If you’re interested in transforming your bare wood while saving time and money, then you’re going to love these primers.

You need the best wood primer for bare wood to archive the desired results when painting. Pick the wrong wood primer, and you end up with stains bleeding through the finish.

Fortunately, we’re here to help because the market is awash with many primers, which can be overwhelming.

We have spent hours researching genuine exterior primer paint reviews, expert painters’ advice, and primers’ descriptions. So here’s our list of the five best primers for bare wood.

Best Primer for Bare Wood

The Best Primer for Bare Wood Reviews (Updated List)

We spent hours comparing the features, drying time, odor, and coverage to compile this list. We’ve also analyzed all the customer reviews and added my personal insight to narrow it down to the best primer for bare wood.

1. Best Exterior Primer for Bare Wood–Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Pigmented

Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Pigmented Shellac Oil Primer-Sealer &...
  • Shellac-base primer-sealer
  • Seals knots and sap streaks
  • Seals pet, smoke and musty odors

If your bare wood has any stains that you worry about, you should consider this product. It is meant to seal the wood and cover any stubborn stain visible through the paint. 

The high adhesion primer can kill stains like oil, grease, rust, tannin, mildew, soot, and water, allowing you to obtain an excellent and uniform paint job. 

On top of that, it can block odors, be it smoke stains, fire damage, pet urine, and more. As such, the painted wood becomes of use without inconveniencing you with its smell. 

It works on bare wood and painted interior surfaces like cured plaster, drywood, and synthetic materials. This offers versatility and ensures you can use it for multiple applications. 

You’ll be happy to know the product dries fast with an outstanding adhesion if you don’t want to wait too long before applying primer coat. In addition, Zinsser adheres to glossy and dense wood surfaces, and you won’t have to sand or degloss the surface first. 


  • Amazing and uniform coverage even over surfaces with sap streaks or knots
  • Dries relatively fast
  • Versatile product
  • Covers stains and odors
  • Adheres amazingly to any surface


  • Has an unpleasant smell
  • High price
  • Difficult to apply

2. Best Wood Primer for Budget–Kilz 10902 Original Multi-Surface

KILZ Original Primer, Interior, 1 Quart
  • A good primer makes paint stick better to surfaces, makes paint color truer, and lets you use less paint. It covers existing stains and odors, and helps block new stains and odors.
  • KILZ Original oil-based primer blocks most stains including water, smoke, tannin, ink, pencil, felt marker and grease. This primer also effectively seals pet and smoke odors.
  • Use this versatile primer on interior surfaces including wood, drywall, plaster, paneling, wallpaper, masonry, brick, painted metal and properly prepared glossy surfaces. Not recommended on flooring. Use on properly prepared surfaces free of dust, grease, chalk, rust and peeling paint. Mix well before using. Apply with brush, roller, or spray.

This Kilz product is ideal if you want something good that also fits your budget. It is great for covering bare wood with paint. 

It adheres nicely to most surfaces, making the paint color more intense. You don’t have to use a lot of paint over the primed surface. 

Stain and odor-blocking is one of the features you get from Kilz oil based primers. With it, you can cover all sorts of stains, from water to grease and even ink. 

However, before you start priming, Kilz requires surface preparation. Make sure the bare wood is clean, without any rust, mold, chalk, grease, dust, or peeling paint. 

Besides, the oil based wood primer works great on smooth and glossy surfaces, wallpapers, drywall, paneling, plaster, brick, painted metal, and masonry, apart from wood. Its versatility makes it great for a lot of indoor and outdoor projects.


  • Dries to touch very quickly
  • Affordable
  • Sticks efficiently to surfaces and lets you apply less paint on top
  • Covers even heavy stains and odors with it


  • Foul smell
  • Can be very sticky and difficult to clean off
  • Quite watery

3. Best High-End Primer–Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain

Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil...
358 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

A good quality product like this Zinsser one can help you complete your projects despite any obstacles. First of all, it acts as an oil based stain blocker, so any stain that your bare wood might have will be covered accordingly. 

This stain blocking primer works even on smoke, water, and nicotine stains. Therefore, you will be able to apply the paint without any visible stain underneath, ensuring an impeccable and uniform job. 

You can use the multi purpose primer on both interior and exterior surfaces, as it adheres properly to most surfaces. Sanding primers is very easy too. Not only will this save you time, but also ensure you won’t have issues with the product sticking to the surface. 

To save you more time on your project, it also dries quickly to touch. Meaning, not long after using it, you can proceed to apply the first coat of paint. 


  • It works even in harsh environments and on difficult surfaces
  • It acts like a stain killer
  • It makes the paint you apply afterward stand out
  • Very versatile, and you can use it on a variety of surfaces
  • Very easy to use


  • It might be a bit messy
  • Not mold and mildew resistant
  • May peel off after a while

4. Best Latex Primer For Bare Wood–KILZ L211101 Interior Latex

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.

This particular product does a great job on bare wood, creating a strong bond on the surface. It works even on exterior wood surfaces where your typical water or oil-based primer doesn’t work. 

Whether you use it on interior or exterior surfaces, the bond will be secure, which is a plus when you want to make sure the primer lasts for a very long time. 

What makes it best for a big project is because it comes in a large quantity. You can cover as much as 300 square feet with one gallon. Therefore, if you have a lot of bare wood you need to cover, this product will do the job. 

It only takes 30 minutes for the product to dry, after which you can apply your paint. Before you apply the primer, though, you will have to make sure the surface is free of any mold, rust, grease, dust, or chalk. Without preparing your bare wood accordingly, it will be harder for the product to stick. 

Apart from wood, you can also apply it on other tough to piant surfaces, including fiberglass, plastics, laminates, glass, tile, and others. So, if you need a primer for more applications, this will serve best.  


  • Good adhesion, making sure the primer sticks for a very long time
  • Wide coverage
  • It dries very fast
  • Works on multiple surfaces


  • Despite stating you don’t need to sand the surface, it may still need sanding to stick better
  • It’s quite expensive
  • The fumes are terrible

5. Best Stain Blocker Primer–Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye

ZINSSER 1 qt 02004 White, Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Based Stain...
  • Interior/exterior use on new or previously painted drywall, concrete, wood, masonry, metal and glossy or difficult surfaces
  • Water-based formula seals uniformly and will stick to surface without sanding
  • Dries to the touch in 35 minutes, ready to topcoat in 1 hour and covers up between 87-112 sq. ft. per quart

When you paint a piece of bare wood, especially an older one, you may be worried about the stains on your surface and how to cover them. 

Luckily, with this primer, you can say goodbye to the annoying stains. It does magic at hiding stains underneath, helping you to paint uniformly.

The formula is water-based, and it’s easy to stick to wood surfaces. Thanks to this, it doesn’t take too long to dry, so you can apply the paint immediately afterward and finish your work sooner. Besides, you can easily clean it with soap and water, making its maintenance easy and resistant to mildew growth. 

It works on both interior and exterior surfaces, giving you more options. The primer is ideal for any type of wood; at the same time, it works great on metal surfaces. This is because it has a rust inhibitor which increases the durability of the surface and the paint. 


  • It adheres amazingly on different surfaces
  • You don’t need to spend time sanding it
  • The formula is resistant to blistering, peeling, and mildew growth
  • It slows down the rusting process when applied to metals
  • It’s flexible


  • It may leave a textured finish
  • It’s pricey
  • It’s thin

6. Best Wood Primer for Darker Paint–Diamond Brite Primer Paint

Darker paint is more difficult to handle, which is why you need a darker color to ensure the white does not peak through. Having a grey tint, these Diamond Brite paint primers can serve as a good base for any other paint that you wish to use.

Since this product is a primer-and-paint in one, you may also forego applying the topcoat if you are satisfied with the paint color. You will require two coats of this paint primer at least, but once you are finished, the oil based paint primer will look like a beautiful glossy grey.

This oil-based primer ensures its durability. With that in mind, it has higher VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels as compared to the Kilz Premium High-Hide primer. This means that the smell can become very strong in small areas. Make sure that when you are painting your surface, you do so in a properly ventilated area.

What next? Can latex paint go over oil primer? It’s crucial to delve deeper into this matter, especially if you consider transitioning between these paint types.


  • High adhesion capacity
  • High coverage and efficient stain blocker
  • A smooth formula that makes it compatible with sprayer guns


  • It may take a longer time to dry
  • Fairly strong odor

7. Best Exterior Wood Primer with Low Odor–KILZ Premium High-Hide Primer

The Kilz Premium High-Hide primer is a latex, water-based primer. This means that the odor won’t be as strong as it is with the Diamond Brite primer. It’s friendlier for the environment, and since it is water-based, it is easier to clean in case of stray stains.

Like the Diamond Brite primer, this comes in a gallon, with the ability to go over 300-400 sq. ft. That being said, this one has a white color, which means you should use it for lighter rather than darker colors.

The stain-blocking properties of this primer are very strong, which makes it the perfect choice for wood surfaces. It can cover knots and imperfections, giving you a very smooth surface to deal with. It also offers mold and mildew protection, making it the perfect choice for high-humidity areas.


  • No VOCs, meaning it has a low odor
  • Great adhesion to most surfaces
  • Mold and mildew resistance
  • Powerful stain blocker


  • Difficult to remove from the brushes
  • May bleed on glossy surfaces

8. Best Primer For Bare Wood Trim–Rust-Oleum Bulls Eye Spray Primer

Zinsser 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, 13 oz,...
1,888 Reviews
Zinsser 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, 13 oz,...
  • Interior/exterior use on new or previously painted Drywall, concrete, wood, masonry, metal and glossy or difficult surfaces
  • Oil-based formula seals uniformly and will Stick to surface without sanding
  • Dries to the touch in just 30 minutes and covers up to 12 sq ft

Small projects like priming wood trim are very easy to tackle with the Rust-Oleum 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 spray primer. It may not have the coverage of the Diamond Brite or the Kilz High Hide, but its 13 ounces of primer can easily go over 12 square feet.

This product dries quickly, making it a great choice for projects with a short deadline. That being said, the primed surface may feel rough to the touch, so you should sand it before you apply paint. The good news is that it sands easily, leaving any porous surfaces nice and smooth.

Despite the fact that it’s in a spray can primer, the product has very high coverage. This means it can easily hide stains, whether they are knots, smoke, or water stains. It is also perfect for color changes, even if you want to paint the wood surface from old paint darker color to a new lighter one.


  • Very easy to apply on small projects
  • High coverage and excellent adhesion
  • Dries quickly
  • Sands very well


  • The nozzle tends to drip and is very messy
  • May not adhere to plastic or slippery surfaces

9. Best Water Based Primer for Bare Wood–INSL-X Stix Waterborne Acrylic

INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer,...
717 Reviews
INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer,...
  • Premium-quality, acrylic-urethane bonding primer-sealer with unparalleled adhesion to the most challenging surfaces, including glossy tile, PVC, vinyl, plastic, glass, glazed block, glossy paint, pre-coated siding, fiberglass, and galvanized metals.
  • Bonding primer for drywall, plaster, ceiling, acoustical tile, wood trim and doors, Formica, ceramic tiles, glossy surfaces, PVC plastic, masonry walls, wood, trim, shutters, masonry, stucco, concrete, cement block, galvanized metal, aluminum, and other challenging surfaces.
  • Bonds to "hard-to-coat" surfaces and can be top coated with almost any product.

If you’re looking for a water-based product, then INSL-X is yet another good choice. It can properly bond to high ph surfaces that seem hard to coat, such as old wood with stains. 

The product adheres very well to wood and other difficult to paint surfaces that are tricky to coat, like PVC, glossy tile, glass, plastic, and vinyl. All you have to do is prepare the surface, and once you apply wood primer, it will help make the fresh paint on top stand out. 

The product is fit for covering large surfaces. One gallon is enough for 300-400 square feet. If you have a big bare wood surface you need to cover, it will save you time and a lot of work. Furthermore, it cures even at 35 °F temperatures. 

It has low volatile organic compounds levels making it less toxic with an unpleasant smell to be around. Furthermore, you can easily clean it up with nothing but soap and water solution. 


  • It barely has any VOC, making it less toxic
  • Adheres well to a variety of surfaces
  • One gallon covers a very large surface (300-400 square feet)
  • It’s easy to clean up 
  • It makes the paint stand out


  • It may scrape off easily
  • A bit expensive
  • Very thin

Best Wood Primer Comparison Table

Advantages of Using a Primer for Bare Wood

You should always prime bare wood before painting to protect the surface. 

The primer allows you to create a shield between the paint coat and the sensitive wood surface. This way, the wood does not get damaged, and the paint looks better and sticks longer.  

Everything you apply on its surface will have an impeccable aspect by priming bare wood.

Priming the wood will seal and keep it in ideal condition for a very long time. It’s important to think of the way wood works. Over time, things such as mildew, mold, rot, and decay can affect it, ruining its surface and quality.

The paint will also adhere better to your bare wooden surface, meaning there will be no peeling or bubbles. Everything will look smooth and flat. 

The primer helps make the surface smoother by combining every loose particle of the wood. As a result, the paint sticks to the surface in the long term while drying with such a beautiful look.

Oil-Based vs. Water-Based: Which Is Better for Bare Wood?

One problem you may encounter is the difficulty to choose between oil-based vs. water-based wood primers. Well, after trying both, I can tell you what they do when applied to wood surface. 

  • Oil-based primers are a traditional way to prime wood. Not only do they dry evenly and create a hard finish, but they can also give you a smooth surface
  • But although they are excellent in offering an appealing finish on wood, oil-based take ages to dry, so they may not be the best wood primers if you’re in a rush. 
  • They can also get quite messy. One oil-based primer is the aluminum exterior wood primer, which is okay to use when you need to prime wood with high resin amounts. 
  • Meanwhile, water-based wood primers are the best because they have outstanding coverage power, dry quickly, and don’t have a lot of VOC
  • Unfortunately, water-based primers aren’t ideal in areas where there’s a lot of rain, not to mention that water-borne stains tend to bleed through acrylic paints very often. 

So, both primers can be good, but you have to consider where your painted surface is located and the primer’s drying time, among other considerations. 

Types of Primer

There are several types of primer for bare wood that you may choose from, including:

1. Shellac Primer

Shellac primer has always been a standard for sealing wood and other porous surfaces. It has excellent stain-blocking properties, and it also prevents bleeding from occurring within the paint (usually a result of wood tannins).

Shellac dry time is less than 30 minutes, making it a great choice for those who want a fast finished paint job. Usually, it doesn’t take more than a couple of hours.

Once dried, you may use oil-based or latex-based paint over the surface. Remember that it gives off a lot of fumes, so you may want to apply it in a well-ventilated room.

2. Latex Primer

Latex-based primers are also very popular for their quick-drying process, which makes them perfect for projects where you lack time. The layer usually dries within an hour, and since this product does not have the brittleness of oil-based primers, it is less likely to peel or crack.

Since latex-based primers are water-soluble, they are very easy to clean. They also have low VOC levels, making them less toxic to the environment and yourself.

It’s a healthier alternative that does not force you to wear a respirator mask. But make sure that you still ventilate the place properly.

3. Masonry Primer

If you wish to apply primer on wood, then you may want to go for masonry primer. This product can maintain the pH levels of the wood while offering adhesion properties.

The primer is also effective in preventing the occurrence of white deposits on the surface.

4. Stain-Blocking Primer

Stain blocking primers are capable of concealing smoke and water stains, preparing the wood for a new layer of paint. They are also efficient when you are painting a lighter color over something slightly dark.

5. Bonding Primer

A bonding primer is often used on plastic, ceramic tiles, and vinyl, having the ability to easily adhere to tough to paint surfaces. This is why, if you want the best exterior wood primer that will stick to wood, this one should do the trick.

6. Multipurpose Primer

These primers are popular due to their versatility. However, since this “universal nature” can be rather tricky to nail, you might want to go for more reputable brands.

How to Choose the Best Primer for Bare Wood

Bare wood needs the best wood primer to seal it properly, but it’s often hard to find the right one. So, here are some things to consider when looking for a primer for bare wood:

Interior vs. Exterior

You can use all primers indoors, but you cannot use all primers outdoors. Not all of them are meant for exterior use, meaning you have to be very careful when picking the best exterior primer

Luckily, you can find many primers today that are suitable for both uses, and besides, you don’t have to pick a complicated product. After all, you will cover it with paint. 


Some types of wood may get unpleasant odors, especially if the environment had smokers, pets, or anything that could’ve given them bad smells. 

The foundation scent is important because working with a surface that has a bad smell can make it harder to apply the paint. Some primers can lock odors and help you get rid of them. 

Finish (matte vs. glossy)

Some primers will give the surface a glossy finish, whereas others offer it a matte one. Here, you should choose the wood primer based on how you want your bare wood to look at the end. 


Have an estimate of the area you’re going to prime before buying wood primer to make sure you purchase one with good coverage. You don’t want to find out you’re left without a wood primer in the middle of the project. 

Ease of Applying

The last thing you want is to spend ages trying to apply the product. Pick something easy to apply because some primers are harder to spread compared to others. 

Drying Time

If you want to make sure the primer dries quickly on your bare wood, you should look into latex primers with fast-drying capabilities. Otherwise, if you go with an oil-based option, you may have to spend a long time waiting for it to dry. 

Read also – Best primer for pressure treated wood.

Project Type

Each project type will require a different type of primer. For example, an outdoor project will need an exterior primer; respectively, an indoor project will need an interior project. Keep the location of your product in mind, and then read the label of the primer. An indoor standard primer might not last too long outside, whereas an outdoor primer might release too many toxic fumes in an interior project.

Primer Color

The best wood primer color should also be taken into consideration when making your choice. For example, if you are painting wood surface into a darker color, then you may want to use a gray primer. However, if you plan on using light-colored paint, then you might want to use a white primer instead. If you have the opportunity, you might want to get a tinted primer that matches the paint you are planning to use. 

How to Apply Primer 

Primer is very important in any paint job, as it gives you a smooth surface to work with. With that in mind, you also need to apply it correctly. Here are the steps on how you should apply primer like a pro:

Understand the reason for using the primer

Before priming the surface, you first need to understand why you need it. The primer corrects any surface imperfections that might be there, such as knots, stains, pores, and so on.

Since you are dealing with bare wood, a wood primer is most likely essential. If the surface already has paint and primer over it, then all you need to do is prime over the bare areas.

Prep the surface

The wood primer won’t adhere properly unless you prep the surface beforehand. Sand thoroughly and get rid of the paint that is cracking or peeling. Clean it so that there’s no dust or grease on the wood.

Apply the primer

This can be done by spray, roll, or brush – whichever works best for you. Make sure that you thin it properly based on the tool that you want to use.

Allow it to dry for a few hours (6-8). Once it dries, sand the putty away using sandpaper and apply the second paint layer of wood primer.

Apply the paint

With the wood primer dried, it is time for you to apply the paint. Make sure that you use the appropriate type of primer for the wood.


How long should it take for the primer to dry on bare wood?

Primer’s drying time depends on the product – some dry faster than others. When applied to dry wood, some products will take 30 minutes to dry, but this is only a minimum. Ideally, you should let it dry between 1- 4 hours, just to make sure it’s alright to paint it. Water-based primers tend to dry faster, so if you’re in a rush, consider using them. 

How many coats will I need when applying the primer?

Depends on how many coats you want but you should apply at least 2-3 coats of primer if you want to ensure a good bond between the primer and the wood. Of course, it also depends on the product you buy, because some are thicker and others thinner. 2-3 coats of wood primer should make it possible to cover any stains on the wood. 

Is there a special kind of brush that I should use when priming bare wood?

When you apply wood deck primer on bare wood, you should use a brush from nylon and polyester. They don’t cost a lot, and they are also pretty easy to find. On top of that, they do a great job at applying wood primers. 

Does it matter what type of paint I use after I prime the bare wood?

Yes, it does. Not all primers will work with any type of paint. Some paints will create a weaker bond with the primer, and you want to avoid this. You should always research the paints you want to use and make sure you buy a primer that suits them. If you can, talk to an expert to find out some accurate information in this regard. 

Can primers be tinted?

In certain circumstances, the primer can be tinted. You may buy it already tinted, or you may try a DIY tint by adding some paint into the primer. If you are using white primer, one-quarter of the paint should work just fine for the tint. This means you should keep a 1:4 ratio. Bear in mind that you should not mix paints and primers of different types. If you are using latex based primer, only mix latex paint in it – and if you use oil primer, add only oil paint.

What Kind Of Primer Is Best For Bare Wood

The best primer for bare wood is Zinsser Pigmented Shellac Primer-Sealer & Stain Killer. It is the best for overall purposes, adheres nicely to bare wood and other wooden surfaces, covers stains, and kills odors. 

Besides, it’s easy to use, dries fast, and makes the color stand out. Though expensive, the primer can do everything the other products on the list can do combined, and you get a lot of value for the price. 

If you’re looking for the best primer for bare wood, you should check it out because it has an outstanding application. Remember, the other primers on the list are also great to use, so make your choice wisely.

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