tips and tricks5 min read

What is primer paint, and how should you use it?

White primer paint being applied to a wall

WordsMaha Elley


Okay, full disclosure - if you're using Lick paint, the likelihood is you just won't need to use primer paint. Essentially, we’ve carefully developed our paint to be ‘self-priming’ - meaning there is no need to buy separate primer paint when decorating your walls, ceilings or other surfaces. Though do note in some cases - like when painting metal or super dark surfaces, or basically when there's doubt about the surface you're painting - it’s better to still use primer. Just check the back of the paint tin for more information!

But if you're using another brand of paint (*judging you*), one of the main tips you’ll get is to prime before you apply the coloured coat, using a high-quality primer paint.

If you’re not quite sure what primer paint even is or why exactly you need it, you’re in the right place. We’ve got the low-down on all things primer.

White primer paint being poured

What is primer paint?

A good place to start - what exactly is primer paint and what does it do? 

Primer paint is a substance applied to surfaces before painting to give the paint something to lock onto. Other than offering a more solid base than a bare wall, it’s been developed to hide surface stains so that the colour is all that shines through. Painting from dark to light? Primer is also very effective at toning down dark colours. 

Yes, priming adds an extra step to the painting process and does take a bit more time.  The good news is that with some paints (such as ours - humble brag) you can skip this step.

If you’re using another brand though, here’s what you need to know:

When to use primer paint

DIY-painters, if you’re feeling tempted to skip the primer, here are some scenarios where priming is more of a must: 

When you’re dealing with porous walls and ceilings. The more porous a surface is, the more likely it is to draw paint into its pores. This leads to an uneven finish; exactly what we don’t want. Don’t skip the primer on surfaces such as bare wood and newly installed drywall, which are known highly porous. 

Primer paint can also beneficial if you’re working with a glossy surface. These tend to be more difficult for paint to lock onto, but a light sandpapering and a coat of primer paint should do the trick to help the paint stick. 

Painting a radiator? Primer paint is crucial to ensuring that any rusty radiator parts are well-protected. It also offers a solid base for the rest of the paint to stick onto. Read our top tips on how to paint a radiator.

Painting from dark to light? Treat the dark surface with two coats of white primer paint to tone it down. 

Dealing with surface stains? Primer paint can cover these right up, making it easier for your beautiful paint job to shine through. You still need to clean your walls before painting though (no getting out of that one). 

(Tip: If you’re painting your walls the same colour as the previous coat, there’s less of a need to prime. At Lick, we’ve worked hard on our paint so you can get the most flawless finish without the need for a primer. However, we still recommend a coat of primer when painting on porous surfaces or if you’re going from very dark to light, or on certain surfaces like wood or metal.)

White primer on paint brush

How to use primer paint

Applying primer paint isn’t a tough task. Here’s the breakdown: 

  • Prep your space by protecting your space. Move furniture out of the way (or out of the room if possible) and cover it with dust sheets. Cover flooring with a canvas sheet. 
  • Inspect your wall for any holes and cracks. Fill these in and sand down once dry. 
  • Deal with peeling plaster or flaky paint with a piece of fine sandpaper. 
  • Sponge down your walls with a soap and warm water mixture. Any grease or grime will lead to the primer paint not sticking as well as it should. Rinse off the soap.
  • Cover any bits you’re not planning to prime with masking tape. 
  • Time to apply the primer paint. Stir the pot and pour your primer into a paint tray
  • The application process is pretty much the same as painting. First, make sure your walls are dry from your mammoth cleaning session earlier. Next, roll or brush your primer on in the same way you would for the colour coat. We’d recommend using a paintbrush for the edges and a roller for the larger centre. 
  • Leave your primer paint to dry before reaching for the coloured coat.

(Tip: When applying primer paint, make sure you’ve covered the area without piling it on too thick. Less is more.)


Still confused about whether to prime or not? The honest truth is - you can’t really go wrong with priming. If you’re starting out on your painting journey or just want to ensure the absolute best finish, prime. Or if in doubt, prime.