How Long Does Emulsion Paint Take To Dry?

Doing some home improvement with emulsion paint? Find out everything you need to know about emulsion paint drying times in this article. 

As a society, we love to paint, using on average more than ten billion gallons of paint every year.

There are lots of different paint types available to use for all different decorating projects, but emulsion is one of the most popular options.

Emulsion paint is a water-based paint that is a great option if you’re doing some home improvements to your walls and ceilings. This is because the smooth and thick consistency lends itself to easy application, so even beginners can apply it without an issue sometimes!). Even better, it works well to resist moisture like steam and general home humidity, making it suitable for use in bathrooms and kitchens, especially if you’re choosing specific kitchen and bathroom emulsion.

If you’re about to get to work on your home using emulsion paint it’s handy to know how long it takes to dry. Knowing this helps you to plan multiple applications, and avoid any mess being made with wet walls. Read on to find out how long emulsion takes to dry, and any important factors that could affect that drying time:

How Long Does Emulsion Paint Take To Dry?

Emulsion paint takes roughly 1-2 hours to become touch dry, but a second coat shouldn’t be added for at least four hours from the original painting time. This allows the first coat to become hard dry, so the second coat goes on smoothly without picking up any of the initial paint.

Important Factors That Affect The Drying Time Of Emulsion Paint

When Emulsion paint dries, it goes through a process of evaporation and coalescence. Evaporation is where the water and co-solvents from the paint evaporate.

Coalescence is where a strong film is created from particles within the paint that were spread out during the application process. This drying process can be affected by various factors and it is a good idea to know about those factors so you can allow for them with your drying times.

Here are some of the most common factors that affect the drying time of emulsion paint…

High Humidity

When humidity is high the emulsion drying process is slowed down. This is because the water leaves the paint more slowly, stalling the evaporation stage of drying. In a worst case scenario with high humidity, water from the atmosphere gets into the paint as much as water is leaving the paint. This can mean that the co-solvents from the paint evaporate before the water in sections, leaving patches of uneven or defected paint.


If a surface is likely to attract condensation the moisture drops can then affect the drying of the paint. During the drying time it is important to ensure adequate air ventilation and as much moisture reduction as possible in the area to avoid condensation occurring.


Below freezing temperatures can prevent drying from happening at all because the moisture in the paint can crystallise and therefore, won’t evaporate from the paint. Very hot weather can cause the top layer of the paint to develop a skin whilst the layer underneath doesn’t dry. Paint applied in very hot temperatures can also dry so quickly that it doesn’t dry evenly and may crack, blister or lift.

Ideally, emulsion paint should be applied and left to dry in an ambient temperature of around 15 – 25 degrees Celsius not just on the day of application, but for a few days after.


If paint is applied with uneven distribution, thicker areas will take longer to dry than areas with a thinner coat. Ideally, you will use a high-quality roller to apply the paint evenly so that the drying time is the same across the entire surface. The aesthetic result of the decorating will also benefit from even application.

One-Coat VS Two-Coat

One-coat paints take about 6 hours on average to dry, but take at least 16 hours to fully dry in optimum conditions. Two-coat paints tend to dry on average a lot quicker at around 4 hours needed between coats, although both one-coat and two-coat paints should be allowed to dry for a couple of days with optimum humidity and temperature conditions.


If you’re painting on a prepared, dry, smooth wall the drying time with emulsion paint is 1-2 hours with perfect temperature and low humidity.

On the other hand, if you are painting emulsion on woods such as MDF, the drying time can be affected by the wood itself, which needs to be completely dry before being painted.

If the wood contains any moisture, the paint may not only take longer to dry, but it might not dry evenly. Blistering is a common result of moist wood underneath paint and may happen after the paint has dried because moisture has seeped into the wood at some point. Any blistering of paint will need to be made good which will ultimately cost you time and money.

Popular Brand Emulsion Drying Times

To help you feel more informed about your emulsion paint choice, here are the average drying times for some of the most popular brands of emulsion paint:


Quick-dry is touch dry in an hour and you can apply a second coat in six hours. After another six hours it will be completely dry.

Dulux Matt Emulsion dries in about 2-4 hours between coats.


Average dry time for Johnstone’s emulsion takes 1-2 hours for it to be touch dry, and 2-4 hours between coats.

Tikkurila Optiva 5

Average dry time for Tikkurila Optiva 5 is an hour to be touch dry, and 2-4 hours between coats.


Average dry time for Crown emulsion is around 1-2 hours to be touch dry and 2-4 hours between coats.


Average dry time for Mylands emulsion is 1-2 hours to be touch dry and 3-4 hours between coats.


Average dry time for Leyland is 2-6 hours for standard matt emulsion, with the fast-drying emulsion range taking 3-4 hours on average.

Finals Thoughts

A well-prepared, dry surface, painted in low humidity in dry weather at around 20-25 degrees makes for optimum emulsion painting conditions. Now that you know all the secrets to emulsion paint drying time, what will your next home improvement project be?