How long to wait between applying colors on canvas

Reader Question: How long should I wait in between colors on a canvas? Should the first color completely dry before I add the second?


The length of time you should wait between adding layers, or colors, onto your canvas depends on the style you are working in, and what you are trying to achieve with your painting.

With acrylics, you can add wet paint over dry paint, or you can add wet paint onto wet paint. The effects will be very different, so this is why it depends on what you are trying to achieve - that is, what you want your painting to look like.

The good thing about waiting for a layer to completely dry before adding another layer is that when you paint on top of it, the paint underneath will not lift off. This allows you to create glazes, or paint as many colors as you want on top of other colors. Most acrylic artists seem to work in this manner - allowing each layer to dry before adding another layer. Since acrylics dry quickly, this is a pretty straightforward process.

On the other hand, some acrylic artists like to work wet-on-wet because it allows them to create different effects. For instance, it is easier to blend colors when they are both wet. You can also create a marbling effect with acrylics by working wet-in-wet.

In most cases, you will probably want the acrylics to dry completely before you add another layer. The amount of time it takes to dry depends on how thinly or thickly you applied the paint, as well as whether or not you mixed any gels or mediums into the paint. Environmental factors such as temperature and humidity can also effect drying time.

For the most part, if the paint feels completely dry to the touch, then it is okay to paint another layer on top.

Hope that helps & Happy Painting!