How Long Does It take Primer to Dry? Best Priming Tips 2022

Painting wood surfaces is an affordable way to change your home’s appearance. And for the best result on your paint, you need a primer.

But how long does it take primer to dry?

The primer needs about one to 24 hours to dry thoroughly in standard humidity and temperature levels.

The ideal temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Celsius, and relative humidity is 50 percent.

The primer should dry properly before adding the topcoat.

Further, the drying duration will vary depending on the humidity, temperature, and product brand.

So, check out the guide below for more insight into using the formula.

What Is Wood Primer?

Wood primer is the preparatory undercoat applied on wood before painting.

It enhances paint adhesion, increases the coat’s durability, and protects the surface.

Some primers comprise a solvent, additive agent, and synthetic resin, while others include polyurethane for better durability.

The product adheres to surfaces and forms a building layer that quickly receives the paint.

Further, compared to paint, primers are not the outermost durable finish.

Instead, they improve filling and binding qualities with the underneath material.

Sometimes, you can get the above result by chemistry, like when using aluminum primer. 

But you only deliver a successful result by controlling the primer’s physical attributes, such as its tackiness, porosity, and hygroscopy.

How Long Does It take Primer to Dry?Primers work best with porous materials such as wood and concrete.

Nonetheless, they are mandatory when working with surfaces exposed to water and elements.

Priming drywall or gypsum boards is standard practice with most constructions.

It seals the wall from water and prevents mold and mildew growth.

You can also use the formula on dirty surfaces that are difficult to clean or before painting a light finish over a dark finish.

Manufacturers provide tinted primers to match the finishing paint’s color.

In addition, the products reduce the layers needed to deliver a uniform surface.

The product also hides seams and joints to deliver a uniform appearance.

You can use a primer on the following surfaces:

  • Wood

Lumber is quite porous and absorbs the solvent in paint, causing it to dry more quickly.

Fortunately, this is desirable as most paints undergo chemical reactions during curing.

For instance, alkyd and latex-based paints polymerize when drying, which depends on the solvent or water evaporating slowly.

As a result, the primer layer prevents the underlying lumber surface from prematurely absorbing paint solvents.

Also, it reduces the paint coats needed to deliver complete coverage and an even color. 

A thin paint layer is still water permeable, meaning moisture can penetrate the surface and cause mildew, warping, and dry rot.

Primer improves the paint’s waterproofing abilities.

But the formula is not ideal when applying wood stain as it obscures the wood grain.

Further, primers differ from wood sealers as the latter does not hide the wood grain entirely.

Wood primers are often comparable to finish paint, and their price depends on the ingredients’ quality.

  • Metal

Untreated aluminum needs a primer to deliver a successful outcome, especially if it experiences moisture exposure.

Oxidation begins when water seeps through the bare metal and causes rust.

Thus, applying a metal primer is prudent to protect the surface against corrosion.

You can also use the product on metal hydroxides/oxides to enhance the surface’s conditions and encourage bonding.

Otherwise, metals that are susceptible to peeling will soon fail without a primer.

Further, particular primer types, such as rust-converters, convert rust to solid metal salts.

However, this process does not work for structural steel.

Gluing and painting aluminum is essential in the aircraft industry.

Therefore, you need zinc chromate primers to add the needed adhesion qualities.

  • Plastic

Primers are only necessary on plastic when making a significant color change.

Such color changes could be going from dark brown to white or expecting a long-lasting paint coat.

Most household plastics are non-porous and not vulnerable to moisture.

Nonetheless, a primer reduces the needed paint layers to cover the previous color completely.

In addition, it enables the paint to bond tightly with the surface. Hence, you deliver a durable result.

Most primers and paints used for plastics are not water-based.

So, ensure that the primer’s solvent or propellant does not warp or dissolve the plastic part.

Also, test the primer and paint on a less visible area before applying them to the entire surface.

You can choose from the following primer options:

Types of Primers

  • Latex Primers

Standard latex primer is water-based, making it less likely to peel or crack after curing. In addition, it can last up to thirty days.

You can paint the formula any time after drying. However, after thirty days, you’ll have to re-coat another primer layer before painting.

Latex primers work better with acrylic and other water-based paints. They are also flexible and dry quickly.

You only wait about three to four hours before adding the topcoat.

Further, the primer is excellent if you want to paint a workpiece in one day.

Therefore, it works well for interior and exterior uses like masonry, plaster, drywall, woodwork, and painted metal.

Also, thanks to the water base, the formula is easy to clean using water and soap.

  • Oil-Based Primers

Oil-based or alkyd primers are from oil and feature a broader application range than latex products.

The formula is perfect for both latex and oil-based paints and multiple surfaces.

In addition, you can use it for indoor and outdoor uses like painting metal and wood surfaces.

Woodworkers prefer oil-based primers as they can handle temperature fluctuations.

The paint film contracts or expands, making it flexible as it dries.

Moreover, you won’t need to use paint thinners for a successful result.

Oil-based primers feature a stain-blocking element, keeping stains from showing through the paint.

Even better, they can fix various stains ranging from water, ink, and nicotine.

However, the product dries slowly, needing 24 hours or more to dry thoroughly. 

In addition, it releases high VOC amounts, which are harmful with prolonged exposure.

  • Shellac Primers

Shellac primer is highly adhesive and fast drying.

The primer is perfect for small outdoor spots and interior painting, and you can use it with oil and latex paints.

Shellac blocks stains and world well in areas with smoke or severe moisture damage.

Lastly, expect the primer to dry in an hour, but you’ll need denatured alcohol for cleaning and thinning the paint.

  • Urethane Primers

This primer is excellent for layering paint, sanding, and generating stunning colors.

You can use the formula on steel, aluminum, fiberglass, iron, and other previously painted surfaces.

As a result, it is perfect for automotive undercoats.

Urethane primer is a filler product in painting cars and helps complete the bodywork.

Moreover, urethane is a primer surfacer, meaning it fills holes on surfaces more than other products.

However, unlike epoxy, the formula does not deliver any rust-preventing chemicals.

Therefore, you may need to add an etching or epoxy primer before the urethane to keep the rust away.

The primer also delivers a satisfactory outcome on concrete, wood, and some plastic surfaces.

Urethane primer can handle as many coats as needed to deliver full coverage.

Also, you can apply the next coat after 30 minutes to 18 hours.

  • Epoxy Primers

Epoxy primer delivers a non-porous finish and is effective for sealing bare metal or wood and preventing moisture.

The product offers superior adhesion and chemical resistance against high humidity or wetness.

Thus, you can use it as rust and corrosion-resistant base coat for plastic, steel, and fiberglass.

Epoxy primer’s design makes it excellent for hiding cracks and dents. Therefore, it is common in automotive applications.

The product needs between 30 minutes to one hour to dry thoroughly.

But you’ll need to clean and resand the surface if you leave the finish for more than a week.

  • Acrylic Lacquer Primers

This primer is a premium surfacer accommodating automotive painting.

Besides, it offers a durable surface and adheres tightly to metal.

Acrylic primer is easy to apply. So, you do not need car painting experience to deliver a satisfactory outcome. 

Lacquer is usually among the most expensive alternatives, but this primer type is more affordable.

In addition, acrylic lacquer primers quickly dry and feel dry after 20 minutes.

However, it is best to wait until 24 hours before sanding or buffing the surface. Otherwise, you’ll damage the primer coat.

Factors Affecting the Drying Time of Primer

Several factors affect the primer’s drying time.

They include temperature and humidity levels, primer type, ventilation, coating thickness, and the surface you are priming.

  • Temperature and Humidity

Most primer brands recommend 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a maximum of 85 percent humidity.

The product will take longer to dry when the air is too humid or hot.

On the other hand, the finish will become too thick when the air is too cold.

Also, latex paints may freeze in cold weather. Thus, it is best to apply the formula when the temperature is steady.

The above humidity and temperature recommendations apply to both outdoor and indoor applications.

However, it is easier to manage humidity and temperature controls indoors.

Set a thermometer and use a dehumidifier if it is too humid.

You have less control over these variables when priming outdoors.

Therefore, check the weather forecast and wait for optimal conditions.

  • Type of Primer

We have four primary primer types: Oil-based, shellac, latex, and self-priming.

Oil-based primers are versatile. They seal porous surfaces to deliver a better foundation for the paint.

However, the formula dries slower than other primer types, often needing four hours to dry.

Shellac primers excellently cover stains, making them ideal for walls with smoke and water damage.

Even better, they prevent foul odors.

The product works well on metal, wood, plastic, and plaster surfaces and dries within sixty minutes.

Latex primers are usually water-based and best suited for unfinished drywall.

In addition, they dry within one hour, allowing you to complete the job in one day.

Self-priming paint is a ‘paint and primer in one. Manufacturers design it to save money and time.

The formula dries within two hours, but most brands are ready for another coat in an hour.

  • Ventilation

The room’s ventilation can increase or lower the primer’s drying duration.

So, open the windows and use fans or a dehumidifier to increase circulation.

As a result, you’ll remove excess humidity that lengthens the drying time.

Also, remember that atmospheric dust and particles attach to the primer during drying.

Therefore, ensure proper ventilation for a professional finish.

Shellac and oil-based primers have more potent chemicals.

And having unrestricted airflow is prudent to avoid inhaling the fumes.

  • Surface You’re Priming

The surface you are priming also affects the drying time. For example, priming metal takes longer, up to four hours.

In addition, priming stained wood, new drywall, or a darker surface takes longer, as you need more than one coat.

  • Primer Application Technique

Apply the primer with a sprayer to achieve a faster drying duration. In addition, you’ll deliver a thinner coat without problems.

On the other hand, using a paintbrush result in thicker layers that take longer to dry.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You want to apply enough primer, not too little or too much.

How to Prime Wood

You should mix the primer well and know how to apply it to guarantee a successful outcome.

Fortunately, you can use a roller, spray, or brush and expect even coverage.

Spraying is a more straightforward application technique though you need several layers to deliver a desirable finish.

On the other hand, brushing requires more time and effort, but you will deliver a thinner and more uniform coat.

Also, it is advisable to prepare the wood before applying the primer. 

Take your time to prepare the surface for priming.

Besides, although this step is probably the most overlook painting part, it is the most critical.

The primer will not fill in dents, holes, cracks, and other surface imperfections. 

Moreover, it will not conceal the flaws after drying. Instead, they will make them more visible.

Check out the surface preparation steps below.

  • Remove Old Paint from the Wood

Removing old paint from the wood is advisable before adding a new coat.

Take a putty knife and remove the layer without being too persnickety about coverage.

Please avoid using chemical strippers unless the surface is an oil-based finish.

Scrape as much finish as possible, then apply a trisodium phosphate solution to remove the remaining loose paint and grime.

  • Rinse Well

Focus on cleaning and sanding the surface instead of scraping the finish entirely.

This exercise gives the paint a porous surface to adhere to without stripping the previous finish.

  • Fill all Deep Gouges and Dings

Use a flexible putty knife and cover all areas needing attention. Further, it is better to apply too much than little.

Sand down the area after drying and hardening. However, the surface does not need to look perfect after this step.

Use standard joint or spackle compound to fill in shallow and minor scratches. Then, let it dry before sanding.

Also, caulk areas with deep and long cracks. Use a tiny caulk bead, smooth it out well and let it dry thoroughly before sanding.

  • Sand the Surface

Sand the surface with a rough sandpaper piece and finish with a finer grit.

You can start with the area you’ve used a filler or putty before proceeding to the rest. This way, you guarantee an even feel.

Also, an 80 to 100 grit can help remove any paint on the surface. Then, a 150-grit will get the workpiece ready for priming.

Always sand along the wood grain, not against it, and keep the sanders moving.

Sanding tools to include:

  • Sheet Sander. This device is affordable and uses regular sandpaper. It is also perfect for flat surfaces.
  • Random Orbital Sander. This tool is powerful but pricey and requires sanding disks.
  • Sanding Block. The accessory is labor-intensive and works better for finishing touches or small projects.


  • Clean Off Any Wood or Dust Residue

Use a tack cloth for this step. Then, finish off with a damp rag.

You can also vacuum the surface but follow up with a tack cloth.

Next, wait for the surface to dry before applying the primer.

  • Cover Surrounding Areas to Avoid Accidental Primer Spills

Covering the wood or surface parts you do not want to paint is prudent. Use a painter’s or masking tape.

In addition, tape off the already primed sections when finishing the wood with different colors.

You can now prime the surface once it is clean and dry. Every primer brand has instructions for better application.

But below are general tips for delivering an excellent outcome.

  • Stir oil-based primers with a traditional wooden stick to mix the pigment and oil.

These compounds separate when the formula rests on the shelf.

  • Keep stirring until you deliver a homogeneous mixture, and then stir some more.
  • Next, pour the primer into a separate jar like a plastic bowl or cup before use.

This way, you prevent dried primer blobs from infiltrating the new solution and creating drag lumps and marks on the surface.

  • Add mineral spirits or the recommended solvent to thin the liquid.

The process helps to fade the brush strokes as the primer dries.

Otherwise, thick primer layers lay unevenly on the surface.

  • Use a high-quality bristle brush to apply the primer. Then, gently sand any flaws with a sanding sponge.

Here’s How to Primer Wood:

How to Make Primer Dry Faster

Fortunately, we have a few guidelines to follow to speed up your primer’s drying time. Check them out to save time.

  • Purchase a Quick-Drying Primer

A fast-drying formula saves you a lot of hassle and time.

However, primers are different, and it is best to choose a primer depending on your task and how much time you have.

Consider a polymer-modified acrylic latex or an epoxy formula when time is of the essence.

But the product is not ideal for all projects as it cracks when used over oil-based paints.

Still, it gets color down faster and is perfect if you do not have time to experiment.

  • Prime In Optimal Weather Conditions

Temperature and humidity impact how long the primer takes to dry.

For instance, you need to allow the project more time if it is humid and cold.

On the other hand, hot temperatures allow you to paint sooner.

But experts recommend choosing a day with good weather and little wind.

Therefore, think about the forecasted conditions on the day you plan to paint and plan.

  • Improve Air Circulation

Allowing air circulation is another way to fasten the primer’s drying process.

However, ensure that the paint does not touch areas you do not want to paint.

Roll or brush the primer on a day with excellent airflow.

In addition, remember that the better the ventilation, the shorter the drying time.

Improving ventilation makes you feel better during work.

It also prevents overspray from settling on furniture and objects around your home.

  • Use a Hairdryer

A hairdryer accelerates the primer’s drying duration. Thus, you spend less time waiting and get to painting sooner.

As a result, it saves time and still delivers beautiful surfaces.

  • Apply Thin Primer Coats

Thick primer coats need up to 24 hours to dry, whereas light ones typically cure in one hour.

Therefore, experts recommend thinner formula coats to shorten the drying duration between different applications.

How Many Coats of Primer Do I Need?

Two to three primer coats ensure a tight bond between the new paint and the surface.

In addition, they cover up any previous hues on the surface, especially if they are orange, red, or a strange, outdated hue.

Apply the primer liberally and let it dry before applying the topcoat.

However, the suitable primer amount matters when delivering a professional finish.

The primer consists of solvents, resins, and some pigment.

The resin conceals porous surfaces and gives a smoother surface.

As a result, the paint coat adheres better, lasts longer, and offers even coverage.

The formula limits the paint amount needed to deliver a uniform finish while offering superior protection.

Ignoring a primer or using too little allows the workpiece to soak up too much paint, leading to blotchy and dull results.

Similarly, applying too much primer causes another set of problems.

For example, too many coats or an excessively thick coat increases the risk of cracking, chipping, or crazing.

Moreover, the layers need more time to dry and thus slow down your work.

In the worst-case scenario, thick layers can damage drywall causing bubbling and peeling.

The best way to apply a primer is to use a standard roller. It gives perfect coverage and helps monitor the amount to apply.

For instance, you’re probably applying too much formula if it drips off the roller during application.

  • When to Use One Coat

One primer coat is all you need when painting over light or white paint.

A painted surface can accept another paint layer, and you do not have to stress the base coat showing through the topcoat.

Start with one primer coat when the old paint is a medium-light color, such as mint green or sky blue, and the new color is white.

Then, add a second layer if the old hue shows through after drying.

Alternatively, you can use a tinted primer. It neutralizes the underlying color and reduces the primer amount needed.

However, adding pigment reduces the formula’s ability to deliver a smooth surface.

Thus, please avoid tinting the primer more than necessary.

Finally, self-priming paint does not need a primer. And you can still deliver a professional outcome with one coat.

  • When to Use Two Coats

Most unpainted workpieces need two primer coats to deliver a durable outcome.

Some surface areas are more porous, leading to uneven paint coverage.

Besides, these areas receive paint at varying rates, leaving a blotchy paint job.

Fortunately, applying two primer coats solves the problem as the surface absorbs the first coat.

Then, the second layer finishes the work by covering the remaining spots.

Below are the recommended primer coats for different materials.

  • Wood

Apply two water- or oil-based primer coats when working with bare wood.

However, oil-based formulas perform better on bare surfaces, whereas water-based ones are ideal for smooth softwood.

Use an oil-based primer for painted wood.

Apply the first primer layer.

Allow it to cure for 12 to 24 hours for an oil-based formula and one to two hours for a water-based one.

Apply the second layer when necessary, after the first one dries.

A second coat is always necessary because lumber is highly porous.

Also, only a few primers have enough resins to fill the wood grain and pores with the first layer.

Next, lightly sand the surface when working with a water-based product.

But let it dry for approximately 24 hours for a better outcome.

  • Drywall

Start with one drywall primer-sealer layer.

You’ll build better coverage with a high-build drywall formula than the standard primer.

Check for blemishes like nicks, thin spots, and bumps when the primer layer dries.

Then, cover the spots with a second primer coat.

However, you might find the surface smooth enough to paint after one coat.

  • Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)

Apply two or three oil-based primer coats. Further, please avoid water-based products as they roughen the surface.

MDF does not absorb formula as quickly as lumber. Thus, give the project at least 24 hours curing time between coats. 

  • Plaster

You need an oil-based stain-blocking formula for plaster as it is susceptible to lime stains.

Even worse, these stains can bleed through the final paint coat.

Apply one layer. Then, let it cure for 12 to 24 hours before applying the second coat.

  • Concrete

Apply two water-based primer coats.

You can use an acrylic primer, polyurethane, or epoxy and expect a satisfactory result.

  • Masonry

Start with one water-based latex primer coat and allow it to cure for one to two hours.

Then, add another if the stains show through the finish.

However, masonry affected by mildew or efflorescence needs two coats for a durable result.

In addition, use a stain-killing primer if the surface has prominent stains.

NB: If unsure about the primer coats to apply, consult a paint store or the product’s manufacturer.

Otherwise, use one coat and examine the surface after drying.

Then, apply another layer if it appears poro5. s, rough, or heavily colored.

How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting?

Leaving the primer to dry before painting is advisable. But you do not want to leave the finish for too long.

Therefore, knowing how long the formula needs to cure helps determine the available duration before painting.

Most primers need between 30 minutes to one hour to dry thoroughly.

However, some options can take an entire, depending on the manufacturer.

In addition, temperature and humidity levels alter the time needed to dry.

Thus, check the product label or instruction manual to determine the exact waiting duration. 

Also, give the finish at least 24 hours before painting if in doubt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of these questions are:

  • Can I Paint Without Primer?

Any painting task requires proper preparation to deliver the desired outcome.

Although you can paint without a primer, the result will not be professional.

The formula enhances adhesion and guarantees longevity.

A primer also helps with uneven surfaces, adding a glossy base and color transitions.

However, the priming steps depend on the workpiece and the paint type.

In addition, not every paint job needs a primer.

For instance, you can omit a primer when repainting a wall to change color or covering a small area.

Porous and glossy surfaces cannot hold paint formula well without a primer.

Thus, ignoring the formula can compromise the project’s longevity.

Alternatively, you can use self-priming paints.

They do not need a primer to seal the surface and help save time and money.

  • What Happens If I Paint Over Primer Too Soon?

A primer creates a barrier between the surface and the paint coat.

Therefore, it minimizes chipping and peeling risks.

However, the primer becomes lumpy and peels off when you do not give it enough drying time.

The above occurs with liquefied formulas as atmospheric moisture makes them too soft. As a result, they liquefy.

Fortunately, we have two sure strategies to avoid the process.

First, increase your workspace’s ventilation. Install an air conditioner or set up a fan.

This way, you decrease humidity levels and shorten the drying time.

Secondly, use a spray on primer. The thick coat ensures uniform coverage and minimizes errors.

Other potential issues associated with applying paint too soon are bubbling and streaking.

  • How Long Can Primer Sit Before Painting?

The primer type determines how long it can sit on a surface before painting.

Some latex formulas can sit for 30 days, whereas oil primers cannot sit for more than 14 days.

Check the product label to determine the exact duration the finish can sit on the workpiece unfinished.

In addition, the can should show the maximum duration the formula can sit before you need to re-prime.

Heat and humidity can alter these standing times. Thus, consider working on an optimal and fair-weather day.

You’ll need to reprime the surface if you leave the finish longer than the recommended time.

Moreover, dust and grime can cover the workpieces after a specific time.

This scenario is not ideal for the topcoat’s texture.

Lastly, the primer may decay, compromising its ability to grip the paint. Even worse, it will appear uneven.

  • What Should I Avoid When Applying an Oil-Based Primer?

Do not apply latex paint over an oil finish without using an oil-based primer.

Otherwise, you will crack the paint and cause an unsightly surface.

Eliminate all loose paint traces before applying the primer coat as they damage the surface.

In addition, conduct a lead test before priming walls to guarantee a successful outcome.

Please avoid brushing over the same spot again lest you roughen the surface and leave ugly brush marks.

Instead, let the area dry completely and sand the surface till it smooths.

  • How Do I Know an Oil-Based Primer is Dry?

The best way to tell whether the primer is ready is to evaluate the surface frequently.

Generally, the surface is ready for painting if you can touch the finish, and it does not feel sticky or come off on your finger.

Please ensure the primer is dry before sanding, especially if you notice any flaws. 

Smoothing a wet finish compromises the result and may even require you to start the process.


Top coating a surface seems like a relatively straightforward process, but there are a few guidelines to guarantee success. 

One of the exercises is to apply the primer before painting, and most woodworkers ask:

How Long Does It Take Primer to Dry?

Most latex primers dry within 30 minutes to an hour.

However, we have other formulas that need up to 24 hours for a successful outcome.

In addition, experts recommend temperature levels of about 77 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity.

So, cooler temperatures and high humidity prolong drying time.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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