How Long Does Primer Take to Dry? (With 20 Examples)

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Whether you’re planning ahead, or you’re in the middle of a painting project, you might be wondering:

How long does primer take to dry?

Primer takes between one and four hours to dry on average. However, the exact drying time depends on the primer type, room temperature, humidity, and the surface you’re painting. Most manufacturers advise waiting at least 60 minutes before painting over the coat of primer.

In the following sections of this article, I provide:

  • The drying times of 20 popular primers, according to the manufacturers
  • A quick overview of the factors that impact drying time
  • Tips on how to reduce drying time

Let’s get started!


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Drying times vary by brand and the type of primer. There are four main types: oil-based, latex (or water-based), shellac, and self-priming.

Below is a table depicting the actual drying times for several popular primers so you can have a rough idea of how long it takes.

BrandTypeDrying Time
Kilz 2 All-PurposeLatex60 minutes
ValsparLatex60 minutes
Zinsser Bull’s EyeLatex60 minutes
Kilz Mold and MildewLatex30-60 minutes
Zinsser Rust-OleumLatex60 minutes
Kilz OriginalOil-Based30-60 minutes
Zinsser Cover StainOil-Based30-60 minutes
Rust-Oleum MetalOil-Based2-4 hours
Zinsser OdorlessOil-Based30-60 minutes
Valspar Anti-RustOil-Based2-4 hours
Zinsser B-I-NShellac25-60 minutes
Zinsser Clear B-I-NShellac25-60 minutes
Zinsser Bull’s EyeShellac30-60 minutes
Behr UltraSelf-Priming Paint1-2 hours
Behr MarqueeSelf-Priming Paint1-2 hours
Behr Premium PlusSelf-Priming Paint1-2 hours
ValsparSelf-Priming Paint30-60 minutes
HGTV HomeSelf-Priming Paint30-60 minutes
HGTV Home ShowcaseSelf-Priming Paint60 minutes
ZinsserSelf-Priming Paint30-60 minutes

Factors That Impact the Drying Time of Primer

Several factors impact the drying time, such as the primer type, temperature and humidity of the room, coating thickness, ventilation, and the surface you’re priming.

Type of Primer

There are four main types of primer: latex, oil-based, shellac, and self-priming.

Latex primers are water-based. They’re great for unfinished drywall and dry quickly. All the ones I have called listed should dry within an hour.

Oil-based primers are versatile. They are perfect for bare wood and sealing porous surfaces to provide a better foundation for the paint. They dry slower than other types of primers, though, often taking up to four hours to dry.

Shellac primers are great for covering stains, so if you’re painting onto a wall with water or smoke damage — this is the best option. They can even prevent foul odors.  These primers work well on all surfaces, including wood, metal, plaster, and plastic. Like latex, shellac primers dry quickly, usually within 60 minutes.

Self-priming paint is a paint and a primer in one. It’s designed to save you time and money since you don’t need to wait between applying each product. Most self-priming paint is dry to the touch within two hours, with many being ready for another coat in less than one hour.

Temperature and Humidity

Many brands will recommend an ideal room temperature. For instance, the Zinsser Cover Stain Primer recommends primer application environments be between 40-80°F (4-27°C) with a maximum of 85% humidity.

If the air is too hot or humid, the primer will take much longer to dry than necessary. If the air is too cold, then the primer may become too thick (especially for oil-based primers), and applying it can be challenging. Latex paints may freeze in cold weather. It’s best to wait until the temperature is steady before applying primer.

The temperature and humidity recommendations apply to both indoor and outdoor primer use. Inside it is a bit easier to manage temperature and humidity control. Set your thermometer, and if it is too humid, try a dehumidifier.

While priming outdoors, you have less control over these variables, and you might have to watch the weather forecast and wait for the optimal conditions to complete this job.

Coating Thickness

Applying thick coats of primer can prolong the drying process. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You want to use enough primer, but not too much.

Ventilation

You may need to open doors and windows for proper ventilation, especially with oil-based or shellac primers, as they contain stronger chemicals than latex primers. Good airflow helps decrease the drying time. 

Surface You’re Priming

The surface you’re priming may also affect the drying time. For instance, priming metal has a longer drying time, up to four hours. The overall process when priming stained wood, a darker surface, or new drywall will also take longer as two coats are usually needed.

How to Make Primer Dry Faster

It’s a best practice to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended drying time before painting.

However, there are several ways you can promote drying within the recommended time frame. Here are some steps you can take to speed up the process.

  • Use a fast-drying primer: If you know you’re going to be in a rush, then use a fast-drying primer. Self-priming paint is the best option because it combines the primer and paint in one. However, if a separate primer is necessary, then a latex primer is the fastest drying option.
  • Keep humidity low: Either wait for a less humid day or use a dehumidifier to reduce the house’s humidity levels.
  • Increase air circulation: Opening doors and windows on a day that isn’t too cold or humid is the best way to increase air circulation and promote drying.
  • Apply a light coat: Thinner coats will dry faster than thick coats. Apply even thin coats to speed up drying time between applications.
  • Use a hairdryer: Use a hairdryer to gently blow air on the surface you’re priming. Don’t use high heat, and keep the hair dryer at least a foot from the surface. 

What Happens if You Paint Over Primer Too Soon?

Primer is an undercoat that acts as a foundation for paint. It helps the paint adhere to the surface and increases the durability of the paint.

If you apply paint too soon, especially before the primer is 100% dry, it can ruin the job.

For instance, the primer may pull up from the wall as you apply the paint. Not only does this create a streaky mess, but the wall may look flaky, and the color could peel and look uneven.

Since primer helps with adhesion, applying paint too soon will prevent it from sticking well, and primer can mix in with the paint. 

Bottom line: don’t do it. Wait until the primer is fully dry before applying the paint. The best bet: wait longer than the recommended drying time. If a brand says to wait 60 minutes, wait a bit longer.

Once you’ve waited, test in an inconspicuous area. Either touch the primer with your finger — and if it’s dry to the touch, wait around 30 minutes more. Once you’ve waited, apply paint in an inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t flake, peel, roll up, change color, or mix in with the primer.

Final Thoughts

Let’s recap the average drying times by primer types:

  • Latex primer: Usually less than 60 minutes.
  • Oil-based primer: Between 30 minutes and 4 hours.
  • Shellac: Between 30 and 60 minutes.
  • Self-priming paint: Around one hour.

Keep in mind that this varies by brand and product, so always read the instructions on the can.

Don’t forget the factors that can impact the drying time. Make sure the room temperature is ideal, avoid priming on humid days, apply thin coats, ensure proper ventilation, and adjust according to the surface you’re painting.

Plan and be patient. The process takes time, and you might need to wait for ideal conditions.

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