Paint and Primer In One: Does It Work?

Over the past couple years virtually every paint company has come out with a 2 in 1 paint and primer product. The idea of successfully skipping the obligatory priming step before painting certainly seems like a dream come true, but contradictory online reviews of all in one products tend to raise more questions than they answer. To save you from endless hours of scouring through opposing opinions, I’ve done some research that will help you cut through the clutter regarding when Paint and Primer In One products work and when you’re better off using a traditional primer and paint.


popular 2 in 1 paint and primer brands
Popular Paint and Primer in One Products: Benjamin Moore Aura, Valspar Signature Colors, Behr Premium Plus Ultra, EasyCare Platinum


When To Use Paint and Primer In One


All in one paint and primer products work best when you are painting over a surface that is already painted. This is because the effectiveness of all in one paint and primer likely falls somewhere in between the traditional two-step process of priming then painting and simply skipping the primer all together.

When advising clients about painting, Realtors Dede and Jens Persson of Sibcy Cline Realtors like to remind homeowners of the purpose of primer as a step towards selecting the right product. “Primer is formulated to work with the topcoat of paint to promote better adherence to the wall. This is important if you are changing the sheen from a slick semi-gloss to flat, or wanting to cover oil-based paint with latex.”

If you are covering an already painted wall with the same type and finish of paint in a similar shade, you may be able to get away with avoiding the primer altogether. In these situations, Paint and Primer In One may help you get better results in just one coat. Paint/primer combo products may also allow you to get effective coverage over a wider variety of shades of existing paint. 

Based on a personal test of the product, blogger AnNicole Faeth of Our Suburban Cottage posted a positive review of Behr Paint Plus Primer that was seconded by many of the blog’s followers who also tried it on their own interior paint projects. These homeowners found the Behr Plus product to be thicker and more likely to cover the existing surface with just one coat.

A Consumer Reports test of the Valspar Signature Colors (sold at Lowe’s) and Behr Premium Plus Ultra (sold at Home Depot) concluded that two coats of the all-in-one paint and primer products is needed to cover extremely dark colors (Consumer Reports tested red paint on top of black and gray stripes). On a positive note, Consumer reports found that the two in one paint and primer products had better coverage than two coats of a cheaper paint (also Valspar and Behr) applied over a traditional primer.

In conclusion, all in one paint and primer products seem to work quite well for painting on top of already painted surfaces, providing better coverage in one coat and a bit more leeway in covering surfaces of varying shades of color. When painting over dark surfaces, compare the cost of using primer and a high quality paint versus two coats of a two in one paint/primer. According to the Perssons “primer is usually about half the cost of paint, gallon for gallon” and in many cases may be more cost effective than having to apply two coats of an all in one paint. 


When To Use Traditional Primers and Paints


Skip the 2 in 1 products when changing the paint type (including changes in sheen) or painting over a surface that has never been painted before. In these applications, traditional primer will do a better job of preparing the existing surface for the paint to effectively adhere. This is one area where the opinion of contractors and professional painters is decidedly against so-called self-priming paint.

Dave Tingle, owner of Tingle Painting, knows that 2 in 1 paint plus primer can work in certain situations. “I have used one of the all-in-one products on exterior wood trim and it worked really well. The trim was already painted.” However, he cautions that all in one paint and primer doesn’t work as a one for all blanket solution. “If you are working on a new surface such as new drywall or new wood, I would suggest using a good quality primer first.” Because paint tends to be absorbed quickly by new drywall, primer will not only create better adhesion, but will also save you from wasting paint (and money and time) on extra coats. For best results, use primer and paint of the same brand.

The Bottom Line


Paint and primer combination products do work, but not as effectively as traditional primer and paint. Use Paint and Primer In One products when freshening up existing interior spaces with simple color changes. All in one paint/primer is more likely to cover in just one coat compared to traditional paint. However, stick to the two-step process of priming then painting when changing the sheen of the wall, changing from oil-based paint to latex or acrylic paint, covering extremely dark walls or when painting a brand new, unpainted surface.


This post was written by Katie.

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16 comments:

  1. thanks for this post! i want to paint my kitchen cabinets (currently oak, varnished). i contacted a few painters for estimates. the painter with most affordable bid said he would use the 2 in 1 and spray them. i used to paint professionally in college, back then 2 in 1 either wasn't around or was in it's infancy.
    based on your post it seems like 2 in 1 might not be the best option for the surface (they will be sanded, so closer to 'new wood'). i got the impression that he has used this material for similar jobs, if based on his experience he assures me it is a good choice, should i for it?

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    1. I personally just used the Home Depot product, and I must say that it is the WORST paint I have ever used. It pulled at the brush, it was not self-leveling, it did not sand well, and worst of all, it did not even come close to covering in one coat. On the furniture I was refinishing, I had MUCH better luck with Stixx followed by paint - MUCH! I cannot emphasize that enough. On the walls, I was covering a medium blue with a yellow: it took THREE coats. Never again. This product is all hyped up, but all it did for me was waste money and time.

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  2. Great question, Anna! Re-finishing existing surfaces is in fact the biggest gray area when it comes to deciding whether 2 in 1 paint is an effective option. Since your cabinets are varnished oak and have therefore never been primed or painted, I would err on the side of caution and use separate primer and paint to assure strong adhesion of the paint finish.

    If the contractor assures you based on his experience that a 2 in 1 paint and primer will do the job, consider asking him to back up that claim by providing a longer guarantee for the work. Also ask for references of past clients who went with a 2 in 1 product when re-finishing their varnished wood cabinets. It's important to know whether the 2 in 1 finish stood up well beyond the duration of the contractor's involvement.

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  3. I have painted the inside of two houses and never used a primer. Just good quality paint and it always comes out fine. Don't be misled. Use you own judgement when painting. If you are trying to go from dark to light then you most likely need a primer. If not........

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    1. Primer $5/Gal.
      Paint $30+/Gal.
      Contractor Prices



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  4. will this work on wallpaper? i live in a trailer so i have it everywhere.

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    1. Great question!!! Whenever possible it is better to remove wallpaper before painting the walls in order to have a better looking and more durable paint finish. But, if you can't remove the wallpaper without damaging the wall beneath (which may be the case in your trailer) then you can paint directly over the wallpaper. I do not recommend using a paint and primer in one product, however. This is because most all in one paint plus primer products are water-based paint (also known as latex paint) and most experts recommend using an oil-based primer if painting over wallpaper. This is because the water in latex primers can loosen the wallpaper's adhesion to the wall ... and nothing looks worse than painted wallpaper that is coming off the walls!

      Benjamin Moore also has some nice tips for getting good results when painting wallpaper: http://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/for-your-home/painting-over-wallpaper

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  5. My painter used 2 coats of 1/2 paint and 1/2 primer that he mixed himself. It is the worst paint job I've ever had. the walls mark with even the slightest touches.

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  6. This paint is the worst I had ever used,I have to sand my walls because it runs like water. I'am surprised there no recall,

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    1. This new paint and primer is by far the worse paint I have ever used. My rollers leave trails that have to be sanded between coats. I have used the same rollers with ordinary paint and never had a problem till now. I will be going to ACE to get my next paint. Behr and Valspar are going to lose big with these products.

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  7. Don't ever let any painter use paint and primer in one in any new walls,because you will be able to see all the spackle joints' specialy if you have direct sun light coming in the room. Most painters just want to avoid te extra step of priming it. Beware specially when you paint new wallls that never have been painted

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  8. My 2¢: Painted a white wall red using Glidden w/ primer. Took 6 coats to look almost acceptable.

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  9. I'm going to play it safe and buy primer. One of the things that sold me was that primer is less expensive than painting several coats of paint. Plus, I'm getting ready to paint over mold resistant sheet rock. I want the finished product to look good so I'm not cutting any corners. Primer first!

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  10. I cleaned and prepped the walls, took down all the pictures, mirrors, and filled in the holes with joint compound. I then used Behr primer and paint mix and when it dried I could see every spot I had fixed. I tried a second coat on one area after it dried I could still see the spots I had repaired. So now I am going to prime the walls and hopefully that will work. Alot of wasted time and paint.

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  11. Its great Anonymous I can spend less time for painting a wall. Thanks for sharing :)

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