People either love or hate the dry time of acrylic paints. Luckily, if you’re in the latter category, there are methods to make acrylic paint dry faster and methods to make it dry slower, depending on your needs.
If you’re working on a painting with multiple layers, or you’re trying to get a commissioned painting done quickly for a customer, you’ll need methods for drying acrylic paint faster – not slower.
So, what is the most efficient method for drying acrylic paint? The most efficient methods for drying acrylic paint include using a hair dryer, applying the paint in thin layers, using student grade paints, avoiding mediums, and painting in an environment with good airflow and warmth with low humidity.
Luckily, there are several methods for making acrylic paint dry faster. Read through our list of the most efficient methods below and start experimenting to see which one is best for you.
The 7 Most Efficient Methods For Drying Acrylic Paint
Sometimes time is of the essence. Whether you’re a parent trying to get some painting done quickly while the kids are napping, or you’re a student trying to paint in your small down time between classes, you need every second that you can get.
If you’re on a time constraint with your art, try one of the 7 methods below for drying your acrylic paint quickly.
1. Hair Dryer
The first method for drying acrylic paint is to use a hair dryer.
If you’ve ever participated in a paint-and-sip class, then you’re familiar with using hair dryers on acrylic paint. At the end of the class, there’s always a long line at the hair dryer station for everyone to dry their paintings before heading home.
This is because the heat combined with the air flow that a hair dryer provides can help speed up the process of drying acrylic paint. It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t put the hair dryer right on the painting, or only a couple inches away.
Acrylic paints can be exposed to heat to help them dry, but they shouldn’t have heat directly blasted at them. High heat can cause the paint to bubble and burn (read the last section in this article for more information).
Instead, hold the hair dryer about 8-12 inches away from the painting, giving the paint ample space between the source of the hot air.
2. Thin Layers
The easiest (and probably cheapest) method for drying your acrylic paints faster is to apply them in thin layers.
Not only is this cheap because it doesn’t require a purchase of a helping tool, such as a hair dryer, but it’s also cheap because it helps you save money on paint by using less!
When acrylic paint is applied in thick layers, it may feel dry to the touch after 30 minutes, but underneath will still be a wet mess. Only the top layer has dried from exposer to air, and the paint underneath needs more time.
You can avoid this problem by applying your paint in thin layers. This doesn’t mean thinning the paint with a medium (which we’ll talk about more in method 7), but rather using a small amount of paint.
To effectively employ this method, dab your paintbrush into your paint, then wipe some of the excess off onto your palette before putting your brush to the canvas. This will help cut down on the amount of paint you use.
You can always add more paint to the canvas if it isn’t spreading right, but it’s harder to take paint away once it’s been globbed on.
Start with less and add more as needed, keeping in mind that you’re going to add more layers if it looks too thin and spotty.
3. Good Airflow
The environment you’re working in will have a huge impact on your painting’s dry time. The first environmental factor that will affect the dry time is the air circulation.
In an ideal world, you would be working in a room that has a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan can provide a nice amount of circulation while avoiding direct air flow shooting at the canvas.
If your painting room doesn’t have a ceiling fan, try opening a window. The natural breeze from outside can help provide enough circulation to speed up the dry time of your acrylic paints.
Artists are used to working in any spare space they can find, so if your painting space doesn’t have a ceiling fan or any windows, don’t worry. You can still add good airflow!
You can get a simple oscillating fan to increase the circulation in your painting studio. Set it up in a corner and set it to oscillate so the head will turn and provide decent airflow to the whole room.
Avoid putting a fan right next to or in front of a painting. Too much direct airflow can cause the paint to crack.
4. Warm Room
The next environmental factor that can affect your acrylic paint drying time is the temperature.
Acrylic paints dry faster in a warm environment than in a cool environment. This is because warmth helps moisture to evaporate faster.
If you want to help your acrylic paints dry faster, try painting during warm summer months with the windows open, or turning up the heat in your home.
A little added warmth goes a long way. For people who like to keep their homes cool, keep in mind that we’re not recommending you set your thermostat to 80°F.
You can set it anywhere between 71-75°F and that will provide sufficient warmth to decrease the dry time.
In the summer, you can set your thermostat to whatever you want if you open the windows. Let the warm summer breeze flow into the room naturally and increase the heat just in your painting studio.
5. Use A Dehumidifier (Lower The Humidity)
The last environmental factor that has a significant impact on your paint’s drying time is humidity.
It should go without saying that if you’re working in a high-humidity environment, the added moisture in the air will work against you as you try to dry your acrylic paints.
Sometimes high humidity can’t be avoided. For those who live in naturally humid areas such as southern Texas or Florida, try using a dehumidifier.
It’s easy to find a dehumidifier that works for the square footage of your space, so measure your room and find one that’s rated to work for the amount of space you have.
A dehumidifier will suck in the humid air and pump out clean, dry air. This will help lower the humidity in your painting studio and speed the drying process of your acrylic paints.
6. Use Student Grade Paint
Sometimes it just comes down to the type of paints you use. While there are fast-drying and slow-drying paints, an easy way to choose a fast-drying paint is to find student grade paints.
Typically, artist grade acrylic paints will dry slower than student grade acrylic paints. This isn’t always true and will vary based on the brand, but it works as a general guidance.
Liquitex is a great brand for fast drying paints. Their Basics line of acrylic paints are intended for students or beginners working with acrylic paints. These paints tend to dry as quickly as 10-20 minutes.
Using student grade paints may not be the most attractive option for professional artists, but if you’re in a hurry and need to get a painting done quickly, they’ll dry much faster than your expensive artist paints.
7. Don’t Mix In Mediums
The final method for helping your acrylic paints to dry faster is to avoid mixing in paint mediums. There are some mediums designed to help paint dry slower, such as an acrylic paint retarder.
These work great if you need more time for blending your paint layers before they dry, but will obviously work against you if your goal is drying more quickly.
Other mediums, while not designed to make the paint dry slower, can have that impact anyway.
You won’t know what kind of impact a paint medium will have on your acrylic paint dry time until you add it in, so if you’re going for a fast dry time, your best bet is just to avoid using them altogether.
Why To Avoid High Heat When Drying Acrylic Paint
If you search online for methods to help acrylic paint dry faster, some articles may advise you to use a heat gun, space heater, or heat lamp.
This is bad advice, and in reality, you should avoid using all three of those items. Exposing your acrylic paint to high, direct heat can cause the paint to bubble and burn. It will warp and ruin your painting before it has a chance to dry properly.
If you do have a space heater that you regularly use in a room during the winter, you can still keep it in the room, just avoid setting your painting directly next to or in front of it.
Heat guns and heat lamps will provide too much heat, so avoid using these completely. For a specific example of the ways a heat gun can destroy your painting, watch the video below from Lachri Fine Art.
In the video, she tells a story that demonstrates why hair dryers are the best way to use heat to dry your painting, and why heat guns should be avoided at all costs.