Paint vs Primer difference and functions

In this guide I will explain and describe each function of paint and primer and also, I will explain and teach the difference between these two.

This guide will be really helpful for those people who are new in this field or just want to gain some knowledge before starting on their projects.

paint and primer difference

Have you ever heard the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”?

Well, no one applies this more than when it comes to paint. If you can think about it, there is a paint for it.

A lot of people think that primer is just a watered-down version of the more dominant paint we all use. It is really not. It is a very different item with a very different purpose.

This blog explores the differences between paint and primer and how each serves its purpose.

In this blog, we will discuss the importance of primers and paints and some of the few different types that are available.

Paint vs Primer difference and functions

The Essential difference between paint and primer

Paint is a pretty simple product. Paint’s makeup consists of resin, pigment, and water.

Primer has more resin than paint but only contains very little to no pigments at all – which means the actual color of primer is white.

The paint in your solid-colored walls lock into primer, which gives you a smooth surface so that your wall color becomes well-pigmented.

Basically, primer helps keeps your painted walls solid-colored!

Paint, on the other hand is more pigmented than a primer is. It can also contain additives such as drying agents, gloss medium, and durability agents.

Paint is used to protect the surface of your substrate and hide unsightly stains. You can also choose from different finishes including high shine to matte appearances.

Different factors of paint and primers


Pre-primer is, in essence, the same thing as dry brushing. No? You better believe it! Just think about this for a moment:

If you wanted to paint something white but didn’t want the paint to appear white all over the place, you may use a pre-prime sealant.

This will basically be applied onto the surface where you are looking to have an even coat of paint except without any of its pigments into it.

Similar to a dry brush and adding color on top would give us one thing – that’s right, a painted picture.

So using priming sealant would result in the same thing! just simply minus painting real pigments into anything.


Painting a room may seem simple but there are some things you should always remember when deciding on selecting the best primer for you.

Primer is a type of paint with special characteristics that help it bond to the wall, creating an even surface that’s thinner than regular paint.

On top of the bonding quality of primer, it also protects the surface making it ideal for those with kids or animals who can be destructive at times.

paint vs primer comparison chart
Paint vs Primer Comparison

When painting, it’s always important to remember not to skimp out on priming! Make sure to select a quality product because investing in your walls and their protection matters.

If you need help deciding what primer is best for your needs, you can always turn to a store representative.

Such as myself who would happily make suggestions and recommend options based on any specific concerns or needs.


Primer is like a hot date – it gets things better prepared for the main event.

Primer is a bonding agent that allows paint to adhere better, preventing them from soaking into the surface and causing an inconsistent top coat.

The function of a primer is kind of similar to being someone’s wingwoman or wingman.

Because it holds the finish coats to the surface, creating a good bond between the original substrate and the paint.

In other words, it’s essentially like flooring that covers up all those holes in our original material so we can get a smooth overall surface.

With a protective cover on our walls instead of unattractive exposed holes!

Paint adds a visual appeal to an otherwise bland interior or exterior surfaces of architecture. Without primer, your home’s looking pretty…dumb.

About primer

I love the way that primer feels on wood. My hands run across the surface and it’s like a totally different woodgrain has emerged.

To me, it is an experience that hasn’t been tampered with by time or stains; it feels new.

My friends only see what I’m painting because of primers’ color-changes; unfortunately, they could care less about my affection for primer.  

Primers play an important part in protecting the layers of paint when applied to raw wood surfaces. And if you haven’t tried painting on a primed surface, please do! It will change your art life.

Primers are the key to a quality, long-lasting paint job. They create a smooth surface for the paint to adhere, and give it a beautiful finish all at once.

When there is no primer in between your wood base and paint applied over it.

The inconsistencies in texture between the two will be evident from a distance, since there will be no clear coat or barrier.

paint vs primer difference

While real wood has natural grain that cannot simply be sanded smooth, artificial woods such as MDF.

And laminate have to have their textures filed down mechanically and/or chemically beforehand – which means your now-smooth surface won’t stay that way for long!

That’s not to say you should buy artificial wood without an added primer layer – because without protection.

Against moisture (which tends to seep into whatever you’ve got underneath it), your new fancy furniture is going to warp over time.

So, want something with good resistance against mold? Make sure you oil up those wood surfaces first!

Aspects about priming

Another thing to remember when painting is that if you’re staging a quick fix then be careful what you choose. There are times when we can’t wait and we need it done fast.

But in order to speed things up, we sometimes make mistakes that could cost us big time and for some great deal of money. The most important part to remember is primer.

It’s surprising how many people don’t use this or don’t seem to know how necessary it is before laying the paint down.

Without this layer, you’ll use up even more paint than before which means you’ll spend more big bucks for buying all those other paint supplies one by one.

Remember, having the right product at hand can mean the difference between a good job.

And a pathetic job because without it you might end up with a lot of missed patches here and there in your otherwise ideal result.

Surfaces that need primer before paint

Wooden surface

Wood can be tricky, and while we have already talked about the importance of priming it above, there are a few more things to consider.

Wood can be porous and can also have really interesting texture. It’s also important to remember that wood knots or even chips in during construction of your furniture and house.

This can lead to discoloration or exposure to chemicals such as tannic acid.

Thankfully, we learned from our experience with our work bench project that if you built a barrier between the wood and the wall or table top using Mod Podge then the paint will still stick just fine!

Metal surface

Metal well, metal a lot: You’d be surprised how often people don’t prime their metals before painting them!

Metallic paint is typically a better choice since it covers more directly than its acrylic counterpart, but they both function the same way.

paint and primer difference

The first thing one needs to do is apply primer to help give your metal long lasting protection against the elements.

Man-made materials

People have taken the time to make new man-made things out of wood, like furniture. IKEA is a famous example of this. These new things made out of wood are called synthetic or fake wood.

Drywall surface

You can save both time and money when you prime your walls before painting. It not only saves you money in the long run, but it helps to protect your body from too much physical strain.

Specifically, when it comes down to the matter of applying several coats of paint so needless to say.

I are confident in saying that if you don’t paint your drywall before painting then you’re more than likely going to have a costly and exhausting experience.

As opposed to what could be a simpler one with this tip on how thus why we suggest using drywall primer while also adding a layer of protection onto the wall so by considering this do you agree?

Brick and stones

Brick and Stone: Painting brick and stone is becoming more and more popular.

The most common primers are cement, epoxy, and silicone however, each one performs slightly differently depending when it is applied.

What is primer and paint used for?

Primer and paint are used to protect and decorate surfaces, such as walls, woodwork, and metal surfaces.

Primer is applied first to prepare the surface for painting by filling in small imperfections and creating a smooth surface.

Paint is then applied over the primer to provide color and a protective finish.

Primers are also specially formulated to adhere to specific types of surfaces such as metal, wood, and masonry.

Is primer more important than paint?

Both primer and paint are important in the painting process. Primer is typically applied before paint, and serves a few key purposes:

  1. Adhesion: Primer helps the paint adhere better to the surface, creating a stronger bond and a more durable finish.
  2. Sealing: Primer seals the surface, preventing any stains, tannins, or other contaminants from bleeding through the paint.
  3. Smoothing: Primer helps fill in small imperfections in the surface, creating a smoother surface for the paint to be applied on.
  4. Speciality : Primers are formulated to address specific surface issues such as mildew, smoke damage, and wood knots.

While paint is important for providing the desired color and finish, it is not able to do so without the proper preparation of the surface, which is where primer comes in.

Without primer, paint will not adhere as well and may not last as long. So, both primer and paint have their own importance.

Is it OK to just use primer as paint?

It is not recommended to use primer as paint because primer is formulated to prepare the surface for painting and does not contain the same pigmentation or finish as paint.

Primer is designed to be used as a base coat and is usually applied before paint.

Using primer as paint will not provide the desired color and finish. It may also not provide the same level of protection as paint and may not be as durable over time.

Additionally, primer is not meant to be exposed to the elements like paint is.

If you use only primer, the surface will be more susceptible to damage, discoloration and wear and tear.

It is important to use the correct type of paint for the intended use and surface.

If you want to change the color of the surface or want to give it a finish you should use paint instead of primer.

Is paint with primer better than regular paint?

Paint with primer included, also known as “self-priming paint” or “2-in-1 paint and primer,” is designed to be a one-step solution for painting.

The paint contains both primer and paint in the same can, and is meant to be applied directly to the surface without the need for a separate primer coat.

In general, paint with primer can be a convenient and time-saving option for painting projects because it eliminates the need for a separate primer coat.

It also can be an option for small projects or for covering surfaces that are in good condition.

However, it’s important to note that paint with primer may not be the best option for all surfaces or painting projects.

In some cases, it may not provide the same level of adhesion, coverage, or durability as a separate primer and paint application.

For example, if the surface is in poor condition, has heavy stains, or has a glossy finish, a separate primer coat may be needed to ensure proper adhesion and coverage.

In these cases, regular paint and primer would be a better option.

Ultimately, it depends on the condition of the surface and the specific requirements of the painting project.

It is always recommended to check the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations before starting a project.

FAQ’s of Paint vs Primer difference and functions

No. It really depends on the nature of the surface you’re planning to paint on. If the surface has a paint on finish, this is to be considered as a primer. On the other hand, if it’s a bare surface like concrete, you might need a primer to enhance your paint’s adhesion to the surface.

This is a great question. The short answer is yes, paint can be used as a primer. However, it is not a perfect solution. Paint is good for the first coat on your home. It will seal in the wood and make it seem smooth. Paint is also good for patching areas that have peeled. You can use it to cover stains or holes in the wood. The reason that paint is not the best primer is that it does not provide as smooth of an application as a primer. The primer acts like a shield for the fresh paint on top. It provides a smoother surface for the paint to apply over. It flattens out the bumps and holes that were in the wood. When you use paint as a primer you are doing half the work for it. This means that the paint is not getting the smoothest base to apply over. It does not matter if your paint is oil-based or latex. It will be just as effective. The main thing that you need to watch for is how well the stain in the paint works with the paint that you are using over top of it.

The paint will adhere much better to a primed surface. Primer is required for the paint to adhere evenly. If you don’t prime a surface, the paint will essentially pull the oxygen out of the wood, causing it to rot more easily.

Yes, you can use flat white paint as a primer. But the flat white paint only works if the surface the paint is going over is well sanded. The paint is only effective as a priming material if the sanding is done very well and clean. But, what flat white paint does is give a great white background on which you can paint whatever color you want on it.

Primer, if correctly applied, is stronger than paint. Since primer is applied before paint, the latter does not have to be as strong. This is because, if not applied correctly, paint can flake off, leaving the surface even weaker. In addition, many people do not apply primer correctly, meaning it is more likely to peel off.

Yes. You can mix paint and primer. You can use the result for a variety of purposes, including painting a wall or as a primer for an oil-based paint or a latex paint. However, that doesn’t mean that you should mix them. It is best to stick with a single method of paint application. Mixing paint can result in poor quality results, is not durable and is not something that you would want to use for a job that you are concerned with how it looks.

This is a tricky one. If the paint is in good condition, you don’t need to prime the walls. If the walls have been freshly painted and it’s not been exposed to the elements, you don’t need to prime the walls. If the walls are old, you should definitely prime before you start painting. What is priming? Priming is applying a special layer of paint on the surface to provide the best conditions for the next coat. If the walls have been painted with oil-based paints or if the walls have been previously painted with other oil-based paints, we would definitely recommend that you prime the walls. If the walls have been previously painted with latex paint, you can prime the walls if you want to. It will make the job easier. Priming itself is not difficult to do but first you have to do a thorough clean of the surface.

Generally, yes, you should wash the walls before you paint on top of them. Otherwise, paint will not stick to the wall strongly, and will flake off over time. This is a very important part of the painting process. It’s true that there are some special paints that are “washable” and don’t require sanding or washing, but those paints can be a little more expensive, and in general you want your paint to last as long as possible.

It’s a myth that the older the paint, the harder it is to remove. In fact, with all paints, high-quality, high-resolution results are possible, even when repainting layers of old paint. If you have to paint over old paint, follow these steps to remove the paint and prepare the surface for the new coat. First, scrape off the old paint from the area you are repainting. If you are hesitant about scraping away the old paint, use a heat gun to soften it. Once the paint is soft, scrape it off with a putty knife. Next, sand the area you are repainting. Sand at least 3 times, making sure the smoothness of the surface reaches 400 grit. You can use a belt sander or hand sand. After sanding the area, leave it to dry. It is a good idea to cover the area. You can cover it with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting. The last step is to prime the area. Prime all surfaces that you sanded. For best results, use oil or alkyd-based primer. After you prime, let the surface dry thoroughly and then paint what you want.

Final thoughts about paint vs primer

In the end, even though they are similar in some respects, both have different roles, and it is important to use them correctly.

Here, we list the similarities and differences between paint and primer so that you can use them effectively and get the best results.

If you have anything which is confusing you then do let us know in the comments section and your query will be answered in no time.

Till next time take care of your equipment and yourself too. Adios my painter fellas!

Matthew Edward

Matthew Edward is a professional painter who loves to paint and wants to share useful tips and tricks which he had learned in many years of experience in painting. He also used many products that can be used for painting he has tried and tested each and every product to give an unbias opinion about it in his review. This blog is very useful for those newbies who want to learn painting without making mistakes.

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