Best Oil Based Primer for Sprayers

The best oil based primer helps to create a tighter seal on your paint project.

It’s the ideal primer paint for wood projects, drywall, and plaster because the primer fills in the porous surface.

Instead of a rough surface, you’re left with something smooth that is waiting for your paint.

Oil Primer for Sprayers
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Top-Rated Oil Based Primers 

Several brands offer oil based primers that are suitable for the modern paint sprayer. It is important to ensure the viscosity of the primer will work with your paint sprayer before purchase.

Best Oil Based Primer Paint: Editor’s Ratings and Reviews

Best Oil Based Primer: Editor’s Choice

Rust-Oleum Bulls Eye

best oil based paint for spray gun
  • Best for mold and mildew prevention
  • Stops rust and blocks stains
  • Oil Based
  • Affordable

If you live in a high moisture environment (we’re talking about you, Pacific Northwest!), then mold and mildew are top priorities.

A few showers are all it takes for mold to begin growing if your ventilation is a little off.

This unique oil-based primer from Rust-oleum contains a resistant film that reduces the potential for growth, so you don’t need to worry about stains or damage.

It also inhibits rust and has stain blocking powers when it is properly applied. When used as instructed, it dries in 1 hour, including on an exterior surface.

One of the best exterior primers available. This is a solid, versatile oil based primer option that can go anywhere and on almost anything.

Bullseye by Rust-oleum is a solid primer for oil-based paint.

Kilz Max Primer

  • Water based performs like oil
  • Gallon covers 300 ft
  • Stops stains, odors, rust, tannins

This primer paint is what you want when you need a maximum level of protection for your next project. This primer come sin white with a matte type finish and is specifically designed for interior work.

It may be a water-based primer, but it performs like one that is oil based. Same performance as oil based, without the odor, VOC’s and difficult clean up.

You can also purchase this primer in 1 gallon cans. Dries to the touch in optimal conditions within 30 mins and can be recoated in an hour. Always double check this if you are painting below 70-75 Fahrenheit in a high humidity environment. I’ve had paint dry in Arizona in 15 mins, but take more than 8 hours in the pacific northwest.

Kilz Max Primer tackles tough stains and odors, including water damage, rust, ink, and tannin, while stopping future odors from escaping.

It can also be used on a wide variety of materials, from brick to glass, to provide good results. Each gallon can cover about 300 square feet, so plan accordingly on your prepared surface.

True Value Weather All

  • Ultra premium acrylic latex oil primer
  • Can be used under all paint
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Expensive

This ultra-premium primer is an acrylic latex formula, though is still an oil based primer. Note that this primer and sealer in one is specified for exterior use.

That means you get the benefits of all three types within one single product. If you’re looking for an all-weather product, Weather All primer paint gives you the consistent results that you want.

It is backed by a lifetime warranty and can be used under latex or oil based paints.

It applies nicely through a paint sprayer and offers top coat consistency with very little effort. Grab a can of this stuff.

Zinsser Oil Based Primer

oil based primer
  • Oil based primer and sealer
  • Easy to sand, dries quick
  • Best for odors and stain blocking
  • Covers stains easily

This oil based primer and sealer does an excellent job of covering stains including water, smoke, tannins, and nicotine stains. They disappear after one application, whether you spray it on or you roll it on. Plus side is that it is manufactured in the United States.

Zinsser does an excellent job of dealing with old cigarette smoke odors and stain blocking. We found the primer to be easy to sand and it dries quickly, so there is less downtime.

It works just as well for interior surfaces as it does for exterior surfaces. Use it with any topcoat for an easier painting experience.

You can definitely use latex paint over this oil based primer. Reveal the true color of your paint with Zinsser.

The down side is that there is more intense cleaning required after painting with this oil based primer. If using a brush, we say, just throw it away and save yourself the time and pain of cleaning the brush out. Of course, since this is oil based, you will have to deal with odor and VOC’s, so be prepared and ventilate your painting area.

Kilz Primer

oil based primer
  • Latex Primer
  • Great for unique surfaces like bricks
  • Performs like oil based
  • Works on Brick, Fiberglass and Glossy finishes
  • 1 gallon can in WHITE

This high-bonding primer and sealer is water-based and comes in a unique latex formula.

When applied correctly, the bond that it achieves is similar to what an oil based primer would be able to accomplish.

Modern sprayers can still push this primer out with a consistent spray.

In return, this latex primer from Kilz allows you to prime almost any material for paint.

Even glazed bricks, glossy finishes, and fiberglass are receptive to this unique primer. It can also be used under epoxies, lacquers and solvents.

KILZ claims that this can covers 300 sq ft, but depending on your method of application, it could very well be less than that.

You’ll receive the sound anchor you need for your topcoat, while still taking advantage of how easy it is to apply at a highly affordable price.

Kilz All Purpose

  • 300-400 sq ft/gallon
  • Blocks mold/mildew
  • Water based
  • Low VOC Option
  • Quart Sized Can

Kilz has been used by DIYers and professionals alike for over 40 years for stain blocking every type of stain including smoke, water, grease and pet odors.  This is my go to choice for areas prone to mold like a small bathroom.  

 People in the pacific northwest know Kilz like the back of their hand.  It will block mildew from developing and coming through your new paint job. 

We recommend using primer because it covers stains, makes your paint adhere better, and leads to truer, richer colors.  You might even use less paint, when first applying a primer to your surface. 

You can use Kilz on a ton of surfaces like wood, drywall, plaster, brick.  It’s not recommended for flooring though.  It covers about 300-400 sq feet per gallon, but be careful.  This can comes in a QUART or Liter size so about 75 to 100 sq feet per can. 

Can you spray Kilz oil-based primer?  If you’ve got an airless sprayer you can spray it unthinned.  If you have an HVLP paint sprayer, you will need to thin it down to the right viscosity for spraying.

Kilz says that their primer dries for a recoat within an hour, but this may change depending on humidity and temperatures in your area. 

If you’re looking a water based primer than performs like oil-based, check out Kilz Max in either 1 or 5 gallon buckets. 

Low VOC is an option you should consider to reduce fumes around your home.  Pricer than regular Kilz, if you have an area that isn’t really well ventilated this should be your go to choice. 

Best Oil Based Primer Buyer’s Guide

Can You Use Oil Based Primer in a Sprayer?

Absolutely!  The best way to apply oil-based primer is with a sprayer for a consistent finish.  

Can Oil Based Primer be Thinned?

Depending on the type of sprayer you have you may need to thin your oil-based primer.  Airless sprayers are powerful enough (they use high PSI to spray) that they can spray thick materials like primers unthinned.  If you’ve got an HVLP sprayer, you will need to thin your primer before spraying.

Best Paint Primer to Use

Before you get started with any painting project, a couple layers of primer are generally necessary. Primer allows the paint to apply with better consistency, offering a smoother and flatter surface for a better end result. Don’t forget to stir your paint thoroughly with a paint mixer drill attachment so that its completely mixed before starting.

Why Should I use an Oil Based Primer?

For a long-term project, an oil-based primer is a better option. Oil-based primers take more time to dry and require thinning to apply through a spray gun.

The results tend to last much longer compared to other primer types.

If you need to paint a porous or rough surface, have a high humidity area, any types of odors, nicotine stains, or are painting wood, you should use an oil based primer to smooth out your surface, block stains/odors, and get your paint to adhere better.

High traffic areas and furniture would benefit from being painted with an oil based primer so that they can stand up to repeated use.

Some paint types are incompatible with some primer types. Be sure to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer when using any primer or paint.

Different Types of Primer Paint

There are 3 broad types of primer paint you can use on your projects.  Each one has it’s pros and cons and should be used in certain circumstances.


Great for blocking odors, stains, mildew and mold.  Stops tannins from wood from bleeding through.  Kicks butt in protecting surfaces in a high humidity areas like your bathroom or kitchen due to their water resistance.  Oil based primers and paint are great at preventing rust too.

Cons is that it smells pretty bad and you need mineral spirits to clean it up.  Try to find a low odor oil based primer if you can. Check out our Guide on the alternatives to mineral spirits solutions and see if you can avoid chemicals all together.

Latex (Water) Based

This low odor and low VOC primer is great because it dries fast, cleans up with water and soap and can block oil stains.  Cons is that is can cause certain types of wood to actually be rougher and bleed more. Latex paint also cleans up very easily if their are marks on your wall for example, just use a cloth and regular housecleaner spray.

Shellac Based

Pros is that it works on any surface and blocks stains and smells.  Cons is that it can cost more than the other 2 types of primer and it has a pretty strong odor.  You also have to clean it with denatured alcohol instead of soap and water.

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When Should You Use a Latex Primer?

Latex primer is perfect to use for previously finished surfaces that already have a layer of paint on them.  Use this when you want to avoid using chemicals for clean up and you are looking for low odor. You don’t want to use latex primer on porous or rough surfaces, it can make them worse. Also, some types of wood bleed MORE when you use latex primer, because its water based. Make sure you read the directions on your latex primer to make sure it can be used on bare wood.

When Should You Use a Shellac Primer?

Great for exterior projects and rust stains.  You can use it to prep glossy and greasy areas without sanding.

When Should an Oil Based Primer Be Used?

Any unfinished surface can benefit from the use of an oil-based primer if it is going to be painted in the near future. Porous materials should always be primed before painting.

That means concrete, wood, drywall, and even certain metals need primer.

It can be tempting to skip this step when painting. The results, however, never seem to be as good without primer when compared to having it done.

That means an oil based primer should be used whenever painting needed to be done. There are only a handful of exceptions to this rule.

  • The surface being painted has already received an oil based primer in the past.
  • You are painting on a surface that already has a layer of paint in good condition.
  • The surface being painted is not porous.
  • You have an older home that used oil based exterior paint.

Oil-based primers dry very slowly. In return, they provide a finish that is smooth and protective.

These primers can even benefit woods that tend to have their tannins bleed through over time.

If you’re working with cedar, for example, an oil based primer will help to maintain the integrity of your paint.

You should also use primer paint on painted surfaces that are beginning to fail. It will help to cover any cracking or chalking to offer a lovely visual aesthetic.

What Are the Benefits of an Oil Based Primer?

Oil primer paint is one of the most powerful tools that are available to painters today. They are also one of the most overlooked tools. It seems like skipping the primer paint is an easy way to save time and money.

It is not. Primer helps the paint stick properly to the surface being worked. It allows for a consistent coat that becomes smooth as it dries.

Primer does more than help the paint. It can also solve the visual aesthetic issues that plague certain walls and wooden surfaces by smoothing out your paint surface, leading to a more consistent paint application.

Oil based primer also helps your paint adhere better to your project surface, meaning your paint job will look better and last longer than without primer.

A good oil based primer will cover up stains and prevent an old stain from leaking through to the paint. A good oil-based primer will also conceal odors, such as cigarette smoke, that can penetrate the drywall.

Oil based primers are excellent at stopping tannins from being released from bare wood, especially cedar and redwood. It prevents those tannins from bleeding through the surface of the paint.

Oil based primers can be extremely smelly when being applied. Even a well-ventilated room may not prevent these odors from lingering for a couple of days.

These primers require a thinner for cleaning as well. For consistency, however, there isn’t a better option when dealing with tough pre-existing stains or odors.

  • Stain coverage
  • odor blocking
  • smooths out paint surface
  • helps paint to adhere better
  • Stops tannins from bleeding through paint

Pros and Cons of Using Oil Based Primer

Smooth Finish
Blocks Stains, Odors
Great for High Humidity Areas
Super Durable

Dries Slowly
Strong Smell
Can’t Find Everywhere
Needs to be Thinned with Chemicals

How Does Oil Based Primer Affect Paint

Oil based primer helps to seal porous surfaces like bare wood, masonry, cover up old paint, smells, tannins, and stains. It helps your paint to adhere better to the surface by bonding with the paint and creates a better and more consistent finish.

Why Oil Based Primers are Great for Exterior Projects

Oil based primers work so well for exterior projects because of many reasons.  They are more resistant to temperature changes from the cold and heat.  They block humidity, moisture and mildew from ruining your surface. 

They stop stains and wood tannins from coming through your paint.  Last but not least, exterior oil primers are super tough, able to withstand even the worst abuse.

Pro Tips for Applying Oil Based Primer

First things first.  My personal preference is to strain all primers and paints that go through my gun.   Maybe it is a bit of extra work, but I really want to make sure that there is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING in my paint or primer before it goes in my paint sprayer.  That being said…

Make sure you stir that primer vigorously and for a long time.  Better yet, take it to the store and get them to shake the hell out of it.  Oil based primers are thick: you will probably need to thin it unless you’re using a powerful airless spray gun. 

Thinning with mineral spirits or another oil based thinner is the only way to do it.  Check out our detailed post on how to thin oil based paint for a spray gun.

How Do I Know if I Have Oil Based Primer Paint?

It is a good idea to match up your primer with your paint. In some instances, you may not know if the paint is latex or an oil-based variety.

You can check your paint type by saturating a shop rag with non-acetone nail polish remover. Take the soaked rag and run it over the painted surface in question. If no paint comes off on the rag, then you know for certain that it is an oil-based paint.

If the surface is coated with latex paint, then you’ll have some paint come off on the rag or the surface will feel sticky afterward.

What Kind of Primer Should I Use over Oil Based Paint

After testing your paint type above, and you find that its oil based paint, you should always use a primer before you start painting overtop. You can use another oil based primer or go for a latex primer. Latex primer should be labelled as a bonding primer and check the paint can label to make sure it specifies that you can use it over oil based paints.

How to Use Oil Based Primers

Here are some basic instructions on how to use an oil based primer.

  1. Read the directions on the can for the brand of primer you purchased
  2. Stir the contents well with a wooden stick or with a paint stirring tool that attaches to your drill
  3. Check if the primer needs to be thinned before spraying
  4. Thin according to the manufacturers directions using our instructions below
  5. Use a natural bristle brush or your paint sprayer
  6. Cover your surface with one coat
  7. Wait for it to dry and test to see if it covered the area completely
  8. If not, apply another coat
  9. Once dry, you can give it a light sanding with high grit sandpaper
  10. Clean your surface
  11. Apply your top coat of paint

Should Primer Paint Be Thinned So It Can Be Sprayed?

Whether or not a primer can be thinned so it can be applied with a paint sprayer depends on the manufacturer.

If you look at the application instructions on the product, you will find a thinning ratio to follow, assuming it is permitted.

The general rule for thinning primer paint is to remove about 1.5 cups of primer from a 1-gallon can and then add 1.5 cups of thinning agent to the product.

If the label of the primer does not specify a thinning ratio, then it must be assumed that the primer should be used as it is. Run the undiluted primer through your sprayer to evaluate its thickness.

In most cases, it will spray as a thin mist and you’ll be fine.  If it sprays thickly, then you may need to apply the primer manually.

Attempting to thin a primer that is not intended to be thinned can change how it applies, how it dries, or how it supports a layer of paint in the future.

How to Thin Oil Based Paint and Primer

If you are trying to thin an oil-based primer or paint, you cannot use water to do so. Water and oil do not mix. You’ll need to use mineral spirits to get the job done.  Follow our instructions on how to thin oil based paint. 

With oil primer, always double check and follow the manufacturers instructions on how to thin the paint.

How Much Does a Good Oil Based Primer Cost?

The cost primer paint is comparable to the cost of the paint that you’re planning to use for your project. Expect to pay at least $30 for a 1-gallon container of the best paint primer.

If you have a smaller project in mind, you can purchase primer containers that are pint-sized or below in the $10-$25 range. These small containers are not enough to apply primer to an entire room, though it could be large enough for something like an accent wall.

You may be able to save some cash if purchasing your primer in bulk.

A 5-gallon container is usually about $120. You can also step up to a high-quality product for about $170.

What is the Best Oil Based Primer: Our Recommendation

Our favorite oil-based primer is Rust-OLeum Bulls Eye.  This is because of how well it stops mold and mildew from growing in moisture rich environments while inhibiting rust.  It also dries super fast, meaning you can paint on 2 coats and finish your priming faster than ever.

What is the Best Oil Based Primer for Wood

Again we recommend Rust-OLeum Bulls Eye for any wood projects you may have.


The best oil based primer for paint sprayers (and one water-based one) make it quick, easy, and affordable to improve the look of your home or project. Skip the shortcuts and do the job right, the first time around.

Use our best paint sprayer reviews to pick the perfect sprayer for your oil based projects.

Quick FAQs About Oil Primers and Paint

Can you thin oil based paint products?

Yes, with paint thinner, mineral spirits or turpentine.

Can you use oil based primer in a sprayer?

Yes, you will need to thin it first with most spray guns.

How do you thin oil based paint?

Add 1 part paint thinner product to every 3 parts paint and stir thoroughly.