Drying vs Curing in furniture Paint, close up of paint brushes

Understand the difference between Drying and Curing Times of Paint

Sarah Stahl
Sarah Stahl
Passion for transforming tired, old furniture into bold works of art. Sharing my learning with you.

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One of the most important tools you need when refinishing furniture is patience. It’s necessary to achieve a beautiful and durable finish. Far too often the drying and curing times of paint are not followed and this can result in your paint failing.

 I fully understand that patience can be one of the hardest elements for furniture refinishers to learn and practice. It is very easy to get caught up in social media and the speed at which furniture is being refinished.  The 48-hour challenges, weekend speed flips, and videos on high speed create the illusion that furniture refinishing can be completed quickly.


close up of paint and paint brush. Each paint has a different drying and curing time

Table of Contents

Furniture refinishers should learn patience when working with paint. Specifically, adhering to drying and curing times of paint.  While drying and curing sound interchangeable, they are not. They each refer to a completely different process occurring within the paint.  Each is key to achieving a finish in which you can guarantee quality and durability to your customers.

What occurs first, Drying or Curing?

When we first apply paint to our furniture piece, we need to allow drying time.  This refers to the length of time that the paint requires to feel dry to the touch.  When you have completed all coats of paint for your piece, and the paint is dry to the touch, it then requires curing time.  This is the time required for the paint to fully harden to its maximum durability. 

Important differences of Drying and Curing times of paint

While paint may be dry to the touch, it still is vulnerable.  At this time, bumps can cause damage.  Paint smudging occurs easily.  You should never try a scratch test after drying time.  The paint will likely fail.  It was simply not ready. 

Curing time is when the paint has fully hardened, and it will not reach a stronger durability than at this moment.  It’s only after reaching this stage that the paint can withstand regular use and even be cleaned. 

By understanding the difference between these two processes, you are giving your furniture projects the time necessary to achieve maximum durability. Take the necessary time to ensure your pieces reach their final destination in pristine condition.

Let’s dive into drying time in more depth.

Drying Vs Curing time of Paint

How long is the drying time for paints?

Depending on the type of furniture paint that you are using, the drying time will differ.  It is important to read the label or review the website of the paint of your choice. 

While the paint may be dry to the touch, it is still very vulnerable.  You should not do anything more than lightly touch the surface.

Popular Furniture Paints Drying times.

Fusion Mineral Paint – 2 hours

Milk Paint – 30 minutes (various based on brand)

Wise Owl One Hour Enamel – 2 to 4 hours

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint – 1 to 3 hours

Dixie Belle Silk All in One – 1 to 2 hours

Each of these paints are readily available in the Netherlands, which is why I am familiar with them.

Can you dry paint faster?

There is a variety of factors that can influence the drying 

I do not recommend trying to shorten the drying time too much as it could also affect the quality of the paint.  You can try to increase the ventilation in your workspace.  This will help to allow the solvents to evaporate faster.  This can be done with fans, and open doors/windows to create airflow.

I have seen the use of hair dryers, working in the direct sun, and even a heat gun to apply more heat to the paint.  I would not recommend adding direct heat to the paint.  Too much heat will directly cause the paint to fail.

hair dryer can be used to speed up paint drying, but is not recommended

time. During the drying time, the solvent in the paint is evaporating. which results in the paint hardening and forming a protective layer on the surface.  The thickness of the paint you applied, the temperature in the space you are working in, and the humidity, are all elements that can affect the drying time.

Stressed for Time and absolutely need to dry paint fast?

If you are working against the clock, I recommend choosing milk paint.  It dries faster than the other paints and can be recoated very quickly.

Furthermore, Milk Paint is self leveling and doesn’t leave brush strokes.  For more information on milk paint check out these 8 reasons why I recommend milk paint.

different brands of milk paint, which are quick drying paints

Can you apply a second coat before drying time has passed?

Drying time should always be followed. Painting a coat over an earlier layer of paint that has not yet dried can result in brush strokes, occurring in the first layer.  Worse, it could even lift off the first layer of paint. 

How long is the curing time for paint?

Curing time is the time it takes for the paint to fully harden and reach maximum durability. During this time your piece should be handled with care.   Often curing time is not understood and pieces are sold immediately after completion.

Pieces that are shipped or transported before curing time is passed, should be treated with utmost care.  Take all necessary precautions of packing the piece to ensure the paint is protected and inform your customers of how much time is remaining for the paint to fully cure.  This way, your customer can take care of the piece and avoid placing anything on top which may scratch or lift the paint.

Curing time can also be affected by similar factors as the drying time.  That is humidity, temperature, and airflow. It’s not only warmer weather that will affect the drying time.  Cooler temperatures can slow down the process and cause the curing time to lengthen.

While the piece is being cured, ensure that it has proper airflow.  Therefore, do not wrap the piece unnecessarily.

Fusion mineral paint coal black

How can you tell if a piece is fully cured?

When the paint is dry but not yet cured, it is considered soft.  You can take your nail or a sharp edge and gently press down into the paint.  If it is only dried, it will create an indent in the paint. 

Popular Furniture Paints Curing Times.

Fusion Mineral Paint – 21 days

Milk Paint – Huge variation between brands; from 24 hours to 30 days

Wise Owl One Hour Enamel – cured 90% in 4 hours and fully cured over 10 days

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint – 14 days

Dixie Belle Silk All in One – 30 days


Mastering the art of patience in furniture painting involves understanding the difference between drying time and curing time. While drying time refers to the period it takes for the paint to dry to the touch, curing time is the time it takes for the paint to fully harden and reach its maximum durability. By allowing sufficient drying and curing time, you can avoid costly mistakes and ensure that your furniture painting projects stand the test of time.

Remember to consider factors such as the type of paint used, the thickness of the paint layer, and the environmental conditions when determining the appropriate drying and curing times. While it may be tempting to rush the process, exercise patience. Your patience will be rewarded with a beautiful piece that will bring joy and style to your space for years to come. Happy painting!


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