How long for watercolor to dry? A Complete Guide

What is the best length of time to let the watercolor dry before painting on top of it? You’re not alone in your confusion; lots of artists want to get straight to the point without having to deal with drying time. So, how long for watercolor to dry?

The drying time for watercolor depends on several factors, including the type of paper you’re using, how much water is in your mix, and how much you applied to your surface. Generally speaking, however, most watercolor paints will dry within 15-30 minutes after application if they are allowed to air-dry without any interference from humidity or wind. 

Has this answer made things clearer? I hope so! Keep reading the rest of the article to find out how long to wait between two layers of watercolor, how do you dry watercolor quickly, and how you know if the watercolor is dry.

How long does watercolor take to dry on paper?

How long for watercolor to dry

Watercolor paint is a chemical mixture of pigment, water, and binder that is used to create artwork.

The water in the mixture acts as a solvent, dissolving the binder and allowing the pigment to be absorbed by the paper or other support medium.

As a result, when you paint with watercolor, you can see how your painting will turn out before it dries because it takes time for the water to evaporate.

And let me now answer your question – how long does watercolor take to dry on paper?

The exact amount of time needed for drying will depend on the thickness of your paint layers and how much water you’re using.

The amount of water applied during application will determine how long it takes for watercolor to dry.

If you use too much water, the paint can take up to an hour to dry, and even then, you may have some puddles left on your painting!

If you use too little water, it will take a minute to dry, but you will not really be able to blend the colors on your paper very well, and isn’t that the beauty of watercolor?

The type of paper that you use also affects how long it takes for watercolors to dry.

Some papers allow the paint to soak into its fibers more than others do, which means that those paints will stay wet longer than others on those papers would.

In general, however, most watercolor paints should dry within 24 hours if they are properly applied with sufficient amounts of water and allowed time to dry between applications of color.

Generally speaking, for a smooth finish, it’ll take about 30 minutes for the first coat to dry. For a textured finish, it’ll take about an hour.

Do you have to wait for the watercolor to dry?

I often get asked, “do you have to wait for the watercolor to dry”?

And the answer is, “No!” Well, only sometimes at least.

The main reason why people think they need to wait is that they’re afraid that their paintings will be ruined if they don’t. But in reality, you can paint over watercolor with no problems at all!

The only time I would recommend waiting is if you’re using a paper that’s prone to bleeding (like 140 lb cold press). In that case, it’s best to wait until your first layer of paint dries before adding more.

But if you’re using good-quality paper, then you don’t need to worry about it.

The best way to learn patience is through practice. As you continue painting, you’ll discover that waiting for the paint to dry isn’t always necessary.

If you’re working on a large piece of paper, it’s important to let your work dry thoroughly before moving on to another area of the painting.

This will prevent unwanted bleeding between wet sections of paint or onto dry areas where there shouldn’t be any pigment at all.

However, if you’re working on a small piece of paper, such as a greeting card, try applying just enough water so that the paint flows easily from your brush onto the surface without pooling up or dripping down into other areas of your work.

I must add here that if you’re doing a layered painting and if you want to add watercolor on top of a layer without ruining it, yes, wait for it to properly dry! In watercolor, it’s all about how you want the finished product to look.

If you do that – how long for watercolor to dry? I discuss this in the next section.

How long to wait between 2 layers?

The best rule of thumb is to wait until the first layer of watercolor is completely dry which will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how much water you used.

The reason why you need to wait until the first layer is completely dry is that if there is any moisture left behind, it could seep into your next layer and ruin its color, meaning you will end up with a color you didn’t want.

It’s very important to make sure that after each layer of color has dried completely, you wipe off any excess wash from your brush onto an absorbent cloth or paper towel before going on to the next layer.

This will keep the colors from mixing together when they’re wet (which would make them muddy) and also keep your brush clean so there’s less chance for it to make marks on your painting instead of where you want them!

How do you know if the watercolor is dry?

Because watercolor paint is made from water, it’s important to know when your work is dry before you move on to a new piece or start another color. And how do you know if the watercolor is dry?

If you want to know how to tell if a watercolor painting is dry, there are some simple tests that you can use.

First, look at the surface of your painting. If it looks shiny, it’s still wet and needs more time to dry.

If it looks matte and dull, then it’s probably dry and you can proceed with other steps in your painting process.

Next, touch the surface of your painting with your finger or a paper towel to see if there’s any moisture left on it. You’ll feel tackiness if there’s still moisture in the paint layers under the surface.

The final test is called the “squeeze test” where you take a paper towel or tissue and try to rub off some of the wet areas on top of your watercolor painting.

If they smear or come off onto your paper towel, then it hasn’t dried yet.

How do you dry watercolor paint?

OK, I’ve talked about how long for watercolor to dry, but I know you’re probably on your next question – how do you dry watercolor paint?

It’s important to dry your watercolors thoroughly since once the paint is dry, it’s permanent. If you leave your painting wet, it can be damaged by dust or dirt.

To dry watercolor paints, the method I use is quite simple.

Air drying. You saw it coming, huh?

This is the most common method of drying watercolor paintings. It could take up to 24 hours to fully dry and is the best option if you’re unable to store your painting in a safe place or away from dust or dirt.

You can speed up the drying process by placing a fan near your painting and turning it on low for about 15 minutes.

How do you dry watercolor quickly?

Watercolor is a medium that, once dry, can be easily smudged and rubbed off. Sometimes this is exactly what you want. But sometimes you need to dry it in a few minutes.

How do you dry watercolor quickly? Here are some tips for drying watercolor quickly.

Use a paper towel to blot the wet paint. This will get rid of much of the water, but not all of it.

Put the painting in a warm place (like an oven) with a fan blowing on it for 30 minutes or so. This should get most of the water out of your painting and make it easier to handle without smudging.

Put your painting outside on a warm day (but not in direct sunlight). This will help it dry faster as well!

Can you use a hairdryer to dry watercolor?

People ask me “can you use a hairdryer to dry watercolor” all the time! And the answer?

Yes! It’s an easy, no-fuss way to dry your work.

If you are looking for the fastest way to dry your work, then using a hair dryer is one of the best options for you.

The heat from the hair dryer will quickly evaporate all of the water from your painting and leave it completely dry.

The only thing that you need to be careful about is that you don’t use too much heat.

The reason for this is that if you use too much heat then it can damage your paper or canvas. As long as you use a medium setting on your hairdryer then there shouldn’t be any problem with damaging your artwork.


Will watercolor dry on canvas?

It is not recommended to use watercolor on canvas, because the texture of the surface makes it difficult to paint with this medium. Watercolor paint will linger on canvas much longer!

How long does it take for watercolor to dry on the canvas?

If you’re not priming your canvas with gesso or watercolor ground, your watercolor paint will have a hard time with the canvas and it will most likely not even dry the way you want it to!

Final thoughts

The drying time of watercolor depends on the type of paper you’re using and how much water you’re using with your paints.

In general, it takes about 30 minutes for a thin wash to dry completely.

I hope I answered all your questions on the topic of how long for watercolor to dry, but if you have any more, do let me know in the comments!

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