4 Best Spray Can Primers for Wood

Painting new wood items, and even repurposing old wood items, is a common DIY project, and priming the wood before painting is necessary for a beautiful and well-done finished project.

What are the 4 best spray can primers for wood?

1. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus 13 oz. White Interior/Exterior Primer Spray

2. Rust-Oleum Professional 15 oz. Primer Spray

3. Zinsser B-I-N 13 oz. White Shellac-Based Interior/Spot Exterior Primer and Sealer Spray

4. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus 26 oz. Turbo White Interior/Exterior Primer Spray

There are many paint primers for wood on the market, both in traditional cans and spray cans. While both kinds offer viable priming options, spray can wood primer works before for certain projects.

The 4 Best Spray Can Primers for Wood

Once you’ve done your research on primer types and decided what (and how much) you’ll need for your project, you can find the perfect spray primer for you.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus 13 oz. White Interior/Exterior Primer Spray

This spray can primer boasts three great qualities immediately. They are:

  • It blocks stains and odors on difficult surfaces.
  • It resists blistering, peeling, and mold and mildew growth.
  • It is high hiding with a smooth finish and dries to the touch in 30 minutes.

This primer is one that is designed for all purposes, which includes woods. It is a high performance primer that blocks water and oil based stains. It provides great adhesion and sticks to a variety of materials.

Other details given about this particular spray can primer are:

  • It is ideal for interior and exterior use.
  • It helps give topcoats a longer life.
  • It can cover up to 15 square feet.
  • It has a smooth, white finish.
  • It completely blocks stains of all kinds.
  • It allows for quick completion of projects with its fast drying.
  • It has advanced oil-based technology is perfect for sealing porous surfaces completely.
  • It can be cleaned up with mineral spirits.

Rust-Oleum Professional 15 oz. Primer Spray

This spray can primer brags about its three best qualities immediately, saying:

  • It provides the ultimate rust resistance and surface hiding for indoor and outdoor use.
  • It has a high output tip with maximum coverage, adhesion, and protection.
  • It is a fast dry primer spray that covers up to 14 square feet per can.

This primer spray is for multiple purposes, specifically metal, wood, concrete, and masonry. It is designed to resist abrasion, prevent corrosion, and retain its color. It is made to survive in even the toughest of environments, which makes it perfect for projects that will remain outdoors. The high output tip that it has helps to cover surfaces faster and allows you to spray from any angle.

Other details given about this particular spray can primer are:

  • It provides twice the protection that enamels alone.
  • It provides amazing rust prevention.
  • It dries to the touch in 15 minutes/
  • It provides a flat finish.
  • It can be cleaned with mineral spirits.

Zinsser B-I-N 13 oz. White Shellac-Based Interior/Spot Exterior Primer and Sealer Spray

Right away, you are informed of three awesome qualities of this spray primer. They are:

  • It is a premium shellac and stain blocking primer that has excellent adhesion.
  • It is a high hide sealer primer for tough pet, smoke, and tobacco odors.
  • It is a fast drying primer that sticks to all surfaces without sanding.

This particular primer is great for using in colder temperatures and can seal stains from water, smoke, and fire damage. Not only does it hide pet, tobacco, and smoke odors, but it also stops bleeding stains and sap streaks. It dries to the touch in within 20 minutes, and you can add a second coat in only 45 minutes.

Other details given about this particular spray can primer are:

  • It’s great for interior use with ceilings, walls, doors, trim, cabinets, and furniture. It is also good to use for spot priming on outdoor surfaces.
  • It adheres to glossy surfaces excellently without sanding, and it is a permanent stain blocker for severe stains and odors.
  • It covers up to 40 square feet.
  • It has a flat white finish.
  • It can permanently seal odors from smoke damage, mold and mildew, cigars and cigarettes, and pet urine.
  • It can be cleaned up with denatured alcohol.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus 26 oz. Turbo White Interior/Exterior Primer Spray

This spray can primer offers up three of its amazing qualities immediately. They are:

  • It has a turbo tip that offers a 10 inch wide fan spray that allows for faster projects.
  • It is a fast spray primer that blocks stain and odors on difficult surfaces.
  • It resists blistering, peeling, and mold and mildew growth.

This primer offers professional priming spray results without the cleanup for large projects and is designed to block tough stains, seal odors, and create a smooth finish on all surfaces. Some of the stains this high performance primer blocks are water, pencil, grease, nicotine, smoke, tannin, and felt marker.

Other details given about this particular spray can primer are:

  • It is great for interior and exterior use on concrete, drywall, wood, and non-galvanized metal.
  • It covers up to 25 square feet with more primer output, helping save time.
  • It gives a smooth, flat finish.
  • Its high output tip sprays wide and is ideal for larger projects.
  • Its perfect for hard to paint surfaces like glass, tile, ceramic, shutters, and railings.
  • It dries to the touch in 30 minutes and is ready for a topcoat.
  • It can be cleaned up with mineral spirits.
  • It is great for hiding dark colors, sealing spackle, and repairing drywall.

The Different Types of Wood Primers

Wood is known to be a porous material. Bare wood will absorb paint very fast, causing it to dry unevenly and with varying degrees of color depth, which results in an amateur and unattractive finish. Wood primer prepares wood to be painted properly.

Wood primer soaks into the wood and fills crevices and pores, allowing the dried and primed wood to be able to accept paint in an even layer, both surface-wise and color-wise.

Types of Paint Primers

There are three basic types of paint primers – oil-based, latex-based, and shellac. Each one has different properties and uses and are suggested for different types of surfaces.

Oil-Based Primer

Oil-based primer has been a standard in the painting industry for years. It works with both oil-based and latex-based paints, which makes it versatile and able to be used in a large number of projects. It is normally used for wood, steel, and other metals, and surfaces that have paint already on them. This primer is great for covering and preventing stains from showing through your paint, as well.

Oil-based paint primer is great for use on wood because:

  • It seals the pores on wood surfaces that allows the paint to fully cover the surface of the wood
  • It stops tannins that can be released from some woods from bleeding through the paint and causing stains
  • It helps to prevent peeling, cracking, and blistering of paint on wood

Oil-based primers tend to take a long time to dry and can release harmful fumes, so make sure the area you are working in is well-ventilated when working with this kind of primer.

Latex-Based Primer

Latex-based primers are water-based. They are normally used for prepping drywall or softwoods, like pine. This primer is less effective at covering and preventing stains than oil-based primer, but it can be used to cover some stains.

Before deciding to use latex-based primer on your wood, make sure that you are painting softwood. Common softwoods are pines, firs, and spruces.

One advantage of latex-based primers is that they are usually made in formulas that do not release as many harmful chemicals as oil-based and shellac primers. They are typically a healthier choice when working in smaller, less-ventilated areas.

Shellac Primer

Shellac primer is the longest-used primer in existence, having been used for centuries. It can be used with both oil-based and latex-based paints which gives it the same versatility as oil-based primers.

Some reasons to use shellac primer on wood projects are:

  • It is the absolutely best when it comes to blocking stains – it even works on severe water and smoke damage
  • It can even seal in smoke smells from major smoke damage
  • It prevents wood tannins from bleeding through paint and staining, just like oil-based primer
  • It is fast-drying and very adhesive

Shellac primers do, however, give off the most dangerous fumes of all the types of primers. In addition, you must use denatured alcohol to thin the primer before use, so it is not as convenient as other primers.

How to Choose a Wood Primer Spray

Primer spray offers the convenience of a spray can to the necessary step of priming your wood for a paint project. There are many factors to consider before choosing your spray primer.

Do You Need Primer for Your Project?

Chances are, if you are working on a wood project, the answer is a definite yes. Your wood is porous and needs to be prepared to properly accept the paint that is placed on it. Additionally, the primer can help to seal the paint.

Another factor to consider when deciding on which primer to use is the color of your primer. If you are painting a light colored wood a very dark color, you may want to purchase a wood primer that is a darker color to help the color cover your wood. It will also help you use fewer coats of paint.

Another benefit of priming wood is that the primer helps to prevent any mold or mildew from forming on the wood, which is especially great for wood projects that will be exposed to humidity or wet weather.

How Much Primer Do You Need?

This factor is important because you want to make sure you purchase enough primer to allow you to prime your entire project at once. Primers can take a while to fully dry, so getting the entire primer coat done all at one time will help to save time on your project.

How big is your project? This is the best indicator of how much primer you will need. Do you plan to place multiple coats of primer onto your project? This will require more primer.

Don’t Forget to Read the Directions

Some primers may have certain restrictions. Not all primers are made for wood, either. Some primers are made for all surfaces, and some are specifically for wood. Which one do you prefer? Make sure that you look at the can carefully and thoroughly before purchasing.

Another important reason to read the directions completely is to know exactly how long you should give your primer to dry. The length of time that the primer takes to dry can affect when you start your project.

How to Produce Professional-Grade Painted Wood Projects

It’s easy to look at a picture of a beautifully done painted wood project and feel like you can easily replicate it. It is another issue altogether to actually produce a professional-looking painted wood project.

Now that you’ve decided on a wood primer for your DIY project, you can focus on getting your project started. The Spruce gives some amazing tips for painting wood well and producing gorgeous projects.

Cover Surfaces That Are Staying Clean

If you are working in an enclosed area or any area that cannot have paint falling on it, you need to cover anything that should remain untouched by primer and paint. To do this, you should remove anything from the area that can be removed and then drape plastic over the areas that cannot be touched.

Use painter’s tape to secure the plastic. You can also place canvas cloth over areas meant for walking to avoid any tripping hazards in your workspace.

Clean the Surface or Surfaces That You are Working On

You should have TSP, or tri-sodium phosphate, handy to mix with lukewarm water for cleaning the surface that you will be painting. If you do not want to use TSP, you can find a substitute for it.

Wet your cleaning rag and firmly squeeze the moisture from it, then wipe down the area to remove any dirt and grime that has accumulated on the surface. After you’ve cleaned it with a TSP solution, wipe the area again with a rag that has been dipped in clean, warm water.

Sand the Wood

Once the wood surface is cleaned, sand it with a fine-grit sandpaper. Make sure to wear a mask to protect yourself during the sanding process. Do not completely strip the wood, but make sure you leave a smooth working surface. It is also suggested to leave some slight scratches on the surfaces to help the primer and paint bond to it.

Clean Off Dust Left Over from Sanding

It is important that, when cleaning the dust left over from the sanding process, you do not just blow the dust around. Don’t dust it with a rag or a blower. Use a shop vacuum with the brush attachment to remove the dust and place it into somewhere else entirely.

Once you’ve removed most of the dust with a vacuum, you can use a wet rag to wipe the surface and remove any dust that is left behind.

Prime the Wood

This is when your spray can primer will come in. One primer tip is that if it looks transparent on the wood after a single coat, apply a second coat of the primer. Most primers look chalky in appearance, but this is smoothing out by further sanding and painting. Make sure your entire wood surface is primed.

Smooth Your Primer by Sanding It

Primer can have an uneven texture, so you should sand it with a very fine sandpaper and light pressure. Keep in mind that you do not want to sand the primer off, you just want to smooth it out.

Remove any dust afterward with your shop vacuum and brush attachment, and wipe any remained dust off with your clean, damp cloth.

Paint the Wood

Once you’ve finish all of the preparatory steps of your project, the fun painting begins! Make sure that you have all that you need to move forward and begin painting.

After you’ve applied on a layer of paint and allowed it to dry completely, you should sand the project and paint another layer to make sure your project gets a professional, vividly-colored beautiful appearance.

In Conclusion…

Do-it-yourself projects are both fun hobbies and a way to personalize your space. However, just because a project is DIY doesn’t mean you should do it alone. Use the resources available to you to research the best products for your project and how to properly use them. Once you know what to use and how to use it properly, your project becomes easy and can be completed in no time. So, get to work making beautiful wood projects using the awesome wood primers you now know about!


I've been building things for many years, and I want to share what I've learned to try and help whoever I can. Make sure to checkout the homepage for my most read posts!

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