10 Best Oil Based Primer- Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Image of surface prepared with the best oil based primer

Best oil based primer does so well when it comes to improving the quality of the topcoat. Wood paints, for example, needs to adhere to the surface on which they are applied, and using an oil based primer is the sure way of ensuring that.

Acquiring the right primer is key to getting the best out of your painting projects. However, not everyone gets it right when it comes to selecting the right primers for different woodworking projects. In an attempt to ensure that you get it right with your selection of oil-based primers, we have reviewed the best priming projects you can find in the market today.

Our list of best oil-based primers includes:

1. Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain- High Hiding Formula

Zinsser 03504 is arguably the best oil primer you can find in the market today. It has one of the most amazing sheens that will reflect on your wooden surfaces giving them brilliant shine and luster.

If you are looking to conceal stains and marks that might be present on your wood, then this is your product- thanks to its high hiding formula. Zinsser is an exterior wood sealer; it also blocks the bleeds from cedar and redwood.

This primer is available in a container of ¼ gallons and in a white color that makes it suitable for application on all surfaces without necessarily having to sand. Furthermore, this formula only needs one hour to dry.

NOTE: Ensure that you apply this product in a properly ventilated room because it can irritate the eye.

The Summary of Top Features

  • It’s an oil-based stain killing primer/sealer
  • This formula gives your wooden products an extra shine
  • It’s a high-hiding formula that blocks stains, seals smoke, nicotine and water stains
  • This product does well on new wood construction, remodeling or repainting woodwork as well as the priming in small tasks
  • It has a faster drying time


  • Gives extra shine to your wooden surface
  • Dries faster
  • Hides stains
  • It works perfectly on all surfaces.


  • Causes skin irritation
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2. Kilz 10902 – Multi-Surface Oil-Based Primer

Its versatility allows us to list it as the best oil based primer. You can use this product on almost all surfaces such as drywall, plaster, wood, painted metal, wallpaper, and masonry.

This formula gives your wood surface, for example, excellent adhesive properties and spread out nice and smoothly in the process. 

If you go shopping, you will find this formula available in ¼ gallons with an impressive coverage range of 300 – 400-square feet area with the 1-gallon pack. This formula can hide severe stains from smoke, nicotine water, marker pens, etc. It’s drying time is even more impressive as it takes only 30 minutes to dry out.

The sad thing about this formula is that it has Volatile Organic Compounds, what does this imply? Well, it means that this formula will emit some toxic odor that can spark different adverse health reactions from different individuals, especially the ones with underlying health conditions like asthma.

It’s a bit dull for those looking for high shine on a primer, and it’s not so good for the external environment.

The Summary of Top Features

  • Faster dry time
  • It comes with an impressive area of coverage
  • You can use it on a variety of surface
  • Comes with an excellent adhesion


  • It covers most types of stains and odors
  • It’s a versatile formula
  • This formula applies smoothly to most indoor surfaces
  • It takes about 30 minutes to dry to touch
  • One gallon can cover up to 300 square feet


  • Contains Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Not for outdoor usage
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3. Diamond Brite Paint 31900 1-Gallon Oil Base Primer, Grey- Rust Prevention Option

If you are with big surfaces that you are looking to prime, then this product has a 5-gallon option as well. It performs at an industrial level and you can use this formula on both interior and exterior surfaces.

This formula works best for metals surfaces, steel, doors, tanks, trim, handrails, and so much more. You can choose different methods when it comes to applications like using roller paint, spray, or brushing. It comes with high levels of rust prevention. 

Much as it is an effective product, it takes between 6-8 hours for it to dry. It is a highly combustible meaning you have to apply it in a safer environment- away from fire sources.

The Summary of Top Features

  • This formula seals and ready the surfaces for oil enamel paint
  • It comes with excellent RUST protection when used alongside oil-based paint
  • For both Interior/Exterior surfaces
  • You can apply by brushing, rolling or spraying


  • It’s available in large quantities. 
  • It works well for both interior and exterior applications
  • An effective formula when it comes to fighting rust


  • Takes 6 – 8 hours to dry which is a little longer
  • It’s highly combustible 
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4. KILZ Odorless Interior Oil-Base Primer/Sealer/Stainblocker, White, 1-Quart 

It’s refreshing to work with this formula because it is odorless, a quality that makes it one of the best oil based primers in the market today. 

Also, it gives an actual value for money because other than its performance qualities; you get relatively extensive coverage of up to 300-square feet per each gallon bottle. It removes stains and prevents the growth of molds on the surface of a wooden structure or the wall. 

Much as it does not come with so much shine, the primers give your wooden structures a desirable look even as you prepare them for the final finish.

Note: We do not recommend this formula for mildew or mold-prone surfaces. Also, it’s not so great.

The Summary of Top Features

  • It’s an ultra-low odor primer, sealer as well as stain blocker with no lingering smells common to other oil-based paints.
  • It can block water, smoke, ink, marker pens as well as grease.
  • You can use this formula on many well prepared interior surfaces like metals, bricks, drywall, wood panelings, plaster, and wood.
  • This formula, KILZ Odorless, provides an excellent base coat to oil-based or latex paint. 
  • It’s perfect for interior spaces like offices, schools, apartments with coverage of roughly 300 square feet per gallon.


  • The primer is odorless
  • It has excellent coverage of 300-square feet
  • The formula prevents the growth of mold
  • It works well on several surfaces.


  • It’s a bit dull
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5. Rust-Oleum 272479 Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, White- All Purpose Primer

Nothing beats Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Spray Primer when it comes to an all-purpose as well as high levels of performance on both the interior and exterior surfaces. If you are looking for a primer to use on residential, commercial, and industrial purposes, then this is all that you need. Furthermore, it offers up to 20% greater coverage with a longer lifespan and top quality to your top finishes.

You can use this formula on new or originally painted surfaces such as concrete, drywall, metals as well as wood. Its oil-based nature allows for uniform sealing providing a smooth white finish. 

Furthermore, the formula can block imperfections on your surfaces in just a single coat. It will stick to surfaces without having to do the sanding before application necessarily.

This formula comes with an impressive coverage of 12 square feet for its price and requires only 30 minutes to dry to touch.

Its impeccable ability to block stains allows it to be used on any oil or Latex topcoat. Overall, this primer is excellent on latex paint compared to over oil-based paint.

The Summary of Top Features

  • You can use it on interior/exterior surface of a new or originally painted surface
  • It’s an oil based formula with a smooth uniform finish even without pre sanding of the surface
  • The formula takes 30 minutes to dry to touch and has a coverage of to 12 sq ft
  • It provides incredible stain-blocking qualities 


  • It’s great for both indoor and outdoor usage
  • The formula is versatile
  • Does not necessarily require sanding to stick to surfaces
  • Easy spray application
  • Faster dry time of 30 minutes


  • Less coverage of 12 square feet

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6. INSL-X PS800009A-01 Prime Lock Plus Alkyd Primer, 1 Gallon, White

For those in need of oil-based primers that can stick perfectly to glossy surfaces, then using the INSL-X Prime Lock Plus Alkyd primer will provide just that. Much as many might find it a little pricey, this formula is an effective one. 

It takes a short time to dry; following its application, you can add the top layer after only one hour. You would need a few coats to get similar coverages provided by other primers; therefore, it’s faster-drying feature acts as a valuable time-saver.

With a couple of topcoats, this primer does so well in the blocking of different kinds of stains. The coverage is excellent for the price making it worth your money. 

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula dries faster
  • It’s a multi-purpose Alkyd-based coating with both priming and sealing qualities
  • Hides stains from water, pens, smoke damage, etc
  • It comes with superior adhesion to glossy surfaces
  • The formula takes about one hour to be ready for recoat 
  • Has excellent coverage range of about 300 – 350 square feet per gallon
  • Best for application above 45 °F (7.2 °C)

Note: Avoid using this primer if the temperature is within 5 degrees of the dew point


  • The formula adheres to glossy surfaces
  • It has stain blocking features
  • This product dries faster with recoat in one hour.


  • It needs multiple coats.
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7. Diamond Brite Paint 31900 1-Gallon Oil Base Industrial Primer paint Grey

This formula is one of the top-performing primers that come at affordable prices. It’s available in large volumes like five gallons, which makes it suitable in projects of any kind. The application of this formula is a versatile one as you can use a painting brush, roller, or even choose to spray it. Another great thing about this formula is the coverage, which is up to 300 square feet per gallon.

The formula comes with a slightly longer dry time of 6-8 hours.

It is not great when it comes to durability; this finish tends to lose its glossy sheen in a couple of months. It can flake and peel on the slightest touch, which is not an impressive quality.

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula seals and ready surfaces for paint
  • It comes with excellent RUST protection mainly if you use it with oil-based paint
  • For Interior/Exterior surfaces
  • It works well on steel, piping, tanks, doors, trim, etc.
  • You can brush, roll or spray it


  • It’s affordable
  • Has multiple application methods
  • For both indoor and outdoor usage


  • It flakes and peels on a slight scratch
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8. Rust-Oleum Zinsser Odorless Primer & Stain Blocker

It’s the best oil-based primer for its price as well as coverage. Working with this formula is great because it releases no Volatile Organic Compounds into the environment. 

The Rust-Oleum Zinsser Odorless Primer and Stain block come with a relatively low area of coverage with just about 100 square feet for a gallon. Even so, this formula offers desirable stain-blocking features that help hide the imperfection in only a single application.

The fact that it has a very low VOC formula is excellent for the environment. It might not be entirely true that this formula is odorless; the odor is not much, but you can notice it in the process, and it is almost insignificant.

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula is best for interior use on surfaces like wood, plaster, drywall, concrete, etc.
  • It works well for both commercial and residential use because it has low-VOC 
  • Needs just about 30 minutes to dry to touch
  • It has an area of coverage of up to 100 sq ft
  • The formula dries into a flat, bright white finish that does not yellow over time


  • It’s an affordable formula
  • Has low Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Faster drying


  • Small coverage
  • Not entirely odorless
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9. True Value HP208-QT Premium Weatherall Exterior Oil Based Primer, 1-Quart- Perfect for Outdoor

True Value HP208-QT Exterior Oil Based Primer is the best oil based primer if you are looking to prepare your outdoor wood for painting. Considering how harsh external conditions are, this product has features to withstand all the damaging exterior factors. With this formula, you don’t have to worry about external factors like exposure to sunlight because it covers your wooden surfaces for such.

It is excellent when you are looking to set your raw basement floors ready for painting. Usually, the basement is damp and dirty; even so, these conditions are not too much for this primer. This formula plays an essential role in ensuring the consistency of the color of the paint.  

It’s an affordable primer for its qualities and will fit so well into everyone’s budget. 

The Summary of Top Features

  • It offers the topcoat an excellent color consistency
  • This formula is easy to clean 
  • It has 100% acrylic latex formula
  • The formula is Oil-based 
  • It does an excellent job on the 


  • It’s waterproof
  • Offers lasting protection to areas that are dump like basements and can always receive rigorously activities


  • It’s a bit pricey

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10. Rust-Oleum 7582838 Professional Primer Spray Paint, 15 oz, Gray Primer

Looking for an affordable yet reliable spray primer? This formula is a professional grade primer even though it’s coverage is a small one. It is not very great for large projects just on coverage merits but quality-wise, it is arguably the best oil-based primer with spray features. 

One impressive feature of this formula is the fast drying property. We have it last on our list because other than its small area of coverage, it’s not sandable after application unless you want your surface to peel. 

The Summary of Top features

  • It’s perfect for a variety of surfaces like non-ferrous metal, concrete, wood, masonry, etc.
  • The formula provides rust protection finish
  • It is high quality and durable oil-based formula that maintains color consistency with twice the protection of paint
  • Has coverage of up to 14 sq ft, 
  • It takes only 15 minutes to dry to touch and gets ready for topcoat application almost immediately
  • It’s a commercial and industrial grade primer
  • Comes with excellent adhesion


  • Easy application
  • Rust protection


  • Not sandable
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Best Oil Based Primer Buyer’s Guide

Here are some of the factors that you need to consider to ensure that you get the very best priming products in the market. 

  • Oil-Based vs. Water-Based

Oil-based primers are a little expensive and offer a more robust finish compared to other primers in the market. They take a little longer to dry, and one feature that puts oil-based primers in a better place compared to others is because they are more durable.

Water-based primers take a short time to dry and contain less toxic compounds, unlike their oil-based counterparts. Therefore, most of the oil-based primers are safe for the environment and comes with ease of cleaning-usually water and soap.

  • Quantity

You need to get it right with the quantity of primer that you get for your projects. Poor approximation may lead to you acquiring more or less than you need for your project. It might prove costly in the end.

  • Interior Vs. Exterior Environment

Do you need a primer for interior or exterior use? You should ask yourself that question. Mostly, you can use exterior primers on interior surfaces provided you apply in a well-ventilated room. Interior primers, on the other hand, are poor on the external environments and must stick to their designated uses.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does wood primer take to dry?

It takes averagely a range of 1-4 hours for an exterior wood primer to dry. However, it all depends on many factors like the prevailing weather conditions and the type of primer you are using. Water-based primers, for example, are fast drying and would take as low as 30 minutes to dry.

Can I use any type of primer with any kind of paint?

No, although most types of primers will work with most types of paint. To be sure, consult the labels of both your paint can and your primer can. If your paint is oil-based, make sure your primer is compatible with oil paints, etc.

What brushes should you use for primer?

Synthetic brushes give the best results for priming from our experience. However, you can use the standard brush in your applications.

How many coats of primer should you use?

This question will vary and is majorly dependent on the type of primer that you are using. Some primers get the job done in one coat only, yet others would call for multiple layers to get the best finish ready for the final or topcoat.


Primers are an essential part of woodworking projects, especially if you are looking to prepare your surface for painting. The most important thing, however, is that you get the best priming product in the market to get the best out of your projects.

We understand that it might not be easy to land the best oil-based primers specifically for most people and that we have written this comprehensive review as well as the buyer’s guide to help you with the decision making. Our number one oil-based primer is Zinsser 03504 Cover StainFeel free to choose any product on our list as they are the very best in the market. Also, feel free to ask any questions regarding primers, and we will get back to you with the best answers possible. Happy shopping! 

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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