How Long Does Primer Take to Dry on Wood? (See 25 Primers)

Priming wood before painting gives you a better surface for the paint to adhere to, meaning you get a nicer finish that lasts longer. It does, however, add an extra step to the job and make it take longer. Trust me its almost always worth it! To minimize the time you spend on the job, you need to plan properly and account for the drying time of the primer. But how long does primer take to dry on wood?

When applying a primer on wooden surfaces, it can take 20 minutes up to 3 hours to dry, sometimes longer. Several factors affect primer drying times on wood, which are the type of primer used, temperature, humidity, ventilation, and how you apply it. Spray-on primers are the fastest-drying primers!

I will tell you everything you need to know about drying times when using primer on wood, and give you some examples of 25 different primers on the market and how long they take to dry.

How Long Does Primer Typically Take to Dry on Wood?

There is no clear answer here because all primers are different. Some primers will be touch dry in 20 minutes to an hour, and ready to paint shortly afterwards. However, other types of primer can take up to 6-8 hours before they are fully dry. There are also a lot of excellent fast-drying products on the market that will be ready in no time.

In general, if applied in the same way, latex and shellac primers are known to dry the fastest, while some oil-based primers can take a lot longer.

What Affects Primer Drying Time?

There are a number of factors that affect primer drying time. It’s important to understand what they are so you can plan your job accordingly.


When primer dries, the liquid evaporates, leaving the solids behind bonded to the wood. Temperature has a big impact on this process because, as you already know, liquids will evaporate much faster in hotter temperatures. So, on a sunny day, your primer will dry much faster than normal. Equally, if it is particularly cold, it may take longer for the primer to dry. Temperatures can also affect the quality of the primer, so if its too cold it may not bond as well to the surface either.

You should only apply primer when the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), and adjust drying times in warm temperatures.


Humidity also affects drying times. If there is already a lot of moisture in the air, this slows down evaporation and the primer takes a lot longer to dry. If humidity is 50-70%, your primer should dry as expected, 40 to 60%  humidity is optimal for applying primers on wood. But anything higher than 70% humidity you may want to hold off until it lowers or you will be waiting forever for it to dry. If possible, avoid applying primer in very humid conditions.


If you are working indoors, ventilation will impact drying times. Primer will take a lot longer to dry if all of the windows are closed and there is no airflow whatsoever. You’ll also get a buildup of fumes, especially when working with an oil-based primer. But if you open a few windows and get a good flow of air through the room, drying times will be much shorter.

If you have a workshop, adding an air filtration system can help keep the air clean and also ventilate the space too. In addition, setting up fans will increase ventilation in the area helping the primer dry faster.

Type of Primer

The drying time varies significantly between different types of primer. The main types you will come across are:

  • Latex primer
  • Oil-based primer
  • Shellac primer

If the wood is in relatively good condition, latex or oil-based primers work brilliantly. Oil-based primers create a harder finish and soak into pores better than water-based latex primers, so they are often best for softer woods with an open grain. However, a good quality latex primer will still give you a good finish. Water-based latex primers are easier to clean up, you can simply use water making them a popular choice.

In terms of drying times, latex is usually faster than oil-based. Latex primers dry in around an hour, while oil-based primers can take a few hours before they are ready to paint, depending on the brand. However, oil-based spray primers like Rust-Oleum spray primer can dry in as little as 20 minutes.

Shellac primers are excellent for covering stains and imperfections in wood, so they are ideal for painting over old wood. They’re also fast-drying and can be ready to topcoat in just half an hour.

Bear in mind that these are only general guidelines. Although latex products tend to dry faster, that doesn’t mean you can’t get oil-based primers that dry quickly, so always check the specific instructions for the brand that you buy.

Type of Wood

The type of wood makes a difference too. When priming a wood with open grain, the primer soaks in more and will usually dry a bit faster. However, wood with a tight grain doesn’t absorb as much, so it sits on the top in a thicker layer and can take longer to dry. That said, wood that absorbs a lot of the primer may require more coats to give you full coverage and prepare it for painting, so the job can take longer.

How the Primer is Applied (& How Thick its Applied)

Finally, the way that you apply the primer will affect the drying time. If you apply a very thin coat, it will naturally dry faster, but you probably won’t cover all of the imperfections and you will need multiple coats. A thicker coat will take longer to dry, but you won’t need as many coats. Most primers recommend 2 coats.

If you apply a primer with a paint brush or roller your dry times will be longer than a aerosol spray-on primer. Why? Well it’s simple, the brush and roller will leave much more primer on the surface and it will take longer to dry. Spray primers are applied so thin that they dry so quickly. Yes, you can spary on thick amounts but you often cause drips and it is not recommended.

Applying multiple thin coats is highly recommended with primers, that’s why my favorite primer is the Rust-Oleum Spray on primer. I can prime wood furniture in less than an hour! It is great for smaller projects, but if you are priming walls or large projects you will likely use a brush or roller. Spraying with a spray gun will often leave thicker amounts than aerosol sprayers but it all depends on the sprayer you use and the settings in place. Learn more about my favorite paint sprayers here!

applying white primer on a wooden dresser in garage
Myself applying a white primer on a wooden dresser in this Furniture Makeover YouTube video.

Do Primers Take Longer to Dry on Wood than Other Surfaces?

Primer dries faster on wood than most other materials. If you are priming drywall, it will take roughly the same time to dry as wood. Metal, on the other hand, takes much longer because the primer will dry significantly slower, especially in cold temperatures. Primer sinks into wood making it thinner and drying faster, non-porous surfaces like metal will take longer in the same circumstances.

How Long Does an Oil-Based Primer Take to Dry on Wood?

On average, an oil-based primer takes around 2 hours before it is touch dry. However, you should leave it for at least 6-8 hours before you paint over the top using a brush, unless the guidelines specifically say otherwise. If applying outside you may have to leave it 24 hours before recoating. Like mentioned before there are specialist fast-drying primers that can be recoated much sooner. The Zinsser Cover Stain Oil-Based Primer, for example, is ready to recoat in just 2 hours, while aerosol oil-based primers can dry and recoat in 20-30 minutes.

How Long Does a Shellac-Based Primer Take to Dry on Wood?

Shellac primers tend to dry faster than oil-based primers, and some of them have incredibly quick recoat times. Bin Shellac Primer, for example, is dry to the touch in just 20 minutes and you can recoat after 45 minutes. So, if you are looking for a quick solution, a high quality shellac primer is never a bad option. Shellac primers are also the best to block stains and keep bleed-through away!

How Long Does a Water-Based/Latex Primer Take to Dry on Wood?

Water-based/latex primers dry in around the same time as shellac. Most of them, like the KILZ Restoration Primer, will be touch dry in 30 minutes and ready to recoat in just an hour. There is some variation in drying times with latex primers though, so check the guidelines first and don’t make assumptions. Sometimes it takes over an hour sometimes less, check your specific product label.

Do Spray-On Primers Dry Faster than Brushed/Rolled-On Primers?

applying spray on rust-oleum primer to wooden desk
Applying spray-on primer to a wooden desk, see the full video where I refinish this desk here on Youtube.

Yes, most spray-on primers dry faster than brushed-on or rolled-on primers. This is sometimes due to the formulation but it’s mainly because the spray gives you a much thinner layer. So, spray primers are a good fast-drying option for certain projects, but if you have a lot of area to prime you may want to opt-out for a brushed on or roller primer option.

How Long Does Primer Take to Dry on Wood Furniture?

Drying times on furniture will generally be the same as any other wood project, and they will be dependent on all of the factors listed above. However, if you are priming furniture with lots of intricate details, you need to get into these small areas with a brush and the primer will collect more. So, these parts can take longer to dry and you should account for this when planning your project.

Whenever I use primer on wood furniture I almost always use Rust-Oleums spray on primer and it dries in 20-30 minutes, it’s simple to use and helps me get my projects done quick. If I need to cover old stains I will use BIN Shellac Primer, I will roll or brush it on, but it still dries in less than an hour.

How Can You Tell if Primer is Dry?

Firstly, follow the guidelines on the tin and give it the allotted time to dry. If it says that it will be touch dry in an hour, don’t come back after a half an hour expecting it to be ready. However, even if you give it the allotted time, it may not be dry yet.

The most obvious way to tell is to touch it. If it feels completely dry and there is no stickiness/tackiness, you should be fine to paint over it. If you want to be extra cautious, give it an extra hour or so after it feels completely dry and then you’re fine to paint. Often touching it can damage the smooth surface and will require a little sanding to smooth it out.

I just glance at the piece, if it looks shiny and wet it needs more time. Just make sure you give it some ventilation to dry appropriately, I will let things dry overnight if I use thicker product.

How Can You Make Primer Dry Faster on Wood?

If you need to make primer dry faster on wood, there are a few simple things you can do. When working outside, pick a day with optimum conditions. High temperatures, lots of sunlight, and relatively low humidity will make your primer dry much quicker. For indoor projects, make sure that you open some windows and get good ventilation. Turn a fan on in the workspace to allow air flow throughout.

You can speed things along by applying heat directly, using a hairdryer or even a heat gun. However, you should only do this if absolutely necessary because it can ruin the finish if you are not careful. This is an emergency situation type of option. Always make sure you keep the heat source a good distance from the surface if you do decide to do this.

Can You Paint Over Primer as Soon as it Dries?

Just because primer is touch dry, that doesn’t mean you should paint over it right away. If it is still wet under the surface, the paint will dissolve the primer and mix with it, ruining the finish. Possibly causig peeling primer mixing into your paint too. You need to wait until it is completely dry and bonded with the surface. It’s best to wait a few more hours to make extra sure. If possible, leave it overnight so you can be absolutely certain that it is dried.

Read all you need to know in my guide “How Long After Priming Can You Paint Furniture?”.

25 Primers and Their Dry Times:

Primer Name Type of Primer Recommended Dry Time
Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer Shellac-Based 20 minutes to touch – 45 minutes to recoat
Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer Water-Based 35 minutes to touch – topcoat 1 hour
Zinsser Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer Oil-Based 30 minutes to touch – 2 hours to recoat
Rust-Oleum Spray-On Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Primer Oil-Based 20 minutes to touch and recoat/topcoat
Krylon COLORmaxx White Spray Primer Oil-Based 10 minutes to touch
KILZ Original Primer Oil-Based 30 minutes to touch – topcoat 1 hour
KILZ Restoration Primer Latex/Water-Based 30 minutes to touch – topcoat 1 hour
INSL-X Prime All Multi-Surface Primer Latex/Water-Based Topcoat in 1 hour
Behr White Acrylic Interior/Exterior Multi-Surface Stain-Blocking Primer and Sealer Latex/Water-Based 30 minutes to touch – topcoat 1 hour
Behr White Acrylic Interior Kitchen, Bath, and Trim Stain-Blocking Primer and Sealer Latex/Water-Based 30 minutes to touch – topcoat 1 hour
Behr Premium Plus Paint & Primer Latex/Water-Based 1 hour to touch – topcoat 2 hours
Zinsser White Zinsser, Peel Stop Triple Thick Ponding Primer Water-Based 30 minutes to touch – topcoat 2 hours
RUST-OLEUM Flat Gray Primer, Painters Touch Quart Latex Latex/Water-Based 30 to 60 minutes to touch – topcoat 2 to 4 hours
Zinsser Bondz Maximum Adhesion Water Based Primer Latex/Water-Based Topcoat in 2 hours
Zinsser B-I-N Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer Latex/Water-Based 25 minutes to touch – 45 minutes to 60 minutes topcoat
Dixie Belle BOSS (Furniture Primer) Water-Based 1 hour to touch – 24 hour cure time
Rust-Oleum Professional Primer Spray Paint Oil-Based 15 minutes to touch and topcoat
INSL-X Aqua Lock Plus 100% Acrylic Water-Based Sealer Primer Water-Based 30 minutes to touch – topcoat 1 hour
INSL-X Prime Lock Plus Alkyd Primer Alkyd-Based Recoat/topcoat 1-2 hours
INSL-X Block Out Acrylic Exterior Wood Stain Blocking Primer Water-Based Recoat/topcoat 4 hours
IdeaPaint Primer Latex/Water-Based 3 hours to topcoat
Zinsser Bullseye Zero Interior/Exterior Water-Based Water-based 30-45 minutes to touch – 1 hour recoat/topcoat
Rust-Oleum Deck Start Wood Primer Water-based 1 hour to touch – 1-2 hours to topcoat
Valspar Premium Spray Primer Oil-Based 20-30 minutes to touch – 1 hour topcoat
Krylon Fusion ALL IN ONE Paint + Primer Spray Oil-Based 20 minutes to touch – topcoat in 2 hours

Related Primer Questions:

What Can Happen if You Paint Over Wet Primer?

Painting over wet primer is a recipe for disaster, so be patient. If the primer is not quite dry, it can pull away from the surface as you paint onto it, creating a flaky mess. It could also mix with the paint and ruin the finish.

Sometimes, the primer stays adhered to the surface because it is nearly dry, but as the paint dries on top, it develops wrinkles and bubbles because of the excess moisture. The job won’t last long before the paint starts peeling. Usually, if you paint over wet primer, you may end up having to do the job again.

Should You Apply Thick or Thin Coats of Primer?

This depends on the project; when I paint furniture I am doing multiple thin coats for the best possible adherence. This reduces the chances of the primer quickly peeling or chipping off. If you are priming an old barn, you may just want to slap a bunch of primer on to really seal that wood up from the outdoor elements.

When applying primer, try getting an even layer rather than thinking about the thickness. If it is not even, the paint on top will also be uneven and you will get a blotchy finish. It’s best to go for thinner coats because you get a more uniform coverage without any thick patches. However, don’t go too thin because you need to make sure that you cover imperfections and create a good surface for the paint to bond to. Sometimes, if the surface is particularly damaged, a thicker coat is necessary, which is fine just as long as it is uniform.

Why is My Primer Peeling?

There are a few reasons why primer is peeling. Often, it’s because you haven’t prepared the surface properly. If you apply primer over the top of dirt and grime, it won’t bond to the wood properly and it will start to peel. It is important that you properly clean and then sand the surface before priming.

The primer will also peel if there is excess moisture present, so make sure that you give it enough time to fully dry after you have cleaned it. The same effect occurs in very humid conditions too because there is a lot of excess moisture in the air.

In some cases, the natural oils from wood make it hard for primers to adhere properly. If this is the case, you need to remove the excess oils before you paint. You can use mineral spirits to wipe down the surface and remove oily stains before you apply the primer, just give it plenty of time to dry first.

When Should You Increase Your Primer Drying Time?

You need to adjust the primer drying time in certain situations. If the humidity is high, for example, expect the primer to take longer to dry. The same is true if you apply it in cooler temperatures, though you should avoid applying primer if the temperature is below 50 Fahrenheit.

When working with wood in poor condition, you may need a thicker coat of primer. This is also true when painting furniture with intricate details. In this instance, you should also increase the primer drying time.

Final Thoughts

Priming wood before painting is a vital step, and it’s important that you let it dry fully before you paint over the top of it. So, knowing how long your primer takes to dry before you get started is key. Always start by looking at the manufacturers guidelines located on the product label, but remember that these are only estimations based on optimal conditions. You should always adjust drying times based on the temperature, humidity, type of wood you are priming, and ventilation. If in doubt, leave it a bit longer before you paint over the top.

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