How Long Does Primer Take to Dry? — Actual Drying Times

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Painting and finishing a woodworking project can truly elevate its look, giving it vibrant color and distinctive character. But there’s an essential step before that final touch: priming the surface. 

Knowing the drying time of the primer can be the difference between a flawless finish and a flawed one. So in this guide, I’ll share how long it takes for primer to dry to ensure you nail this critical stage every time. Let’s dive in!

Drying Time of Different Primers

Different types of primers have different drying times:

Latex Primer

A latex primer is water-based. This product can be applied to unfinished surfaces and has a relatively fast drying time. Most latex primers take approximately 30 to 60 minutes to dry completely. 

Spray Primer

A spray primer takes one to six hours to dry completely. It is common practice to apply a spray primer up to two hours before you apply paint. 

paint primer

Wood Primer

Wood primers take about 30 minutes to approximately 2 hours to dry. It has a faster drying time since its formulation includes water as its solvent. It can be applied on raw wood or stained wood.

Acrylic Primer

The drying time for acrylic primer ranges from 30 minutes to 4 hours, and it has the potential to cure within approximately 2 hours following its initial application.

Drying Time Between Coats

Make sure to give a coat enough time to cure or dry before applying the next one. It will take approximately 60 minutes of drying time in between coats. This can help you plan the application of the second coat.  

Top 20 Primers' Actual Drying Times

Primers can vary significantly between brands, with each having its own unique formulation. This means that drying times can differ based on both the brand and the specific type of primer.

Generally, there are four types of primers which include: self-priming, latex, shellac primers, and oil-based primers. 

applying paint primer on wooden frame

Here is a table showing the different drying times of primers manufactured by different brands with their corresponding types:  

BrandTypeDrying Time
BEHR Premium PlusSelf-priming paint1 to 2 hours
Kilz Adhesion PrimerLatex30 minutes
Kilz 2 All-PurposeLatex60 minutes
Kilz Mold &MildewLatex30 to 60 minutes
Kilz OriginalOil-based30 to 60 minutes
Prestige PaintsSelf-priming paint1 to 2 hours
RUST-OLEUM 249933Latex60 minutes
Rust-oleum MetalOil-based2 to 4 hours
Rust-oleum PrimerOil-based2 to 4 hours
Rust-Oleum ShellacShellac30 minutes
Valspar 1533 LatexLatex60 minutes
Valspar Anti PrimerOil-based2 to 4 hours
Valspar Anti-RustOil-based2 to 4 hours
Zinsser Bull’s EyeLatex60 minutes
Zinsser Cover stainOil-based30 to 60 minutes
Zinsser Mold Killing PrimerLatex30 minutes
Zinsser Multi-Purpose PrimerLatex30 minutes
Zinsser OdorlessOil-based30 to 60 minutes
Zinsser Rust-OleumLatex60 minutes

Factors Affecting the Drying Time of Primers

Knowing how long does it take for primers to dry will help you plan and time your painting project. It is also advantageous to know the different factors that affect the drying times of primers. 

mixing oil-based primer

Brand/Type of Primer

The brand, as well as the primer type, can affect the time intended for drying. These different types include self-priming, shellac, latex, and oil-based primer. 

Oil-Based Dry Time

Oil-based primers are highly flexible and can be applied on bare wood or new drywall [1] and as a sealant to surfaces. Oil primers take a longer time to dry. These oil-based primers take up to four hours to dry the surface completely. 

Water-Based Dry Time

Water-based primers or latex primers dry quickly. Water-based primers dry as quickly as within 60 minutes or about an hour. 

Shellac

Shellac primers can do wonderful work when covering stains such as smoke stains and water stains. Furthermore, this primer can ward off bad odors. A shellac primer can dry within 60 minutes.  

shellac primer

Self-Priming Paint

Self-priming paint is basically paint and primer in one formulation. A self-priming paint can completely dry in a matter of two hours. 

Application

The type of application and surface can affect the drying times of primers. Applying a primer on a wood surface will have a shorter time for drying compared to priming metal.

Humidity and Temperature

Careful planning is needed when applying primer for your paint job. It is also best to read the manufacturer’s guidelines to get an idea of the ideal temperature and plan accordingly. 

Extreme temperatures, such as a very hot ambient temperature and high humidity, can extend the drying times of a primer. 

(But what if you’re using Thompson’s Waterseal and it doesn’t dry. To learn how can you fix this issue, read it next!) 

drying paint

On the other hand, extremely cold temperatures may result in a very thick primer layer, making application challenging. 

Indoors or Outdoors?

You have the option to apply primer indoors or outdoors. Before applying the primer, make sure to check the current weather conditions. A higher temperature tends to be optimal for drying, but high humidity can significantly extend the drying time.

Applying the primer indoors is easier since you can regulate the temperature and humidity. However, it takes a longer time. 

On the other hand, priming outdoors is difficult since you have no control over the current weather conditions. However, primers applied outside will take a shorter time to dry. 

Air Condition/Ventilation

The ambient air condition and the ventilation can affect the primer drying time. A primer dries faster when there is good air circulation will let the primer dry quickly. 

ventilation system

Coating Thickness and Surface

The thickness of the coat on the surface is a factor to take note of regarding the drying time of primers. Applying a light coat or layers of thinner coats will typically dry faster compared to thick coats. 

However, bear in mind that a thin coat might not be enough to cover damages on the surface. 

How Many Coats of Primer are Recommended?

It is best to read the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the number of coats to apply on the surface. Two coats of primer are good, but make sure to consult the manufacturer’s instructions. 

How to Apply Primer the Quickest Way

Now that you know how long a primer takes to dry based on several factors, you can go ahead and plan your project. Choose the appropriate primer with the materials and time that you have. 

tools for painting

Tools

Step #1: Pick Your Preferred Primer

When selecting a primer, take into account the type of wood surface you’re working with and the paint or topcoat you intend to use. Both factors are crucial in ensuring a seamless primer application and a flawless finish.

Step #2: Ready the Surface

Prepare the surface by cleaning it using a damp rag. Make sure that there is no dirt, oil, or grime on the surface. 

Once the surface is dry, you can proceed to sand the surface using coarse grit sandpaper. Make sure to sand along the grain. 

Step #3: Protect Your Surrounding Area

Protect the surrounding area of your workplace by placing a drop cloth or a plastic sheet on the floor. This will help catch drips and spills. 

preparing work area for painting

Step #4: Get Ready for Painting

Get ready for painting or applying the primer. Wear the necessary safety gear to protect yourself from getting spills on your body. 

Open the primer and mix it thoroughly using a stick. It is also best to read the manufacturer’s guidelines for the preparation. Separate the primer by pouring it on a paint tray. 

Step #5: Cut in the Edges and Corners

Prime the top, sides, and bottom side of each corner of your project. You can utilize a brush for this step.

Step #6: Start Applying the Primer

You can practice on a piece of wood until you are satisfied with the motion and spray pattern you have created. You can now start to paint primer on the wood surface. Make sure to use a ladder when priming drywall.

Step #7: Allow it To Dry

Allow the surface to dry. You can test it if it has dried down by touching it. Make sure that it has dried completely before applying the second coat. 

spray painting cabinet drawer

Step #8: Sand the Surface

Examine the surface and sand rough areas of your project. Remove any resulting dust and dirt as a result of this step. 

Step #9: Repeat as Needed

Examine your newly primed surface. Repeat the entire process as needed until you have achieved the intended look. If you are satisfied with your work, you can now apply a coat of paint.

Speed Up the Drying Time of Primers in 6 Ways

You may also speed up the drying time of primers. Here, I’ll share six methods that can help you reduce the drying process of your chosen primer. 

Use Your Hairdryer

Using a hairdryer on the surface will speed up the drying time. Make sure to use low heat and gently blow air over the surface to make the primer dry faster. Make sure to keep at least a 1-foot distance between the hairdryer and the wood’s exterior. 

Apply Thin Coats

A primer dries faster based on the thickness or thinness of the coat. So, make sure to apply thin coats of primer to speed up the drying time of the product. 

applying paint primer on cabinet

Increase the Air Circulation

Increased air circulation will speed up the drying time of a primer. This can easily be done by opening a window or a door. This can effectively improve air circulation. 

Maintain Low Humidity

Make sure to maintain low humidity when working on your project with a primer. You can plan accordingly by waiting for a less humid day or utilizing a dehumidifier. 

Utilize a Fast-Dry Primer

Using a fast-drying primer can effectively cut the drying time in half. It is recommended to use this product if you are applying it with a brush. 

A self-primer is one of the best options since it is a product that combines paint and primer in one formulation. 

Use a Dehumidifier

Utilize a dehumidifier to control the humidity levels of the room. Once you reach the desired level of humidity, you can let leave the surface with primer to dry.

What Happens if You Apply Paint on Primer Too Soon?

Fusion Mineral Paint Coal Black application

Applying these primers to the surface results in a protective coat before applying paint. This also ensures that the primed surface is even enough to cover the surface and protect it from damage. In addition, a primer makes sure that the paint sticks. 

However, a primer needs enough time to dry out, and applying paint on it too soon will ruin your project. It is best to let the primer dry up completely before applying thin coats of paint. Letting the primer dry will prevent a flaky surface and color peel. 

If the primer wasn’t allowed to dry properly, its adhesion power will diminish. The paint will not properly stick to the surface. The primer and paint will also mix. 

A primer dries for approximately 30 minutes. It is best to wait a bit longer to be sure. 

How Long to Wait for Primer to Dry Before Spray Painting?

The wait time between priming and spray painting truly varies based on the type of primer you’re using. I recommend you refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions on the product label or box. They’ll provide the most accurate insight for optimal results.

How Long to Wait for Primer to Dry Before Sanding?

It takes approximately an hour of waiting to let the primer dry before sanding. You can test on a small and inconspicuous part of your project to make sure that the surface is ready for sanding. 

sanding block

How Long Does Primer Take to Dry on Wooden Surfaces?

Different types of primers manufactured by different brands have different drying times. It is best to read the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the time it takes for your preferred primer to dry on wooden surfaces. 

For instance, an oil-based primer takes a longer time compared to a water-based one. 

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FAQ

Do you need 2 coats of paint over primer?

You may need 2 coats of paint over primer. However, make sure to apply even coats then one or two coats of the product are enough. Generally, the primer dries down for approximately 30 to 60 minutes.  

Should I sand every coat of primer?

It is not necessary to sand every time you apply a coat of primer. Sanding in between coats will only increase the time it takes for the project to conclude.

What’s the best method for applying primer?

A paint sprayer is among the best methods for applying a primer. A paint sprayer can create a thin and even primer coat that can dry quickly.  

How thick should I apply the first coat of paint?

The first coat of paint should be thick enough to cover the surface. Do not worry if it looks a bit patchy at first. Do now apply thick coats on the surface. You can apply the next coat to even out the surface.

Can you leave primer unpainted?

You should not leave primed surfaces unpainted. A primer allows the paint to adhere properly, allowing dirt and dust to stick to the surface. It is best to apply paint as soon as the primer is ready.

Conclusion

Primers are wonderful products when finishing your painting projects, whether big or small. They can help paint adhere to the surface effectively as well as seal porous surfaces. 

Understanding how long does primer take to dry will help you effectively plan your project and time it with the current weather conditions accordingly.  

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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