How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting? (3-Step Guide)

Are you wondering how long you should let that primer dry before you paint over it?

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, you'll learn:

  • How long it will take the primer to dry
  • How to tell when the primer has dried fully through
  • Factors that can influence your primer’s drying time

And much more!

How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting? (3-Step Guide)

So before you buy a can of primer and start brushing it onto your walls, keep reading to learn more about how to know when to paint over your primer.

What Do You Need To Know About How Long Primer Should Dry?

Using primer may be a little daunting for first-timers doing a painting project.  

One of the most common questions is, “How long should primer dry before painting?” 

Putting a coat of paint on drywall may seem like a relatively straightforward task, but there are a few key steps to ensure from first coat to final color your paint job goes smoothly. 

One of the most crucial of these steps is the application of primer on the surface before you start painting. 

There are plenty of factors that determine the dry time of your primer, including your environment, the primer that you’re using, and how much of it you applied.

Throughout this guide, we’ll explore the factors that influence how long a basecoat primer takes to dry.

Read More >> What Are The Best Primers For Walls?

What Type of Primer Are You Using?

The first thing to consider when determining how long it will take your primer to dry is the formulation of the primer itself. 

There are two main varieties of primer, much like paint. 

First, you have water-based primers, which are easier to work with and should dry within a maximum of three hours.

On the other hand, you also have oil-based primers, and these can be a bit more challenging to work with, especially since they can take up to 24hrs to fully dry.

However, for most DIY applications, you’ll likely end up using a latex primer and latex paint for simplicity's sake.

Did you know: Using a primer when you paint can actually save you money! This is because it creates a much better surface for your paint to adhere to, so you'll likely use less of it.

What Are The Environmental Conditions?

When trying to determine the drying time of primer, you’ll also have to assess the temperature and humidity in your home. 

The recommended temperature and humidity for primer application is around 70 degrees F and 50% humidity, so any conditions beyond these (such as high humidity) can lengthen or shorten the drying time of both your primer and the layer of paint you're placing on top of it.

As you may expect, more atmospheric humidity will make primer take longer to dry, as there are more water molecules suspended in the air. 

Keep in mind that the temperature itself is less crucial than the humidity which is caused by that temperature. The primer coat will dry better on a cold, dry day than it will on a hot, humid day. The same can be said for your paint color as well.

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Primers For New Drywall?

What Is The Surface Being Primed?

It’s a common misconception that some surfaces can drastically speed up the drying time of primer. 

While it’s true that wood and concrete have different thermal characteristics that will affect the primer, the effect is greatly exaggerated. 

Primer will typically dry in the same amount of time, no matter the surface it’s applied to.

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Process Takes About 30 Seconds

Supplies You’ll Need For Paint Over Primer

Applying primer is relatively simple, but you’ll still need the usual tools and protective gear that you’d use when handling paint.

One thing to note here is that not every primer requires sanding before layering on coats of paint, so be sure to read the directions for the primer you chose as well as the paint you're using.

Ultimately, following the proper procedures for applying your primer and coat of paint is going to determine the outcome of your topcoat.

This is especially important if you're trying to cover darker colors, in which case you want to make sure you're using a high-quality primer that is designed for use over dark colors.

How To Apply Primer & Know When It's Dry (3-Step Guide)

  1. Apply the primer
  2. Wait and check regularly
  3. Sand if necessary, or ensure that the primer is dry and get to painting!

Step 1 - Apply the primer

Start off by putting on your outerwear, eyewear, and nitrile gloves before you even prepare the area. 

This will ensure that they aren’t forgotten.

Then, if you’re painting inside, place your tarp along the walls to protect the floor from drops of paint and primer. 

Also be sure to generously apply masking tape to anything that you don’t want to be painted, including power outlets, baseboards, etc.

At this point, you can bring out your can of primer. Before you open it up, vigorously shake it for a few minutes to make sure that it’s stirred. 

You can also wait until you’ve opened up the can and use a stir stick. 

Pour the primer into your paint tray, and bring out your brush or roller. 

Now, you’re ready to start applying it.

As you apply it, make sure you're keeping an eye out for drips or missed sections. You want to make sure you're laying down a solid primer coat to ensure that your first coat of paint can fully adhere to the surface.

Step 2 - Wait and check regularly

Now it's time to wait and see how your coat of primer dries.

Many primers out there today dry within about 30 minutes (like this one from KILZ that you can find on Amazon) and are safe to add a coat of paint to within an hour.

However, the best way to truly tell if your primer is ready is to keep coming back and checking if it's dry to the touch yet.

Generally, if you can touch the primer and it doesn't feel tacky or come off on you're finger, it's ready to be painted over.

But, if you're like me and you just want to be safe, I allow the primer to dry for another 30 minutes after this point before adding a coat of paint (or second coat of primer).

Step 3 - Sand if necessary, or ensure that the primer is dry and get to painting!

Now that you feel your primer is ready to accept a coat of paint, it's time to move on to sanding if your primer calls for it.

Personally, I think this step is usually unnecessary, however, if you're working with a more porous surface or a surface that will struggle to accept paint, sanding and applying a second coat of primer can ensure that your paint will really stick.

So, if you want to sand over your first coat of primer and add a second coat, go ahead and do that now. Then repeat step 2 and move on to painting once it's dried again.

If, however, you don't feel the need to sand down your primer, go ahead and move on to adding coats of paint to your newly primed surface.

Read More >> How Do You Get Primer Off Your Hands?

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

Final Thoughts On How Long To Let Primer Dry Before Painting

Now that we've gone over some of the basics about how to properly apply primer and let it dry, you should be prepared to make your next DIY project or paint job a huge success.

So, no matter how many coats of primer you decide to use, make sure you're letting it fully dry before moving on to your first coat of paint.

And with that, good luck and happy painting!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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