How Long Does it Take For High Enamel Paint to Dry?

Waiting for the paint to try so that you can move forward with other stuff is the hardest part of a makeover project. Many people tend to lose patience and focus at this point.

Paint drying duration depends on many factors like the type of paint, the application process, and the proportion of water. Many people opt for enamel paint to get a hard, durable finish.

So how long does a high enamel paint take to dry off? The answer is “It depends”. The drying time for enamel paints ranges from a few hours to a month. In the subsequent sections, learn how to calculate a more accurate drying time.


Types of Enamel Paint

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that there are two types of enamel paints. Although both of them lead to a hard, glossy finish, their composition affects their drying time. One dries faster than the other, and there are reasons for this. The two types of enamel paints are:

  1. Oil-based enamel paint
  2. Water-based enamel paint

Oil-based enamel paint is the most common type of enamel paint you’re going to find. It is also known as alkyd-based or solvent-based enamel paints. They contain flammable solvents which is the reason for their strong odour.

Since they’re oil-based, they take longer to dry and harden. For touch dry, you should expect somewhere around 6-8 hours from the time you left the paint still. The higher duration is because the solvents take a longer time to evaporate.

As an advantage, you’d get extended hours for retouching and making adjustments.

Please note that touch dry is not the same as fully cured. There’s a difference between the two. Refer to the next section for further explanation.

Water-based enamel paint, also known as latex or acrylic enamel, touch dry faster in under 30 minutes. This because they’re composed of water which evaporates quickly, leaving behind a hardened outer enamel paint layer.


Touch Dry, Hard Dry, and Curing

The drying of enamel paint or any other type of colour can be divided into three phases. Those are touch dry, hard dry, and curing.

Once the paint is applied, you can expect a touch dry time of 20-30 minutes for water-based enamel. You’ll feel the outer layer hard to touch at this stage, but the inner layer is still soft. For touch drying, oil-based enamel takes 6-8 hours.

Then, the process of hard drying begins. At this stage, the entire thickness of the paint layer hardens. It can be 12-24 hours for water-based enamel, and they’re re-coatable within 2 hours.

Then comes the portion where you have to do curing. Curing is the process when the solvents that carry the solids evaporate entirely leaving behind the solids. It is where the paint reaches its full chemical properties, as mentioned in the label.

Water-based enamel takes much longer to cure. That’s because the emulsions responsible for carrying acrylic latex resins cannot evaporate until the water does.

And since there’s a higher percentage of water in water-based enamel, the process of curing will start only when the total water content evaporates. It can take somewhere between a few weeks to a month or more.

Thus, for water-based enamel, the drying process is a two-step process. The outer layer dries faster; then it slows down in the curing phase.

For oil-based enamel paints, the process remains constant. The emulsions can evaporate at the same time the oil content does. So when they are hard to touch, you can ensure that they have fully cured.

As a quick check, you can indent the surface with your fingernail. If you see it creates a dent, then the paint isn’t fully cured yet.


Drying Methods

How you apply the paint also affects the drying time. It’s recommended that you follow the instructions mentioned on the label to ensure you get a faster drying time. It should state whether applying the paint with the spray will offer a better drying time than applying with brushes.

Generally, you should apply paints in thin layers – one layer at a time. By painting several thin layers rather than a single thick layer will promote curing time. Curing refers to the process when the paint is exposed to oxygen which helps in drying.

This method of painting not only helps in quick-drying but also offers a more durable and glossier cover.


Drying Conditions

The drying conditions also play a role in the drying time of enamel paint. Drying depends on how fast the water or the oil can evaporate from the paint. The quicker they evaporate, the faster they’ll dry and cure.

So by influencing this factor, you can help the enamel paint dry quicker.

Ideally, you’d want to have a consistently warm environment. It will maintain the temperature that will, in turn, accelerate evaporation.

Another drying condition that matters is oxygen. More oxygen content in the air means swifter will be the drying process. That’s why you should ideally have open ventilation to allow more oxygen to come in contact with the paint.


Speed the Drying of Enamel Paint

To completely dry and cure, enamel paints would need a few weeks to a month. But there are some ways you can reduce this time frame.

One way is to use Japan Drier along with the enamel paint. It is a naphtha-based additive that contains metallic salt. It accelerates the rate of oxidation in the paint layer, which allows the water to evaporate quickly.

However, it would help if you were cautious with the quantity, which can otherwise darken the paint colour. It would be best if you used about an ounce per two gallons of paint.

The next trick is to turn on the fans and dehumidifier if the painting job is done inside the house. It will reduce the drying time by a few days.


To Sum up

The toxic compounds present in oil-based enamel paint, water-based or latex enamel paints are now more popular. They’re also popular because of the glossy finish they leave behind.

When drying latex enamel, you should expect the outer layer to dry quickly while the inner layer is still wet. For complete drying, leave aside at least 3-4 weeks.


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