As watercolor is commonly painted in layers, you have to wait for the paint to dry a lot. Learn how long it takes and how you can accelerate it!
On paper, watercolor usually takes 15-20 minutes to fully dry in a dry room. The more humid and cold the room and thicker the paper is, the longer it takes, which can result in up to 60 minutes of waiting. Also take into consideration how much water is used. If you’d like to speed up the process you could either lay it out in the sun or use a hairdryer, but be careful not to ruin your painting.
Can I already paint the next layer?
Before painting the next layer of color onto your painting, you should definitely make sure that this area is fully dried up.
If you aren’t careful, you could mix up colors with one another and ruin your artwork by impatience.
To check, if you can already go on painting, it’s mostly sufficient to just use your finger and see if the paper is still wet.
If you want to make sure not to smudge the paints, you could use the tip of a tissue or a cotton swab and be really careful.
Once the surface is dried up, you should wait another 3-5 minutes to give your paints time to fully dry in the paper.
That last step is just to be extra careful. If you’re in a rush or just want to keep on painting then by all means, skip it.
Now you can go on with the next layer of paints!
What you should know about your paper
It might seem surprising at first, but thicker paper tends to make the watercolor take longer to dry up.
The thicker the paper is the more of the medium it will absorb. This leads to the paper being a lot wetter than a thinner alternative, which takes longer to try.
This doesn’t mean that you should switch over to thinner paper though. I would generally advise you to rather take thicker paper for watercoloring.
Be careful when using a hairdryer
It’s common practice to use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. But you should definitely watch out for a couple of things while using one.
Firstly you should never use the hottest setting your hairdryer provides. Always use the lowest or maybe second to lowest one.
If the temperature is too high you could permanently damage your paints and paper. The paints might crack up and the paper will get more fragile as well.
Also keep your distance to the painting. About 15-20 inches will make sure you don’t dry out the paints too fast, but rather ensure a gradual drying process.
Additionally make sure to not use a hairdryer while you still have little puddles on the paper if you used too much water.
It might result in blowing those to the sides instead of just drying it. That would result in your colors ending up in places where you never wanted them to be.
How you could ruin your painting by letting it sun-dry
You might have noticed that paper and books turn a bit yellow over time, for example in display cases of stores.
This has to do with the sun’s UV radiation. I can’t explain exactly why but that’s not what I’m here for, right?
Anyways, laying your painting out in the sun to help it dry is definitely a viable option, but you should take into consideration that it might affect the colors of your paint and paper.
Also don’t forget it outside…
How long does watercolor take to dry on canvas?
First of all, I wouldn’t advise you to use canvas. Generally you are gonna have a better time using paper.
But if you choose to use canvas I’m not gonna stop you in any way.
For using watercolor on canvas you must have had to gesso it beforehand, so the paints properly stick to the surface.
It will take you longer to dry than it takes on paper, so you should give the paint at least an hour to dry. Sometimes it can even take up to 24 hours if you use a lot of water.
Just use a tip of tissue or a cotton swab to check how dry the paints are but definitely calculate more time in, because it’s harder for the paint to dry beneath the surface.
In general you should wait at least 10 minutes for the paint to dry. If you want to make sure everything is dried up perfectly, wait an additional couple of minutes after the surface is dry. To accelerate the drying process you can use a hairdryer at a low temperature and large distance. Ideally you’d want to paint in a relatively dry room at room temperature.