Can Primer Be Used as Paint? Know the Consequences First

A man using a roller to apply primer to a wall.

The idea of using primer as paint has been entertained for so long. Is it feasible, though? Can primer be used in place of paint?

The main reason why people take this shortcut is to save time and money. However, you must note that using primer instead of paint will have consequences in the long run. 

Let’s find out why.

Can primer be used as paint? Primer is formulated to be an adhesive agent for paints, so it shouldn’t be used as paint. It lacks the proper finishing properties, and primer without paint is susceptible to damage and dust. Primer is important for proper paint adhesion, sealing the surface, and covering up stains and dark color.

In this post, I’ll answer your most pressing questions on the general use of primer.

You’ll learn when and how to use it, and we’ll also talk about the best paint-and-primer-in-one product available in the market today.

Why Using Primer as Paint Isn’t a Good Idea

Let’s explore the difference between primer and paints and discuss the consequences of using primer as paint.

Primer vs. Paint

The key difference between primer and paint is their composition. While primer contains resin, paint contains pigments.

The resin concentration in a primer allows it to become a great surface sealant, and makes the surface ready for a topcoat.

Primer and paint have distinct purposes. Primer acts as an adherent to bond the substrate and the paint. In essence, it’s a preparatory step to make sure that your substrate gets properly sealed.

After priming, paint application follows. In addition to its pigment-rich properties, paint also contains other agents that provide fast drying, glossy finish, and durability.

Is Primer as Good as Paint?

Primer is great for creating a smooth foundation for the paint to stick, but it can’t be as good as paint.

In the long run, it’s better to prepare and paint your substrate correctly than suffer the consequences of unpainted primer.

Do You Have To Paint Over Primer?

Painting over primer protects the substrate from elemental damage. Since a primer has a rough, sticky finish, small particles and odors can stick to your primed surfaces.

Over time, an unpainted primer will deteriorate and appear faded.

How Long Can You Leave Primer Unpainted?

You can leave your primer unpainted for a few hours to 30 days. The exact duration can depend on factors such as the type of primer, thickness of coat, surface, temperature, and humidity.

Latex primers can be left unpainted for up to 30 days. Oil primers, which lose their effectiveness faster, can only remain unpainted for up to 14 days.

What Happens If You Don’t Paint Over Primer?

Choosing to paint without proper preparation from a primer can lead to uneven surfaces, botched paint jobs, and potential leaks from damaged walls.

Since primer helps with concealing rough parts of your substrates, skipping this step can reveal the surface’s imperfections when painted. Over time, your surface may chip off and appear blotchy.

Lastly, if you’re painting over old and stained walls, primer helps with covering these blemishes. Without it, leaks and stains from your walls can reappear.

When Should I Use Primer?

The general rule is that you should always use a primer if your surface is porous. Untreated wood and drywall are two of the most common porous surfaces that need priming.

Transitioning from a glossy to a matte finish also requires a primer. Glossy paints can’t make new coats of paint stick. So, you must either lightly scuff the surface or use a primer before applying new paint.

Repainting a dark-colored wall a lighter color is another reason to prime. Using a white primer is the best way to establish the surface base before applying the light-colored paint.

Do I Need To Prime Before Painting?

As a general practice, always prime before painting. This way, you can achieve the best possible result.

However, a few exceptions may not actually require priming. For example, if you’re painting over a surface that already has a similar color, you can directly paint over it.

How To Properly Use Primer

The first step is to choose an appropriate primer. You can choose between water-based or oil-based primers depending on your surface.

Next is preparing your wall for priming. If you’re painting a wall with obstructions and electric fixtures, cover them up.

Mask any holes with caulk, and let them dry completely. Then, smooth out the caulked areas with sandpaper to even out the surface.

Properly using a primer means spot priming the corners and stained areas first. Do this with a brush for better control.

With either a brush or a roller, apply the first coat of primer to the rest of the surface. Generally, two coats of primer are recommended.

Remember to allow the first coat to dry completely before applying the second coat.

Lastly, use a sand primer to lightly polish any uneven coats.

Primer and Paint in One

Primer-and-paint-in-one, or self-priming paint, is a thicker formula designed to hide surface imperfections. Using this type of paint is popular for many DIYers.

You may opt to use self-priming paints if you’re tackling a project that doesn’t require an extreme transformation. So, if you’re only making subtle color changes, self-priming paints can be a great option.

Best Paint and Primer in One

Here’s what we recommend:

Prestige Interior Paint and Primer in One

PRESTIGE Paints Interior Eggshell Paint and Primer...
  • Ultra premium paint and primer in one
  • Ideal for living rooms, family rooms, media rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms and hallways

The Prestige Interior Paint and Primer in One is a premium acrylic latex interior paint formulated to self-prime against uncoated drywalls or previously painted interior surfaces.

What’s more, the eggshell finish from this paint makes it a safe choice for any room in your house. With 1,300 colors available, you’ll surely find the right shade for you.

The thick formula of this interior paint allows for a smooth finish. For this paint, one coat is enough. Although if necessary, you may add another coat after four hours.

Aside from being easy to use, the Prestige Interior Paint and Primer in One is also easy to clean and has great value for the money.

Prestige Exterior Paint and Primer in One

PRESTIGE Exterior Paint and Primer In One,...
  • Ultra premium paint and primer in one
  • High hiding formula for excellent coverage with smooth application

Similar to the interior paint, this premium acrylic-based paint is made for properly treated surfaces like wood, masonry, and vinyl. This paint is also suited for bathrooms and kitchens that have high humidity.

The Prestige Exterior Paint and Primer in One only takes a single coat on previously painted surfaces. Another coat may be needed for new surfaces. Before recoating, let the paint dry overnight.

If you like exterior paint that delivers a slightly shiny finish, this exterior paint may be for you. You can choose from 1,300 different colors based on your preference.

Related Questions: 

Can Flat Paint Be Used as Primer?

Flat paint can be used as a primer since it can hide any underlying color on the surface. Sometimes, it works even better than primers, especially for some drywalls.

Can Chalk Paint Be Used as Primer?

Chalk paint can be a great primer for base wood and other porous surfaces. It can provide a smooth finish for the latex paint to stick.


Using a primer before applying your paint is always a great practice, especially if you’re not sure whether the surface needs priming.

So the next time you ask, “Can primer be used as paint?” Remember that a primer has a special purpose in making sure you achieve the best results, but shouldn’t be used as a paint replacement. 


Last update on 2024-05-28 at 04:28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!