Self-Priming Paint: Real or Marketing Hype?

Self-Priming Paint: Real or Marketing Hype?

paint Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

We all love shortcuts—we jaywalk because the crosswalk is too far away, we prefer fingerprint and facial recognition because entering a password is too slow—painting is no different, for professionals and DIYers alike.

Paint and Primer in One

Self-priming paint represents a way to save a step, a shortcut, an efficiency, as well as, perhaps, a cost-saver. For the DIYer, this means getting that bedroom painted faster with more time left over to watch the game, play with the kids or binge watch the next true-crime series. For the pro, this means less product to stock and purchase, fewer products and tools at the jobsite and potentially more profit.

But, are self-priming paints a compromise that detracts from the quality and integrity of the painting process?

The answer is a qualified “no.” For most applications, these products are reliable, effective and successful. The benefits are obvious: one fewer coat to apply, fewer tools to wash, a quicker project with less complexity and ideally, a more successful project.

A good-quality, self-priming paint contains a high-caliber resin to ensure adequate sealing of a porous surface, like new drywall or wood, adequate adhesion to a smooth, previously painted surface, like eggshell-finished walls and semi-gloss finished trim.

So, are there any situations when you shouldn’t use self-priming paint? Yes, when painting over a substrate that requires the use of a proper primer, such as:

  • hard gloss painted surfaces, kitchen cabinets
  • old oil-painted woodwork
  • ferrous metals, like steel
  • bare wood where tannin bleed is an issue, like cedar, knotty pine, #2 pine and exotic hardwoods.

In these cases, to avoid the risk of failure, it is still best to apply the specific primer formulated for these surfaces.

It is always prudent to buy the best product you can afford, because with paint, you really do get what you pay for. Skip the bargain paint. You’ll end up with paint splatter everywhere, you’ll likely need to apply extra coats for good color saturation and at worst, your paint won’t adhere well.

Check out this guide to high-quality paint.

Want to know the best way to paint kitchen cabinets? Here’s everything you need to know.

Got problem walls? Here’s how to fix them so you get a super-smooth painted finish.

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Nigel Costolloe
Nigel Costolloe is the president of Catchlight Painting (, a full-service residential and commercial painting company serving Greater Boston. He is active regionally and nationally in the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) as a leader, speaker, and mentor.