Primer FAQs

Primer FAQs

  • 1.

    If my paint can says "paint and primer in one," do I still need a primer?

    Even if the paint you are using says “paint and primer in one,” it may still be a good idea to prime first. There are certain issues that cannot be fixed by paint and primer in one, and most brands actually call these out on their back labels.
  • 2.

    What are the different types of primers?

    There are three different types of primers: water base, oil base and shellac base.

    Water Base: Water-base primers are the most commonly used because they are low odor and easy to clean up with soap and water. Typically, they dry in one hour and can be used to hide oil-based stains such as handprints, crayon, pen and marker. Water-base primers are great for new drywall, changing the color of a room or painting over existing murals.

    *Our favorite water-base primer is Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3.

    Oil Base: Oil-base primers are a pro painter favorite. They are fantastic at hiding water stains and tannin bleed. (Tannin bleed is when the tannins from wood show through a painted surface, normally appearing as a yellow/brownish stain.) Oil-base primers do have a stronger odor than water-base primer and require mineral spirits to clean up. They are great for painting wood substrates like siding, trim or cabinets.

    *Our favorite oil-base primer is Zinsser Cover Stain.

    Shellac Base: Shellac-base primers are the ultimate sealer. Shellac is a unique excrete from the lac beetle that quickly dries into a rock-hard coating, giving it superior sealing abilities. Shellac-base primers block water and oil stains while sealing in strong odors from nicotine smoke, fire damage and pet urine. Due to the shellac’s rigid nature, we recommend only using shellac-base products indoors and cleaning up with ammonia and water or denatured alcohol. Shellac-base primers are the superior choice for kitchen cabinets, disaster restoration projects and pet odors.

    *Our favorite shellac-base primer is Zinsser B-I-N

  • 3.

    What do I need to do before painting or priming?

    Before you prime or paint, it’s important to properly prepare the surface. This includes patching any holes no long necessary (we recommend MH Ready Patch or a DAP patch product) and washing the walls to remove any dirt, grease or dust. If you wish to use painter’s tape, apply tape after cleaning the surfaces for the best results.

  • 4.

    What is the best primer for my project?

    There isn’t always one right primer choice for a project, but the suggestions below can help you narrow down the choices.


    •   Changing from dark colors to light: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 White

    •   Changing from light colors to dark: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Gray

    •   Mold: Zinsser Mold Killing Primer

    •   Wood Siding: Zinsser Cover Stain

    •   Wood Trim: Zinsser Cover Stain

    •   Water Stains: Zinsser Cover Stain

    •   Kitchen Cabinets: Zinsser B-I-N or Zinsser Cover Stain

    •   Furniture: Zinsser B-I-N or Zinsser Cover Stain

    •   Peeling Paint: Zinsser Peel Stop Triple Thick

    •   Torn Drywall Paper: Zinsser Gardz

    •   Pet Odor: Zinsser B-I-N

    •   Metal: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3

    •   PVC: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3

  • 5.

    What's the difference between primer and paint?

    Primers and paints are two different kinds of coatings. Primers prep a surface before painting. They contain more resin than paint does. Resin is what gives primer its adhesion, sealing and stain-blocking properties. Paint, on the other hand, has a higher concentrate of pigment than primer. Pigment is what gives paint not only its beautiful color, but its ability to retain color over time.