Primers are easily the most essential and often the most overlooked step in painting. If the primer is wrong, you could have a mess on your hands as the paint starts to peel, allowing it to bleed or come off easily.
Get the primer right and you'll have a long-lasting, great-looking paint job for years to come.
Zinsser Smart Prime is one of the latest primers on the market from one of the most well-known primer brands, Zinsser.
Ready to start your project?Buy Zinsser Smart Prime here.
What to Consider When Looking for a Primer
Primers are extremely important in painting. Choosing the right or wrong primer (or skipping using one altogether) can make or break a paint job and greatly affect the longevity of your paint job.
A good primer will help ensure that the finish adheres properly to the substrate, will give a smoother/better looking final gloss, hide stains, provide a smoother finish, and prevent stains from seeping through.
There are many benefits to using a primer and if you're wondering whether to prime a surface, I always tell people that it's better to use a primer when you don't need it than not to use it when you should.
There are 5 main categories to look out for when looking for primers:
- How well they seal the surface to block stains from bleeding.
- How well they adhere to surfaces. This prevents futurepeeled and chipped.
- How well they sand. This helps create a smooth surface for the top layers.
- How well they level and flow. This helps create a smooth surface for the final layer.
- Security. How tall are they VOC?
Often when you are painting you need to determine which of the above categories is most important and choose your primer accordingly.
But occasionally we come across a product that not only performs well in every category, but also outperforms the competition in nearly every category.
For me, this was Zinsser's Smart Prime. This primer is amazing and has become my go-to product for priming kitchen cabinets, exterior primer (I use Peel Bond for house stripping), primer on roofing, water stains, wood tannin sealing, and more.
Zinsser Smart Prime
Zinsser Smart Prime is a water-based modified acrylic. This follows the trend we've seen in the paint industry to capture the benefits of oil-based finishes in a water-based product. These types of products are often referred to as water-based hybrids or alkyds.
In simple terms, they are water-based finishes that look like oil-based finishes and have all the features and benefits of an oil-based finish without the high VOCs and thinner cleaning.
The Zinsser Smart Prime has taken this idea and made it a lot better. Not only is Smart Prime a water-based topcoat, it's even lower in VOC content than almost every other water-based primer I've used when making water-based primers, oil-based primers, and even others. . hybrid primers on the market.
Usos do Zinsser Smart Prime
I have been using the Zinsser Smart Prime for about a year now. My main use for Smart Prime is to prime kitchen cabinets before painting.
Kitchen cabinets can have all kinds of problems and preparation is extremely important. First, they are usually covered with a layer of food and hand grease. I always wash and trash my cabinets, but I still need a primer that will hold up to grease in case there are any missing areas or residue.
Oak, which is one of the main woods I paint on when painting kitchen cabinets, is known to leach tannins. Tannins are basically tannic acids that come out of wood when it's wet and show up as brown stains on a paint finish (more noticeable on white finishes). In the past, water-based primers have not been able to properly seal in these tannins and I've had to use an oil-based primer to keep the tannins from leaking out. Smart Prime does a great job sealing in those tannins.
Smart Prime is also great for adhering to shiny surfaces, other kitchen cabinet issues, or any other wood finishes (such as windows and doors) that you are painting around your home. A primer that doesn't adhere well to shiny surfaces will eventually cause the top coat to easily scratch and chip.
Smart Prime is also excellent for removing water stains from kitchen or bathroom ceilings or walls prior to painting.
Personally, I don't use Smart Prime on the outer surface that often. I have only used it for spot primer and I usually use Peel Bond when priming the outer surface as it is the best primer to prevent outer peeling.
How to Apply Smart Prime
brush and roller
The easiest way to apply Smart Prime is with a brush and roller. Apply it as you would any other paint.
My favorite kitchen cabinet brush:Purdy Clear Cut Elite
You can also easily use an HVLP sprayer to apply Smart Prime. In fact, this is my preferred method of spraying kitchen cabinets. To get perfect atomization with my Titan Capspray 115, I like to dilute Smart Prime with 20% water. So if I measure out 50oz of primer, I add 10oz of water and it sprays perfectly.
My favorite HVLP sprayer is the Wagner Flexio 5000.
- Read my review of the Wagner Flexio 5000 (Posting in the first week of January 2023).
- Buy the Wagner Flexio 5000 on Amazon.
airless sprayersyou can easily handle Smart Prime straight from the can without diluting it. I have sprayed many roofs with smart prime using myGraco Magnum Pro X17yGraco Magnum X5.
features and benefits
Indoor and outdoor use
Having a primer that can be used both indoors and outdoors is fantastic. I always keep Smart Prime on hand, but I continue to use Peel Bond on many exterior primer projects.
Amazing at blocking stains (especially oak tannins)
One of the most important jobs of a primer is to block stains such as water, oil, oak, cedar, grease, crayon, rust and tannins. I can confidently say from experience that Smart Prime does a great job of this.
Quick drying and repainting
Having a product that dries fast and can be recovered quickly is essential when painting for profit. Smart Prime normally dries in minutes if the humidity isn't too high and can be recoated in an hour. The higher the humidity, the slower the drying times.
Excellent adhesion even on shiny surfaces
Many people don't want to sand because it releases dust particles or even lead into the air. Therefore, it is important to have a product that can adhere well to shiny surfaces without sanding. While I haven't personally tried painting over glossy surfaces without sanding, I can say that Smart Prime has outperformed every other hybrid and water-based primer I've used when it comes to bonding. This is one area where I've noticed that a true oil primer still excels.
Mildew and fungus resistant.
Mold and mildew resistance is an important feature when using primers and paints in bathrooms, kitchens and basements.
cleaning with water
One of the best features of any hybrid primer is the fact that it can be cleaned with water. Using paint thinner to clean an oil-based primer is horrible and you have to dispose of the thinner properly when you're done, it's not fun.
VOC content and odor
I was absolutely surprised to read how low VOC Smart Prime is. It also has minimal odor. I've used Smart Prime on busy construction sites and projects and nobody knows I'm painting.
Smart Prime has 25 grams of VOC per liter. So that you understand how amazing it is, here are some comparable products:
- Kilz Original Oil Primer: 442 grams per liter
- Kilz 2 water-based primer: 100 grams per liter
- Benjamin Moore Stix: 87.6 grams per liter
- Sherwin Williams Multi-Purpose Waterborne Alkyd-Acrylic Primer (very comparable): 31 grams per liter.
- Benjamin Moore Advance Primer (very comparable product): 44 grams per liter.
As you can see, Smart Prime has as low a VOC content as you would expect from a primer.
Volume of solids by weight
Volume by weight solids is a very simplistic way of saying the quality of a paint, but it gives a good idea of the quality of a product.
Volume solids refer to how much ink is solid and how much is liquid. Solids are what's left over when the product is dry, so in theory, the more solids there are, the better the paint will be.
- Zinsser Smart Prime: 50% solids
- Sherwin Williams All Purpose: 40% solids
- Benjamin Moore Advance Primer: 41.5% solids
- Kilz 2: 30% solids
- Benjamin Moore Stix: 40% solids
Alternatives to Smart Prime
benjamin moore stix
Stix is a water based adhesive primer and it feels fantastic. If you're looking for a primer that offers excellent bonding abilities, you won't go wrong with Stix.
Buy INSL-X Stix here
Read my full review here
Benajmin Moore Advanced Primer
Advance Primer is Benjamin Moore's version of a water-based (hybrid) acrylic alkyd primer and is the companion product to their amazing Advance Hybrid Polish. Advance is my absolute favorite finish whenpainting kitchen cabinets. It's all I use and recommend. The primer is also great and I never had any problems. But Zinsser is cheaper and has a small performance advantage.
Read my opinion onEnamel for Advance kitchen cabinet by Benjamin Moore
Buy Benjamin Moore trailer here
Kilz 2 water-based primer
I actually use Kilz 2 a lot. I use it a lot because it's incredibly cheap and works well enough for many projects. For example, I recently used it in a 5,000 square foot home where the previous owner smoked. I primed every roof, wall, and subfloor in the house and it took about 60 gallons. At about $13 a gallon, I saved almost $1020 by using the Kilz 2 instead of the Smart Prime. I had to hit a few bleeding spots on my hands after the words, but it was worth it.
Buy Kilz 2 here
Read my full review here
Kilz Original oil-based primer
I no longer use the original Kilz. I value my health very much and I don't have any situation where I'm fine using this product anymore. As you can see above, their VOC content is huge.
Zinsser Smart Prime is one of the best, if not the best primer on the market in my opinion. I have no affiliation with Zinsser and I have no affiliate links for the product in this post. I honestly think this is the best primer on the market right now. I use it on all my kitchen cabinet projects, anywhere a high performance primer is needed, and I recommend it to all my friends and family.
Zinsser Smart Prime
Ready to learn more?
Check out our kitchen cabinet painting centerfoldfor everything you want to know about cabinet painting, including costs, instructions, reviews, and more.
Should I sand Zinsser primer before painting? ›
We use it for many purposes, bare wood, worn wood cabinets smoke and water damage etc. Bin's is very sandable and should be sanded between coats. When you apply it, work fast, get it on as even as you can, but do not try to over work it.What temperature should I use my Zinsser Smart Prime? ›
PRODUCT APPLICATION (cont.) Apply only when air, material, and surface temperatures are between 50-90ºF (10-32ºC) and the relative humidity is below 85%.How long before you can paint over Zinsser primer? ›
Dries to touch in 5 minutes and can be topcoated in 30 minutes with latex or oil-based paints. For best results, allow primer to cure overnight before applying strong solvent- based topcoats. Wipe off tip before storing.Do you apply primer with a brush or roller? ›
Applying primer first is the best way to ensure a perfect finish later. Just as it does with makeup and on cars, primer creates a smooth base that promotes better adhesion and truer color from your topcoat paint. Pro-tip: Apply primer using a brush first to “cut in" around edges, then use a roller to fill in.Do you need 2 coats of Zinsser primer? ›
In most cases only one coat is necessary to prime most surfaces. If excessive absorption occurs over very porous substrates a second coat may be necessary. Spot priming is recommended only under high-hiding topcoat finishes. For best results, prime entire surface before painting.What happens if you dont sand primer before painting? ›
What happens if you don't sand primer? The finish coat won't adhere as well and the finish will reflect the lack of sanding with a less than smooth finish. You're not trying to sand off the primer, just giving it some"tooth" and removing imperfections.Is one coat of Zinsser enough? ›
As long as the primer applies uniformly over the previous color, then one or two coats should be sufficient.How long does Zinsser smart prime take to dry? ›
At normal temperatures, Smart Prime will dry to the touch in 30 minutes and can be recoated in 1 hour. Allow 2 hours for interior stain blocking and overnight for exterior stain blocking.Do you need to sand after Zinsser primer? ›
Several Zinsser primers advertise that they can stick without sanding, even to glossy surfaces. I called the company to double-check, and they recommended the water-based Zinsser 123 primer for bathroom vanities and said yes, I would not have to sand before applying.What happens if you recoat primer too soon? ›
Oil-based paint and primer need at least 24 hours between coats. Recoating too soon can lead to poor adhesion, peeling paint, and uneven color.
Do you need 2 coats of paint over primer? ›
On a new wall, you'll want to follow the rule and apply two coats of paint after primer. Follow the same standard for drywall. If you're repainting a wall, you'll only need one coat if you're using the same color and it's a quality paint.What happens if you paint over primer too soon? ›
What happens if you apply second coat of primer too soon? Applying the second coat too early will result in streaks, peeling paint, and uneven color. Not only will this ruin the entire project but it'll cost additional money to get more paint in some occasions. It's best to wait for the first coat to dry.How do you get rid of brush strokes in primer? ›
All you need to do is spray your paintbrush with a little water before you dip it in the paint can. It will help thin the paint out as you apply it. It is my favorite tip for getting rid of brushstrokes. You can also spray the furniture piece itself with the water bottle and then apply the paint over that.What is the best way to apply paint primer? ›
- Fit the moistened roller cover onto your paint roller.
- Stir and pour the mixed primer into a paint tray.
- Dip the roller into the primer, making sure it's completely covered.
- Pass the paint roller over the ridged area of the paint tray a few times to remove excess primer.
For more artist-oriented brushes to apply primer, look for synthetic brushes that aren't expensive and have round shapes with soft bristles. Soft bristled brushes will help you apply primer to your models without leaving brush strokes, coat recess with ease, and will help keep your primer application thin.Does primer have to be perfect? ›
The primer coat doesn't have to be perfect, but it should cover the surface (no bare spots) and it shouldn't be so blotchy that you get drips or visible unevenness.How thick should primer be applied? ›
For a normally clean environment, a coat of up to 50 microns is considered adequate. For a dusty or humid location requiring constant servicing and cleaning, a thicker coat, say, up to 70–80 microns, is considered to be adequate. A thickness of up to 50 microns is possible through one coat of primer and paint.Do painters sand after primer? ›
Summary. For your finish to be vibrant and not dull sanding after primer will ensure that the finish is not excessively dulled when you apply your paint top coat. You will typically use finer grit sandpaper and aim to achieve a smooth wood finish so that you get a fine appearing wood finish when you apply your topcoat.Do you wet or dry sand primer? ›
Whether you wet sand primer or not depends entirely on what type of primer you're sanding. For latex paint primer (water, oil or shellac-based,) you don't need to wet sand, since the layer of paint will cover that perfectly smooth surface anyway. Auto-body primer, on the other hand, should be wet sanded.Will paint adhere to primer without sanding? ›
The highest quality bonding primers will often state 'no sanding is necessary' and will adhere to almost any shiny surface, such as glass, metal, tile etc. Primers like Kilz, Fuse, and Zinnser are good for bonding very strongly. Primers can be costly, but if they are of good quality there will be no need for sanding.
Can you use water based paint over Zinsser primer? ›
Great for use on all interior surfaces & spot priming on exterior surfaces. It is formulated to seal, prime and block out stains on previously painted or new work. Any oil or latex paint can be applied over it.What happens if you apply second coat of paint too soon? ›
Applying the second coat too early will result in streaks, peeling paint, and uneven color. Not only will this ruin the entire project but it'll cost additional money to get more paint in some occasions. It's best to wait for the first coat to dry.Should I paint 2 or 3 coats? ›
Generally, you will want a minimum of two coats of paint – this is a good rule of thumb for any wall or ceiling you're painting. You'll rarely get a seamless finish from just one coat of paint, and even if you do, coverage isn't the only goal when it comes to painting a room.Should I let primer dry overnight? ›
You can paint after 1 hour if you want, but we suggest letting it sit for at least 2 or 3 hours or overnight to be sure it's completely dry before painting.Does primer need to dry overnight? ›
After your first coat of paint is dry, it's safe to recoat typically after four to six hours. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least three hours to recoat your paint or primer if it's water-based. Waiting 24 hours is best for oil-based paint and primer.Can I paint straight over Zinsser Peel Stop? ›
water based or alkyd primer or paint may be used over Peel Stop. As Peel Stop is clear, we recommend priming with Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3® or Zinsser Cover-Stain®, followed by a coat of quality water based or alkyd paint to assure optimum results.Can you use Zinsser without sanding? ›
It offers unparalleled adhesion on any surface without sanding and has the hiding power to conceal the toughest of stains. Permanently blocks...Why is my primer scratching off? ›
Painting over dirty walls, excess moisture, improper prep, and using latex paint on top of oil paint can all affect the paint's adhesion and cause it to eventually begin flaking off. To solve the problem, you'll need to remove the peeling areas and start over with fresh coats of primer and paint.Should I sand before second coat of primer? ›
Actually, sanding between coats of primer is pointless. Once primer is dry, you should sand the primer before moving on to the basecoat color. Sanding between coats of primer will just extend how long it takes to complete the phase, while sanding at the end of the primer step yields the same results.Can you prime and paint in the same day? ›
Priming then painting on the same day is doable only if you work with latex-based or shellac primers. On average, these two primers take about 1-3 hours to dry per coat. On the other hand, if you are using an oil-based primer, you would need to wait for 4 hours up to a whole day for the coat to dry.
Do you sand after second coat of primer? ›
Do you sand after second coat of primer? You don't sand between coats to get it smooth, you sand to make it rough. The scratches of the sanding make sure the next layer sticks better. Always sand between coats, with a grit around 180-240, I prefer this by hand but on larger surfaces a machine can be used, gently.What grit should I use to sand between coats of paint? ›
180 – 220 grit is primarily used for the sanding finish or to sand in-between coats. It is also great for distressing!Should you always prime before painting? ›
If the wall surface is smooth, you can skip the primer step. However, if there are textured areas or wrinkles on the wall, you'll need to prime it first. If your wall has been previously covered in wallpaper, you should definitely plan on using a primer before painting.Do you put 1 or 2 coats of paint over primer? ›
Typically, contractors use a primer, then two coats of paint—the primer to seal the surface and improve paint adhesion and the paint to provide color and protection.Can I paint an hour after priming? ›
Most latex primers dry to the touch in 30 minutes to one hour. But for best results, don't paint until the primer completely dries—which can take up to 3 hours, depending on temperature and humidity.Can you wait a week between coats of paint? ›
It's fine to wait as long as 7 days to add a second coat of paint, and some manufacturers even suggest waiting that long. However, if you wait too long, factors such as dust, UV rays, and more can change the color of the paint and impact the look if you add a second coat.What is the best paint brush to avoid brush marks? ›
Use brushes with nylon-polyester bristles. A brush about 2.5 inches wide is a good choice for cabinets. Some painters like the angled bristles of so-called sash brushes.How do you get smooth primer? ›
Sand Your Primer
I always use oil-based primer on woodwork and cabinets so that I can sand it down to a super smooth feel before beginning my finish painting. Use 220-grit paper or fine sanding sponges to sand everything down once the primer has dried enough that it generates dust when sanded.
Primer is a base coat used to help treat a surface before applying a topcoat. Accordingly, primer is formulated to ensure maximum adhesion. Better paint adhesion means your paint job lasts longer. Likewise, primer acts as a sealer for porous surfaces that would otherwise absorb the first few coats of paint.Do you sand after priming walls? ›
An often overlooked and important step when renovating with new drywall. After the board is hung, finished and primed, remember to lightly sand the primed walls again before finish painting.
How many coats of primer? ›
You will want to use 2-3 coats of primer to ensure there is a good bond between the new paint and the wall, and also to cover up any previous colors, especially if they are red, orange, or a strange outdated color. In short, you will typically need 2 coats of primer for most painting projects.What brushes do professional painters use? ›
Paintbrush Bristles: Go for Synthetic
While paintbrush bristles can have either synthetic or natural bristles, synthetic bristles are the most practical. Commonly used by DIY-ers and professional painters alike, they work well with water-based paints like Aura® Interior, ben® Interior, and Regal® Select Interior.
Several Zinsser primers advertise that they can stick without sanding, even to glossy surfaces. I called the company to double-check, and they recommended the water-based Zinsser 123 primer for bathroom vanities and said yes, I would not have to sand before applying.Do you need to sand before using Zinsser BIN primer? ›
Answer: The cabinets should be cleaned and sanded to remove the glossy clear coat. This allows the primer to bond stronger to the surface. Use an electric sander with 150-grit sandpaper. You can brush and roll BIN, but it's messy to work with because it's as thin as water.Do you need to sand with 123 bullseye primer? ›
Bulls Eye® 1-2-3 effectively primes and seals a wide variety of interior and exterior surfaces. A 'bond coat' primer that's great for hard-to-stick surfaces, it offers excellent adhesion without sanding.Is it necessary to sand after priming? ›
Summary. For your finish to be vibrant and not dull sanding after primer will ensure that the finish is not excessively dulled when you apply your paint top coat. You will typically use finer grit sandpaper and aim to achieve a smooth wood finish so that you get a fine appearing wood finish when you apply your topcoat.Can I skip sanding if I use primer? ›
The highest quality bonding primers will often state 'no sanding is necessary' and will adhere to almost any shiny surface, such as glass, metal, tile etc. Primers like Kilz, Fuse, and Zinnser are good for bonding very strongly. Primers can be costly, but if they are of good quality there will be no need for sanding.Can you use water based paint over Zinsser bin primer? ›
Great for use on all interior surfaces & spot priming on exterior surfaces. It is formulated to seal, prime and block out stains on previously painted or new work. Any oil or latex paint can be applied over it.What grit should I sand before primer? ›
Finally, just before you are ready to apply primer to the metal, smooth the car's surface with a 320-grit piece of fine sandpaper.How many coats of Zinsser 123 primer should I use? ›
Application– Ready to use - no dilution necessary. In most cases only one coat is necessary. Porous surfaces may require two coats to properly seal. Prime entire surface for best results.
Does Zinsser primer need a top coat? ›
Since primer's function is mainly to bond and cover porous surfaces, it is not made to withstand elements like paint. Because of this, if you leave primer without a top coat (or paint) it will deteriorate and break down, probably in a chalk like form.Can you sand primer to make it smooth? ›
Sand the Primer
Let the primer dry completely, then sand it down before painting. Use very fine 220-grit sandpaper, and apply light pressure to prevent gouging the primer.
As long as the primer applies uniformly over the previous color, then one or two coats should be sufficient. Again, it is not necessary to apply several coats of primer to try to get a perfect white finish. That is the job of the topcoat (paint) which has to be applied on top of the primer.What grit is best after priming? ›
Let the primer dry completely, then sand it down before painting. Use very fine 220-grit sandpaper, and apply light pressure to prevent gouging the primer.