How Long to let Primer Dry Before Spray Painting

Last Updated on May 27, 2022 by Bright Calister

In my early days as a painter, I ended up with a disaster on a particular project; after I painted over the primer before it got dry, I had to redo it, costing me more time, resources and money.

How long to let primer dry before spray painting and painting has since then become a major question. And after so much time working with primer and paint, I’ve become an expert in this skill, and I would like to share with painters and DIY painters how long it takes for a primer to dry before painting. 

In this guide, you will learn.  

  • How long to let primer dry before spray painting
  • How long to let primer dry before painting
  • How long does primer take to dry on wood?
  • How long to let primer dry before sanding?    
  • How long does oil-based primer take to dry 
  • What happens if you paint over a primer so soon without allowing it dry completely
  • Factors affecting primer’s dry time
  • How you can make primer dry fast  

Can I paint Without primer?

Primer is a protective coat that is applied to surfaces before painting. Primer is an important step that cannot be overlooked when painting as much as you can paint your surfaces, wood, metal, plastic or glass without primer.

You can’t omit to prime your surface if you want to get the best result out of your painting. Therefore you can paint without applying primer; however, it is advisable to always prime before applying paint because you might have an unpleasant appearance on your surface without a primer.

Over the years, after painting several projects, it has been a proven fact that if you want to get the best result out of your surfaces, you should prime before painting. 

Primer seal wall and give better coverage to the topcoat

Primer enables the paint to adhere better to the surface

Primer prevents mold

Primer is inexpensive, and you will use less to paint.

What will happen if I paint without applying primer

Always note, and I’m stressing it as much as I can, that it is always advisable to prime before painting.

However, if you paint your surfaces, whether wood, metal, glass or plastic, without applying primer, it may not happen in all cases, but it happens frequently, and happenings include

One thing that happens is that the paint won’t stick well with the object you’re painting, and that’s an error, except if you are not a fan of a good job done, but why do the job when you won’t get the job well done.

Primer allows the paint to stick well to the surface, and not using primer won’t achieve this.

And you should also note that painting done on surfaces without primer might appear to stick well, but it will have peel-off problems later. 

Painting objects or surfaces without primer will cost you more paint than applying primer.

When using two coats of paint for a project with primer as a base, you will need to double that for the same project without primer because the raw surface will be absorbing more.

Therefore, apart from the benefits primer will have on your painting, using a primer is a good deal because it will save you some bucks of getting more paint.

Another thing is that if you paint without primer, whatever you are painting will show through. Immediately you make some roller strokes or brush strokes, the undersurface will show through, and you have to be putting two coats of paint sometimes to have a smooth finish three-coat, and you might as well be leaving brush marks on the object.

Types of Primer

As a DIY painter, you need to know the types of primer and the best surfaces to be used on

1. Oil-Based Primer 

Oil-based primer is the most widely used primer, and this is a result of its versatility. Oil-based primer works very well on various surfaces, both interior and exterior and is effective with most types of paints.

They provide a suitable foundational layer for paints and enable paints to dry faster.

Oil-based primer is mostly used on wood because of its qualities, making it very useful for wood

because oil-based primer seals porous surfaces and prevents the paint from making an unwanted appearance on tour surface. If you are wondering about the best oil-based primer,

I recommend you get Kilz Adhesion Primer.

2. Latex-Based Primer

Latex-based primer is another type of primer you should get familiar with. Latex-based primers are water-based, and as a result, they are easy to clean up; they dry up quickly compared to other types.

They are ideal for priming concrete, brick and metal.  Latex-based primer is the best choice, especially for unfinished drywall. 

If you are wondering about the best latex-based primer to go for, I’ll recommend XIM primer

3. Shellac Primer

Shellac primer is another type of primer, and it is the most durable and provides better adhesion. However, I’ll not recommend it for exterior use.

Shellac primer dries up faster than the oil-based primer, and it is challenging to clean up shellac primer. If you are wondering about the best Shellac primer I’ll recommend Zinsser shellac Base primer

How long to let primer dry before spray painting

The drying time of primer varies depending on the brand you are using. Latex-based primer dries faster when compared to oil-based primer.

However, applying primer on your surface can be done with either brush, roller or spray. If you will be spraying your primer, it tends to provide a thinner coat when applied with a brush or roller. 

Generally, on how long to let your primer dry before spray painting, you should wait between 3 – 12 hours before spray painting.

I love to take my time and not rush things when painting; although some primer tends to dry after an hour, you should always read the primer label to get the exact time.

But I always add one more hour to what is prescribed to ensure total dryness and get the best result.

How long does oil-based primer take to dry?

The exact time depends on the manufacturer of the one you are using, but generally, oil-based primer can take up to full 24 hours before it dries completely, unlike its water-based counterparts.

So you don’t have to be in a hurry getting your paint job done, allow your primer to dry up completely before applying paint.

The primer has already sealed up your surface and filled up whatever rust on your surface by this time.

Oil-based primer is a very popular primer choice. When making use of this primer, you have to wait following the recommended time or else you might end up ruining your paint job.

And you don’t want to because I can’t imagine wasting tons of paint and having to buy primer and paints to repaint, that’s a lot. 

How long does water-based primer take to dry

Latex primer is a water-based primer, and typically, it takes 30 minutes to 1 hour for water-based primer to dry.

However, I will always advise you to wait for three hours to ensure the complete dryness of the primer before going ahead to paint.

Latex primer dries faster than an oil-based primer, and in a few hours, you should be ready to apply your paint.

How long does it take primer to dry on wood?

When painting your wood, if you’re following this guide, you should know that priming your wood is a crucial step you cannot overlook.

Therefore, before you prime your wood, you need to prepare your wood for priming. Preparing your wood for priming, all you need to do is get sandpaper to sand your wood.

The purpose of sanding your wood is to smoothen all rough surfaces and particles on your wood surfaces so it won’t leave obvious pots and rough particles on your wood after painting. 

After sanding, the next is to apply primer to your wood. Applying primer, ensure to use a high-quality latex-based primer or oil-based primer. 

Latex primer takes about one hour to dry completely on wood, while oil-based primer takes about 6-8 hours and can take up to 24 hours before it dries completely.

However, as I always do, I advise you to do the same you add one more hour to their drying time to ensure their complete dryness.

How long to let primer dry before sanding

You might be wondering if you should sand before primer or after primer. The basic answer is you should sand before and after applying your primer.

When you are sanding before applying primer, you prepare your surface for priming; that is, you are smoothening and eradicating all rough particles on your surface to have good priming.

After this and applying primer, you have to wait for the primer to get dry and sand again before applying paint; you are now preparing your surface and the primer on it to absorb paint without any hindrance. 

Now the question is, how long do I have to wait for the primer to dry before sanding. After ensuring complete dryness of your primer, you can sand your primer immediately.

That is, as soon as your primer dries up, you can sand your primer so that you won’t have a dull finish. 

What happens if you paint over a primer so soon

Based on my experience, I will let you know what will happen if you paint over a primer without allowing it to dry completely. 

I bet you won’t like it having a wrinkle paint on your surface after painting. This is to tell you that applying paint over primer without allowing it dry will cause the paint to wrinkle.

Which means you won’t have a smooth painting. Is that not a disaster? It is. Because I’m very sure you won’t like what you did, and you will have to restart the process of painting all over again.

Having a wrinkle paint on your surface is not a good job done, and no one will applaud you for such, especially if it is an important project you are working on.

Factors affecting primer’s dry time

So many factors influence the drying time of primer, which is why primer drying time varies from one another.


When applying primer, the manufacturer of whatever primer you are using always tends to give instructions on how many coats of primer you need to apply before painting.

Therefore, if you are applying two coats of primer, you are going to wait for a longer time as regards when you apply one coat of primer.

Although a thin coat of primer may not cover the whole surface of your object, you will apply more, and the more you apply, the longer you have to wait before painting and ensure you don’t apply too much of it. 

The Primer Type

This is another great influence on the drying time of primer. Primer comes in different types: oil-based primer, latex-based primer, shellac primer, and self primer.

Therefore you don’t expect your oil-based primer to dry up quickly as the latex-based primer.

Oil-based primer takes a longer time to dry than other types of primer, and it may take about 6 hours and sometimes up to 24 hours before it dries completely. 

A latex-based primer which is water-based, dries up quickly and takes 30 minutes to 1hour to dry up completely.

Shellac primer is another type of primer which dries up quickly, it takes about 1hour to dry up, and you can apply your paint.

Self-priming is both primers and paint in one. That’s interesting because you don’t have to pass through double priming and painting processes, but just one process that combines both priming and paint.

When applying these types of primer, it serves as both paint and primer; that is the combination of primer and paint, and they dry up quickly in an hour; they should be ready for the next coat.


Ventilation also determines how fast your primer will dry up. You should have enough ventilation if you want your primer to dry up fast.

Open all your doors and windows or take them outside depending on what you are painting and if they can be moved. Ventilation influences the primer’s drying time, especially if it is an oil-based primer.

How you can make primer dry fast  

It can be overwhelming having to wait up to 24 hours for your primer to get dry, especially when you have a lot of stuff to paint.

How to speed up the drying process of primer will be the question that will be popping into your head. However, do not worry, there are ways you can make your primer dry quickly, and it includes

Using a hairdryer

You can make use of a hairdryer if you want your primer to dry faster and save up time while painting.

However, when making use of the hairdryer, you have to keep it above the surface so as not to blast away the paint two to three inches above, and slowly move the hairdryer to wet surfaces till they dry up completely.

This is an easy process which saves a lot of time.

Proper Ventilation

You cant overrule good ventilation as a factor that speeds up the drying process of a primer.

Ensure what you are painting is placed in a good place where it is so easy for air to blow in and if it is something that cannot be moved, to ensure appropriate airflow, open all doors and windows.


How Many Coat of Primer should you apply?

When applying primer, it is important to ensure that your primer covers all the surfaces of what you are painting, and just one coat might not do the cover.

So it is always advisable to apply two coats of primer before painting. However, primer manufacturers tend to give instructions on how many coats of their product to apply.

Therefore my advice for you is to apply two coats of primer.

Does primer have to be perfect?

Primers do not have to be perfect but must cover all surfaces. Primer helps the paint stick well to the surface, and you don’t have to worry about having perfect priming of your surface but ensure to sand your primer before applying paint on it.

My Paints are Peeling off after painting. What should I do?

The likely main reason your paint is peeling off is that you painted without primer. What you need to do in this situation is to peel off your entire paint and repaint now, following the due process of painting without forgetting to apply primer.

Conclusion – How long to let the primer dry before spray painting

Now that you have the answer to how long to let the primer dry before painting and the necessary things you need to know about primer and painting, your next painting project will be a huge success.


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