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Be Sure To Protect Your Walls With The Best Paint Primer

  1. Zinsser Synthetic Paint Primer
  2. Kilz 2 Stainblocking Paint Primer
  3. Pratt & Lambert Multi-Purpose Paint Primer
  4. Rust Oleum Paint Primer
  5. Behr Premium Concrete & Masonry Bonding Primer No. 880
  6. Buyer's Guide

The most important part of any paint job is called surface preparation. I don’t care how good a pint you buy or how much you spend on it, if you don’t have a good surface to apply it to, it’s not going to last. That means that the surface has to be properly primed as well, as the primer is what bonds the substrate and the paint together.

While it is possible to paint many surfaces without priming them first, it’s not advisable. There are several things that primers do, which paints aren't really designed to do. While many manufacturers are now advertising their paints and “paint and primer in one,” the reality is that those paints still don’t do as good a job as a true primer will.

Quality paints are designed for coverage. More than anything, that means putting a thick coat of high pigment, high solids paint on the surface, which will cover up whatever is underneath it in one coat, so that you don’t have to go back and do it again. At the same time, these paints are designed to remain somewhat flexible, so that they don’t crack and bubble over time.

An unprimed surface causes serious problems with the paint being able to cover well. Most substrates used in construction are porous, so some percentage of the paint soaks into the substrate and is not available to provide cover and weather protection. The more porous the surface is, the less paint remains on the surface to cover and protect from the weather.

Primers are designed very different than paints; with the main goal of soaking into the substrate and sealing it. By doing that, they make it possible for the paint to stay on the surface, where it can provide the most protection to the building.

Another reason for using primer is that not all substrates are compatible with all paints, or even with any paint at all. Aluminum, for example, doesn't bond well with any paint. By using a special aluminum primer, you create a chemical bond with the aluminum substrate, providing a good surface for the paint to adhere to. Properly primed aluminum will allow the paint to last for years longer than applying paint directly to the aluminum substrate.

Some primers also provide a stain hiding capability, which is often necessary when repainting a home. Mold and mildew, water stains and children’s artwork on the wall are all serious problems which paints have trouble covering. It is not the color of these stains that causes the problem, but rather the fact that these stains actually seep through the new paint, staining it. A sealing primer dries fast enough to prevent that, trapping the stain in the substrate.

When picking a primer, you have to be cognizant of the reason you are priming. For new construction, this is usually to promote good adhesion and long paint life. Those reasons can apply to repainting as well, plus the problem I just mentioned about stains. You must also be sure to understand the substrate you are painting over, as that makes a huge difference in primer selection. Checkout our top picks for the best paint primers in 2022.

Here are the best paint primer of 2022

best synthetic paint primer

Zinsser Synthetic Paint Primer - Best Paint Primer Overall

Zinsser’s line of stain covering primers is the best in the market. If you have a stain to fight, then they’re the company you want to do business with. This is a synthetic shellac primer. The great advantage to that is the fast dry time of shellac, not allowing the stain an opportunity to soak into the primer. I've used Zinsser’s products for years to block stains, with excellent results. While many people use it for merely spot stain blocking, it is an excellent primer for everything else as well. Excellent adhesion to almost all surfaces ensures long life and it is even capable of blocking odors as well. Cleans up with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

best stainblocking paint primer

Kilz 2 Stainblocking Paint Primer - Runner Up

Kilz produces a wide variety of specialty primers. Like Zinsser, some of their primers are shellac based, providing the same stain hiding capability. This one is a latex primer, which has been created to provide the same advantages as a shellac primer, with the convenience of water cleanup. While I can’t say that it quite matches shellac for difficult stains, it still does an excellent job in most cases. Although latex based, it can be top-coated with either latex or oil-based paints.

best multi-purpose paint primer

Pratt & Lambert Multi-Purpose Paint Primer - Honorable Mention

This primer, from Pratt & Lambert, is specifically formulated so that it can be used both indoors and outdoors. It bonds extremely well to almost any substrate, including such difficult surfaces as masonry, aluminum and PVC pipe. Please note that some of these surfaces may require special surface preparation for optimum sealing. Another difficult surface that it works extremely well for is repainting over existing high-gloss paint. It is a high pigment, stain hiding primer, which eliminates the need for a separate stain blocker. Fast drying, it can be top-coated with both latex and alkyd paints.

Rust Oleum Paint Primer - Consider

For a normal primer, which isn’t specifically intended to be a stain hider, Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start is an excellent product. This primer is formulated to provide a surface for painting, as if you were working on new construction. That’s great when you’re trying to repaint something, especially if there are problems with the previous paint. It is a low VOC product, which dries quickly. Fresh Start provides excellent adhesion and sealing in an easy to apply product.

Behr Premium Concrete & Masonry Bonding Primer No. 880

Behr Premium Concrete & Masonry Bonding Primer No. 880 - Best Paint Primer

For my last pick, I've changed directions slightly. This is a specialty primer, designed for use on masonry and concrete. These surfaces are highly porous, absorbing paint just about as fast as you can apply it. Without the right sort of primer, it’s easy to waste a lot of paint sealing off the surface of masonry surfaces. The other problem is gaining good adhesion, as some masonry surfaces are fairly crumbly (like mortar). This primer also acts as a bonder, helping to strengthen these surfaces and help them to last longer. Moisture in the masonry can wreck havoc with paint as well, causing it to peel. With this primer, your paint will have optimum adhesion to these difficult surfaces.

Buyer's Guide

Buying the most expensive paints in the world won't do the trick if the primer you choose is not good enough. There are many things to keep in mind when purchasing the best paint primer. If you want a stunning paint job with an elegant finish, this buying guide will help you pick the best primers out there.

What Qualities to Keep in Mind While Choosing the Best Primer?

There are several primer variants present in the market, different from one another. To ensure that the primer you choose fits best with the surface, here are a few qualities to look for:

Primer Formulas

Currently, there are three primer formulas present in the market:

1. Interior and exterior primers are suitable for both indoor and outdoor paint jobs. They are hot in the market because of their multi-purpose properties. I/E primer is a popular choice among users who want different parts of their house primed and painted.
2. Exterior primers usually come with powerful anti-UV, fading, and weather-resistant properties. Since they are suitable for outdoor use only, this strong coating hardly cracks over the years.
3. Interior primers can only be used inside a building as they do not come with intense properties. It is best to choose milder primer with lesser toxins for indoor priming.

Filling Power

A high-quality undercoat primer can also smoothen the inconsistencies in the surface that is about to be primed. However, you need to make sure that the walls are adequately plastered. Otherwise, the effect can be pretty prominent.

Opacifying Abilities

The primer's opacifying ability is a property that allows you to conceal the base color of the surface. A primer with higher opacifying abilities will definitely result in a more uniform and even-colored coat. A low-quality primer, on the other hand, requires dilution that may result in lower opacifying power. Be careful when choosing one.

Coverage Per Surface Area

Before starting a perfect primer job, it is crucial to estimate how much paint you might need. A liter of standard paint can cover around 6.5 square meters. However, high-quality primers can get a better result and more area covered, and less paint is used. Other than a smooth application, they require significantly lesser retouches allowing you to save some extra bucks.

Tint Capability

Although most primers are available in white and gray, you can purchase a primer that can be tinted to a different shade. A primer with the label ‘Tintable’ can help you achieve a more consistent and plush final result.

Drying Time

The drying time depends on the type of primer you choose. For instance, an oil-based primer will need a couple of hours to dry. A latex primer only needs 45 to 60 minutes to dry out.

What Types of Primers are Available in the Market?

Different primer types showcase a unique base ingredient that completely changes their property and usage.

Acrylic Primers

Acrylic primers are a relatively modern touch to vinyl primers. They are a popular choice for both indoor and outdoor use. Here are some properties of acrylic primers:

- Water-based primers (latex)
- High-performance primer
- Non-flammable
- Used for undercoat and finishing
- Available in matt, gloss, and satin variants
- Quick-dry with no pungent smell
- Easy application

Vinyl Primers

Known for their coating properties, vinyl primers are usually used as an undercoat or to apply a finishing touch. Following are the properties of vinyl primers:

- Water-based primers (latex)
- Low pigmentation
- Quick dry
- Odorless
- Low-performance primers

Glycerophtalic Acid Primers

Glycerophtalic acid primers are strong and must be used only on specific surfaces. Here are the key characteristics of glycerophtalic acid primers:

- Require turpentine solvent that leads to a strong chemical smell
- Oil-based primer
- Easily applied over any kind of paint or surface
- High opacifying power
- Consistent finish
- Take longer to dry
- Cleaning brushes after priming is hard

Which Primer is Best for Each Surface?

You cannot just take any primer you like and apply it on a random surface. For best results, you need to pick a primer suitable for the area you want to paint.

- An oil-based primer is perfect for unpainted and painted wood as it will smooth the surface while leaving a denser color coat
- A latex primer is suitable for drywall as it ensures a smoother and even finishes
- A latex stain-blocking primer is suitable for surfaces that are prone to solvent stains like grease
- Use an oil-based stain-blocking primer for non-solvent stains such as smoke
- A rust-resistant oil-based primer can help the paint stay on for longer while avoiding corrosion
- Glossy surfaces can be even- coated using a latex primer such as acrylic

What Tools are Required When Using a Primer?

It might seem like a hefty task at first. However, with proper tools, you can easily DIY something as challenging as a paint primer. Once you have decided on the best paint primer, some essential tools are required to complete the process.

Safety Equipment

Primers can be poisonous and toxic if they come in contact with your face or skin. You must wear appropriate gear to ensure maximum safety. Safety goggles, masks, gloves, and paint overalls are highly recommended for powerful primers.

Rollers and Brushes

Rollers and brushes can change the outcome of a priming surface altogether. You can choose between:

- Synthetic, bristle, or foam brushes of 1 to 5 inches width depending on the surface area.
- Microfiber, wool, synthetic, or foam rollers between 4 to 9 inches width depending on the surface area you will apply the primer on.


A step ladder may come in handy if you plan to apply primer on higher surfaces such as walls and gates.

Final Thoughts

Primers are a mandatory requirement in some paint jobs as they ensure a smooth and flawless finish. There are different variants of primers available in the market. All are suitable for a particular type of surface.

Before buying the best paint primer, you must look at the properties and qualities. Once clear, you can gather all the tools and start working on the walls, making them completely new.

Just make sure that you have a rough estimate of how much primer is required for the entire process. This will not only help you budget properly but also reduce any kind of wastage. Usually, high-quality primers provide better coverage while saving your costs by one good investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are primers and paints different?

A: Primers are resins that are an essential part of paint. However, there are 2 in 1 paint primers available in the market that have the quality of both.

Q: Which surfaces do not require a primer before painting?

A: Previously painted surfaces do not require primers. However, a primer is a big necessity if you are dealing with a porous surface.

Q: How much does a paint primer cost?

A: A paint primer generally costs between $20 to $100 per gallon depending upon the quality, brand, and properties.

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