A Beginner’s Guide to Using Paint Primer

A Beginner’s Guide to Using Paint Primer

Primer is commonly used to help prepare the surface being painted for the coat of paint. Often, it’s used before paint for cabinets, furniture, and walls, but it isn’t always needed. Beginner painters preparing for a project will want to make sure they know when to use primer and when to avoid it.

Use When the Surface is Porous

If the surface being painted is porous, using a primer can help provide a more stable base. If the primer is skipped, the first coat of paint will likely look patchy, as some will stay on the surface, and some will be absorbed by the surface. Primer prevents this from happening.

Use Over New Drywall

When painting over new drywall or drywall that has been skim-coated, using a primer is a good idea. Skim coating creates a smooth surface that looks good, but it can be difficult to paint over it without using a primer as a base.

Use Over a Glossy Coat

Glossy paint is incredibly smooth, so a new coat of paint just isn’t going to stick well. Painting over a glossy paint color can lead to cracking, peeling, or places where the color is uneven. Instead, use a primer to make it easier for the new paint color to stick to the surface.

Use When Painting a Lighter Color

When going from a darker color to a lighter color, always use a primer. The white coat of primer helps to cover up the older color, so it doesn’t show through when the new paint is applied. By using primer, it’s possible to reduce the number of coats needed to fully cover the previous color.

Use When the Surface is Stained

If the surface to be painted is stained, try cleaning it carefully. It’s possible to remove stains from many surfaces, like kitchen cabinets, to make painting easier. If the stains can’t be removed, using a primer will help cover them up before the first coat of paint is applied.

Use When There are Odors

Smells can linger on porous surfaces and be incredibly difficult to remove. Once the surface has been cleaned as much as possible, if there are any odors left, a specialty primer can be used to help cover up the smells. It is important to get the right primer in these situations to make sure the smells are completely covered and won’t be there once the surface is painted.

Don’t Use for Walls in Good Condition

If the walls or other surface is in good condition, has a less glossy finish, and is otherwise ready to paint, it may be possible to skip the primer and apply the first coat of paint. Let this paint dry before applying the next coat to make sure there aren’t any issues that will show up.

Don’t Use When Painting a Similar Color

When the new paint color is similar to the existing one or is a little bit darker, a primer usually isn’t needed. Exceptions include situations like those mentioned above where a primer may be needed. In most cases, however, painting a similar color or something that’s a little bit darker is possible without using any primer first.

Don’t Use With Self-Priming Paints

Self-priming paints already include the primer, so it’s not necessary to put on a coat before painting. This enables painters to skip the priming step, though still provides all of the benefits of priming and can help make sure the finished surface looks great.

Ready to paint? Primer is usually a great option to help prepare the surface for the new color, but it isn’t always needed. Whether you’re painting the kitchen cabinets or you’re ready to do the walls of a room, the tips here should make it easier to decide whether a primer is really needed. If it isn’t, you’re able to skip it, saving a little bit of money and time. 


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