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Home Painting Tips Paint and Primer in One Fact or Fiction?

Paint and Primer in One Fact or Fiction?

Paint and Primer Together

We’ve all seen the advertisements on TV for the new paint and primer in one. The big box store brands started the paint and primer in one blitz a few years ago. It wasn’t long until the major paint manufacturers such as Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams followed suit.

So it begs the question, what is it? Do they actually add real primer to the paint? Or is it just a marketing gimmick designed to lure DIYers into paying more for a paint that supposedly has primer in it? To properly understand what’s going on we first need to learn what primer is and why it’s used.

What is Primer?

A primer is an undercoating used to allow proper paint adhesion, durability, and protection for the material under the coating. There are many different types of primers and each is used in different applications.

  Wait, There are Different Kinds of Primers?

Yes, there are many different types of primers and they all do different jobs. Some are made for sealing surfaces such as masonry, wood, drywall, and metal. Other primers are meant to hold back stains like smoke damage, crayons/ink, tannin bleed, knots, water stains, and rust called stain killers. Then there are primers designed to stick to slick nonporous surfaces like plastic, gloss paint, and oil finishes, called adhesion primers. And the list goes on.

Okay.. So Does Paint and Primer in One Eliminate the Need for Primers?

Truthfully, no. There is no primer in the paint and no paint in the primer. Today’s latex paint are and have been “self-priming” for a long time. What I mean by “self-priming” is you can paint over existing (problem free) latex paint without a primer first.

That’s why they can call it paint and primer in one, in reality, it’s just a paint with a higher price tag. In fact, when you read the back of the can on most paint and primer in one paints it’ll tell you the surface needs to be clean and problem free prior to using paint and primer in one.

Before writing this post I went to my paint pile looking for paint and primer in one for some pictures. I came across some Super Paint from Sherwin Williams, one was purchased in 2012 and the other in 2013.

Paint and primer side by side

Basically what they did was trade one misleading line for another to compete with the big box store paints.

Here’s a picture of the back of both cans. You’ll see they still list the surfaces you’ll need to use a primer for and which primer they recommend.

2012 vs 2013 side by side

Still, Don’t Believe Me?

That’s okay, feel free to conduct an experiment of your own. Buy paint and primer in one and use it over bare wood or a water stain and see if it will bleed through. I’m sure you’ll come to the realization that a real primer is still needed.


Paints that claim to be paint and primer in one aren’t all bad. In fact, it’s a good indicator of a manufacturer’s higher line of paint, but that’s exactly what they are paints. They are not primers, and certainly not paint and primer mixed together. So next time you go shopping for paint don’t buy into the marketing gimmick. If you need a primer buy one that fits your needs, don’t expect paint and primer in one to be the answer.

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