Primer vs No Primer: Best Choice for Your Walls

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

When you paint a wall, you might wonder if you should use a primer first.

primer is a special coat of paint you apply before the main paint. It helps the main paint stick better and last longer. Primer is especially useful when you’re painting new walls, changing colors from dark to light, or fixing walls with stains or damage.

If the wall is already in good shape and the color change isn’t too big, you might not need it. But, skipping primer could mean you need more coats of the main paint, and it might not stick as well or look as smooth.

What is Primer?

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Phots by – Zane Selvans

Primer is a preparatory coating on walls before painting. It’s designed to make sure the paint sticks well and looks good. Primer does a few important things. It covers stains, fills small holes and cracks, and makes a smooth surface for the paint. This means your paint job looks better and lasts longer.

Primers come in different types for different surfaces, like wood, metal, or drywall. They also help when changing wall colors, especially from dark to light. Using primer makes the new color look more like it should and stops the old color from showing through. It’s a key step in many painting projects to get the best results.

Benefits of Using Primer

Primer makes sure your paint sticks well, looks smooth, and lasts longer on any surface.

Improved Paint Adhesion

Primer is essential for creating a sticky base that helps the paint stick better to the wall. This is especially important in areas where paint might peel or flake off over time. With primer, the paint adheres more securely, reducing the risk of peeling and ensuring a long-lasting finish.

This stickiness is crucial for surfaces that are typically hard for paint to stick to, like glossy finishes or untextured materials.

Enhanced Coverage

A big benefit of primer is its ability to cover imperfections on the wall. It fills in minor holes and cracks, creating a smooth and even surface. This means the paint can cover the wall more evenly and effectively.

Primer also helps in reducing the number of paint coats needed, especially when changing colors or covering dark shades. It acts as a barrier, preventing the old color or stains from bleeding through the new paint.

Greater Durability

Primer protects the wall from various issues like moisture, stains, and damage. It adds an extra layer of defense, helping the paint job last longer.

This is particularly important in rooms exposed to humidity, like bathrooms and kitchens, or in areas that get a lot of wear and tear.

Reduced Paint Costs

By improving coverage, primer can save you money. It helps in using less paint, as the primer’s coverage reduces the need for multiple layers of expensive paint.

This can be a cost-effective solution, especially for large-scale painting projects.

More Vibrant Colors

Primer acts as a neutral, white base that allows the true color of the paint to shine. It enhances the paint’s vibrancy and ensures the color on the wall matches what you see in the can. This is especially noticeable when painting with bright or deep colors.

How to Choose the Right Primer?

Choosing the right primer is key for a successful paint job. Consider the surface you’re painting. For new drywall, use a drywall primer to seal the porous surface. For wood, a primer that blocks stains and knots is best. If you’re dealing with metal, choose a primer that prevents rust.

Also, think about the paint you’re using. Oil-based primers work well with oil or latex paints, while latex primers are best with latex paint. If you’re in a high-moisture area like a bathroom, look for a primer that resists mold and mildew.

When to Use Primer

New Drywall: New drywall absorbs paint. A primer seals it, improving paint adhesion and giving a more even finish.

Previously Painted Walls: If the old paint is peeling or stained, primer creates a stable base for new paint, hiding imperfections and ensuring better adhesion.

Changing Colors Drastically: When going from dark to light colors, primer prevents the old color from bleeding through, ensuring the true new color shows.

Glossy or Satin Finishes: Primer helps these finishes stick better and look smoother.

Uneven Surfaces: Primer fills in imperfections, creating a smooth base for paint.

What Happens If You Paint Without Primer?

Paint might peel off your wall because it doesn’t have a good base to hold onto. Without primer, you might see flakes and chips sooner than you’d expect.

You could see stains or old paint colors showing through. Primer covers these up, so without it, your new paint won’t look as clean or as bright.

It could take more coats of paint to hide the old color. That means you need to buy more paint, which costs you more money and time.

The paint may not look even. Some spots could be darker and others lighter. Primer helps you get one solid color all over.

If your wall has little holes or rough spots, these might show up more. Primer fills these in, so without it, your finish won’t be as smooth.

Your paint might not stick to shiny or smooth surfaces. Primer makes paint stick better, so without it, the paint could come off too easy.

You might find your paint getting dirty fast. Primer seals the wall, so without it, dirt and grease can soak through the paint.

Moisture from your walls could mess up your paint job. Primer acts like a shield, but without it, paint alone won’t keep water out.

In places that get touched a lot, like handrails or cabinets, the paint might wear down quick. Primer adds extra protection that you’re missing out on.

You could spend more cash in the long run. Without primer, you’ll need to fix your paint job more often, which means more paint and more work for you.

Primer vs No Primer

Aspect With Primer Without Primer
Adhesion Improves paint adhesion, reducing peeling or flaking Paint may not adhere as well, leading to peeling or chipping
Durability Increases the durability of the paint job A paint job may not last as long, prone to wear and tear
Coverage Provides better coverage, especially for drastic color changes This may lead to uneven coverage, requiring more coats for an even finish
Cost Efficiency More cost-efficient in the long run due to reduced need for multiple paint coats Initially less costly but may require more paint for proper coverage
Time Efficiency More time-consuming due to additional steps but ensures better results Saves time but might compromise the quality and finish
Color Vibrancy Enhances color vibrancy and accuracy Colors may not appear as vibrant or true to tone


How do I choose the right primer?

Select a primer based on your paint type and surface. For example, use a water-based primer for latex paint and an oil-based primer for oil-based paint. Always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for the best results.

Does the Color of the Primer Matter?

No, the color of the primer doesn’t matter as long as it’s compatible with your paint type (water-based or oil-based). A white primer can provide better coverage and vibrancy for lighter paint colors, while a gray primer can help achieve darker shades.

How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting?

Most primers dry to the touch in 30-60 minutes, but wait 3-4 hours for complete drying before painting. Always check the specific product instructions.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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