How Long After Priming Can You Paint Furniture?

Priming is a key step when painting furniture. It creates a good surface for the paint to bond to, so you get a better finish that lasts longer. Primer covers stains on old furniture so they don’t leak through the paint too. However, it is only effective if you let it dry fully before you paint over the top.

When painting furniture it can take 30 minutes to 3 hours for the primer to dry properly before you can apply paint over it. Shellac primers dry in 30 minutes, while latex and oil-based primers can take hours, and some spray primers can dry in less than 30 minutes. However, drying times are affected by humidity, temperature, and air circulation. 

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about primer drying times so you can get the best results when painting furniture. I’ll also include some recommendations for the best spray primers, which have the quickest drying times.

Can You Paint Furniture Before the Primer Dries?

No, it’s essential that you wait for the primer to dry fully before painting. If it is still very wet, it will pull away from the wood and mix with the paint. Even if it is just slightly wet, the primer won’t adhere to the wood properly and the paint won’t bond to the primer either. The paint will peel off and the finish may look flaky.

The guidelines about drying time are not foolproof and it can take longer to dry in certain conditions. So, you need to use your best judgment and make sure that the primer is definitely dry before you start painting.

Also, recoat time and cure times are different, so you can begin painting during the recoat time specified on the primer label.

How Many Coats of Primer for Furniture?

Usually, you need 2-3 coats of primer. It’s important that you don’t make the primer too thick or it will take a long time to dry so do 2 thin coats. Sometimes, tannins can bleed from the wood and ruin the finish. The primer needs to coat the wood well enough to stop this from happening. Wood types like cherry, mahogany, pine, and new softwoods are more likely to bleed, so apply 3 coats of primer when working with these.

Read the full guide “How Many Coats of Primer for Furniture?“.

How Long Does Primer Take to Dry on Furniture?

The drying time of primers varies a lot depending on the type of primer you use and the conditions. Shellac primers dry in as little as half an hour, while latex primers may take around an hour. Oil-based primers may take a few hours or more. So, the average drying time of primer can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Read our detailed article “How Long Does Primer Take to Dry on Wood” for more information on the drying times of different primers and how factors like temperature, humidity, and ventilation can make a difference. You wiill also see a list of 25 primers and their dry times.

What’s the Fastest Drying Primer for Furniture Refinishing?

When you are flipping furniture, time is money and the longer you spend waiting for primer to dry, the less pieces you can sell. Spray on primers are the best fast-drying option and they speed up your furniture project a lot.

1. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Spray Primer

Rust-Oleum 249058 Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover, 12 Fl Oz (Pack of 1), Flat White Primer, 12 Ounce

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This Rust-Oleum Spray On Primer – Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover is an excellent choice for your next piece. It’s a multi-purpose oil-based primer that is touch dry in just 20 minutes. It needs a bit longer than that before it is ready for painting, but not much. You can cover 12 square feet with a single can, so it’s great value for money too.

2. Zinsser 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer

Zinsser 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, 13 oz, White

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Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Primer Spray only needs a single coat to give you good coverage, and it’s brilliant at covering stains. It can also be used over the top of existing oil and latex topcoats, which saves you a lot of time. The primer will be touch dry in around half an hour.

3. BIN Shellac Based Primer

Rust-Oleum Corporation 01008 Primer Spray, 13-Ounce, White

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If you want a shellac primer, this BIN Shellac Based Primer is great. It’s the best out of the three for hiding stains and preventing bleed through. So, if you’re working with a very damaged piece of furniture and there is a lot to cover up, go for this one.  It’s incredibly fast drying too – it should be touch dry in just 15 minutes.

When to Apply Paint to Furniture After Priming?

Before you apply paint to furniture, you must make absolutely sure that the primer is dry. Always check the guidelines to see the average recoat time and use this as a guide. However, you should check for yourself before you paint to see if it is dry to touch.

Just touch the primer and if it feels completely dry and it doesn’t show on your finger, it is ready for a spray on coat of primer. For brushing or rolling you want to make sure it is 100% dry, wait the allowed time and check to make sure it is not wet anywhere. But if you want to be extra cautious, you can give it another 15-30 minutes before you paint.