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How to Best Apply Primer Paint to Your Walls for a Spot-on Paint Job!

primer paint for walls

A repainting project is one of the most challenging but fulfilling things you can do to beautify your home.

When I was just starting with my own home DIY projects, I would get so frustrated with coating my walls with multiple layers of paint without much success. 

This was until I figured out what I was doing wrong: 

  • I wasn’t using a wall paint primer
  • I didn’t take the surface of the walls into account
  • I didn’t know how and when to place the primer

After doing my research and going through a bit of trial-and-error throughout the years, I found the most effective way to paint my walls that actually does the job right. 

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll be teaching you why you should invest in primers and several techniques for applying them.

why you should use primers

Why Isn’t My Paint Sticking?

What does a primer do for you? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just an additional, costly step for your home improvement.

A good and well-applied primer ensures that the surface that you’re painting is smooth enough so that the paint can actually stick. 

In my younger days, I thought using coats to paint a wall would quickly solve the problem.

In the end, I spent three times more than I should have as the walls kept absorbing my paint!

Primer acts as a barrier between the paint and the wall, which is especially important if the wall is made of a porous and moisture-absorbent material.

Think of primer as the glue that makes your paint bind to whatever surface you’re painting on.

Why Isnt My Paint Sticking


You’re Using the Wrong Primer

Using the right primer will be the difference between a blistered, cracked paint job and a smooth, long-lasting finish.

Here are the different types of primer you should use:

Oil-based primer

Use this for interior and exterior projects if the surface you’re painting is wood. Known to be flexible, it can withstand changing temperatures and extreme weather conditions. 

Latex primer

These primers are best for areas with limited ventilation as it doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients. I personally use this for my children’s rooms. They also work best with drywall, plaster, and even metals. A bonus is that it takes only 3 hours to dry.

Shellac primer

The best wall primer paint for interior jobs is shellac primers because it can quickly seal wood and block off stains.

So when you are painting over water or smoke damage in the kitchen, this one’s for you. Best to wear a mask as shellac primers can be dangerous for your lungs when applying.

best paint primer ex

Best Shellac Paint Primer – Order from the Home Depot

Your Wall Is Porous

If your wall is highly porous, that means it will quickly absorb any type of paint you put on it.

Some examples of this include finished or bare wood, masonry, and drywall. 

If you don’t seal these surfaces first, your walls will absorb odors, stains, and even moisture, which can lead to unwanted blistering of paint.

You’re Painting Over a Dark Color

Are you shifting from a dark aesthetic to something brighter? You’ll definitely need to use a primer.

Darker paint will almost always shine through anything you put on top of it, especially if your new finish is white!

Save yourself from using extra gallons of paint and coating by priming the surface; this will save you time and effort, too.

Your Wall Is Glossy

Glossy and shiny surfaces might be good for cars, but they don’t work on walls.

Paint cannot easily bind to a glossy surface, and will instead peel off. I suggest using a sander or some tough grit sandpaper to scuff the surface up a bit!

How to Apply Primer to Your Walls

How To Use Primer For Walls

Preparation Is Key

Here are the tools you’ll be needing to do the job properly

  • Several sizes of paintbrushes or rollers
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint tray
  • Primer

Once you have your tools, prepare your painting space. If you’re painting inside your house, cover all furniture with plastic or tarps. You can use old newspapers to protect your floors.

Next, use painter’s tape to cover fixtures you are not painting, so they do not get stained.

With a cloth or a lint-free towel, wipe the wall down, so it’s free of any dirt or residue. Lastly, it’s also a good idea to cover all exposed electrical wiring to avoid mishaps.

Primer Application Tips

Applying Primer on Exterior Walls

Before application, I always make it a point to shake the can and stir the paint primer so that all the essential elements are bound together.

This boosts efficacy and adhesion with the first layer of paint.

Next, pour the primer of your choice onto the paint tray. Don’t forget to close the lid on the can as it can dry up. 

With a paintbrush or roller, gently apply the primer starting from the borders of the wall.

For maximum efficiency, I use a roller to apply primer to the inside of the border we’ve just made. 

Lastly, use smaller paintbrushes to apply the primer to hard-to-reach areas.

Make sure that you apply one to two coats so that your paint can adhere well. 

Now it’s time to wait for the primer to dry and cure!

Applying Primer to New Drywall

I mentioned before that applying primer to new drywall is essential because the paint will be absorbed unevenly without it.

So you’ll end up spending more money on paint and get uneven results.

Here’s what to do:

Clean and wipe –

New and bare drywall is sure to be covered with dust, so it’s best to clean it thoroughly for a smooth finish. Do not use a wet cloth as it can damage the drywall itself.

Sanding –

Providing a smoother surface for the paint will lead to an even coat. Make sure you wear a mask, as inhaling drywall debris can be bad for your health.

Apply the primer following the general steps.

Applying Primer on Interior Walls

Applying Primer on Interior Walls

You may be asking yourself if there are instances where you don’t need to use a primer. 

Yes, there are! 

You can skip the primer for interior work if you are only changing the color of your wall to a slightly different shade of the same color. 

However, when painting a different color that is lighter than the existing paint job, use interior wall paint with primer so you lessen the number of coats you will need.

Applying primer on wood paneling is also recommended as wood of any finish easily absorbs paint.

And of course, putting primer on a raw concrete wall is also a must.

If it’s already painted or textured drywall, a primer is optional. Just make sure that it’s not newly textured, as this will result in uneven colors.

Applying Primer on Exterior Walls

For external concrete walls, brick, stone, wood, or shiplap walls, I always coat them with primer as a house is constantly exposed to the elements.

In a way, the primer provides extra protection a wall needs for adhesion and water resistance. 

And it’ll make your favorite exterior paint colors look amazing!

You may also notice that brick, stone, and wood have uneven surfaces and even deep crevices, so applying primer to it can lead to an even coat.

A finished, primed wall should look like this: 

what should primer paint look like on wall

Some Preventative Advice to Keep In Mind

Having a paint job that lasts for years requires a lot of attention to detail.

Advice to protect the paint

To avoid any early damage and wearing to the paint, I recommend these extra steps for a durable paint job:

Inspect the surfaces before priming –

This ensures that all cracks and crevices are repaired or covered for the primer.

Humidity control –

Apply insulation inside your home so that moisture cannot ruin a paint job.

This prevents water accumulation within the walls and prevents the paint from peeling.

Other Considerations

If you’re stripping old wallpaper before applying primer, you can do exactly that by watching this video:

Frequently Asked Questions

Why not just use paint and primer in one?

You can use paint and primer in one product in your DIY projects. But these products are not universal and can be more costly. They also tend to not bind to the surface of the wall very well.

Is primer paint harmful to my health?

Wall primer paint is not dangerous as long as you are not inhaling its fumes for an extended period.

Directly inhaling the fumes can cause respiratory diseases, so as a precaution, use a mask when applying primer.


Do you need primer to paint a wall? The answer is a resounding yes.

Priming a wall before painting eliminates the hassle of applying more coats than necessary.

Using oil, latex, or shellac primer and proper preparation before applying it will definitely save you money and time.

With a bit of practice, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of DIY painting in no time at all!

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