A Look At Why Your Acrylic Paint Is Not Drying!

Our content may have affiliate links that can result in commissions for qualifying purchases, full details in our privacy policy.

With acrylic painting being a great pass time as well as a way to express yourself, it has seen some solid growth in its popularity in recent years leading to more and more people taking it up as a hobby. This in turn has resulted in more and more people reaching out with various questions about acrylic paint and how to get the most from their arts and crafts sessions.

We have noticed a surge in the number of people reaching out to ask things like ”why is my acrylic paint not drying?” so we have decided to dedicated todays article to the common reasons your acrylic paint may not be drying. These are very common beginner mistakes but thankfully, they tend to be very easy to avoid and fix to help ensure that your acrylic paint will dry as quickly as possible.

Due to so many of our readers being brand new to acrylic painting, we have focused on free or cheap tips and tricks for this article. They should be able to help you narrow down why your acrylic paint is not drying and help you fix the issue as quickly as possible.

Why Is My Acrylic Paint Not Drying?

The main reason that acrylic paint tends not to dry is due to the water and moisture content in the paint being too high. Acrylic paint dries by evaporating the water in the paint formula to leave the pigment behind so the quicker you can do this, the faster your paint will dry.

There are a number of low quality acrylic paints on the market these days too that can really cause your paint to take much longer than normal to dry. This is often due to the low quality ingredients used in the paints as well as the ratios of the ingredients in these acrylic paints not being ideal to help the paint dry as quickly as possible.

Due to this, we always recommend that you try to go with some decent quality acrylic paints to ensure that your paint will dry as quickly as possible. If you do have to go with the cheaper options then the information in this article below or our article on how to make acrylic paint dry faster should be able to help you!

You Have Too Much Water!

The most common reason that your acrylic paint will not dry quickly is due to having too much water in it. The majority of modern acrylic paints are ready to use right out of the tube but some people still add additional water to them prior to use making them take longer to dry.

If you are wanting to mix water with your acrylic paints to tweak the color of them on your paper or canvas once they are dry then this technique is acceptable but the paint will usually take much longer to dry. Other than trying to tweak the color of your paint, there really is no reason to add additional water to a modern acrylic paint product.

Unless your acrylic paint specifically says to add additional water to it on the instructions, use the paint as is directly from the tube. If you are using an acrylic paint that does need additional water adding to it, be sure to stick to the exact water measurements too or you risk having problems with your drying time.

Your Paint Layers Are Too Thick!

A large number of beginners to acrylic painting simply apply way too much paint to their paper or canvas. This results in a larger mass of paint to dry extending the drying times considerably when simply applying less paint in thinner layers will prevent this.

Now, to be clear, this is often not actually the beginner painters fault as most beginner brush sets are less than ideal and allow you to easily overload your brushes with far too much paint. Spending around $10 on a decent brush set can easily last most beginners and intermediates years with a huge number of brush heads available.

We have seen some posts on social media as well as in YouTube videos advising beginners physically cut their brushes down to prevent this too. Although this can help to ensure you apply less paint, it is usually considerably more effort than just buying a $10-$20 brush set and just using that instead.

You Are Using A Low Quality Acrylic Paint!

So many beginners start with an acrylic paint that is low quality, has poor ingredients, and random ratios of the ingredients that have not been optimised to help the paint dry correctly. Ensuring that you are using decent quality acrylic paints can be a quick and easy fix for this and ensure that your paints will dry quicker.

On top of some low quality acrylic paints having far too much water in their paint formula preventing them from drying in a respectable time, other ingredients can cause additional problems with drying. This is due to the actual pigments used for some colors in low quality paints naturally taking longer to dry correctly on paper or canvas.

Higher quality paints use better pigments that not only dry quicker but also hold their color better helping to prevent color fade. Decent paints often only cost around $5-$10 more than the low quality ones with a bunch of problems making them well worth if it you think that you will be involved in acrylic painting for an extended period of time.

The Surface You Are Painting On Is Wet Or Damp!

This one goes back to the water saturation of the paint but many beginners will try to apply their acrylic paints to a surface that is either wet or damp. Depending on the saturation’s, this can transfer water from the surface to your paint and extend the drying time by a considerable amount.

Beginners constantly make this mistake, they either over do their primer on canvas or they will use other paint types such as water color paints first. They then use acrylic paints right away without letting their surface dry with their acrylic paints needing much longer to dry.

You can use tricks such as using a hair dryer on the canvas or paper to try and help dry the surface quicker. This can work but it is often better just to wait a day or so for it to dry naturally and then apply your acrylic paints so there will dry quicker.

The Humidity In The Room!

Although rarer than the causes above, the humidity in the room can actually make your acrylic paints take longer to dry than normal. This is due to a higher moisture content in the room making it harder for the paints to dry correctly potentially expending your paints drying time for days.

This is even more of an issue for oil paints but it can still play a part for acrylic paints too. Although some people do use a de-humidifier in the room if they have one available, we wouldn’t recommend that you specifically go out and buy one just for this as it does tend to be a rare cause for acrylic paints.

The vast majority of our readers will usually be much better off simply waiting for a day or two longer to let their acrylic paint dry if there are issues with humidity where you live. If you are in an area where there is constant humidity issues, chances are that you already have a de-humidifier that you are able to use anyway.


That brings our article on why your acrylic paint is not drying to a close and we hope that we have been able to help you understand why your paint may not be drying. The most common cause is the water content in the paint but there are a number of reasons that this can be higher than required. If you have a little think about your situation then you will usually be able to workout the exact cause of your acrylic paint not drying correctly and fix it for your next painting session with ease.