Guide to Basic Uses Of Paint Primer

Guide to Basic Uses Of Paint Primer

The question of whether or not to apply paint primer before the colour coat is difficult because everyone, it seems, has a different view on the matter.

Paint manufacturers nearly always recommend that you brush, roll, or spray one or two coats of paint primer since this is in service of producing a better colour coat. Paint contractors charging by the hour might recommend a primer. Yet paint contractors charging by the job might lean toward no primer, especially if they include the materials in the cost.

A coat of primer may seem like an unnecessary expense, but when painting interior walls, it’s almost always worth it. You should never omit primer when painting new drywall, and it’s also a benefit over existing glossy or semi-gloss paints. You also need primer when painting over wallpaper — whether porous or not — and wood panelling — whether finished or not. Primer usually isn’t needed when you’re painting over flat wall paint. Looking for the best home painting company? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions has you covered.

Do-it-yourself painters typically want to skip priming before painting, if at all possible. Often, the answer is less based on objective factors than on subjective ones such as cost, time, and one’s patience regarding painting. After all, priming can feel like a wasted effort. Priming is as much work as laying down the colour coat. Every stroke of the brush and every roll of the roller is the same as you would do for the eventual colour coat—yet it all gets covered up in the end.

Benefits of a Primer Coat

Applying primer over new surfaces seals the original material so that the paint doesn’t soak into it, requiring extra coats. Primer also helps to hide joints, or seams, on new drywall, and it prevents bleed-through from knots and other natural blemishes and colouring in the bare wood. Primer with stain-blocking properties seals over mould stains and other discolouration to prevent them from showing through the finish coats of paint. Primer applied to masonry, metal, and many wood surfaces are essential for proper bonding of the paint job.

Primer is usually white but can be other neutral colours. This is to provide a neutral surface to ensure that paint colours show true. There is no need to colour the primer itself, but some paint stores will add a small amount of pigment to the primer to make it closer to your final paint colour. This is a good idea when the final colour is much lighter than the original colour of the surface.

Types Of Paint Primer

Oil Based Primer

Versatility is the name of the game for oil-based primers, as they are great for paint jobs requiring latex or oil-based paint. They can go on tons of different surfaces and are extremely stain resistant. Furthermore, if you’re painting over a surface that has heavy staining, oil-based primer helps to cover the stains up, so they don’t show through the paint when you’re all finished.


Oil-based primer is excellent at withstanding temperature fluctuations, which helps if your finished product will need to be withstanding the elements. It’s also a great choice for the areas of your home that will have a lot of contact with little hands (such as walls, cabinets, or doors) because they help to prevent stains. Basically, if you have little ones at home, an oil-based primer is going to be your best bet at sealing in stains that are already present and helping to keep stains off.


While oil-based primers might be great for those surfaces that you have frequent contact with, they do require a little bit of extra care and time. The dry time for this primer is a full 24 hours, and mineral spirits are required to thin it properly. Oil-based primer can also be more difficult to clean, as you can’t take water and soap to it like you can with other primer types. In addition, it is high in COV compounds, which have been under fire in recent years due to potential health impacts. There is also disposal requirements for oil-based primer and any brushes and other tools you use with it. You absolutely cannot pour it down the drain or into the ground and must dry it out before you dispose of it.

Key Features

Do not use an oil-based primer on masonry. The surfaces ideal for this type of primer is raw wood, raw drywall and patched walls, and rough or stained surfaces. This primer is great with porous woods, so if you are using unfinished wood in a project, this is definitely the primer you need. Keep in mind the 24-hour dry time mentioned above and make sure you allot for this during the planning of your project. To thin oil-based primer, add a small number of mineral spirits and stir before applying. You should always use natural bristle paintbrushes when working with an oil-based primer to ensure a smooth, even coat.Check out Hitch Property Constructions for a huge range of melbourne home painter services. 

Latex Primer

Latex primer is water-based and a healthy alternative for those concerned with VOCs. Softwood, bricks, and concrete are ideal for this primer type as the water base help to give a thin and even coat before you apply paint.


The great thing about latex primer is that you can apply it to a multitude of surfaces, whereas oil-based primers have a limited amount of surfaces you can use it on. Latex primers are excellent for drywall, plaster, woodwork, metal, and masonry. It also has a very quick dry time, so you won’t have to wait long to complete your project. Allowing 3 to 4 hours to dry is all that’s needed before you can start painting away, although a test patch is often recommended depending on the type of material you are working with.

In addition, it’s more flexible and less brittle than oil-based primers so you won’t have to worry about your finished project cracking into pieces once you’re done or peeling away. It also contains almost no VOCs, and some contain no VOCs which makes it ideal for indoor work (especially unfinished drywall). While latex-based primer and latex-based paint are more susceptible to stains, the water-based component makes for easy clean up if needed.


Staining and poor coverage are the main issues with a latex primer. Unlike oil-based and shellac primer, latex primer and paints show stains much more easily. It also is not ideal for areas that are heavily stained, as it does not have the thickness and durability to cover stains quite like the other types of primers do. While it does have a quick dry time, you will still need to do a test area if you are using it on wood in order to see if it will cause the grain of the wood to raise. This does add some extra time to your project, but ensuring that the wood doesn’t get wrecked from the primer is very important to a beautiful finish.

Key Features

Latex-based primer covers a variety of surfaces easily with a 3 to 4-hour dry time. It is readily disposed of and has little to no VOCs. Even though it is a healthier option, it is still important to keep the room aired out and a fan on to avoid any potentially harmful fumes. Make sure to do a test patch prior to a full application to ensure you do not ruin the wood if that is what you are working with. The best brush to use with latex primer is a synthetic brush.

Shellac Primer

This is your go-to for interior work as it helps to seal surfaces. It has tons of benefits and a limited amount of negative qualities, which is why it has been praised as an ideal primer for hundreds of years. It’s also great if you have pesky stains to cover up.


While the other primers listed have multiple hour dry times, shellac primer dries in less than an hour. This makes projects quick and easy to finish and, even if you decide you want to do a test patch, it won’t set your project back very long. Like oil-based primer, its excellent at stain blocking and assists in the cleaning process if stains or fingerprints start to show. It’s also one of the more ideal primers for covering up stains that are already present. Finally, it is adhesive enough that it sticks to a variety of surfaces, so any leftover primer can be used on other projects down the road.


There aren’t many complaints when it comes to shellac primers. While it does contain a larger amount of VOCs, most people overlook this due to the fact that it has an impeccable and almost unmatchable ability to give a smooth, even cover to surfaces prior to painting. It does require the additional step of thinning, but this is relatively simple. A small amount of denatured alcohol is required prior to application. Simply mix it in and prime away! Since shellac primer does give off a decent amount of fumes (more so than latex), it is important to keep the room ventilated by opening windows and turning a fan on. Some people also wear masks in order to have an added layer of protection against the fumes and chemicals.

Key Features

Shellac primer is to be used only with oil paint or latex paint. The surfaces you can apply it to our highly versatile and include wood, metal, plaster, and plastic. Always keep the room you are working in heavily ventilated as it contains VOCs when working with shellac primer and make sure to thin it out with alcohol. You can use both synthetic or natural bristle paint brushes with shellac primer, but most people prefer natural bristled brushes.

Reasons For Priming Before Painting

Paint primer is designed to provide a stable surface that subsequent paint layers can lock onto. Paint primer also helps to hide surface stains.

Provides a Stable Base Surface

A surface’s porosity is the condition that most often warrants the use of a paint primer. When the surface is too porous, too much of the paint will draw into the surface. Multiple coats of paint are required before the paint can develop a thick, protective shell.

The opposite can be a problem, as well. When the surface is too glossy, colour coat adhesion is difficult because the paint cannot lock onto the surface. Paint primer, being slightly rough and porous, provides an excellent texture for the paint to grab onto.

Covers Stains

Paint primer is also valuable for covering up lower stains. With the stains covered, the colour coat is free to do its job of providing beautiful colours instead of covering up stains.

Also, because the primer is typically less expensive than paint, it makes economic sense to use primer for base coats rather than paint.

You can never go wrong with priming. If you have little confidence in the condition of the wall prior to painting, the default choice is to prime it.

Do You Have to Prime Before Painting?

Not all conditions need to be present for you to decide to prime the surface first. Common conditions that trigger the necessity for primer. At Hitch Property Constructions, we offer Melbourne home painting services

Surface Is Porous

A highly porous surface usually means that primer is needed. Newly installed drywall is highly porous in two ways: the bare facing paper on drywall and the dried joint compound covering the seams. Bare wood is even more porous and always requires a primer. Masonry such as retaining wall blocks and bricks need paint primer.

Drywall Is Skim-Coated

A skim coat is a thin swipe of drywall compound laid over bare drywall. Considered a level five finish, the highest grade possible, a skim coat is not something you encounter often. But as with bare wood or drywall paper, it is highly porous and thus requires at least one coat of primer before painting.

Previous Coat Is Glossy

Glossy base coats do not hold paint well. A light scuffing with sandpaper and a coat or two of primer will help the colour coat stick. Even if you decide not to scuff that glossy sheen, using a primer will help subsequent coats stick. Plastics and glossy paints nearly always require some type of roughening of texture prior to painting.

Colour Changing From Dark to Light

Avoid the problems that come with repeatedly laying down expensive light-coloured paint over darker colours. Instead, first, treat the surface with two layers of white primer if the existing colour is extremely dark.

When going from a light colour to a dark colour, note that most paint retailers have the ability to tint your primer. This brings the colour of the primer closer to that of the wall finish colour, reducing the number of primer coats and colour coats you lay down.

Surface Is Stained

Spotted or stained surfaces benefit from a coat or two of priming before painting. Consider using thicker primers such as Kilz 2 or Kilz Max for these conditions.

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