Acrylic paints have many advantages over other types of paints. They're more affordable and easier to use than oil paints, they're water-based but are more vivid and don't reactivate like watercolors or poster paints, and they dry quickly while leaving a smooth finish.
You may notice that some acrylic paints, especially the cheaper variety, tend to dry too quickly whether they're on your palette or on your canvas. While craft paints that dry in 5 minutes or less are great for simple crafts and student use, they simply dry too quickly to be of use to the serious artist. Drying too quickly can make mixing colors more difficult, delay your work by needing to re-mix certain shades, and ultimately lead you to rush your piece.
While Nova Color paints certainly give you ample working time, there are some steps you can take to slow down drying time even more.
Delay Acrylic Paint Drying Time
If you want to extend your acrylic paints' working time, then this article is for you. Below we've laid down our top tips to give you more control over your acrylic paint's drying time so you never have to rush your art ever again.
You may not be aware of this, but the environment you're painting in plays a role in acrylic paint drying time. This has to do with how acrylic paints work.
Acrylic paint consists of pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. This emulsion contains water which, as the water slowly evaporates, makes the pigments rest on top of each other, forming a smooth and vivid finish as a result.
This means that if you're painting somewhere particularly hot, dry, and with good airflow, your acrylics are going to dry out extremely quickly.
If you want to prevent your paint from drying too quickly, you can do any of the following steps:
- Paint in an air-conditioned room to reduce the temperature
- Close doors and windows to restrict airflow
- Have a humidifier in the room to keep humidity at a controlled level
- Keep track of both temperature and humidity to ensure they stay at optimum levels
2. Paint Brands
Another factor that affects drying time is the quality and brand of acrylic paint you're using.
Dollar store craft paints tend to be lighter and dry very quickly. Heavier artists' paints give you more time to work with them.
While all acrylic paints are fast-drying, specific drying times will differ from brand to brand. For instance, Nova Color's paints become dry to the touch when air dried from 30 minutes to an hour and become dry enough to recoat after approximately 3 hours.
If you want to have more control over drying time, make sure you know the specifications of the paint brand you're using and factor them into the rest of the information below.
3. Paint Volume on Palette
Having gone through the mistakes of a novice artist, at one time, you've no doubt tried loading too much paint on your brush and then painting it on your canvas only to find that you've laid your paint on too thick. Not only did it give you less control over your colors but it also dried very slowly. To many of us, that's when we learned the importance of painting with several thin coats.
You can leverage this knowledge to your advantage. If the small glob of paint you place in your palette dries and hardens too quickly, just put in double the amount. This gives you more time to work with your paint without diluting it.
The only downside is that you may leave behind a little bit more excess paint than usual. Although, you will get the hang of the exact amount you'll need the more you use this trick.
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4. Mist Your Palette
If you're using a large palette, you can get away with using a spray bottle to lightly mist your acrylic paints.
If you've never used acrylics before, right now you must be thinking:
"Wait, if acrylic paints are water-soluble, why don't I just directly dilute them with water to keep them workable for longer?"
While it's true that acrylic paints can be diluted with water, you'll want to be careful when doing so. This is because adding too much water can affect the acrylic binder, thereby, reducing adhesion. For instance, Nova Color's paints work fine when diluted with water as long as you don't exceed 10% of their volume.
Lightly misting your whole palette gives you more control over how much water you're introducing to your paints.
5. Acrylic Mediums
Apart from water, you can also mix your acrylic paints with an acrylic medium to give you more working time. Acrylic mediums, such as Nova Color's Acrylic Retarder, work like water to dilute your paint.
One key difference, though, is that acrylic paint can take more acrylic medium (up to 25% of paint volume) than water (up to 10% volume). This gives you more control over how long you want your paint to stay wet.
Apart from giving your paint longer working times, acrylic mediums like Nova Color's Matte Medium or Slow Dry Matte Liquid can also give your paint a non-glossy matte finish to give better adhesion to the next coat of paint (such as when glazing).
6. Palette Options
As much as we want to, we can never rush art. Sometimes we just have to lay down the brush temporarily and call it a day.
The problem is that while our canvas can wait, the paints on our palette cannot. This is especially troublesome when you've mixed just the right shade of color which you'll have to throw away rather than have it dried and hardened up on your palette.
How do you avoid this? You have two options: an airtight palette or a wet palette.
As the name suggests, an airtight palette keeps air from coming into contact with your paint. This greatly slows down drying time especially if you mixed your paint with a slow-drying acrylic medium and then store it somewhere cool and moist, like in your refrigerator (note: not freezer). This works best when you need to put your painting on hold for an extended time.
For a shorter hiatus (like a few hours), you can use a wet palette instead. A wet palette continuously feeds water to your paints, thereby, letting them stay wet for longer. A wet palette can also be stored in your refrigerator to extend drying time.