Can You Leave the Primer Unpainted?

By Mandy Moss

If you’re a new homeowner or painting for the first time, there is a possibility you might like the primer more than the paint on your surface. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are many instances where people faced a similar dilemma.

There’s no denying that painting can be a messy and intimidating procedure. But then again, nothing worthwhile comes easy, right? Similarly, most DIYers will skip painting just to save some bucks. So my short answer is:

No, you can’t leave your primer-coated surface unpainted. It is not a replacement for paint. A primer is just a sealant and protective layer applied to a surface before painting to make it look even better.

Can You Leave the Primer Unpainted?

Primer vs Paint: What’s the Difference?

Although primer and paint go hand in hand for any painting project, it is crucial to know the difference and the main purpose of both for a better understanding.

Paint is a decorative coating that goes on top of the primer to enhance the appearance of a surface and protect it from elements like weather, and wear and tear.

On the other hand, primer is designed to adhere to a surface, creating a bond that will make the paint last longer. It is also used to fill in any cracks or imperfections on the surface, making it ready for paint.

In short, primer provides a better foundation for your paint to adhere better, look its best and last longer.

Different Types of Primer

There are different types of primer that you can choose from depending on your needs.

  • Acrylic-based primers are ideal for wood and metal surfaces, as well as other porous materials that need sealing before painting.
  • Alkyd-based primers, meanwhile, have a higher resistance to chemicals and may be used on petrochemical-based surfaces such as concrete and metal.
  • Water-based primers, as the name suggests, are diluted in water and are perfect for indoor surfaces like walls and ceilings.
  • Oil-based primers, on the other hand, are perfect for outdoor surfaces like fences and decks as they have a higher resistance to UV rays and are less likely to fade.
  • Shellac-based primers, on the other hand, provide a very strong grip on glossy surfaces and difficult-to-paint areas.
  • Mold Resistant primer, meanwhile, is perfect for areas where there are damp conditions to prevent the growth of mold.
  • Stain Blocking primer, as the name suggests, is used to block out stains from marker pens, crayons, and grease.

How to Choose the Right Primer

Now that you know the different types of primer available, it’s time to choose the right one for your project. But before that. there are some factors you need to consider:

  • The type of surface you’re painting
  • The paint you will be using
  • The environment or area where the painting will be done
  • Your budget

If you’re painting over existing latex paint, then an oil-based or waterborne primer will be your best bet.

However, if you have some stubborn stains that need covering up, opt for a stain-blocking primer instead.

What Happens If You Leave Your Primer Without Paint?

If you have already primed your surface but don’t intend to paint it, know that the primer will not just magically disappear. It will continue to do its job even without paint.

Leaving your primer without paint for a long time is not advisable as it will eventually start to deteriorate, especially if it’s exposed to the elements such as dust, sunlight and moisture. It will not be able to protect your surface, which can lead to peeling, cracking, or chipping. In extreme cases, it can even cause the surface to rot.

How Long Can You Leave Primer Unpainted?

Ideally, you should not leave your primer unpainted for more than a week. This is to ensure that the primer remains fresh and effective. Many manufacturers have stated primer to be good for up to 30 days, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Primer usually has cure time, which is the amount of time it takes for it to harden. Hence, it is important to check this before leaving it without paint as you don’t want it to become too hard and difficult to work with when you’re ready to paint.

TIP: If you're not ready to paint yet, make sure to cover your primer-coated surface with a tarp or plastic sheeting to protect it from dust, sunlight and moisture.

Why Should You Use a Primer Before Painting?

Primer is a crucial part of any painting task as it provides the foundation for your painting. It’s designed to adhere and fill in imperfections on the surface, making it smooth and ready for painting. There are many reasons why using it before painting is important, including:

  1. It provides smooth and even surfaces for painting, which helps ensure that the paint adheres well to the surface and lasts longer.
  2. Fill in imperfections on the surface, making it flat and level. This helps create a professional and polished look.
  3. It helps to protect the surface from damage caused by the paint, such as chipping, flaking or peeling.
  4. Act as a barrier between the surface and the paint, which helps to prevent the paint from soaking into the surface and causing discoloration.
  5. Creates a more uniform color when painting, as the primer will help to even out the paint’s coverage.
  6. Primers may also assist in covering blemishes or flaws on the surface, making it simpler to get a clean and well-kept appearance.

What Are The Best Paint Primers?

Picking the right primer is not always easy. There are many different types of primers on the market, each with its unique properties and benefits.

Some of the most popular paint primers include:

1. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer

[amalinkspro type=”image-link” asin=”B000H5VKBQ” new-window=”true” apilink=”″ img-size=”500,500″ addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” alt=”Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer, Quart, White” alignment=”aligncenter”][/amalinkspro]

When it comes to primers, Zinsser by Rust-Oleum is one of the most popular and trusted brands.

Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer is a versatile option that can be used on a variety of surfaces, both indoors and outdoors. Furthermore, it is a water-based primer that seals uniformly and sticks to surfaces without the need for sanding.

In addition, it is designed to block out stains, hide dark colours, and provide a smooth surface for painting. What I love about this primer is that one coat is enough to do the trick – saving you time, money, and effort all in one.


  • Excellent coverage – works well with both latex or oil-based paints
  • Stain blocking properties
  • Quick dry and cure time – ready to topcoat within an hour
  • Versatile – can be used on multiple surfaces


  • Might need multiple coats on darker colors to hide bleeding
[amalinkspro type=”cta-btn-css” ctabtn-id=”0″ asin=”” apilink=”″ addtocart=”false” new-window=”true” nofollow=”true” alignment=”aligncenter”]Check Price[/amalinkspro]

2. KILZ 2 All Purpose Primer

[amalinkspro type=”image-link” asin=”B000C018KY” new-window=”true” apilink=”″ img-size=”500,334″ addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” alt=”KILZ 20000 2 All-Purpose Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 5 Gallon (Pack of 1), 640 Fl Oz” alignment=”aligncenter”][/amalinkspro]

KILZ 2 water-based primer is the perfect solution for all your primer needs. It is a 3-in-1 primer, sealer and stain blocker. Unlike many others, this is a high-quality primer that has great hiding power.

It blocks mild to medium stains and seals porous surfaces so your new paint has a solid surface to grip onto.

Plus, it comes in white, so you can use it on any surface – interior or exterior. Additionally, it is water-resistant and non-flammable to eliminate any safety concerns during use.


  • Excellent to hide stains from previously painted surfaces
  • Versatile – can work on multiple surfaces including indoors and outdoors
  • Dries quickly and is ready to topcoat after an hour
  • Excellent adhesion – works well with alkyd, water and oil-based paints
  • Mold-resistant finish
  • Reasonable price point


  • The product becomes unusable if left open for a longer period
[amalinkspro type=”cta-btn-css” ctabtn-id=”0″ asin=”” apilink=”″ addtocart=”false” new-window=”true” nofollow=”true” alignment=”aligncenter”]Check Price[/amalinkspro]

3. INSL-X Stix Waterborn Bonding Primer

[amalinkspro type=”image-link” asin=”B07KXNL5G8″ new-window=”true” apilink=”″ img-size=”500,500″ addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” alt=”INSL-X SXA11009A-04 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer, 1 Quart, White” alignment=”aligncenter”][/amalinkspro]

If you’re working on hard to paint or super glossy surfaces, you need an extra-strong primer. The INSL-X Stix waterborne bonding primer is just that – a powerful adhesive for tough surfaces like galvanized steel, tile and plastics.

This primer not only sticks to the surface but also dries quickly and leaves a durable, protective coating.

It can be used both indoors and outdoors, on a variety of surfaces, and is even compatible with oil-based paints.


  • Great bonding capability
  • Excellent coverage – especially for tough surfaces
  • Low VOC – easy to use and clean with soapy water
  • Works well in low-temperature areas
  • Multi-purpose – tile, granite, kitchen cabinets etc.


  • Dries quickly – you might need to work fast
[amalinkspro type=”cta-btn-css” ctabtn-id=”0″ asin=”” apilink=”″ addtocart=”false” new-window=”true” nofollow=”true” alignment=”aligncenter”]Check Price[/amalinkspro]

Is It Better to Use Primer or Paint With Primer Included?

There are many types of paint on the market these days that come with primer included. However, there are still benefits to using a separate primer before painting.

The main benefit of using a separate primer is that it will provide better coverage and adhesion. This is because primers are specifically designed to grip onto surfaces and create a smooth base for paint.

Paint with primer included is a great option if you’re painting over a light color or if you’re in a hurry. However, if you want the finest results possible, it’s always best to use a separate primer first.

When Should You Use a Separate Primer First?

We have come up with three tips, when you should definitely use primer first:

  1. If you’re painting over a dark color – This is because it will help to cover up any residual color and provide a cleaner surface for your new paint.
  2. Painting over an old hue – It can be worth your effort to use a primer first if you’re painting over an old, fading hue.
  3. Painting over the glossy surface – painting over a glossy or difficult surface will help the paint to adhere better and create a smoother finish.

Related Questions

You can use a primer as ceiling paint if you need to cover up a dark color or if the surface is in poor condition. However, it’s important to note that primers are not as durable as regular paint and they will not provide the same level of coverage.

If you’re looking for a durable, long-lasting finish, it’s best to use regular paint on your ceilings.

The number of coats of primer you’ll need on your ceiling will depend on the current color and condition of the surface. If you’re painting over a dark color or if the surface is in poor condition, you may need to use two coats of primer.

You can put primer over old paint, but it is crucial to make sure the surface is clean of grease and dust. You may also need to sand the before applying primer, especially if the old paint is peeling or chipping.

The primer will take to dry will depend on the type of primer you’re using. Many water-based primers will be dry to the touch within an hour. However, oil-based primers can take up to 24 hours to fully dry.

Read Next