How Long Does Primer Take to Dry– (with 10 Examples)

Find how long does it take for shellac, latex and oil based primer to dry
How Long Does Primer Take to Dry Image

One of the most important things you should consider when priming and painting is “How long does primer take to dry?” I’ve been asking myself this question a lot ever since I started working as a painter. 

After such a long time working with primers and paint, I perfected this skill, and I would like to prepare future painters for what they’ll encounter.

In this post, we’re going to learn.

  • How long does primer take to dry
  • What happens if you paint over primer too soon
  • Factors affecting primer’s dry time.
  • How you can make primer dry fast

Let’s dive right in;

How Long Does Primer Take to Dry?

Primers take 30 minutes to dry or up to 1 hour. However, most primers stay for 3 hours to dry completely before painting. The drying process of the primer can be faster if the temperature is warmer and there isn’t too much humidity.

So, do not paint the surface until it dries fully.  

The table below shows the actual drying time for 10 most popular primers.

Drying timeTypeBrand
2-4 hoursOil- Based Rust-Oleum Primer
2-4 hoursOil- BasedValspar Anti Primer
1-2 hoursSelf-Priming PaintBEHR Premium Plus
1-2 hours Self-Priming Prestige Paints
60 minutes LatexValspar 1533 Latex
60 minutes Latex RUST-OLEUM 249933
30 minutes Latex Zinsser Mold Killing Primer
30 minutesLatexZinsser Multi Purpose Primer
30 minutesShellacRust Oleum Shellac
30 minutesLatexKilz Adhesion Primer
Primer drying time (min to max)

Since the table is organized by the time it takes for each prime to dry, here’s a summary of drying time categorized by the type of primer.

  • Shellac primer dries between 30 and 60 minutes.
  • Latex primers dry within an hour.
  • Self-priming paint dries inside one hour
  • Oil-based primer: Ranges from half an hour to 4 hours

What Happens If You Paint Over Primer Sooner than You Should?

People use primer to add a protective coat before they apply the paint. This is usually to ensure the surface is even or to cover potential damage on the surface. However, the primer also works to ensure the paint adheres to the surface for a longer time, making it less likely for the paint to chip.

Primer needs enough time to dry, and if you apply your paint too soon, you risk ruining the job. If you wait for the primer to dry completely before you apply the paint. By letting it dry, you will prevent the primer from pulling from the wood, color peel, or ending up with a flaky-looking surface. 

When you don’t allow the primer to dry fully, you ruin its adhesion power. The paint does not stick properly to the surface, and you may even end up mixing the primer with the paint. 

Before painting, you should wait long enough to let the primer dry. Testing the area before proceeding with the paint is essential. Even if the particular primer you are using says that it dries in 30 minutes, you should wait a bit longer just to be sure. 

What Influences the Primer Drying Time?

How long to wait for primer to dry before painting is influenced by several factors. Let’s take a look;

1. The Thickness of the Coat

Applying a thin coat of primer may not be enough to cover the imperfections of the surface underneath. So, you are probably thinking of applying more. But too many coats of primer can increase the amount of time it will take to dry. 

The manufacturer gives you instructions on how much primer to apply. Two coats are usually ideal, but make sure to check the instructions first. Although you should use enough primer, you shouldn’t go overboard with it and apply too much. 

2. Primer Type

Primers come in different types. You can choose between shellac, oil-based, latex, and self-priming. All of these primers take different amounts of time to dry; that’s why you should pay attention to what primer you’re purchasing. 

  • Oil-based primers are exceptional in terms of sealing porous surfaces and when it comes to priming bare wood. Because of its adhesion power, this primer can be a great foundation for paint. But the downside is that they take longer to dry compared to other types of primers. Sometimes, they may take up to four hours to be dry to touch. 
  • Latex primers are water-based types of primers. If you want to prime unfinished drywall, they are ideal. They also tend to dry pretty quickly, more specifically within an hour. 

Read: Can You Use Latex Paint Over Oil Based Primer

  • Shellac primers are the ones you go to when you want to cover stubborn stains. If you have any type of damage on the surface you wish to paint, these primers will have a good performance. On top of covering stains, they can also prevent bad smells. Fortunately, these primers also dry pretty fast. It takes about an hour for the coat to dry. 
  • Self-priming paint is both a primer and a paint. What makes it great is that you spend less time on the process because the product is two-in-one. On average, it takes up to two hours for the primer to be dry to touch, and some products get ready for the next coat in less than an hour. 

3. The Surface You’re Covering

What you apply the primer on also matters when it comes to the drying time. Some surfaces will require more time than others.

For example, if you prime new drywall, stained wood, or a darker surface, it may take longer to dry as you need at least two coats to prime properly. Meanwhile, priming metal takes even longer, and you may have to wait up to four hours for it to dry. 

4. Ventilation

To make sure the primer dries even quicker, you should have enough ventilation. You can help this process by leaving your doors and windows open. It’s especially important when it comes to shellac or oil-based primers. If you ensure some good airflow, the drying time will get shorter. 

5. Humidity and Temperature

The right room temperature and humidity can also aid the drying process and make sure the primer dries faster. This is why so many brands emphasize you ensure you have the right room temperature. Some primers may need your room to be between 40-80°F. Meanwhile, the humidity should be no greater than 85%. 

When the room is too hot, you should expect the primer to take much longer to dry. But if your room’s temperature is too cold, you risk having your primer turning too thick. It’s especially true when it comes to oil-based primers, for instance. Primers such as latex ones can even freeze. So, before you prime and paint, you should ensure that you reach a proper temperature in the room. 

This doesn’t only apply to indoor applications. Even if you prime and paint a surface outdoors, if the temperature and humidity are not at the right level, you risk ruining your work. The disadvantage is that you cannot control the weather. So, you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather forecast all the time. 

How Can You Make Primer Dry Faster?

Believe it or not, but there are a few ways to make sure your primer dries faster. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, you may want to try these tricks to ensure you don’t wait an eternity for your primer to dry fully. Here is what you can do. 

1. Use a Dehumidifier

Is the room too humid? You can either wait for a less humid day to prime, or you can speed up the process a little bit. This is possible if you use a dehumidifier. This will reduce the home’s humidity levels and make it faster for the primer to dry. 

2. Buy a Fast-Drying Primer

Another solution is to purchase a primer that dries faster. There are products made specifically for fast drying, and one of the options is self-priming paint. But if you’d rather use a separate primer instead of a two-in-one option, you should consider a latex primer. 

3. Don’t Apply Thick Coats

Thick coats will take longer to dry, and since you’re looking to reduce the time you have to wait for your primer to dry, you shouldn’t apply too many coats. So, what you can do is apply a light coat instead, which will dry much faster. 

4. Open Your Windows and Doors

Increase the air circulation by opening your doors and windows. It will aid the primer dry faster. 

5. Consider Using a Hairdryer

A hairdryer may also come in handy if you cannot wait for the primer to dry by itself. Gently blow air on the surface after you prime it. Make sure you’re not using heat – the hairdryer should be on the cold-air setting. Also, keep the device at least one foot from your surface. 


Is it ok to Leave the Primer Unpainted?

No, you should never leave the primer unpainted. It would only make the surface look bad after a while, and it will never look as smooth and even as paint. It may also get damaged after a while. 

Do I Need 2 Coats of Primer?

The number of coats you need depends on the surface you’re painting, as well as the type of primer you use. You must use enough to cover imperfections, but you should also not make the coats too thick. Two coats of primer may be enough in most cases.

Will Painting too Soon Ruin the Job?

Yes, not letting the primer dry properly can ruin your job. You should always make sure it’s completely dry before applying the paint. 

Final Thoughts on Primer Drying Time

At this point, you have the answer to your question; “how long does primer take to dry?” Before priming, you must prepare yourself for the job and be patient. You also need to find the right type of primer that will work with your chosen paint.

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