Top 5 Best Spray Paint Primers (2020 Review)

Are you looking for a versatile spray paint primers for your next DIY project?

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, you will learn:

  • When you should use a spray paint primer
  • What the different types of paint primers are
  • How to choose the right spray paint primer for you

And much more!

Top 5 Best Spray Paint Primers (2020 Review)

Below is a quick list of all our top products. Keep scrolling to learn more about how to choose and use a spray paint primer for you!

Image Product

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Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer
  • Great coverage
  • Blocks water & oil based stains
  • Indoor/Outdoor
  • Great coverage
  • Blocks water & oil based stains
  • Indoor/Outdoor
View on Amazon

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Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Gray Primer
  • Fast drying
  • Works on multiple surfaces
  • Good for covering dark paint
  • Fast drying
  • Works on multiple surfaces
  • Good for covering dark paint
View on Amazon

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Rust-Oleum American Accents White Primer Spray Paint
  • Bonds to plastic
  • Full coverage
  • Wet or dry sandable
  • Bonds to plastic
  • Full coverage
  • Wet or dry sandable
View on Amazon

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Krylon ColorMaster Paint + Primer
  • Indoor/Outdoor
  • High Coverage
  • Dries in 10 min.
  • Indoor/Outdoor
  • High Coverage
  • Dries in 10 min.
View on Amazon

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Rust-Oleum Zinsser All-Purpose Primer in Liquid Gray
  • Blocks stains
  • Seals odors
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Blocks stains
  • Seals odors
  • Interior/Exterior
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

(updated 8/12/2020)

Our top pick spray primer is the classic Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer.

This stuff takes the cake in almost every category, plus it's been an industry-leading primer for years because, well...it works!

This is not only an inexpensive spray primer that is excellent for a variety of spray painting projects, but it's also super high coverage so it can cover virtually any stain under the sun.

It's designed to block out imperfections in just one coat of application, so if you're looking for a durable, versatile primer to keep in your toolkit for future home improvement projects, look no further!

When Should You Use A Spray Paint Primer?

Let's address the golden question: When should you use a spray paint primer?

Well, the simple answer is...whenever you're going to spray paint something!

The more complicated answer is, when you want to ensure the best paint adhesion possible.

So let's unpack this a bit more, shall we?

Why Use A Primer?

You should always use a primer when you want to create a high-quality finish on your DIY project.

It can be easy to skip the priming step and just add another coat of paint on to make sure it has the overall color you're going for.

However, this causes more problems down the road, even if the paint looks nice!

This is because priming your surface creates a smooth surface for your chosen paint to adhere to.

Whether it's some nice outdoor furniture, a light fixture, or just some touch-up paint on a household item, priming it before painting is going to make your job much, much easier.

This is especially true when you're working with something that isn't wood.

For instance, if you wanted to give a new look to an old piece of furniture that happens to be made of metal, you could go for an "all-in-one spray paint" in the color of your choice and just leave it at that.

However, a few months later you might notice some chipping or flaking going on in the high-touch areas of that piece of furniture.

Often times you don't realize how important a primer is until it's too late and your beautiful coat of paint starts to wear down in a matter of weeks.

So, if you want results that last, do it right the first time and prime!

When Should You Apply Primer?

This one is a bit easier to answer: after you've prepped your surface well.

Prepping your surface means different things for different projects, though.

For instance, if you want to give a worn-down wooden bench a new look, you might want to sand off any old, faded paint first. Sanding is a super important step (though you might be tempted to skip it), especially if the surface paint is patchy and chipping.

​Sand it down with some sandpaper - just enough to create a smooth surface and get rid of the old paint - and then wipe the wood down with a damp cloth to ensure there isn't any lingering dust.

THEN (and only then) it's time to sit down and prime the wood.

(And if you want to learn more about how to properly prime wood, head over to this other article I wrote on how many coats of primer to use on wood!)

Did you know: You should always prime wood before painting because primers have a high-solids content that allow you to fill in wood grain. This creates a much smoother surface for painting!

What Are The Different Types of Spray Paint Primers?

Before you choose your spray paint primer your next DIY project, it's important to note that there are multiple types of primers to choose from.

While that may sound like a no-brainer, it's very important to have a firm grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of each type so you don't end up with a messy end-result.

The primer you choose is like the foundation for your paint job, so if you want to make sure that your DIY project lasts as long as possible and looks great, don't skimp on finding the best spray primer for the job!

Oil-Based Primers

The first type I want to go over is the oil-based primers.

These have been considered "industry standard" for decades, and for good reason.

These primers are super versatile and they work on almost every surface under the sun, plus they typically work for both interior and exterior applications.

Oil-based primers are an excellent choice for priming painted or unpainted wood, metal surfaces, and painting over an existing layer of paint. They're also incredible at sealing bare wood and preventing tannins that are released from the wood from bleeding into your coat of paint.

This means the oil-based primers will help you get a high-quality, longer-lasting coat of paint in the end.

So what's the downside?

They smell! They put out a lot of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are harmful to people and animals in high-concentrations.

And since we're talking about spray primers here, it's important to note that you need to be very careful when using an oil-based spray primer.

That means you can't skip the safety gear like a mask with a ventilator, goggles, and gloves. You do NOT want this stuff coming in contact with your skin or respiratory system.

This also means you need to give the paint job longer to dry in a well-ventilated area (ideally outside) so those VOCs have more time to off-gas before being placed in a less-ventilated area.

Water-Based Primers (a.k.a Latex Primers)

Water-based primers, also referred to as Latex Primers are versatile and useful in their own right.

They are much less brittle than oil-based primers which means they're more durable in the long run and have a smaller chance of chipping or peeling after a while.

Latex primers have their own wheelhouse of excellence though, and that happens to be priming soft or porous surfaces.

They take the cake when it comes to priming brick, drywall, concrete, galvanized metal surfaces, and softer woods like pine.

They're amazing at creating a smooth surface to work with even on rougher materials, plus they come in low or no-VOC formulas which means they won't cause the same level of toxicity and smell as an oil-based primer.

However, they aren't as good at blocking out stains as an oil-based spray primer would be.

Read More >> How Do You Fix Uneven Spray Paint?

How To Choose The Right Spray Paint Primer For You?

So how exactly should you choose which spray paint primer to use on your project?

Answer these questions:

  1. What type of surface am I using this on?
  2. Where will this item be used most (high traffic/high touch areas or not)?
  3. What is the current state of my surface? (Stained/not stained, painted/not painted etc.)
  4. What type of paint will I be applying over the primer?

Once you've answered those questions, it becomes much easier to narrow down the list of primers and find the best one for you.

Keep reading to see what we'd recommend using each of these 5 primers for!

Read More >> How Do You Get Rid Of Spray Paint Smell?

Our Reviews Of The Best Spray Primers

The 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer is just amazing at what it does, in fact, the entire Zinsser Bulls Eye line is just incredible.

This is because it adheres to almost any surface in the world, even tougher ones to cover like metal surfaces and plastic.

This spray primer in particular, though, is just amazing at creating a super smooth surface to work with, especially if you've got good technique.

It is a bit on the thinner side for a spray primer, but if you find the coating to be too thin on the first application you can just go in for a second coat and it should be good!

Pros

  • Great coverage
  • Blocks water & oil-based stains
  • Indoor/Outdoor

Cons

  • Takes a bit longer to dry
  • On the thinner side
  • Not water-based

The Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Gray Primer is an excellent value for the money.

You can typically find a can of this stuff for about $4 and it covers about 12 square feet of surface area. 

This stuff is actually amazing at covering up dark paint because it's a gray primer, so if you're trying to add a new coat of paint to a darker surface, this might be exactly what you need.

Not only that, but it has a comfort spray tip that makes it easier to angle spray to ensure less overspray and easy application.

Pros

  • Fast drying
  • Works on multiple surfaces
  • Good for covering dark paint

Cons

  • Not as good with metal
  • Some users reported chipping

The American Accents Spray Primer from Rust-Oleum is an excellent, durable, high quality can of spray paint that can cover almost any surface, including plastic!

This little can packs a huge punch, and because of the amount of coverage it offers, the 12 square feet of coverage it offers goes just a bit further than a lower coverage spray primer.

Not only that, but it can actually cover things like unglazed ceramic, wicker, and metal surfaces too.

A few light coats of this stuff will truly go a long way to ensure the durability of your next DIY project and because it comes in a flat white color, it works with almost any spray paint color out there!

Pros

  • Bonds to plastic
  • Full coverage
  • Wet or dry sandable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires a few extra steps for plastic

This Krylon ColorMaster Paint + Primer is amazing at priming and sealing an uneven surface.

It creates the perfect foundation for a really solid coat of paint that will come out true to color.

The best part? It dries in 10 minutes!

This means, even if you need to do a second coat, it'll still be a fairly quick process that will have you spray painting your project in no time!

Pros

  • Indoor/Outdoor
  • High Coverage
  • Dries in 10 min.

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Only comes in white

Last (but certainly not least!) is this amazing Rust-Oleum Zinsser All-Purpose Primer in Liquid Gray which is perfect to use with all-purpose spray paint on top.

Remember what we talked about before about the benefits of oil-based primers? Well, this one is oi-based and amazing!

This is an excellent choice for covering dark surfaces when you want to change the color of your surface to a lighter color, and it provides amazing coverage for latex or oil-based topcoats.

But, it's also an excellent choice for covering metal surfaces, masonry, bricks, and glossy surfaces.

Pros

  • Blocks stains
  • Seals odors
  • Interior/Exterior

Cons

  • Oil-based
  • Doesn't work on galvanized metal

Overall, our top pick is still the amazing Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer because of its versatility and ability to create an amazingly smooth surface for your coat of paint to adhere to.

It's an oil-based formula that's excellent for sealing in stains without sanding (so much so that it puts a "one coat hide" guarantee on the spray paint can!).

Plus, it's just excellent value for the money and you can find an inexpensive can of it on Amazon here.

Final Thoughts On Finding A Good Spray Paint Primer

No matter what your next spray paint project is, it's basically essential to find the right primer to prep your surface to take spray paint.

Trust me, if you want to create professional-looking results on your next DIY project, using a spray primer will take it to another level.

As always, happy painting!

Want More Painting Tips?

Visit our Pro Paint Corner page to learn everything you need to know about painting. 

Our paint bloggers are trained professionals that are around 24/7 to help you with any of your painting needs. Good luck!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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