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paint brush with blue acrylic paint

How to Keep Your Acrylic Paint From Drying Too Fast

One of the reasons artists like acrylic paint is because of its fast drying time. You don’t have to wait weeks or months for it to dry before varnishing and framing your painting. You can enjoy your artwork or sell it soon after it is finished.

The fast drying time is also something that many artists find a bit frustrating. The paint dries on the palette before you are finished using it and you have to mix more. Or the paint dries too fast on the canvas so you can’t get a smooth blend.

If you have this love/hate relationship with acrylics here are a few helpful hints to keep your acrylic paint from drying too fast.

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How to Keep Acrylic Paint Wet

Plastic Containers

Use small plastic craft containers or recycled food jars to keep you paint mixes from drying out. Mist the paint lightly with water and close the lid tightly before putting your paint away for the next session.

The paint should last several days to a week using this method. If you are not completely happy with the seal of the lid you can cover the jar with some plastic wrap before putting on the lid for added protection.

Wet Palette

You can use a wet palette like this one by Masterson. This palette comes with a sponge and palette paper which you wet with water before starting your painting session. The tightly sealed lid will keep your palette and paint wet for more than a week. They are a little pricey so you can check out my post on Tools Needed for Acrylic Painting where you can learn to make your own wet palette.

Spray the Paint

Use a spray bottle to mist your palette and canvas periodically to keep the paint wet. The best spray bottles to use are old empty body spray type bottles.

hand holding a spray bottle

They spray with a finer mist that regular spray bottles so you won’t get large water droplets on your painting. Make sure they have been thoroughly cleaned since most body sprays contain alcohol which will not play nice with acrylic paint.

Use Open Acrylics

Some paint companies such as Golden make a type of acrylic paint that dries much more slowly. The paints chemical composition allows for slower drying time and even some reactivating of the paint before it is thoroughly dry.

This type of paint is best used in thin layers since thick applications can take weeks to dry, similar to oil paints.

You should also take care when adding a new application of paint over the open acrylics since they can be reactivated if not thoroughly dry and cause a muddy mixing of paint.

More information on Golden Open Acrylics is available on their web site. https://www.goldenpaints.com/products/colors/open

Use Paint Retarders

Retarders, also called slow dry mediums are substances used to slow down the drying time of acrylic paint. They work by slowing the time it takes water to evaporate from the paint.

They will extend the drying time of your paint about 30 minutes depending on the brand and how much you use. Read the instructions carefully before use to prevent mishaps in your painting such as lifting of previous layers.

Liquitex Slow Dry Blending Medium is the one I use.

Professional Acrylic Paint

Use professional artist grade paint. It has a higher pigment to binder ratio than cheaper student grade or craft paint so it will not dry out quite as fast.

You will also need less paint to get the color depth and coverage you want so you can get your painting done a little faster.

Stay Cool

If possible, paint in a cool environment. If it is hot where you live try to paint early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is not so hot.

I don’t have that problem since where I live we have 9 months of winter and 3 months of almost winter. 🙂 

Air conditioning or a fan can help but they tend to blow tiny specks of dust around which can be annoying when they land in wet paint.

Keep your curtains closed during the hottest part of the day to avoid heating up your room.

You can also paint in a cool basement if you have one with good lighting.

paint brush and splatter of blue acrylic paint

Primed Surface

A porous surface will absorb the paint so it dries faster and requires more applications of paint to cover it.

Prime your surface with a good acrylic primer and let it dry before you start painting. See my post on how to gesso a canvas.

Two coats should be enough to prevent the paint from absorbing too fast. You can prime wood, canvas or paper with gesso.

Thicker Paint

A thicker application of paint will slow down the drying time a little. Adding a bigger blob of paint to your palette will also slow the drying time.

Put out as much paint as you think you will need in one painting session rather than tiny little spots of paint. The small dots of paint will dry much more quickly.

Plastic Wrap

Improvise by using a paper plate, old ceramic plate, Styrofoam meat tray or just about anything that is non absorbent and has a little bit of a lip on it.

When you are finished your painting session you can lightly mist your paint with water and cover it tightly with plastic wrap.

I have kept paint wet for 4 to 5 days this way, remembering to mist the paint a couple of times a day.


Plan out your painting session so that you don’t put out paint colors you are not going to get to right away. Decide on what area you are going to work on and only put out the paint for that session.

If you have to mix certain shades or tones you can keep them in small jars until you need them.

acrylic paint palette with various color paint

These tips should help you keep your paint wet a little longer and easy some of the frustration and wasted paint. If you have any other ideas for keeping your acrylic paint wet I would love to hear about them in the comments below. Happy painting! 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Digital signature Marilyn with butterfly

2 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Acrylic Paint From Drying Too Fast”

  1. Thanks for the tip on acrylic paints, that they dry a bit darker. Now I have learned that lesson. Haven’t painted for a while and usually had an old painting to adapt to my style. This time, I am on my own! Doing a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe but with lots of innovations! MUCH harder than I thought it would be! And my cheaper quality acrylic paint is not helping. I have paint retarder and using that, but still streaks a little. But I will try your advice! Thank You! I knew better than to get the cheaper acrylic. It works great with miniatures, but this is an 81/2 by 11 inches! Thank you!

    1. Hi Nancy, I am glad my tips helped. Artist grade paints can be expensive so buy a few at a time. Start with the primary colors plus white so you can mix other colors as you go. The cheaper acrylics can still be used to practice various techniques with so you won’t waste the good paint. Happy painting! 😊

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