Priming Drywall

In essence, priming drywall is a lot like painting any other wall surface.

It is different, however, in that with finish painting you’re actually sealing the new drywall to get it ready to accept the finish coats. The paint will then go on more easily and smoothly, and result in a beautifully finished painting job .

So, after new drywall is installed and finished, a high-quality drywall primer should be applied to coat and seal said drywall.

A question that I am asked from time to time about priming drywall, is something the paint manufacturers don’t like to hear, and it involves the use of ordinary wall paint.

‘Is Priming Drywall With Ordinary Paint An Option?’

man painting wall

It’s an option, but according to the manufacturers, not a very good one. And one that I can say with certainty, isn’t a good one either.

The goal of drywall primer is not to ‘hide’ anything, but to equalize the absorption rates (seal) of the drywall and gypsum mud, and to prepare the surface for the final coats of paint. Ordinary finish paint is not made to do that, as it is made to primarily to cover and ‘finish’ the wall surface, not seal it.

That’s why, when you try to prime with average finish paint, it tends to get sucked into the drywall leaving areas of the wall looking spotty anduneven.

picture of a gallon of drywall primer

I recommend using a drywall primer – or a high quality multi-purpose latex primer – for when priming drywall is your next step. Another acceptable (in my mind) primer could be flat latex ceiling paint, as this is very close to being a primer anyway, in terms of what the actual paint is made of.

Sand The Wall After Priming
You’ll notice that as after the primer dries, you can feel the surface of the wall as you rub your hands over it, a
certain amount of roughness to it. That (the roughness) is the raised grain of the paper on surface of the drywall as result of the primer being applied.

Roughness can also be the result of dried dust particles left over from coating the drywall directly after the final finish sanding process.


One thing you can do to further enhance the ability of your chosen paint color to really shine forth and possibly reduce an extra finish coat, is to have the paint technician tint the primer by adding colorant. Have them tint the primer to no more than 75% of the original color of your finish paint. This keeps the tinted primer from being darker than your finish color, yet still significantly allows the final finish coat to shine forth as intended.

Select only ‘tintable’ primer only, as this is specially formulated to do so.

Depending on the color of the finish paint, you might have to apply several coats to completely cover your walls. That is, of course, if you did not tint the primer beforehand. That’s alright to do as you certainly have the option to do one or the other without hurting a thing in the process

‘What If I Only Have A Small Spot To Do?’

spray primer

It’s definitely a waste of time and money to go to the store and buy a gallon’s worth of drywall primer that you may, or may not ever use again.

The solution is to get yourself a can of spray-on primer. I prefer to use Kilz Original, as it covers well and isn’t all that expensive (about $6 a can).

This method is ideal for areas that measure anywhere from a few inches across, to a couple of feet across, and up and down. Anything bigger would probably be better served with a quart (or more) size.

picture of can of kilz spray primer

Just shake well, point, and spray. That’s about it.

This method also covers scuff marks, dark abrasions on the walls, water stains on the ceiling, etc. Great preparation for any paint job where you need to prime, seal, or stainblock something.

Also …

In addition to priming drywall, please see my page on house-painting for more detailed info.