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9 Best Paint Primers 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

Best Paint PrimersThe right primer will elevate a paint job. The wrong primer will jeopardize it. In the guide that follows, we will highlight some of the most effective options on the market.

In formulating these paint primer reviews, we have tested many products to highlight only the best.

The 9 units that have made their way onto our list did so by being effective and worth every penny that they cost. And, there is something on this list for everyone.

Whether you are on a tight budget, or you have money to spend there will be something here for you. Read on!

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
KILZ Klear KILZ Klear
  • Very versatile
  • Five-gallon container
  • Quick-dry time
  • Best Value
    Second place
    3M 3M
  • Affordable
  • Good for repairs
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Diamond Brite Paint Diamond Brite Paint
  • Super heavy-duty
  • Great for indoor/outdoor use
  • Rust protection
  • Tamiya Tamiya
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with a variety of surfaces
  • Vallejo Vallejo
  • Multiple application options
  • Effective at bringing out the vibrancy of paint
  • The 9 Best Paint Primers – Reviews 2020

    1. KILZ Klear Interior/Exterior Latex Primer — Best Overall

    KILZ Klear L220105 Interior - Exterior Latex Primer

    The Kilz is a versatile primer that can be used effectively on a wide range of surfaces. It is great for use on anything from aluminum to granite to stainless steel, giving users a better chance of getting their money’s worth.

    The Kilz works well with porous materials and is optimized for enhancing the adhesion and vibrancy of paint.

    Perhaps the best thing about this primer is how quickly it acts. The material dries in one hour, after which point it can be painted over.

    This is a fairly pricey primer, but it works quite well. The finish is beautiful and the quick dry time  expedites the entire process.

    • Brings out the vibrancy of paint
    • Very versatile in application
    • Five-gallon container
    • Quick-dry time
    • Costly

    2. 3M Patch Plus Primer — Best Value

    3M PPP-3-4IN1T Patch Plus Primer

    Next, we have the 3M PPP-3-4IN1T. Though the name may not roll off the tongue, it does provide plenty of bang for the buck, making it our best paint primer for the money pick.

    While the last unit that we looked at was good for large scale applications, this is mostly made for repair work. It contains spackle and putty, which will make it optimal for filling in holes and performing other small fixes.

    The packaging is very small, but it is good for what it does.

    • Affordable
    • Good for repairs
    • Very small container

    3. Diamond Brite Paint Oil Base Primer — Premium Choice

    Diamond Brite Paint 31900 Oil Base Primer

    The Diamond Brite is a heavy-duty indoor/outdoor primer that is truly excellent for durable applications. The Diamond Brite is designed to bring vibrancy to any paint job, and it can be used effectively on granite, stainless steel wood, and more.

    The primer also provides rust protection which will be great for people that are using it to paint metal.

    Unfortunately, this five-gallon container is about as expensive as you will ever find with primer. If you are looking for a heavy-duty material, you have certainly found it here. However, if your needs are more moderate, you might favor something more affordable.

    • Super heavy-duty
    • Great for indoor/outdoor use
    • Rust protection
    • Extremely pricey

    4. Tamiya 87064-000 Surface Primer

    Tamiya 87064-000 Surface Primer

    The Tamiya is an affordable and easy-to-use option that comes in a spray applicator. You use this unit the same way you would use a can of spray paint, pushing down on the spray top and atomizing the paint particles with pressure.

    The Tamiya can be used on metal, wood, plaster and more, and it also has the benefit of being very affordable.

    In terms of convenience, it would be hard to beat the Tamiya, but it does have its limitations as well. For one thing, this is a very small package. At only 180 ml, you won’t be able to cover much space with it. It’s also just not as sturdy as traditional primer.

    • Affordable
    • Easy to use
    • Compatible with a variety of surfaces
    • Not much bang for your buck
    • Limited effectiveness

    5. Vallejo VJ74601 Grey Primer

    Vallejo VJ74601 Grey Primer

    The Vallejo is a 200-ml surface primer. It’s grey, but it can bring out the vibrancy in just about any color that you have on hand. The manufacturer advertises that it can be used with either an airbrush or a regular brush, though in reality, it does better with a traditional brush application style.

    Unfortunately, there is a value concern here. Though this isn’t the most expensive option on our list, it’s priced far higher per ounce than most of the other options seen here. That would be ok if it wildly outperformed the other primers but the reality is that you can find comparable quality at a better price.

    • Multiple application options
    • Effective at bringing out the vibrancy of paint
    • Major value issues

    6. Krylon Paint and Primer

    Krylon K08800007 Paint and Primer

    The Krylon is a 12-ounce spray can applicator. This is made specifically to be used with metal and can fortify surfaces with rust protection. It can also be used with wicker, and to a lesser extent, concrete.

    This primer is made specifically to compliment spray paint. As far as appearance is concerned, it does look pretty good, but we’ve found that its quality diminishes over time. This means that you will find yourself redoing your paint job regularly.

    Granted, that is not uncommon when it comes to spray paint, but it is still frustrating.

    • Easy to use
    • Rust protection
    • Quality diminishes over time

    7. KILZ Adhesion Interior/Exterior Latex Primer

    KILZ Adhesion L211104 Interior-Exterior Latex Primer

    The Kilz Adhesion is a quart-sized primer that is good for traditional, high-volume brush application. It can be used indoors or outdoors and is made specifically for latex paints.

    Being an adhesive style primer, this option is good at working with very slick surfaces. It can even be used effectively on glass, making it a great choice for specialty style jobs.

    These things said, we have found that the primer tends to peel prematurely. Unfortunately, this can compromise the integrity of the entire paint job. This is an especially prevalent concern on outdoor paint jobs.

    • Indoor/outdoor compatible
    • Good for slick surfaces
    • May start to peel prematurely

    8. Rust-Oleum 1980502 Primer

    Rust-Oleum 1980502 Primer

    The Rust-Oleum is an ultra-affordable primer that, as the name applies, fortifies surfaces against rust. It dries very quickly in just thirty minutes and can be used effectively inside or out. A single can is able to cover a surface of up to 120 square feet.

    There are, however, a few problems. For one thing, even though the can is advertised as being grey in color, it features a peculiar yellow tint once applied. The coloring can make the eventual appearance of your paint job look strange.

    It also tends to be very watery in the can, which makes it challenging to apply a high-quality coat. As a consequence of this, it can also peel very easily.

    • Affordable
    • Rust protection
    • Yellow tint
    • Very watery
    • May peel easily

    9. Giani Granite IronCore Primer

    Giani 891056001291 Granite IronCore Primer

    We close out our list with the Giani Granite IronCore Primer. The 12-ounce can is compatible with brushes or rollers.

    If you are on a restrictive budget, you will probably appreciate the affordable price tag of this unit. However, you will also want to keep in mind that there are products out there that provide you with a higher level of quality for your money.

    For one thing, this is a very watery can of paint. That makes it hard to apply a high level of quality. It also peels quickly and may even discolor your finished paint job.

    • Affordable
    • Watery
    • Odd coloring
    • May peel quickly

    Buyer’s Guide

    And now, we take a look at some buying considerations that will help you to choose the right primer for your job.

    Dry Time

    One of the most frustrating components of the painting process is waiting. Depending on the primer that you choose, the time could range from one to twenty-four hours.

    Fast-drying primers tend to set you back a little bit more, but they can also significantly improve your overall user experience.


    What kind of material are you going to be painting on? Some primers are very versatile and can be used on anything from concrete to plaster to stainless steel. Others are much more specific in their application.

    Before you purchase a primer, make sure it is compatible with the surface that you intend to treat.


    Buying for size is a tricky business. On the one hand, bigger containers give you enhanced value. A five-gallon container will usually be more affordable than a one-gallon container, but you may save money by the ounce.

    On the other hand, the quality of the primer tends to deteriorate after the container has been opened. If you do decide to buy an oversized package, you will want to make sure that you are going to be able to use it in the relatively near future.


    Usually, we think of primer as being the thing that comes before a large scale paint job. But what if you are just repairing a small hole in the wall? As you may have observed from our list, some products can handle that as well.

    We saw several “primers” that were also infused with putty and spackle. You wouldn’t use these products for painting an entire wall but they are great for repair work.

    Rust Protection

    Some primers are also great for rust protection. In addition to enhancing the vibrancy of the paint job, they will also protect the integrity of the surface. This will be especially handy for people that are painting a metal material.

    Paint Primer
    Featured Image Credit: sk, Flickr

    Indoor or Outdoor?

    Naturally, indoor paint jobs will have different needs than outdoor paint jobs. Such is the case with primers as well. Many primers will be good for both, and pretty much any primer will be good for indoor use.

    However, if you are going to be painting outside, you will want to make sure that the product you get is suitable to withstand the elements.

    Application Style

    There are two main application styles. Some primers are applied with a brush, while others are activated via a spray-on applicator.

    More often than not, you will need to break out a brush to apply primer. However, if you have smaller jobs to tackle, you may be able to make good use of a primer can.

    These cans are exactly like spray paint in that they use pressure to atomize the primer particles. However, they aren’t usually as thorough.

    But what about a paint sprayer?

    Good question. Paint sprayers and spray paint are not quite the same things. Primer is compatible with most paint sprayer systems. If this is the painting method that you intend to use, you would be best served by a traditional can of primer.

    The material can then be thinned and loaded into the sprayer. It is similar to a can of primer, but it operates on a much bigger scale, and it generally gives you more options.


    Did one of our paint primer reviews leap out to you? Maybe you loved the high-quality of our top choice, the KILZ Klear L220105 Interior/Exterior Latex Primer. It is an excellent, sturdy primer that can be used both inside and out.

    Budget-minded buyers also have great options to choose from. If you are trying to save some money you may want to take a second look at our runner up choice, the 3M PPP-3-4IN1T Patch Plus Primer.

    Featured Image Credit: 3M, Amazon

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