Painting over new or repaired drywall is not the same as repainting existing walls.
While not complicated, painting new drywall does require extra steps to ensure an even finish, true color and a consistent sheen in your finished paint.
This is all achieved by using a drywall primer.
In this post, we’re going to share what exactly drywall primers are, what they do, why you should use them, our favorite primers and finally, some of the most commonly asked questions around drywall primers.
Our Top Drywall Primer Picks
Best Overall Drywall Primer
Zinsser Drywall Primer
High End Drywall Primer
ISL-X Stix Interior Bonding Primer
Kilz Drywall Interior Primer
INSL-X Aqua Lock Plus Primer
- What Is A Drywall Primer
- Why You Should Prime New Sheetrock
- Product Reviews
- How To Prime Drywall
- Drywall Primer FAQ
What Is A Drywall Primer
Drywall primer is the common name for PVA primers (Polyvinyl acetate). A PVA primer goes onto new porous sheetrock and seals the pores and creates a soft even coat over the top of the sheetrock.
This creates a more uniform surface which you can then apply your topcoat onto.
NOTE: PVA is actually used in many different products such as glue.
Why You Should Prime New Drywall
New drywall is a very uneven painting surface. There are surfaces that don’t have any drywall mud, there are taped joints with loads of mud, there are screw heads with much and on top of that everything is sanded quite roughly.
If you were to bust out your paint of choice and start rolling over new drywall, you would quickly find that your topcoat looks uneven.
The sheen will show differently over the drywall boards vs the taped joints. The color won’t look true to what you saw in the store and your paint won’t spread on nicely either.
Even worse, this will continue to happen coat after coat.
This is because normal paints are not made to seal in new drywall.
But What About Paint & Primer In One?
While paint and primer in one is a fantastic advnacement in painting, it is not the ideal choice for painting over new drywall. PVA drywall primers actually seal the new sheetrock surface better than a paint and primer in one and cost less.
For example, to achieve a quality finish with a paint and primer in one, you may need 3-4 coats of paint which typically costs $25-$50 per gallon.
With a drywall primer, you will put on 1 coat of pva (which costs roughly $10-$15/gallon),two top coats, and your finish will look fantastic.
Other Benefits Of Using A PVA Drywall Primer
A Drywall Primer Allows For Easy Sanding
Drywall primers are made to be sanded easier than topcoat paints. This means that after you apply the primer, you can use a sanding pole (like my favorite the Radius 360 Sanding Disc) to smooth out the walls to a perfect finish before you apply the topcoat.
Improves The Glide and Spread of Top Coat
When you try to brush and roll paint onto new sheetrock, the surface of the drywall is so dry that it sucks up moisture right as it is applied. This stops your brush and roller from gliding smoothly along the drywall. Often, this will mean that your first coat of paint or drywall primer isn’t 100% smooth, which is why you want a sandable primer as mentioned above.
Using Drywall Primer Means Fewer Top Coats & Saves You Money
By using a PVA drywall primer, you reduce the number of expensive topcoats that you’ll have to apply. Typically, 2 coats of quality paint will be sufficient.
Let’s Do The Math:
Let’s say you have a 1,500 sq ft basement remodel wrapping up and you have to paint 3,000 sq ft of new drywall.
3,000 square feet of drywall should mean roughly 10 gallons of paint per coat. In reality, it will go further, but for simple math’s sake, we’re using these numbers.
Most quality topcoat paint cost in the $35 per gallon range. Most PVA drywall primers cost roughly $10 per gallon.
If you skip the drywall primer, go straight to the topcoat you might need 3-4 coats of paint. 3 coats would cost you $1,050. 4 coats would cost you $1,400.
If you use a drywall primer, and only need two top coats, you would spend a total of $800. A savings of $250 – $600.
Drywall Primer Reviews
|Glidden PVA Primer||5 Star||$7.99|
|Behr Drywall Plus||5 Star||$12.79/Gal|
|Kilz PVA Drywall Primer||5 Star||$9.80/Gal|
|Valspar Pro PVA Primer||4 Star||$9.19/Gal|
|Zinsser Drywall Primer||4 Star||$12.83|
|Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec Primer||3 Star||Click For Price|
|Sherwin Williams Drywall Primer||3 Star||$27.49/Gal|
Glidden PVA Primer
Glidden PVA Primer is a low cost Polyvinyl Acrylic primer that seals up new drywall and other porous surfaces.
It is a low VOC paint that can be sprayed, brushed, or rolled on. It is also highly sandable.
Unlike some other drywall primers, Glidden needs just two hours of dry time before you can topcoat. over it.
My personal opinion of drywall primers is that they all go under the topcoat, so if they can seal up the wall and allow for a uniform topcoat, they are all pretty similar.
What I typically look for when choosing a drywall primer is price. Glidden offers a great price for a quality product. I have never had any issues with Glidden PVA and at $7.99 a gallon (in 5 gallon buckets), you can’t beat it.
For its great price, Glidden PVA Primer is my top choice.
Behr Drywall Primer
Behr is our last 5-star Drywall Primer.
Behr sports all of the benefits of Glidden and Kilz like fast-drying, easy application, easily sandable and low VOC, but Berh offers another benefit, it’s tintable.
With Behr Drywall Primer, you can tint the primer to the same color (or complimenting grey) as your topcoat. This allows for better and easier coverage of your topcoat colors.
While not always necessary, this can be very valuable if you are going with bright colors as they are typically harder to cover.
On top of being tintable, Behr Drywall Primer is also mildew resistant.
All of this for a price tag of $12.79 per gallon makes Behr Drywall Primer our second choice behind Glidden.
Kilz PVA Drywall Primer
Kilz is a brand known for its great primers. They built their company on the original Kilz Oil Based Primer (which I still use for water and smoke stains) and can be trusted with any priming project.
Kilz Drywall Primer is a low VOC primer that is also fast drying and easily applied by brush, roller, or sprayer.
With a price of $9.80 and a name like Kilz, this primer is our last 5-star earner on the list.
Valspar Pro PVA Primer
Valspar Pro PVA Drywall Primer is another quality primer at a low affordable price.
Valspar Pro is fast drying, you can sand and topcoat after 2 hours. It’s also easily sandable to a smooth finish perfect for top coating.
Valspar Pro PVA Primer is NOT considered a low VOC primer, however, making it a 4-star primer in our opinion.
Zinsser Drywall Primer
Zinsser is another brand well known for its primers. Zinsser drywall primer is yet another good choice for any new drywall painting projects.
It is a fast-drying (dries to the touch in 30 minutes) and low odor primer at a reasonable price.
The problem with Zinsser is that it is not low VOC (just low odor) and other than that, it has no noticeable benefits over the primers listed above it in this list.
It’s also slightly more expensive than many other primers coming in at $12.83 a gallon. This earns it a 4-star rating from us.
Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec Primer
Benjamin Moore products need to be discussed when talking about paints for any type of painting project.
Personally, though, I tend to find Benjamin Moore products overpriced for what they offer (other than their enamels which I find to be of the best quality).
I cannot legally show the price here, but it’s high (just under Sherwin Williams).
Other than the high price, Benjamin Moore’s Ultra Spec Primer offers no benefits over the cheaper priced primers on this list. It dries quick, sands easily, low VOC and all, but too expensive for a drywall primer.
Sherwin Williams Drywall Primer
To round out the list is Sherwin Williams Drywall Primer.
I love Sherwin Williams. They make great products.
The problem with Sherwin Williams, however, is that their retail pricing is simply outrageous. On top of that, you never know what you will actually get charged. They’ve become similar to Kohls in that there is always some gimmicky sale going on and you never know what you will be charged.
That being said, Sherwin doesn’t make bad products, they’re just expensive. Sherwin’s drywall primer offers no benefits over others on this list while being roughly 3 times the price. This earns it a 3-star rating on our list.
How To Prime Drywall
Priming new drywall isn’t a complicated process. There are two main ways to go about priming drywall, brush and roll the new primer on or use an airless sprayer to apply it.
Check out our post on The Best Paint Sprayers For Every Home Painting Project if you want more info about purchasing a sprayer.
Here are some more useful resources to help with your projects:
Spraying New Drywall
If you have a lot of new sheetrock to paint along with new ceilings and flooring isn’t installed yet, then spraying the drywall primer on is the preferred method.
This is typically true of new homes, additions on homes and basement remodels.
I like to use a 515 spray tip in an airless paint sprayer and a 9″ roller frame with a 1/2″ nap roller cover to back roll my walls.
Start out by spraying 2 coats onto the ceiling, one in either direction. For more info on painting ceilings, check out How To Paint High Ceilings.
Next spray a coat of drywall primer onto 10-15 feet of walls. Go back and roll over the area before it dries in order to even out the paint and give it a nice texture.
Brush and Rolling New Drywall
Using a brush and roller to prime new sheetrock is usually reserved only for when you have patches of new sheetrock, single new walls in a room, or one small room with new drywall.
There are really no tricks to priming drywall with a brush and roller. Simply start by cutting in the ceiling. I like to have my brushing come down about 6″ from the ceiling so that when I am rolling out the wall I have plenty of room for the roller to not bump the ceiling.
Finally, roll out the wall. A 9″ roller frame with a 1/2″ nap roller pad is perfect for this task. Want a good painting extension pole to help save time and your body? Check out our post on the Best Painting Extension Poles.
Drywall Primer FAQ
What Is Drywall Primer
Drywall primer is a PVA primer (Polyvinyl Acrylic) that seals the pores in new drywall and creates an even surface for new paint.
Drywall primer allows you to apply fewer topcoats and helps your topcoat look even and true.
How Many Coats of Primer on New Drywall
New drywall only requires one coat of drywall primer. One coat of drywall primer will create a sealed and even surface ready for topcoat.
How Long Does It Take For Primer To Dry
Most drywall primers will be dry to the touch in 30 minutes. Most can be sanded and top coated over after two hours. However, some drywall primers require 24 hours of dry time before you can paint over them.
Can I Tint Drywall Primer
Yes. Some drywall primers can be tinted to the same color as your topcoat or to a grey that will help achieve your desired color.
Check Out These Other Drywall Posts:
- How To Remove Drywall
- How To Hang Drywall
- Drywall Sizes
- Drywall Thickness Explained
- The Many Types of Drywall
- Drywall Nails vs Screws
Need more help? Check out our Drywall Resouce Page for all things drywall.
Tuesday 11th of January 2022
Hi Ryan, If I may, can I offer some updated information on the Zinsser Drywall Primer? It should be noted that this primer is ready to sand or topcoat in one hour. Kilz requires two hours. It can also be top coated with any sheen of paint, making it more versatile than most drywall primers. It is also the same price as the Glidden primer and a dollar less than the Kilz PVA, making it a great value, especially when it’s rated coverage is 400 square feet per gallon.
Saturday 22nd of January 2022
Thanks for the info!
Friday 13th of August 2021
Thank you for the tips! Hope this reaches a lot. I agree that with the use of a primer the drywall will be easier to sand.
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
We also have new drywall and existing walls. Should you use the drywall primer to prime the rest of the areas to be painted? Some have repairs some do not, but all were lightly sanded by my drywaller.
Sunday 25th of April 2021
I always sand sheetrock after it's been primed. I use a Raidus 360 Sanding Tool and 120 grit pads. Never hurts to prime over the previously painted (and patched) areas, I probably would. Good Luck!
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Do you always need to sand the primer?
Saturday 3rd of April 2021
Ours is totally soaking up the first coat and looks bumpy and uneven. Will put a second coat up, but when do we sand? Now and after second coat? I want to get to the fun stuff, paint!! We have Sherwin Williams products, but will move to a less expensive primer next time. Also want to see if we can rent one of those big sanders!
Monday 5th of April 2021
Your primer coat isn't going to feel smooth or even typically and it doesn't have to. All you need to do is make sure it bonded correctly and that you don't have overly light spots or runs. If you do want to do a second coat of primer, go ahead and spray it without sanding the first coat of primer. After you have sprayed the second coat, then sand everything. Good luck!