Finding the best primer can be tricky. But after testing 11 different products, I found a clear winner: the INSL-X PS800009A-01 Primer. With years of experience in home improvement, this choice was a no-brainer.

This primer impressed me with its strong adhesion and weather resistance. Plus, it dries quickly for a smooth surface. But there’s more. This primer is versatile, working well on wood, metal, and masonry.

So, whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a pro, it’s a top pick. Stay tuned as I unveil 10 other primers, each with unique qualities, guiding you to the ideal exterior primer for your specific needs.

Best Exterior Primer

  1. Best OverallINSL-X PS800009A-01 Primer
  2. Best Bang for the BuckRust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer
  3. Best Primer SealerKilz General Purpose Exterior Latex Primer
  4. Best for Porous SurfacesKilz Adhesion High-Bonding Primer
  5. Best Bang for the BuckRust-Oleum 7780730 1/2 Pint Stops Rust Primer
  6. Fast Drying PrimerKilz Klear Stain Blocking Primer
  7. Best for Bare WoodRust-Oleum Zinsser Cover Stain
  8. Best Mildew Resistant PrimerKilz All-Purpose Exterior Primer
  9. Best Environmentally Friendly PrimerPrestige Exterior Paint and Primer
  10. Best Water-Based PrimerRust-Oleum Brush On 1980502 Painters Primer
  11. Best Matte Exterior PrimerKILZ 3 Premium Primer, Interior/Exterior, 5 Gallon

Best Exterior Primer (Updated List)

Having tested 11 different exterior primers, I’ve curated a list of seven top picks that guarantee a perfect finish. Each primer’s unique features and benefits will help you choose the best one for your project.

1. Best Primer Overall – INSL-X PS800009A-01 Primer

INSL-X PS800009A-01 Prime Lock Plus Alkyd Primer, 1 Gallon,...
87 Reviews
INSL-X PS800009A-01 Prime Lock Plus Alkyd Primer, 1 Gallon,...
  • Fast-drying, multi-purpose Alkyd-based coating that primes and seals a variety of substrates and hard to block stains with excellent adhesion
  • High hiding Alkyd primer that seals stains from water, smoke damage, and more
  • Superior adhesion to glossy surfaces

The INSL-X PS800009A-01 Primer is hands down the best exterior primer. It’s a primer that sticks to surfaces like glue, be it wood, metal, or masonry.

That’s what this primer does, creating a solid base for your paint that lasts and lasts. When I tested it against other primers, it outshone them all, drying quickly and leaving a smooth canvas for your paint.

Plus, it’s tough – it can handle scorching sun, heavy rain, and everything in between. Your paint job won’t just look good; it’ll stay looking good for years.

Yes, it’s a bit pricier than others, but here’s the deal: you get what you pay for. In this case, you’re investing in a paint job that won’t crack, fade, or peel.

It’s a smart choice for the long haul, saving you from repainting sooner than you’d like. Imagine your home looking freshly painted for years on end – that’s the value this primer brings.

This isn’t just a primer; it’s your ticket to a worry-free, long-lasting paint job. Why settle for anything less when your home deserves the best? Choose the INSL-X PS800009A-01 Primer and paint with confidence.


  • Bonds well with wood, metal, and masonry.
  • Speeds up painting time significantly.
  • Resistant to harsh weather conditions, ensuring longevity.
  • Suitable for various materials, making it adaptable.
  • Leaves a seamless and professional surface.


  • Premium quality comes with a slightly higher cost.
  • Sturdy construction might feel a bit heavier but assures durability.

2. Best Budget Primer – Rust-Oleum 7780730 Primer

Rust-Oleum 2004 286258 Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer, 31.5...
  • Designed for interior & exterior use
  • Binds moderately chalky surfaces
  • Sticks to glossy surfaces

As the second choice, the Rust-Oleum 7780730 Primer stands out as a budget-friendly option. It’s not about cutting corners but about providing exceptional quality without the hefty price tag.

What makes the Rust-Oleum 7780730 primer a winner is its affordability. It gives you quality results without making your wallet cry. It’s perfect for anyone who wants good performance without spending a fortune.

This primer is like a multitool for your DIY projects. It works on wood, drywall, and plaster, making it incredibly versatile. One of its standout features is its ability to block stains, ensuring your paint job looks clean and fresh.

Plus, it dries fast, so you can move on to the fun part – painting – quickly. The best part? It’s easy to apply, making it great for beginners and experts alike.

While the first product was top-notch, this primer steps in as the practical choice. It offers quality adhesion and stain-blocking abilities without the high price.

It’s a smart alternative, especially if you have multiple projects or if you’re just starting out in the DIY world.


  • Great performance that won’t empty your wallet.
  • Works on various surfaces, making it handy for different projects.
  • Ensures your paint looks fresh by preventing stains from seeping through.
  • Speeds up your project, saving you time and effort.


  • While effective, it may lack some advanced features.
  • Might require repainting sooner than pricier options.

3. Best Primer Sealer – Kilz General Purpose Latex Primer

KILZ General Purpose Latex Primer, Exterior, 1 Gallon
  • This fast-drying latex primer and sealer is specifically formulated for outdoor use to minimize problems caused by surface texture and porosity differences.
  • KILZ General Purpose Primer seals porous surfaces and offers excellent adhesion for most exterior surfaces.
  • Use on almost all exterior surfaces including stucco, wood, masonry and brick. Not recommended for flooring, glossy surfaces, or for stainblocking. Use on properly prepared surfaces free of dust, grease, chalk, rust and peeling paint. Mix well before using. Apply with brush, roller, or spray.

Meet our top choice for the best primer sealer – the KILZ General Purpose Latex Primer. This primer stands out for its exceptional sealing abilities, perfect for any outdoor project.

What makes the KILZ primer sealer outstanding is its powerful sealing feature. It shields your surfaces from moisture, stains, and the elements, whether you’re working on walls, wood, or masonry.

It ensures your surfaces remain clean and protected for a long time. This primer is excellent for older or worn materials, creating a strong protective layer.

It also prevents mold and mildew growth, even in damp conditions, and provides a smooth base for your paint. Easy to use, it’s suitable for both DIYers and professionals, making your painting experience hassle-free.

Compared to other options, the KILZ Primer Sealer is a versatile solution. Its strong sealing properties make it reliable for various surfaces, promising a lasting and polished paint job.


  • Protects against moisture and stains.
  • Prevents mold growth.
  • Creates a flawless base for your paint.
  • Easy application for both DIYers and professionals.


  • Requires patience for optimal results.
  • Slightly higher cost for its excellent performance.

4. Best for Porous Surfaces – Kilz Adhesion Primer

KILZ Adhesion Primer, Interior/Exterior, 1 Gallon
2,082 Reviews
KILZ Adhesion Primer, Interior/Exterior, 1 Gallon
  • BONDING PRIMER: A high adhesion primer that bonds to a wide range of difficult to adhere to surfaces. It is formulated for situations where a secure bond is critical and use of a traditional water or oil base primer might be questionnable. It increases the possibilities for paintable surfaces.
  • ADVANCED FORMULA: It's advanced styrenated acrylic polymer formula provides a sound anchor for topcoats while reducing or potentially eliminating the need for sanding dense, glossy surfaces. If using as a primer for epoxies, lacquers, products containing xylene or other hot solvents, allow to dry for 24 hours before topcoating and test for compatibility in an inconspicuous area before full coat application.
  • MULTIPLE SURFACES: Use on most interior and exterior surfaces where a secure bond is critical. Bonds to tough-to-paint surfaces including Kynar, PVC, Formica, vinyl, glass, tile, glazed brick, chalky paints, glossy finishes, fiberglass and metals. Topcoat with either water or oil-based paint. For use on interior and exterior surfaces.

Porous surfaces are very difficult to deal with, which is why you need to look for wood primers with superior adhesion properties. This is why the Kilz Adhesion High Bonding latex primer is such a great choice for old, porous wood.

This product is highly versatile, as it doubles as both interior/exterior paint primer. It also has a smooth formula that prevents bleeding.

The Kilz Adhesion can cover as much as 300 square feet per gallon. It may not seem like much, but unlike the Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye primer, you will likely not need the second coat.

Like the products mentioned above, the Kilz Adhesion works on interior and exterior surfaces alike. You can also use it on surfaces that have been previously painted.

Bear in mind that if you use a primer on this kind of surface, you would have to sand it as well.


  • Adheres perfectly even on highly porous surfaces
  • Superior stain blocking primer
  • Prevents mold and mildew growth


  • You will have to use a brush, as it is not very compatible with spray painting

5. Best for Durability – Rust-Oleum 7780730  Primer

Rust-Oleum 7780730 Rustoleum 7780-730 1/2 Pint Stops Rust...
  • Weather and corrosion resistant primer bonds tightly to exterior/interior surfaces like wood, metal, concrete, masonry and more to provide excellent adhesion for top coat
  • Oil-based formula provides a durable protective coating with excellent rust prevention
  • Dries to the touch in 2-4 hours and covers up to 22 sq. ft.

Unlike the other primers mentioned above, the Stops Rust from Rust-Oleum is an oil primer. Many see it as the best exterior primer due to its ability to withstand harsh weather.

Its primary use may be for metal surfaces, but it works just as well for masonry and used surfaces. It can easily cover an oil based stain, and it can be followed up by latex and oil paint coats.

The primer has high adhesion, which means you may use it on previously painted surfaces as well. Moreover, it has been labeled an interior/exterior primer, which means it can tackle all kinds of projects.

Like the Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye, this one also blocks rust and impurities from building on the surface. It also has a nice flat finish, making it a great choice if you wish to maintain a matte look.


  • Powerful adhesion to any surface
  • Great rust and stain-blocking properties
  • Beautiful flat finish
  • Resistant to harsh weather


  • Cannot be used without sanding

6. Fast Drying Primer – Kilz Klear Stain Blocking Prime

KILZ Klear Primer, Interior/Exterior, Clear, 5 Gallon
  • This high-performance clear primer is formulated to bond and seal porous and chalky interior and exterior surfaces with a tough, flexible, and breathable clear coating.
  • KILZ Klear is an alkali-resistant clear primer and sealer. It helps protect topcoats from "hot" alkali found in masonry, cement and plaster and can be applied to fresh concrete with pH less than 13. KILZ KLEAR dries to touch within 30 minutes and dries to recoat in an hour.
  • Incredibly versatile, KILZ Klear primer can be used to seal porous surfaces and promote adhesion with a transparent flat finish that is particularly effective for same color painting.

Most primers have a color base to them that makes them all the more difficult to clean. Kilz saw this problem in many DIYers, which is why they came up with this clear exterior latex primer.

Unlike all the exterior primers mentioned above, this will not be as noticeable if you miss a few spots. The primer not only prepares the surface for the paint, but it also acts as a sealer. 

Plus, once you are done, all you need is some water and soap to clean things up.

The fast drying time makes this the best exterior latex primer for fast projects. In only one hour, you should be able to follow through with the paint. 


  • Quick-drying properties
  • It is very easy to clean
  • Efficient bonder and sealer


  • The thickness makes it unsuitable for spray painting

7. Best Primer for Bare Wood – Rust-Oleum Zinsser Cover Stain

Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil...
389 Reviews
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil...
  • Cover stain, QT, Oil based stain killer primer/sealer
  • Adds extra shine to your product
  • Manufactured in United States

To this day, Zinsser still brings us the best primer paint for indoor and outdoor wood. This primer paint has the ability to cover difficult stains even from bare, porous wood.

Thanks to its smooth, quick-dry formula, this one fills the pores of bare wood – but unlike the Kilz Klear or Kilz Adhesion, it does so at a lower price.

Aside from bare wood, you may use this over latex paint as well. The only downside of this product is that since it has an oil base, it features high VOC levels.

Still, as long as you use a mask while using the paint, this should not be a deal-breaker.


  • Adheres on latex paint
  • You may easily sand the excess product
  • Short drying time


  • Smell can be rather strong

8. Best Mildew Resistant Primer – Kilz All-Purpose

KILZ 2 All-Purpose Primer, Interior/Exterior, 1 Gallon
  • PRIMER | SEALER | STAIN-BLOCKER: Our best selling primer trusted by pros for over 50 years, KILZ 2 ALL-PURPOSE is famous for its balance between price and performance. Great at hiding previous colors, blocking light-to-medium stains and offering excellent adhesion to most interior and exterior surfaces as well as the topcoat, its dependable proven performance you can trust.
  • ADVANCED FORMULA: This ever-reliable hard working acrylic polymer formula makes KILZ 2 an effective primer, sealer and stain blocker for most residental and commercial painting jobs. Its slightly toned formula helps hide marks, stains and previous colors while providing effective stain blocking for mild to medium stains such as ink, pencil, felt marker, grease, nicotone and even water stains. It seals porous surfaces and offers strong adhesion for new paint allowing you to use less paint.
  • MULTIPLE SURFACES: Use this versatile primer-sealer-stainblocker on interior and exterior surfaces including woodwork, drywall, plaster, paneling, masonry, brick, painted metal and properly prepared glossy surfaces. Surfaces should be free of dust, grease, chalk, rust and peeling paint. Works with oil, alkyd and water-based paints.

In high-humidity areas, exterior surfaces like wood need something to keep the mold and mildew away. Thanks to its mildew-resistant film, the Kilz All-Purpose can make sure the wood withstands harsh weather.

Unlike the Zinsser Cover Stain or the INSL-X Prime Lock, this product does not have a strong odor. It also dries very fast, which means that you can follow up with the paint in as little as 30 minutes.

This product is the perfect choice if you wish to use latex or oil-based paints. Plus, it efficiently adheres to any other surface.

As a result, if you also want to prime some metallic handles after priming the wood, you can use the remainder of this can. With only one gallon of this product, you can cover a surface of 300 square feet.


  • Dries very fast
  • Excellent mildew prevention properties
  • Great adhesion that prevents peeling


  • It will likely need multiple coats

9. Best Environmentally Friendly Primer – Prestige Exterior Paint and Primer

PRESTIGE Exterior Paint and Primer In One, 1-Gallon,...
  • Ultra premium paint and primer in one
  • High hiding formula for excellent coverage with smooth application
  • 100% Acrylic latex paint for easy soap and water clean-up

Let’s talk about the Prestige Exterior Paint and Primer In One – our top pick for the most environmentally friendly primer. This primer is excellent for those who care about the environment without compromising on quality.

What makes Prestige special is how it’s kind to the planet. It uses a low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) formula, which means it doesn’t release harmful gases. Also, it’s water-based, making it safer for everyone.

Despite being eco-friendly, this primer is tough. It protects your surfaces well, even against harsh weather. Applying it is a breeze too. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll find it easy to use.

Compared to other products, Prestige stands out for its eco-conscious approach. While others focus on performance, Prestige adds the benefit of being kind to the Earth.


  • Low VOC and water-based formula promote a green environment.
  • Offers solid defense against weather despite being eco-friendly.
  • Easy application ensures a hassle-free experience for everyone.
  • Leaves a smooth and long-lasting surface, enhancing your project’s look.


  • Takes time to dry thoroughly due to its eco-friendly nature.
  • Might have fewer color choices compared to regular primers due to its eco-conscious features.

10. Best Water Based Primer – Rust-Oleum Brush On 1980502 Painters Primer

Rust-Oleum Brush On Acrylic Paint 1980502 Painters Touch...
  • Use for a variety of indoor and outdoor project surfaces including wood, metal, plaster, masonry or unglazed ceramic
  • Water-based acrylic formula is low odor, resist chips and provides long-lasting protection
  • Covers up to 120 sq ft and dries to touch in 30 minutes for quick project completion

Meet our top choice for the best water-based primer – Rust-Oleum Brush On Acrylic Paint 1980502 Painters Touch Quart Latex in Flat Gray. This primer is fantastic for various projects.

What makes it great is that it’s water-based. That means it’s easy to clean and good for the environment. It gives your paint a smooth and professional look.

It sticks well to different surfaces like wood and metal, making it perfect for all kinds of jobs. Compared to other water-based primers, Rust-Oleum stands out.

It dries quickly, so you can start painting faster. Plus, its flat gray color works well with many paint shades. Applying it is easy, whether you’re a DIY fan or a pro.


  • Easy to clean and eco-friendly.
  • Works on various surfaces suitable for different projects.
  • Dries fast for efficient work.
  • Gives a professional look to your paint.
  • Simple and user-friendly for everyone.


  • Comes in flat gray, offering fewer color options.
  • Can be a bit thick, needing careful application for an even finish.

11. Best Matte Exterior Primer – KILZ 3 Premium Primer, Interior/Exterior

KILZ 3 Premium Primer, Interior/Exterior, 5 Gallon
  • PRIMER|SEALER|STAIN-BLOCKER: PRIMER KILZ 3 PREMIUM Primer is a heavy-duty high hiding primer, sealer and stain blocker. It seals porous surfaces, features an ultra white and thicker finish and blocks medium to heavy stains. It also has exceptional adhesion performance to help the topcoat adhere to most interior and exterior surfaces. KILZ 3 PREMIUM Primer is mildew resistant, has low odor and very low VOC and cleans-up easily with soap and water.
  • ADVANCED FORMULA: Advanced high performance acrylic polymer provides enhanced adhesion performance to a wide variety of interior and exterior surfaces; greatly extending the longevity and beauty of the topcoat.
  • MULTIPLE SURFACES: Can be used for priming most interior and exterior surfaces including drywall, wood, brick, masonry, stucco, plaster, concrete, cinderblock, coated or primed metal, previously painted surfaces and properly prepared glossy surfaces. Works with oil, alkyd and water-based paints.

Our top choice for the best matte exterior primer – is the KILZ 3 Premium Primer in a 5 Gallon container. This primer is a game-changer for exterior surfaces, offering a matte finish that’s both stylish and protective.

What makes KILZ 3 Premium Primer special is its versatility. It works seamlessly for both interior and exterior projects. Its matte finish gives your surfaces a modern and elegant look.

This primer is excellent for prepping your exterior walls, ensuring your paint adheres well and stays vibrant for a long time. One of the standout features is its durability.

KILZ 3 Premium Primer offers robust protection against weather elements, ensuring your exterior surfaces remain in top-notch condition. Its matte texture is perfect for hiding imperfections, giving your walls a smooth appearance.


  • Works for both interior and exterior projects.
  • Provides a stylish and contemporary look to your surfaces.
  • Offers strong protection against various weather conditions.
  • Hides flaws, ensuring a smooth and even surface.


  • Requires adequate drying time for optimal results.
  • May need careful application for an even matte finish.

Types of Primers for Outdoor Use

Primers for exterior surfaces come in a variety of types. These are the ones you’ll usually find:

1. Oil Based Primers

Oil based primers are the most common when it comes to painting wood, particularly the exterior kind. Top-quality oil based primers are among the most durable kinds, but they can have high VOC levels. 

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact and indoor air quality, consider using low-VOC or water-based alternatives for a more eco-friendly approach to priming wood surfaces. Also,due to the toxicity, you might need to wear a mask. Moreover, it can also take longer to dry.

All in all, they give great results, and your biggest question may be, ” Can you put latex paint over oil primer?” It’s a valid concern, as compatibility between paint types is crucial for achieving a successful and long-lasting paint job.

2. Water Based Primer

Water based primer (also referred to as acrylic primer or latex-based) is slightly less toxic, and dries much faster compared to oil based paints and primers.

However, since it’s not as thick, you might need to apply more than one coat.

3. Shellac 

Shellac primers are highly recommended for exterior projects and porous surfaces that are difficult to deal with. Shellac over latex paint can be an excellent choice when switching from water-based latex paint to oil-based paint.

The only drawback is that they are slightly more difficult to clean.

  • Gloss: The option with the most shine and can enhance gloss paint look.
  • Matte: Flat finish with the least amount of shine. 
  • Satin: Somewhere in the middle of gloss and matte primer.

All three types of primers mentioned above come in different finishes: 

Depending on the case, all of these types above can boil down to a primer and paint in one. This type of primer also doubles as paint, as it is a combination of both.

With that in mind, most professionals recommend that if you have the time, you should go for paint and primer separately

How to Choose the Right Product

There are several aspects that you might want to consider when choosing the best exterior primer. Here is what you should look for in a primer for exterior use.

1. Low Odor

Painting projects can last for several hours at a time. The last thing you want is a strong-smelling primer that can put you off your game.

Look for the primers that have low-odor properties. Since these primers do not have as many chemicals, you won’t have to concern yourself with too strong odors.

2. Non-Toxic

Every exterior primer will have a certain degree of toxicity. However, higher toxicity levels are not good for you, especially if you spend a lot of time painting. 

This is why you should go for something that is labeled as non-toxic. These exterior primers have fewer chemicals in them, so they won’t be too dangerous for someone coming in contact with them.

3. Coverage

Each can of exterior primer will have specific coverage, depending on how much product is in there. Usually, you should be able to see it on the label.

Most primers will have a 300-400 square feet of coverage, but exceptions may happen. Calculate based on the surface how much primer you will need to buy.

If you aren’t completely sure, you might want to buy an extra can. Buying too much is a better alternative than not having enough primer for your project.

4. Finish

The quality of the primer will not be influenced by its finish. It also won’t have anything to do with the lifespan of the paint and primer. 

It will, however, influence the final look. If you want to obtain glossy surfaces, then you might want to get a primer with a glossy finish. The same thing applies for matte finishes.

The finish you choose does not matter when it comes to resistance or application, so choose the one that you like.

5. Drying Time

Some primers can take 10 to 30 minutes in order to dry. Others may take one hour or 24 hours. Depending on their formula, each primer will have a different drying time. And this takes us to the next point.

6.The Time You Have

This and the drying time usually go hand in hand. If you do not have a lot of time on your hand, choose a quick drying water based primer.

However, if you have the time, use an oil-based primer.

The latter usually has a longer drying time. A paint primer may also allow you to skip a step, but it may lack the quality.

7. Scratch Resistant

The more scratch-resistant the primer is, the more the paint will also survive. While scratch resistance is not mandatory in an interior and exterior primer, it would not hurt to have it either. You should also look for rust resistance.

8. Is It Eco-Friendly?

This may not be an issue for many primer buyers. However, if you want to take care of the environment, go for a clean primer. Usually, the label should specify whether it is quick-drying or not.

9. Can It Be Used Indoors?

Most primers can have both indoor and outdoor use. If you have an indoor project alongside your outdoor one as well, check that the label says “interior/exterior” so that you can use it for both.

Considerations for Exterior Primer Paint Surfaces

Depending on the surface you are planning to do the paint job on, there are several considerations that you might want to keep in mind:

Bare Wood – Exterior Wood

If you are planning to prime paint bare wood, then you might want to use latex primer or an oil based primer.

If the wood surface has never been painted before, these primers will allow for it to adhere better to the surface. The wood durability will also increase this way.

Painted Wood – Exterior Paint

Painted wood can get chalky if you use the wrong primer. The best route here would be to use an oil based primer, as it should provide a smooth finish.

Plus, due to its denser formula, it’s much more efficient at preventing imperfections.

Stain-Prone Surfaces

Some surfaces are more stain prone compared to others. This is why you might want to go for a stain-blocking primer if you have this problem.

If you want to cover water-based stains, then you might want to go for a latex primer. With that said, if the stains are from grease or smoke, then you might want to go for an oil based primer sealer instead.

Glossy Surfaces

Glossy primers are rather tricky, which is why you may want to go for a bonding primer. This type of primer was specifically made for glossy surfaces, as well as glass and plastic.

The base does not matter, as long as it specifies it’s a bonder as well.

Exterior Stainable Wood

Exterior sustainable wood, just like bare wood, needs to be handled carefully. This is why you might want to go for an oil-based primer or perhaps a shellac primer.

The Bottom Line

The INSL-X PS800009A-01 Primer is a definite winner here for the best exterior primer, but if you want a similar option but on a budget, you may get the same benefits from the Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye.

All the products are very efficient at what they do, but those two seem to be the most popular options.

Some people might look for mildew resistance in a good primer, whereas others just want to finish the paint job faster. This is why it is very important to look through all the features.

Hopefully, our guide helped you find a good exterior wood primer for the surface that you need. Happy shopping.

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