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9 Best Paint Primer For Drywall Tested

Did you know that paint primers can solve common problems like moisture damage, stains, odors, color changes, and more?

Best Paint Primer For Drywall

For years, professionals have sworn on this excellent problem-solving tool to execute the most uniform and flawless jobs. However, many homeowners are not familiar with its benefits. This has led to DIY enthusiasts skipping on this all-important priming step, often leading to disastrous outcomes.

But we’re here to tell you that priming doesn’t have to be the unnecessarily daunting and complicated step that you think it is. The only thing you need for a professional finish paint job is the right tub of paint primer.

And we have curated this comprehensive guide of our 9 favorite paint primers for drywall.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s jump right into it!

Best Paint Primer for Drywall

A painter paints a concrete wall with white paint, a male hand with a paint roller for painting a wall

Here's the list of the 9 best paint primers for drywall tested, ensuring a flawless and professional finish for your painting projects.

1. INSL-X SXA11009A - Best for Challenging Surfaces

INSL-X is a remarkable bonding primer formulated for various challenging surfaces like glazed blocks, fiberglass, galvanized metals, glossy tile, pre-coated siding, vinyl, or PVC. It provides an excellent base for a shiny polished finish and is best applied with a polyester or nylon brush.

INSL-X SXA11009A-04 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer,...
  • Premium-quality, acrylic-urethane bonding primer-sealer with...
  • Bonding primer for drywall, plaster, ceiling, acoustical...

Why Did We Like It?

The product is durable and has unparalleled adhesion that enables it to form a tough layer on almost all kinds of challenging surfaces. Hence, it works effectively on drywall and interior and exterior surfaces such as masonry walls, plaster, wood trims, acoustic tiles, cement block, shutters, stucco, etc.

One quart of this product can easily cover 75 to 100 square feet of surface area, enhancing its value for money. Also, it is water-based and has a low VOC, which means it can easily be cleaned with soap and water, which we love.

One of the best features of this product is that it fully cures at average to very low temperatures (up to 35 degrees Fahrenheit) to give the desired finish. And that is generally not possible with most of the other brands. It's exceptional adhesive quality and marvelous enamel holdout provides an excellent base for an even and flawless topcoat finish.

What Could’ve Been Better?

This primer takes over 3 hours to cure completely, which means you have to wait for a long time before applying the second or third coat. This extends the overall painting experience and may be inconvenient to some users who are on a tight deadline.



Pros

  • It can be used on almost all kinds of surfaces
  • Water-based and therefore easy to clean
  • It gives an excellent smooth finish
  • Value for money




Cons

  • Has a 3-4 hour dry time in between coats



Paint Type: ‎Acrylic | Coverage per Gallon: 300-400 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎6 x 6 x 5.88 inches | Weight: ‎‎2.76 pounds | Size: ‎32 Fl Oz

2. Rust-Oleum 286258 Primer - Best for Vivid Topcoats

The Rust-Oleum Zinsser range is a premium, best-selling, and industrial-level series of primers known for high endurance properties. Hence, model number 286258 from this range is the perfect product for anyone looking for a primer for interior and exterior surfaces.

Sale
Zinsser 286258 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer, Quart,...
  • Interior/Exterior use on new or previously painted drywall,...
  • Water-based formula seals uniformly and will stick to...

Why Did We Like It?

This is a water-based primer that gives a high-performance finish and can stick uniformly on virtually any surface it is applied. As we mentioned already, this primer is grey, making it ideal for use under darker, vivid, and more vibrant colors than the traditional white primer. This saves both time and money by improving the hide and coverage of this primer under darker topcoats.

Moreover, the final uniform layer that this primer forms on surfaces are resistant to mildew and has excellent stain-blocking properties. It drastically reduces time and effort because it eliminates sanding and has a cure time of only one hour. This enables you to apply multiple coats of this primer in a comparatively short period. One can of this primer also has impressive coverage of up to 100 square feet of surface area.

That’s not all; the versatility of this primer allows it to be applied via both aerosol spray guns and the traditional roller and brush technique. This will enable users to pick the mode of application that is more convenient for them.

What Could’ve Been Better?

Some customers have complained that this primer scratches off easily and is not as durable as the manufacturer claims. But it should not be an issue for anyone using this primer as an undercoat instead of a topcoat.



Pros

  • High coverage
  • Has a short drying and cure time
  • Mold and mildew resistant
  • Rust inhibitive




Cons

  • Scratches off easily



Paint Type: ‎Acrylic | Coverage per Gallon: 350-450 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎4.25 x 4.25 x 4.88 inches | Weight: ‎‎‎2.8 pounds | Size: ‎31 Fl Oz

3. KILZ 2 - Best for Stain-Blocking Properties

KILZ is a renowned name in the field of manufacturing premium quality paints and primers. The brand has been around for over 40 years. The KILZ 2 10942 is one of their highest-selling primers and has comfortably made it to our top 9 primers list. It has also been awarded “Paint Brand of the Year” in 2015 by the Harris Poll EquiTrend Rankings.

KILZ 20002 Qt 2
  • A good primer makes paint stick better to surfaces, makes...
  • KILZ 2 Latex blocks mild to medium staining from water,...

Why Did We Like It?

This primer by KILZ is a high-quality 3-in-one primer, sealer, and stain blocker. The strong adhesion properties of this primer enable it to efficiently seal porous surfaces and lock in any new paint that is applied over it. It also can block and conceal the formation of mild to medium stains from grease, water, pencil, or ink.

Moving on, one gallon of this primer can comfortably cover from 300 to 400 square feet of area. It is mildew resistant and can be applied on a wide variety of surfaces, from drywall, stucco, plaster, and wood to popcorn ceilings, and so on.

The primer dries to the touch in only 30 minutes and has an overall cure time of one hour, making it convenient to re-apply in a shorter period. Furthermore, the viscosity of this primer allows it to be applied via a brush, roller, or spray according to the user’s convenience.

What Could’ve Been Better?

It’s imperative to prep the surface you are planning to apply this primer. The manufacturer states that this primer must not only be mixed well before use but must also be applied on surfaces that are free of dust, mold, rust, or peeling.



Pros

  • Can be used on multiple surfaces
  • Short cure time
  • Water-based and non-toxic
  • Value for money




Cons

  • Complicated prep procedure



Paint Type: ‎‎Water Based, Oil | Coverage per Gallon: 300-400 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎‎9 x 13.1 x 5.3 inches | Weight: ‎2.9 pounds | Size: ‎32 Fl Oz

4. Prestige

If you’re a professional or a painting enthusiast, you will recognize Prestige Paints as one of the leading manufacturers of paints in the USA. Their company provides its customers with over 1300 color shades of paint in four different kinds of finishes to choose from. Even their range of primers is available in the largest variety of shades compared to any other primer brand in the market.

PRESTIGE Interior Paint and Primer in One, Mountain Gray,...
  • Ultra premium paint and primer in one
  • Ideal for living rooms, family rooms, media rooms, bedrooms,...

Why Did We Like It?

One of the most remarkable qualities of this primer is that it comes furnished with a lifetime warranty for structural defects. So, as long as the instructions are correctly followed, this primer has the guarantee to last you a lifetime! The high-quality customer service provided by Prestige allows unsatisfied customers with original purchase receipts to apply for either a replacement or a refund for their product.

If that alone wasn’t enough to pique your interest, this primer is also mold and mildew resistant, making it ideal for a variety of indoor surfaces, starting with wood, metal, and other previously painted surfaces. This primer is generally recommended for application on interior surfaces and is ideal for bedrooms, hallways, dining rooms, living rooms, and even under-ventilated areas like the basement.

One gallon of this primer can comfortably cover from 325 to 400 square feet of wall area. The smooth satin finish this primer provides is not only long-lasting but also has a low VOC of less than 5 g/l before tinting.

What Could’ve Been Better?

This primer is oil-based and hence might be a little more challenging to clean than its water-based counterparts. It also has a comparatively longer cure time of 4 hours, automatically lengthening the overall painting time.



Pros

  • Easily washable
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty
  • Easy to apply
  • Can be applied to a variety of interior surfaces




Cons

  • Long cure time
  • Not very easy to wash or clean



Paint Type: Acrylic | Coverage per Gallon: 300-400 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎‎‎10.69 x 10.69 x 9.13 inches | Weight: ‎‎12.1 pounds | Size: ‎120 Fl Oz

5. Rust-Oleum 02101

As you all may already know, Rust-Oleum is one of the leading paint manufacturing companies in the USA. Hence, it must come as no surprise that their clear primer in model number 2104 has made it into our top 9 paint primers list.

Rust-Oleum Corporation 02101 Zinsser Shieldz Wall Size,...
  • Prepares all painted or glossy surfaces for wallpaper or...
  • Adheres to vinyl, paneling and other hard-to-stick-to...

Why Did We Like It?

While all the primer companies added to this list are deemed user-friendly and dependable, this one is off the charts. Rust-Oleum is, in fact, so confident of the top quality of this primer that they have a “Satisfaction Guaranteed” warranty attached to it.

The primer is clear in color, making it the perfect undercoat shade for any painting job. If you were looking to invest in a darker-tinted primer, for example, then this is the one for you. Its versatility allows you to mix the exact shade of paint you were applying to this primer and creates the perfect undercoat shade for your paint to bloom.

Moreover, the paint primer is also acrylic-based which means automatically also means that it’s water-soluble. This makes the application and cleaning process of this primer extremely easy and perfect for any indoor drywall.

What Could’ve Been Better?

The only criticism that this primer has received is in its shipping. In some instances, this paint’s indelicate handling and insufficient packaging have caused it to arrive with dents and leakages. However, this issue is more regarding the shipping company than the product itself.



Pros

  • Has a strong power of adhesion
  • Can be tinted to dark colors
  • Makes positioning easier
  • Easy to apply and clean




Cons

  • Poor shipping



Paint Type: Acrylic | Coverage per Gallon: 300-400 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎‎‎‎6.63 x 7.38 x 7.56 inches | Weight: ‎‎0.1981 pounds | Size: ‎128 Fl Oz

6. ROMAN Products

ROMAN is known for consistently delivering some of the highest quality paint equipment for over 75 years. Hence, the same can be said about their PRO-999 Rx-35 problem-solving primer which is clear in color and comes packaged in a 1-gallon can.

ROMAN PRO-999 Rx-35 Wallpaper Primer and Sealer - Bonding...
  • IDEAL DRYWALL PRIMER - ROMAN Clear Primer is excellent for...
  • SEALS AND PRIMES - PRO-999 Wallpaper Sealer and Primer dries...

Why Did We Like It?

This paint primer is ideal for priming and sealing problematic porous surfaces such as torn drywall, joint compounds, and wallpaper waste. This primer’s one-gallon volume can easily cover up to 450 square feet of surface area, depending on your usage and surface texture. This is a considerably high coverage compared to most of the other primers on our list and hence is one of this product’s redeeming qualities.

The chemical formulation of this primer enhances its adhesion and dries with a residual tack which makes it ideal to be applied under wallpapers. The wallpaper paste can lock itself on this adhesive texture of the primer very securely and can even prevent bubbling and rewetting.

However, the versatility of this primer also makes it a suitable choice for application under the paint. The clear color of the primer allows it to be mixed with paint to form the perfect shade of undercoat. It also comes with a tin tray with up to 4 ounces of volume for ease of mixing and application.

What Could’ve Been Better?

While this is one of our favorite primers and one of our top recommendations, it tends to be unavailable online most of the time. This makes it difficult for consumers to purchase it even when they’re interested in buying it.



Pros

  • Good coverage
  • Strong sealant features
  • Enhanced adhesion for wallpapering
  • No-run formula
  • Easy to apply and clean




Cons

  • Availability issues



Paint Type: Spray | Coverage per Gallon: 250-350 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎‎‎‎‎6.63 x 7.13 x 7.5 inches | Weight: ‎‎‎8.48 pounds | Size: ‎128 Fl Oz

7. XIM 11022

XIM 11022 in color 400W White is an ultra-premium oil-based primer developed keeping in mind the Federal and State VOC requirements. The thoughtful formulation of this primer has hence successfully solved several paint bonding problems seen in other primers.

Why Did We Like It?

Xim has developed a 3-in-one solvent or oil-based primer, bonder, and sealer ideal for coating various indoor and outdoor surfaces. Its excellent adhesion properties enable it to efficiently seal all surfaces and successfully bond with paint, making it perfect for most hard-to-coat surfaces.

Unlike most other primers, this has a seemingly straightforward preparation routine before application. Surfaces that are clean and dull may not need to be sanded at all before application. However, hard and glossy surfaces will still require sanding to create some texture and promote maximum adhesion.

The oil-based formulation of this primer makes it impressively long-lasting and durable as compared to its other rivals. Furthermore, this allows this primer to be applied under various popular paints that are all alkyd, oil, or even latex topcoats.

What Could’ve Been Better?

It’s a solvent-based primer and hence is a little challenging to clean up during use. This primer is also not recommended to be applied beneath strong solvent topcoats such as lacquers or even two-component epoxies and urethane.



Pros

  • Dries very quickly
  • Powerful bonding capacity
  • Ideal for both interior and exterior use
  • Perfect for tough-to-paint surfaces
  • Durable finish




Cons

  • It cannot be cleaned using water and soap
  • Not recommended to be applied under strong solvent topcoats



Paint Type: Acrylic | Coverage per Gallon: 400-500 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎4.25 x 4.25 x 4.88 inches | Weight: ‎‎‎‎2.8 pounds | Size: ‎32 Fl Oz

8. INSL-X AQ040009A-01

As you may already know, INSL-X is a well-established brand in the paint manufacturing business in the USA. Their Aqua Lock Plus range is most well known for being a dynamic series of high-quality everyday-use primers. The superior finish and affordable price point have made this primer one of our top recommendations.

INSL-X AQ040009A-01 Aqua Lock Plus 100% Acrylic Water-Based...
  • Multipurpose, 100% acrylic primer sealer that provides...
  • Superior sealing and coverage qualities, product versatility...

Why Did We Like It?

This 100% acrylic primer sealer provides excellent adhesion and superior sealings properties, making it ideal for application on multiple surfaces. Hence, the product is multipurpose and can be applied under a variety of interior and exterior surfaces, and is an effective base coat for both latex and oil-based paints.

The water-based formulation of this product makes it incredibly easy to clean up and apply on all surfaces. But that’s not all because the final hardened coat also provides exceptional mold resistance and stain-blocking properties unmatched by most other primers.

Moreover, a gallon of this primer can comfortably cover up to 400 square feet, depending on how porous the surface is. Last but not least, this primer not only has a considerably low VOC, but it also dries to touch in 30 minutes and cures completely in 1 hour.

What Could’ve Been Better?

While this paint is stellar in most aspects, it also comes with a relatively comprehensive prep and application procedure that can sometimes be difficult to follow. However, if you’re someone who regularly paints or is familiar with the process of painting and is not looking to skip any steps, this product is ideal for you.



Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Mold and stain resistant
  • Multipurpose
  • Good coverage
  • Dries quickly




Cons

  • Has a hefty preparation and application procedure



Paint Type: Acrylic | Coverage per Gallon: 300-400 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎‎8.75 x 8.75 x 9.13 inches | Weight: ‎11.14 pounds | Size: ‎128 Fl Oz

9. Modern Masters AM203GAL

This Modern Masters Primer from their Metal Effects range is a one-of-a-kind primer. It comes with a wide range of features to make your priming tasks effortless. Read on to know all the deets about it.

Modern Masters 1 gal AM203 Metal Effects Blocking Primer
  • Suitable for interior/exterior surfaces such as metal, wood,...
  • Low odor, low VOC, water-based formula is easy to apply

Why Did We Like It?

The unique formulation of this primer blocks acid salts, alkali salts, tannins, and other contaminants, while also preventing rust/oxidation from forming under the paint film. It is thereby most suitable for external and internal surfaces such as wood, metal, and drywall.

However, it can also be used on paintable wall coverings and canvas and is one of the most amateur-friendly primers on our list. This prime can dry to the touch in only 30 minutes and can be recoated immediately after; however, the full cure time of this product is 12 hours.

It’s important to note that this primer was originally designed to be applied with the Modern Masters Metal Effects Reactive Metallic Paint. Hence, this primer is specifically formulated to block aging solutions and rust activators of this paint from reaching and ruining the wood, metal, or reactive substrate surface to it has been applied on.

Other primers cannot be applied under this paint because they allow solutions and activators to penetrate the undercoat and damage the final color or finish of the surface.

What Could’ve Been Better?

This primer is only available in a 1-gallon tin that covers up to 320 square feet of area and runs out quickly when used for larger projects. It’s also relatively expensive for a primer that is only provided in such low quantities and thus may not be ideal for specific consumers.



Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Prevents surface from rusting or oxidizing
  • Little to no odor
  • Dries very quickly
  • Beginner or amateur-friendly product




Cons

  • Expensive
  • Low coverage



Paint Type: Acrylic | Coverage per Gallon: 320-400 sq. ft. | Dimensions: ‎‎‎6.75 x 6.75 x 8 inches | Weight: ‎9 pounds | Size: ‎128 Fl Oz

Best Paint Primers For Drywall Comparison Table

ProductPaint TypeCoverage per GallonDimensionsWeightSize
INSL-X SXA11009A‎Acrylic300-400 sq. ft.‎6 x 6 x 5.88 inches‎‎2.76 pounds32 Fl Oz
Rust-Oleum 286258 PrimerAcrylic350-450 sq. ft.‎4.25 x 4.25 x 4.88 inches‎‎‎2.8 pounds31.5 Fl Oz
KILZ 2‎‎Water Based, Oil300-400 sq. ft.‎‎9 x 13.1 x 5.3 inches2.9 pounds32 Fl Oz
PrestigeAcrylic300-400 sq. ft.10.69 x 10.69 x 9.13 inches12.1 pounds‎120 Fl Oz
Rust-Oleum 02101Acrylic300-400 sq. ft.6.63 x 7.38 x 7.56 inches0.1981 pounds128 Fl Oz
ROMAN ProductsSpray250-350 sq. ft.6.63 x 7.13 x 7.5 inches8.48 pounds‎128 Fl Oz
XIM 11022Acrylic400-500 sq. ft.4.25 x 4.25 x 4.88 inches2.8 pounds32 Fl Oz
INSL-X AQ040009A-01Acrylic300-400 sq. ft.‎‎8.75 x 8.75 x 9.13 inches‎11.14 pounds128 Fl Oz
Modern Masters AM203GALAcrylic320-400 sq. ft.6.75 x 6.75 x 8 inches‎9 pounds128.0 Fl Oz

Buying Guide For The Best Paint Primer For Drywall

Choosing the right kind of drywall paint primer to invest in can be a complicated process. For this reason, we decided to compile a detailed buyer’s guide for you to help ease your decision-making. This thorough guide lists all the factors you must consider when determining the perfect primer to invest in.

So, without much ado, let’s get right to it!

Adherence And Sealant Qualities

Drywalls tend to have different but high levels of porosity throughout their surface because of the mud used on the seams of their area. This makes it difficult to evenly paint the surface, which most commonly has dull and blotchy spots all over the place.

For this reason, you must look for a primer that has a high level of adherence and effective sealant properties. The sealant seals the porous holes on the drywall and prevents the surface from soaking up the paint applied to it. Alternatively, the adherence or stickiness of the primer gives the top coat of the paint some texture to effectively stick to, giving a flawless and long-lasting finish.

Coverage

Primer labels almost always mention how much surface area 1-gallon or quart of product can effectively cover. Hence, if you’re working on a larger project, this might be a factor you want to consider looking up. Purchasing a primer with ample coverage will eliminate the need to repeatedly repurchase the same product to complete your project.

Cure and Drying Time

The cure time, as we mentioned earlier, is the total time the primer requires to harden. Hence this is the time you will have to wait before going in with the top coat of paint. Drying time is the time the primer takes to dry to the touch. It is usually advised to wait until primers are dried to touch before going in with multiple primer coats.

State of the Surface You are Priming

You will want to purchase a primer depending on the state of the drywall you are priming. For example, if your drywall has stains, you will want to invest in a primer that has stain-blocking properties.

Alternatively, suppose you’re planning to undercoat interior surfaces. In that case, you might want to use a water-soluble primer instead of oil-soluble primers that release fumes but are more durable and hence ideal for outdoor surfaces.

Mode Of Application

The viscosity of the primer determines the mode in which you can apply it. There are mainly three ways to apply primers, spray gun, roller, and flat brush. The label of your primer will always mention which mode of application is ideal for the product at hand.

Paint Primer for Drywall FAQ's

  • Why do I need to use a primer on drywall before painting?

    Using a primer on drywall before painting is essential for several reasons. Primers create a uniform surface by sealing the porous drywall material, preventing excessive paint absorption, and promoting better adhesion. They also help to hide imperfections, such as joint compound seams or repairs, and can block stains or bleed-through from the underlying surface, ensuring a more professional and long-lasting paint job.

  • Can I skip using a primer on drywall?

    While it’s possible to skip using a primer on drywall, it is generally not recommended. Primers provide numerous benefits, including improved paint adhesion, enhanced durability, and better color coverage. They also help to prevent issues such as uneven sheen, color variations, or paint peeling. Using a primer ensures optimal results, especially when painting over new drywall or surfaces with different textures or repairs.

  • What types of paint primers are suitable for drywall?

    There are various types of paint primers suitable for drywall, including water-based primers, oil-based primers, and shellac-based primers. Water-based primers are commonly used due to their low odor, quick drying time, and easy cleanup. Oil-based primers offer excellent stain-blocking properties and adhesion, making them ideal for heavily stained or problematic surfaces. Shellac-based primers are often used for extreme stain-blocking needs or when dealing with surfaces prone to bleeding, such as water or smoke-damaged drywall.

  • How do I apply a paint primer on drywall?

    To apply a paint primer on drywall, start by ensuring the surface is clean, dry, and free from dust or debris. Use a brush or roller to apply the primer in even strokes, following the manufacturer’s instructions for application and drying time. It’s recommended to apply at least one or two coats of primer, allowing sufficient drying time between coats. Pay attention to any specific recommendations provided by the primer manufacturer, such as dilution ratios or surface preparation requirements.

  • Can I use a paint primer for drywall on other surfaces?

    While paint primers for drywall are specifically formulated for drywall surfaces, some primers may be suitable for other surfaces as well, such as wood, plaster, or masonry. However, it’s important to check the product label or manufacturer’s instructions to ensure compatibility with the specific surface you intend to prime. Certain primers may offer versatile use across multiple surfaces, while others are designed exclusively for drywall.

  • Verdict On Best Paint Primer For Drywall

    Conclusion

    Many people seem to have the common misconception that painting drywall is the same as painting any existing wall. However, the truth is, your primer for drywall will have slightly different requirements than a regular primer to ensure a uniform and smooth finish.

    That’s why professionals always recommend buying primers meant specifically for drywall when planning to paint one. Nevertheless, we understand how confusing it can be to buy a painting primer when you’re not well-versed with such products.

    So, before signing off, we want to mention some of our top recommendations for you. The INSL-X AQ040009A-01 is high-quality and multipurpose, perfect for professionals or DIY enthusiasts familiar with priming procedures.

    ROMAN Products, on the other hand, is the best primer to be applied under wallpapers. Lastly, we have the Rust-Oleum 02101, whose versatility makes it ideal for most users.

    As you continue your journey in home renovation or soundproofing, consider the potential advantages of using soundproof drywall. While normal drywall can transmit noise easily, soundproof drywall can reduce the amount of sound that travels through walls, providing a quieter and more peaceful environment. Understanding and integrating such elements can have significant impacts on the comfort and tranquility of your home.

    Hence, with that, we come to an end with our detailed guide for the nine best paint primers for drywall. Till next time!

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