The Best Drywall Primers in 2020

When it comes to picking out a primer before painting their drywall, many people find themselves at a loss as to what they’re looking for. Thankfully, it’s actually a simple process to find one that’s perfect for the application you have in mind.

Best overall: Rust-Oleum 2004 Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 White Water-Based Primer Sealer

A water based primer-sealer is perfect for smooth wall applications. You’ll find that this one from Rust-Oleum is fantastic, making things easy on you and going on smoothly and quickly with a roller.


Best Drywall Primers

Name Type Best Suited For Price
Rust-Oleum 2004 Zinsser Bulls Eye Standard Primer-Sealer Smooth walls Check Price
Rust-Oleum Corporation 01501 High-build Drywall Primer Slightly rough walls, smooth walls Check Price
Rust-Oleum 02304 Problem Surface Sealer Sealer Textured walls that aren’t intended to be painted Check Price
Masterchem Industries 20002 KILZ 2 QT Primer Latex Sealant Paint Any drywall surface Check Price
Dap 12374 Crack Shot Spackling Spackle Primer Paste Bare walls Check Price

1. Best Overall

Rust-Oleum 2004 Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 White Water-Based Primer Sealer

Product Rating 5 /5
Reviewed by:

A water based primer-sealer is perfect for smooth wall applications. You’ll find that this one from Rust-Oleum is fantastic, making things easy on you and going on smoothly and quickly with a roller.

While it’s not going to fill in holes or smooth out surfaces, what you’re left with is a primer that’s easy to clean up if you spill and will go on virtually any surface.

One thing to keep in mind if you do decide on this primer is that it has strong fumes so ventilation is necessary to make sure you’re safe.

What you’re left with, however, is a fantastic primer for any kind of interior wall that’s easy to use and apply.

Pros and Cons
  • Easy to use
  • Easy cleaning
  • Adheres well to all surfaces
  • Not a fill primer
  • Very potent fumes

2. Best For Smooth Walls

The Rust-Oleum Corporation 01501 Drywall Primer, 1 gallon

Product Rating 4.5 /5
Reviewed by:

This primer-sealer is ideal for most drywall applications. In addition to priming the wall, you’ll find that it also seals tape joints and allows for sanding once it’s dried.

It’s also fast drying, creating a permanent seal in about an hour. This will allow you to get the priming and the painting done quickly and easily, sometimes within the same day if your project isn’t too large.

If you’re looking to make smooth walls then this one is ideally suited for what you want. It probably won’t cover up super large errors, but it lays down thicker than water based primers and will allow you to make things look great once the paint has been laid down.

For smooth walls, this is one of the best primers you’ll be able to find anywhere.

Pros and Cons
  • Dries quickly
  • Seals joints and seams
  • Covers up small flaws
  • A little bit expensive

3. Also Great

The Dap 12374 Crack Shot Spackling Interior/Exterior Prime

Product Rating 4 /5
Reviewed by:

If you’re looking to take the easy way out, then Dap has you covered. This is a knife grade primer-paste, meaning it’s thick enough to be laid down like mud.

It’s primarily useful for bare wall applications, but you can also use it as an over layer for smooth walls that didn’t end up exactly how you want. After application you can sand it down for the smooth finish you’re looking for.

It comes ready to use, no mixing necessary. Just grab a putty knife and get to work once it’s arrived on your door step.

It will take a little bit of time to apply, especially if you’re going to skim the whole surface, but it’s a fantastic way to get things done if you’re uncomfortable with the painting process.

Pros and Cons
  • Easily applied and textured
  • Sands down readily
  • Pre-mixed
  • Suitable mostly for those who don’t want to apply primer with painting techniques

What is Drywall Primer?

Primers are the undercoat used for paints, and a drywall primer is just one that’s formulated specifically for applying to sheetrock. The proper primer will make all of the difference when it comes to laying on a good coat of paint.

Drywall mud absorbs paint much differently than the bare sheetrock which will inevitably be left if you’re planning on painting a wall bare instead of texturing it first. This will leave ugly patches where it’s obvious something is different along all the seams of the wall.

The paper that makes up the outer layer of sheetrock isn’t a good material to paint on, and if you’re looking for a smooth finish then you should apply mud first anyways. Even with a good sealer, it will be hard to make a good finish.

Primers, as a general rule, are made to even out the painted surface and bond with paint. When laid properly they’ll have a uniform porosity that causes the paint to absorb at the same rate across the entire surface of the wall.

They’ll also bond with the paint in many cases, keeping it from having later issues with peeling or cracking by holding it in place both through the evaporative residue left behind(which is how paint works) and through a chemical bond with the surface of the primer.

What Types of Drywall Primer Are There?

Depending on how skilled you are at installing your drywall, there’s bound to be some amount of imperfections.

If you’re already doing a professional grade job, with smooth mudding and taping without any kind of gaps laid down, standard drywall primer-sealer is probably what you’re looking for. This is pretty similar to any other primer used on walls, just made to bond properly with the drywall itself.

If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with some pock marking and minor ridges even after sanding, you’re looking for a high build primer which will help cover up any flaws made during the wall’s construction.

If you’re happy with the plaster’s color, then consider using a sealer. Don’t confuse these with primers, which will seal the drywall. Their chemical properties are almost entirely the opposite of what you’re looking for if you’re intent on changing the color of the wall.

A sealer will instead lay down a clear coat that seals the wall entirely, making it stain resistant and preventing moisture from getting through. Some of them can be painted over, but if you want to add some color to your room then they’re not the ideal choice.

There are also spackling pastes which can be used to apply an even, porous layer of mud. For most people these aren’t the ideal solution for the best looking wall, but if you want the quickest, easiest way to prime a wall they’ll do the job and you can texture them if you’d like.

If you’ve laid down a smooth texture on your drywall, you’ll find that simple latex primers also work quite well, and will help to even out the porosity of an ultrasmooth plaster finish. Imperceptible flaws can still lead to uneven absorption of paint.

Which type of primer you use will depend mostly on the finish of your wall. Bare walls will require different primers than textured walls, for instance.

What are the Advantages of Using Drywall Primer?

Using drywall primer is one hundred percent necessary if you’re not planning on leaving a wall bare. Even textured walls should have a primer or sealer placed over them in order to prevent crumbling over time.

Drywall primers are made specifically for drywall. You should always go with a specialized primer for this kind of wall as some simply won’t adhere properly and you’ll be left with a mess on your hands.

Primers also protect your walls from stains, moisture, and other environmental hazards that they’ll come into contact with. It’s highly recommended that you apply a good one, regardless of how you’re planning on finishing the wall.

While you can just paint over the texture or wall, there’s not a whole lot of advantage to doing so unless you are going for a mottled, ugly wall. For some reason this trend has yet to catch on, even among the budget-minded.

Use a primer for a long lasting, wall that’s pleasing to the eye, that’s really all there is to it.

The other option is a spotty, dodgy wall that paint will adhere to unevenly and will end up looking terrible no matter how skilled you are at painting.

Features to Compare

You’ll need to honestly assess the condition of your wall before you pick the perfect primer. If things are even a little bit messed up, go with a high build primer to cover up any flaws. This is especially important if you’re going for a smooth look.

High build primers are thicker than other types, allowing you to fill in gaps, holes, and bubbles that might have occurred during the taping or texturing process.

If you’re particularly pleased with your texture, then avoid using one. They can also fill in some of the smaller details that truly personalize the texture of a wall.

For walls without any issues, go with a standard drywall primer and you’ll be fine. These will lay down much like paint, and just make sure you have an evenly porous surface for the coat of paint to soak into without causing any color changes or blemishes.

In any case, make sure that you paint within two days of priming. Most primers are made to chemically bond with the paint and you only have a few days before this property will be gone. While it’s not absolutely essential, improper bonding can lead to issues down the road.

You’ll also want to determine how much you need in order to cover the entire area you’ll be working with. As a general rule, you can count on using at least one gallon per 200ft² of surface you’ll need to cover. If you want to be totally safe, always make sure you purchase more than you think you’ll need.

Applying Drywall Primer

Applying primer correctly is an essential part of the finishing process. You’ll need a roller and some patience in order to get it done.

You’ll want to roll the primer on evenly, applying it across the entire surface you’ll be working with. This is especially important with high build primers as their thickness will lend them to create runs that will be highly visible after painting.

With high build primers you’ll want to make sure you also use them to smooth out any major flaws. The thicker primer can make a huge difference in the final finish and it will fill things in quite easily.


Soft rollers are better for textured walls, find something with a nice and squishy texture and apply a decent amount of force. This will ensure the primer gets into every portion of the texture and lays evenly.

After you’ve rolled it on, use a 2-3” wide brush to finish up the corners and the edges where the walls meet the ceiling for the best results. Unfortunately, rollers won’t always handle the whole affair.

Let the primer dry and inspect the wall afterwards to see if you’ll need a second coat. Basically, if you can still differentiate between bare wall and mud, then you’re going to need to apply a second coat. With a high quality primer and care, however, no second coat should be necessary.

Once this is done, all you’ll need to do is make sure that you have the time set aside to paint and you’re good to go!

Max Perzon

About Max Perzon

Max is a 28 year old blogger from Sweden that loves to review home related products, and now writes for Homethods full-time. Read more about him