. You may need to plan far ahead if you want to give a new look to rubber objects.
  • Plastic: This is indeed one of the simplest materials for painting, which only requires around 30 minutes for the hard-dry stage. But you will probably need to let the paint coats sit for around 3 hours before it reaches the dry stage.
  • Glass: Spraying paint on glass is a tricky task.
    If you can’t provide enough time for the paint to dry, it may drip some marks on the surface. Try as much as you can to spray each layer gently. And before applying a new coat, wait for 15 minutes first.
    And all of them need at least 24 hours before drying fully.
  • Metal: There are various metal objects and appliance spray paint to which can help bring a fresh look, including cars, refrigerators, doorknobs, etc.
    When there is no humidity, and the room is warm enough, the paint may need only 10 minutes to dry.
  • Cardboard: With soft textures, cardboard is vulnerable to accidental damage if you are not careful with what you’re trying to do. But on the other hand, it is one of the materials that require very little time to dry.
    In well-ventilated spaces, you won’t need more than 20 minutes for the paint on cardboard to dry.

The Thickness of the Paint Coat

The thickness of the paint coatThe rule of thumb is simple and obvious: the thicker the paint coat, the longer the drying time.

So to get a layer that is thick enough to protect the surface behind without taking too much time to dry, you must use the correct amount. Luckily for you, spray paint brings the ability to control this amount of paint.

You won’t have this when you paint with, for example, a brush.

Always use a thin paint layer when possible to make sure the drying time is shortest. You can also use a paint solvent or thinner before starting to paint to have a thinner coat.

Read More: How Long to Wait Between Paint Coats

Environmental Factors

Too much humidity in the air makes the paint dry slower. Cold temperatures, on the other hand, may cause some problems with its consistency.

So the ideal environment to work on paintwork is warm rooms where you can have low humidity. This makes sure your paint’s going to take less time to be usable.

How to Get Shorter Drying Time

If you don’t like the idea of waiting too long before your chair is ready to use after spraying paint on it, there are many things you can try.

These tips come from the mechanism behind how the paint dries and the factors affecting it.

Paint Outside

Paint outsideWorking outside on paintwork makes it dry quicker.

You can use whatever you have: your backyard, the driveway, etc. They provide more space to work with while the winds make sure you won’t breathe in a lot of harmful fumes.

But remember to check out the weather forecast. We’re sure you’ll hate it if it suddenly starts to rain when you’ve just completed half of the painting.

The perfect day for painting outdoors is warm days with low humidity. For large projects, you should begin early in order to finish it before the day ends.

Use a Fan

shorter drying timeEven when you can’t find a way to work outdoors, it’s not the end of the world.

Since ventilation plays a huge role in how the paint dries, use at least a fan to enable better airflow.

Open as many doors and windows as possible. This way, the air can flow freely in and out of the room. Putting a fan beside the windows also helps.

Don’t turn off the fan when you’ve finished. Just let it run until the paint dry completely.

And guess what? You won’t get a headache caused by the fumes either.

Turn on the Heater

As you can see from the previous part, higher temperatures also help in the drying process. Turning on your heater, especially when the heat is coming right at your paintwork, makes it dry faster.

So in Short, How Long does the Spray Paint Take to Dry?

the spray paint take to dryThe exact answer depends on pretty much everything related to the painting process.

With epoxy paint, you can have a hard-dry surface within an hour while enamel paint is going to take around 8 hours to reach this stage. The material of the surface also matters. Metal objects don’t need much time, but you may need up to a full day with rubber surfaces.

To speed it up, paint outside when you can, or at least make sure the room is warm and has good ventilation.

Final Words

Spray paint, which seems to be simple, is not easy to handle if you don’t know much about it. The painting steps are one thing, and the drying process is another story.

If you find that our article helps you have the results you like, share it with your friends so they can also bring a new look to their furniture.