Paint and Primer in One: Paint With Primer is a Myth

Be very careful and consider the results you will get if you use a paint and primer in one step.  I have seen a lot of ads pushing this idea of one-coat painting, but that just plays to people’s idea that painting is a drag and one coat would be quick and easy.

It’s actually easier and safer to go with the old method because if you get the wrong primer in your paint and primer in one, you will be starting all over when you think you are done!  For primers: jump to the bottom to see the list of the best products and what they are for.

Why use a paint primer

Primers are for sealing and giving porous surfaces a first ‘drink’ so they are paint-able (so the next coat will adhere).

Paints are for looks and, outdoors, for looks and protection.  But if you insist, use Kilz, a very good name in primer.  I would trust this product. Below I explain why it’s better to do the primer alone in the first step instead of using a paint and primer in one (plus you will always have some left over and it comes in handy).

What is inside your Paint and Primer in One?

There are several types of primers. Some paint primers are designed to seal out stains, and some to create a bonding surface.  What kind of primer did your paint and primer in one come with? I would not know either.  Is it rust? Metal? Plastic? Cigarette smell?  Bold colors need primer-love too.

A very good reason to not use a paint and primer in one: Your health.  Why using toxic ingredients if you do not need them?

Paint primer for wood: do not use a paint and primer in one

room painted with a paint primer
room painted with a paint primer

My friend asked me why his wood ceiling would not cover after 4 coats. Should have called me first dude.  Resins in wood and stains in walls that pick up impurities need a shellac to stop the stains from bleeding through. Do you want to “prime” your new walls?  That’s a horse of a different color: that’s not a shellac, that is less of a problem.  A stain-killing primer will do it, but why buy more firepower than you need?  Why breathe that stuff if you don’t have to?

Drywall and the “mud” compound that covers seams and spots where the screws are will soak up paint differently and if you don’t use a primer to stop the absorption (paint won’t do it), you will always see the seams and spots.

Paint primer for water stain
Water Staining that needs a paint primer, not a paint and primer in one

You have to know what you are doing before you go shopping.  Ask me or ask a real paint store (not a big box store: they hire monkeys).  If you have a paint and primer in one tinted to your color and now you are reading this and thinking that you may have made a mistake: yes, I’m sorry you did, and that tinted paint cannot be returned. use it anyway, but be aware, you will probably need a coat more than you planned (and you only needed those ‘primer’ chemicals in your first coat).

If you get it wrong, you will not seal tannins, stains, or maybe oils that you should have sealed and it will have to be done again.  These impurities bleed through latex paint: latex does not have any real sealing properties.  Sorry ’bout that.  Good to buy a small sized can and test one area before buying all the paint.

Honestly, in most cases, with the right tools and the right clean-up tools, one more coat is not that big of a deal for an average room. Now, if you are doing a warehouse-sized room, yes, maybe it is going to be worth it, but please call the paint store representative, perhaps even the district rep if you are risking that much investment. Paint store managers study the chemistry of paint and are trustworthy sources. You can always write to me also or leave a comment below.

The whole ball game is what are the solids in the solution?  It is the solids that wind up doing the job for you.

When NOT to Use Primer (and When You Must):

Stains: at least spot prime where they appear. (Sometimes when we know we need more than one coat, we will start with a coat of regular finish paint, wait and see what bleeds through, then spot prime those, then apply final coat–this way we get them all and don’t waste time with non-stains).

Drywall: yes, always, but only with drywall primer which is not nearly as intense as stain killers. Be sure to dust those new walls first or you will have a gritty wall! (We use a push-broom).

New wood: if pine, you will need an oil primer.  Other woods you may get by with water-based.  Ask your a paint store manager: they know. I have written about other paint issues here.

Here is a list of the different kind of primers: go here to choose your weapons when you know what you need.  The second one is my main go-to choice: the original alcohol based primer.  Have some rubbing alcohol on hand to clean your hands.  Use a cheap brush and throw it away for most of these (even the water-based ones as they get gunky after a bit).  Don’t expect these brushes will work for cutting lines. Read my post on that.  This is the end of my post.  What follows is copied from the makers.  Good luck!

This is the short, common list.  One painter in Indiana has a great page on primers and of course the internet authority, Wikipedia is on the ball.  Sherwin-Williams has a great article on types of problems.


paint and primer in one book
paint and primer in one book Photo by Joanna Bourne


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