Best Oil Based Primer

Painting is the most common and the most effective way of promoting your home. It requires proper surface preparation, such as dusting, sanding, and most notably, priming. This article will discuss the role of primers (see Wiki) in surface preparation, and why you should apply it before you start painting.

Moreover, we will present you with the list of ten primers, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, such as adhesion, drying, price, and so forth. (Note that this article deals only with oil-based primers!)

We will also provide you with buyer’s guide, where we’ll explain what things you should have in mind if you choose to purchase a primer. The buyer’s guide will be followed by a short conclusion, where we’ll announce the winner of the roundup, and explain why we chose this particular product.

A Few Things To Keep In Mind

Before you dive into our list, please, go through the questions below. The questions should help you focus on the things that matter to you (regarding primers), and help you decide whether you want to use an oil-based primer or not.

  • Do you seek big or small project primer?
  • Are you looking for indoor or outdoor primer?
  • How big is your budget?
  • Do you need a primer or 2 in 1 primer/paint?
  • Do you need a heavy duty primer?
  • What material do you intend to cover?

Top Products

KILZ Original Oil Primer – The Most Cost-Effective Primer (Exterior)

KILZ Original is an all surface primer, intended for interior use on wood, plaster, masonry, drywall, etc. Note that this primer isn’t designed for flooring. The product comes in 1 quart can, sufficient to cover 75 to 100 square feet.

KILZ Original repels and seals the surface, thus blocking water, ink, grease, smoke, etc. It also resists odor from pets and smoke, which is indeed a plus. The primer is quite potent, and you can use it on medium to hard stained walls and surfaces.

It adheres to vertical surfaces and dries in approximately 30 minutes, but it is best to leave it one hour to dry before you apply another coat of primer, or, if you are already satisfied with the result, coat of paint.

Make sure that the surface is clean, free of chalk, dust, rust, and mold.

Two downsides: it is solvent based primer (meaning that the odor is quite noticeable, and you’ll have to apply several coats, especially on heavy-stained surfaces). It is, however, quite inexpensive when compared to other primers on our list.

  • versatile (apply on virtually any material)
  • effective, rapid drying
  • good adhesion and sealing
  • repels most stains

  • solvent induces odor
  • might need several coats if the surface is severely stained

Rust-Oleum 249131 All Surface Spray Paint – The Most Versatile Primer And Finisher

Rust-Oleum 249131 is highly versatile, applicable to virtually all building material, including wood, concrete, drywall, plastic, etc. Its formula makes it highly effective and adhesive, and it will prevent oxidation, won’t chip or tear on a long-term basis.

The can contains 11 oz, sufficient to cover 15 square feet. That said, the product is best for priming small objects, preferably metal objects, due to its rust-protective nature. It dries in 30 minutes, after which you can apply another layer (if needed).

Note that Rust-Oleum 249131 is both primer and paint: it delivers appealing, metallic finish. It is by far the most versatile primer/paint, available in 17 different colors, perfect for people who seek primer and paint in one product. You can use it indoor and outdoor

Keep in mind that this primer delivers glossy, stylish finish, which might not be everyone’s liking. Due to its size, use it for small projects, for it would be very costly to cover large surfaces. Also, the nozzle might clog if used extensively, so give it a rest in between the spraying.

  • compact and highly effective
  • versatile, fit for all-surface coating
  • comes in 17 different color combination
  • 2 in 1, both primer and finisher
  • delivers stylish finish

  • nozzle might clog if used extensively
  • not intended for large projects

KILZ Odorless Interior Primer – Completely Odorless

As the name suggests, KILLZ odorless is completely odorless, which separates it from most other primers and sealers. Since it is odorless, the product is fit for interior use. It comes in 1 quart can, though you can order larger quantities. It is made in the US.

It repels stains, including water, grease, ink, and so forth; it also seals odors, such as smoke and pet odor. You can use it on any building material, assuming the dedicated surface is prepared (cleaned and dry, free of rust, dust, etc.)

This primer is potent and adhesive and can be used in combination with oil or latex paint (first apply the primer, then finishing paint). Do not apply it on molded surfaces or floors. It has a few downsides. Firstly, drying is slow. Though the manufacturer states that drying takes 30 minutes, many reviewers object to this claim.

Furthermore, one coat won’t be sufficient, so you’ll have to apply 2-3 layers of primer. Its best feature is the odorless nature, which is both safe and convenient.

  • completely odorless
  • adheres to virtually any material
  • repels most stains
  • excellent sealing, perfect for smokers and pet owners

  • drying is slow
  • you’ll need to apply several coats

KILZ Exterior Self-Priming Paint – The Most Protective And Durable Exterior Paint/Primer

KILZ Exterior Self-Priming Paint is a 2 in 1 paint, available in red and white colors. It is intended for exterior use, for painting fences, barns, and siding.

It protects the material from natural elements (such as rain, snow, frost), and it also delivers beautiful finish. It is quality made paint, won’t tear, peel or blister. The paint uses the optimal combination of oil and water, providing excellent adhesive and versatile nature.

You can use this self-priming paint on wood, masonry, and concrete. It takes a bit longer to dry, approximately 2-3 hours. If you intend to apply an additional layer, it is best that you wait at least 8 hours. The product is quite inexpensive and arrives in 1-gallon can, sufficient to cover 200 to 500 square feet, depending on the surface’s porousness.

Due to its highly protective nature, the product is perfect for farmers, homes with fences and barns. Its only downside is the drying time.

  • arguably the best exterior paint/primer
  • extremely protective and durable
  • excellent adhesion (especially to wood)
  • cost-effective, quite inexpensive (considering the results you get)

  • takes a bit longer to dry

Rust-Oleum 7769830 Spray Primer – Best Primer For Metal Surfaces

Rust-Oleum 7769830 arrives in 12 oz tin, intended for priming and protecting metal surfaces from rust and other elements. It is compact, inexpensive and straightforward to use.

It dries rapidly (15 minutes), and the 12 oz spray tin can cover 12 sq feet of surface. The product is highly protective and adhesive, an excellent foundation for the topcoat. It will endure extreme conditions, heavy rain, frost and high temperatures.

The spray is very compact and neatly designed, featuring all-angle wide tip, allowing you to use it from all angles and reach those spots that are usually hard to get.

You have to prepare the surface before you use this pray (take off as much rust as you can). Furthermore, we suggest that you apply at least two coats for optimal results, even more on hard-rusted surfaces.

Also, distance yourself as you are using this spray to avoid toxic fumes (this applies to all sprays on our list).

  • excellent adhesion
  • protects the metal from rust on a long-term basis
  • solid finish
  • features all-angle and wide spraying tip
  • value for money

  • intended for metal only
  • you’ll have to apply several layers, depending on the damage

Zinsser 03504 Interior – Exterior Primer – The Best For New Construction

Zinsser 03504 is a 1-Quart primer, intended for covering stains and sealing the surface. It is high quality, US made, featuring high hiding chemical structure that repels stains, and seals smoke and pet odor.

The product sands very quickly, and is fit for both interior and exterior use. Zinsser 03504 shows best results when applied to new construction, and is suitable for remodeling and repainting.

The best thing regarding this primer is its adhesive power. It will adhere to virtually any material and will endure harsh conditions. It delivers quite beautiful finish. However, it takes longer to dry thoroughly.

If you intend to apply several layers (or top coat on this primer), let the primer cure for a couple of days. Furthermore, we wouldn’t suggest using it on old construction. It is a potent chemical, so you have to make sure that the room is ventilated (if using indoor).

Note that, while this is an oil based primer, it can be used with any topcoat (latex, oil, water-based paint, etc.)

  • extremely potent
  • adheres to virtually any surface (new construction)
  • delivers beautiful finish
  • excellent stain repelling and odor sealing

  • the odor is noticeable
  • takes long to dry

Rust-Oleum 7582838 – The Most Professional Primer

Rust-Oleum 7582838 is a professional gray or red primer, applicable to metal, wood, concrete and other similar surfaces. It is highly durable and corrosion resistant, providing excellent protection against extreme elements.

It provides the perfect base for the topcoat and is suitable for heavy use conditions. You receive 15 ounces of priming liquid, fit for covering 14 sq feet surface.

It dries rapidly (15 minutes), allowing you to apply topcoat instantly; no need for curing or long drying. You can use it indoor and outdoor since the odor is barely noticeable. Furthermore, the tin is neatly designed, featuring heavy-output tip, allowing you to spray from all angles.

Make sure that you prepare the surface adequately, especially the metal surface; scrub as much rust as possible. One application will be sufficient, due to primer’s high density. The problem is the product’s price, especially if you plan to use it for big projects.

We suggest using it to cover small surfaces, due to its costly nature.

  • compact and easy to use
  • incredibly dense, one application thick coat
  • dries rapidly
  • fit for all materials

  • somewhat expensive

Valspar 21850Q Metal Primer – Highly Adhesive And UV Resistant

Valspar 21850Q is a 1-quart wood and metal primer, fit for indoor and outdoor use. It is quite robust, resistant to peeling, tearing and bubbling. It is also resistant to UV light, which makes is fit for surfaces that are exposed to the sun.

The product is available in galvanized metal, white metal, and red oxide color. It adheres exceptionally well, even to galvanized metal, so you don’t have to wash the dedicated metal surface with acid before applying this primer.

We recommend it that you use it on metal surfaces, due to its rust-protective and durable nature. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t apply it on wood, only that you’ll get the most value if applied on metal.

Interestingly, reviewers didn’t complain about the paint, but about packaging and shipping. Also, the can could have been better designed, since it is hard to seal once unsealed. However, the primer works as advertised.

  • can be used on galvanized metal
  • excellent adhesion, fast drying
  • value for money
  • resistant to UV light, fit for indoor and outdoor use

  • used only on wood and metal

Rust-Oleum 2081830 – Best Automotive Primer

We wanted to include a primer that is intended for priming automobiles exclusively, and our choice came down to the Rust-Oleum 2081830.

This oil-based primer is available in dark gray, light gray and red color, all flat. The 12-Ounce tin is suitable for priming 12 sq feet and will dry in less than 15 minutes. If you wish to apply several layers, wait 15 minutes, and then start reapplying.

The product is highly durable and rust resistant, atop which you can apply lacquer or enamel. It will endure harsh conditions, won’t chip or tear. Be aware that you can use it on all metals, except for the galvanized metal.

It is a bit expensive, but also of high quality, intended for harsh, heavy use environment. It is also worth mentioning that the can’s tip is wide, highly responsive and all angled, and is as such very simple and convenient to use.

  • excellent adhesion
  • prevents rust and endures harsh conditions and heavy use environment
  • dries in less than 15 minutes, allows immediate recoating
  • comfortable and easy to use, ergonomically designed and responsive tip

  • somewhat expensive

Rust-Oleum 02008 Primer Spray – All-Purpose Primer

The last primer on our list is the Rust-Oleum 02008, white, easy to use, 13-ounce spray. Made in the US, the product is of high quality, fit for indoor and outdoor use.

This primer is highly versatile, applicable on all surfaces, acting as both primer and sealer. It repels most stains and seals odors and can be applied under or over your desired paint.

Like all Rust-Oleum sprays, the tip is ergonomically designed, comfortable, all angled and highly responsive. It is surprisingly inexpensive (considering the quality), and is a standard pick amongst consumers.

Though highly adhesive, it is highly sensitive and prone to stretching, and we don’t recommend using it in heavy use environments. Instead, use it for small projects, preferably indoors. Just make sure the room is ventilated.

Due to its attractive price and all-around nature, this is Rust-Oleum’s best selling primer. Use it indoor and outdoor, under or over the paint, and apply as many coats as you wish: the results will be satisfying.

  • all-purpose, all-surface primer
  • excellent adhesion
  • delivers nice finish
  • compact and simple to use

  • not fit for the heavy-use environment

Buyer’s Guide

In this part, we would like to explain why would someone need/use oil based primer, and how it differs for latex or water-based primers (read more about it here). Furthermore, we will briefly go through the things you should consider if you decide to purchase the oil-based primer.

On Oil Based Primers

Here’s the bottom line: oil-based primers are more adhesive and efficient primers compared to the latex or water-based primers, but they are also more toxic and harmful to the environment.

Furthermore, the water-based primer is less toxic, dries quickly and is more flexible (regarding cracking), and is cleanable with water. Latex primers are still in development and might overtake oil base primers in the future.

However, oil primers are still the number one choice for professional painters and artists (read more in this article). They are highly durable and offer a lot more protection than latex or water primers.

If you intend to cover wood, concrete, metal, masonry and other hard materials, it is best that you go for the oil-based primer.

Adhesiveness And Durability

The better the primer adheres, the less it is prone to peeling, bubbling and tearing. Moreover, strong adhesion implies that the primer applies to all types of surfaces. Not only that, but adhesion helps the topcoat to merge with the primer. The good news is that most products on our list adhere quite well, some better than others.

Adhesiveness goes hand in hand with the primer’s durability. Generally speaking, outdoor primers are stronger and more durable than the indoor ones. They have to be since they are exposed to natural elements, such as rain, frost, sunlight, and so forth.

As we reviewed our products, we did touch on their durability and their ability to repel rust and stains, seal odors, such as animal odor or smoke. Keep these things in mind as you select the product.

Indoor Or Outdoor?

We included products that are intended for indoor, outdoor, or indoor & outdoor use. The choice should be straightforward. Outdoor primers are generally more expensive and durable but are also contain more toxicity.

Indoor primer is generally less robust but is safer and less toxic. Still, indoor or outdoor, take proper precautions while you paint, and make sure that the area you paint in is ventilated.

If you want versatility, go for the primers that are fit for indoor and outdoor use. However, make sure that they apply to the surfaces you intend to cover.

Drying Time

Consider the size of your project and how fast you want it to be done. If you are painting outdoors (such as fence or barn), drying time shouldn’t be your primary concern. Furthermore, consider whether you want a 2 in 1 product (primer and paint) or just primer.

Perhaps you already have a topcoat, and only need a primer, so it would make sense to purchase primer only. Consider the fact that some primers dry rapidly, in 15 minutes, which means that you can apply an additional coat (either prime or topcoat) instantly.

Generally speaking, outdoor primers take longer to dry, and even longer to cure (some take a couple of days to cure fully). It is vital that you remain patient if you want to get the most out of your primer.


Most products on our list can cover and protect standard building materials, such as metal, wood, masonry, concrete, dry wood, and so forth. However, some cover metal only. We also included Rust-Oleum 2081830 Automotive Primer, intended for car owners specifically.

Furthermore, Valspar 21850Q Metal Primer can be applied to the galvanized metal. We could go on and on about this topic, but the topic is self-explanatory since we did discuss this throughout our list.


The best primer on our list is the Rust-Oleum 7582838. It is the most professional primer, featuring excellent adhesion, rapid drying. It also delivers beautiful and long-lasting finish.

It will withstand harsh conditions, and applies to virtually any surface, though it is best to apply it on metal to get the most value out of it.

In the end, we would also like to point out the importance of surface preparation. Just as primers prepare the surface for the topcoat, you have to make sure that the dedicated surface is clean, free of dust and rust before you apply the primer.

Otherwise, the whole project could be jeopardized. And even though the primers we reviewed are of high quality and adhere well to the surface, we still suggest cleaning the material to get the maximum value out of your primer. Consider the things we mentioned in our buyer’s guide to assure the success of your purchase.

We hope this article helped you understand the role of oil-based primers, and that it will help you find the product that suits you the most.

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I've been working in professional paint service in Hampton, VA for the last 15 years. So i know a lot about painting and spray painters. With my team we made this site with to help you to understand why some spray painters are better than others, and how to find the best one for your type of job.

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