A closeup of primer being tested on dark purple paper

There’s nothing worse than regretting your design choices, especially if you’re stuck with a dark wall colour that you hate. Luckily, you don’t have to live with dark walls forever. If you’re ready to brighten up the room, you can do so with the help of some primer.

Using the right primer on dark walls can help hide them from existence, but it can be hard to tell which ones will do what you want. This article will help you find the best primer for dark walls by covering the following:

Before we get into how to use primer on dark walls, let’s dive into your options for the best primer for painting over dark walls. If you’re also looking to paint your cabinets, check out the best primers for cabinets.

 

8 best primers for painting over dark walls

With the amount of primers on the market, it can be tricky to find the right ones for concealing dark paint. To get you started on your search, here are our recommendations for the best paint primers to cover dark walls.

1. KILZ Original Interior Primer

KILZ Original Interior Primer
(Image credit: Amazon.ca)

Price: $22.59

Size: 946 ml

Coverage: 75-100 sq. ft.

Finish: Flat

Type: Oil-based

Best Feature: Blocks water and smoke stains

A top choice for walls, KILZ Original Interior Primer offers great coverage. Like other KILZ primers, this can be used on a variety of surfaces and helps to block stains. It’s easy to use and fast drying, which is great for first-timers and those on a schedule.

2. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Primer

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 PLUS Primer
Image credit: Amazon.ca

Price: $22.99

Size: 946 ml

Coverage: 300 sq. ft./gal.

Finish: Flat

Type: Water-based

Best Feature: Strong adhesion

If you want a primer that offers great coverage and protection, Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Primer is a great choice. One of the biggest selling points of this primer is that it’s high hiding, meaning it will effectively cover your dark walls. It also has incredible adhesion, blocks various stains, and resists mold and mildew.

3. INSL-X STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer

INSL-X STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer
Image credit: Amazon.ca

Price: $32.99

Size: 946 ml

Coverage: 300-400 sq. ft./gal.

Finish: Semi-gloss

Type: Water-based

Best Feature: Words on hard-to-coat surfaces

INSL-X STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer is another proven choice for tough surfaces. It can be used to cover a variety of surfaces, both interior and exterior, for professional-looking results. It also produces low odour and can be paired with a variety of paints.

4. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover Premium Latex Primer

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover Premium Latex Primer
(Image credit: Amazon.ca)

Price: $23.72

Size: 946 ml

Coverage: 300 sq. ft./gal.

Finish: Flat

Type: Latex

Best Feature: Long-lasting

If you’re focused on achieving long term results, try Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover Premium Latex Primer. This primer will help you achieve a beautiful finish that bonds well and is durable. It can be used on various surfaces and is approved to be sanded whether wet or dry.

5. KILZ 2 All-Purpose Interior/Exterior Primer

KILZ 2 All-Purpose Interior/Exterior Primer
(Image credit: Amazon.ca)

Price: $56.19

Size: 946 ml

Coverage: 75-100 sq. ft.

Finish: Flat

Type: Water-based

Best Feature: Covers old stains and colours

For use on almost any type of wall, opt for KILZ 2 All-Purpose Interior/Exterior Primer. This primer is excellent for sealing multiple surfaces and blocking out stains. It’s specially designed to cover the previous colour and is super adhesive.

6. INSL-X Aqua Lock Plus Primer/Sealer

INSL-X Aqua Lock Plus Primer/Sealer
(Image credit: Amazon.ca)

Price: $44.99

Size: 946 ml

Coverage: 75-100 sq. ft.

Finish: Flat

Type: Water-based

Best Feature: Strong adhesion

INSL-X Aqua Lock Plus Primer/Sealer is a good choice if you’re working with an oil-based or latex paint. It’s specially designed to offer great sealing and coverage on a variety of different surfaces. It blocks stains, is mold resistant, and dries in 30 minutes, allowing you to apply new coats in 1 hour.

7. Zinsser Bondz Maximum Adhesion Primer

Zinsser Bondz Maximum Adhesion Primer
(Image credit: Amazon.ca)

Price: $29.19

Size: 946 ml

Coverage: 300 sq. ft./gal.

Finish: Flat

Type: Water-based

Best Feature: Bonds various topcoats

For those focused on adhesion, choose Zinsser Bondz Maximum Adhesion Primer. This primer does as its name suggests, applying efficiently and bonding to hard, dense surfaces. It can be used with various topcoats, helping you get the new walls you desire.

8. KILZ Restoration Interior Primer

KILZ Restoration Interior Primer
(Image credit: Amazon.ca)

Price: $90.99

Size: 1 gallon

Coverage: 300-400 sq. ft./gal.

Finish: Flat

Type: Water-based

Best Feature: Stain and odour blocking

Also from the KILZ line is KILZ Restoration Interior Primer, which has been designed to tackle the toughest jobs. This primer can be used on a variety of surfaces and is ready to paint over in 1 hour. It’s designed to cover the worst damage, including stains and odours from pets and nicotine.

 

How to pick the right primer for dark walls

There are many quality primers available today, but not all are ideal for priming dark walls. For the best results when painting over dark walls, follow the guidelines below.

How to choose the right primer finish for dark walls

Your primer’s finish can contribute to the final look for your walls, and can even have an effect on how well your paint sticks. These are the most common choices for primer finishes:

  • Clear: Dries clear with no shine or effect on your paint colour.
  • Flat/matte: Solid colour with no shine; will provide a base for the majority of paints.
  • Semi-gloss: Gives off a minimal amount of reflection.
  • Glossy: Super shiny; used to create a super smooth surface and improve the look of approved paints.

How to choose the right primer colour for dark walls

When painting over dark walls, the colour of your primer is really important, as this assists with how well you can cover up the old colour. Here are the colour options available and how well they work for this purpose:

  • Clear: Not ideal for painting dark walls since it doesn’t stop the old paint from showing through.
  • White: Best choice for painting dark walls; provides the lightest base for full coverage, especially if you’re painting with a light colour.
  • Grey: Used for under dark paint colours; not ideal if you want to lighten your walls.
  • Neutral: A variety of shades are available that best match your paint; can help with coverage, but not as well as white.

How to choose the right type of primer for dark walls

The type of primer you use can impact both how well it will work with the surface and how well it will work with your paint. These are the most popular choices for types of primer:

  • Oil-based: Incredibly versatile and stain resistant; works well with enamel paints.
  • Latex: A healthier alternative to oil; can be paired with latex paints on wood, drywall, and other surfaces.
  • Shellac-based: Great for interior projects; often has quick-drying and stain-blocking capabilities.
  • Water-based: Another health-conscious option that is easy to clean; often designed to mimic the above types and works with acrylic and latex paints.

 

Best way to prime dark walls

Picking the right primer is only one part of the task. To successfully paint over dark walls, you need to know what to do with your primer to get the best results. Here are some tips for priming dark walls:

  • Repair any damage – If your walls have any cracks or holes, fill them first. You don’t want this damage to detract from your work, or for your repairs to ruin your work if you wait until after to fix everything.
  • Clean the walls – Use a damp cloth to wipe down your walls. Any dirt or debris left behind can negatively affect your primer and paint.
  • Protect the surrounding area – Use painter’s tape and drop cloths or sheets to protect your trim, floors, etc. You’ll work better if you’re focused on the task at hand and not only avoiding your surroundings.
  • Sand the surface – Use sandpaper to smooth out the surface, but be sure to provide a buffer for your primer. This will help your primer to stick best to your walls.
  • Use a white primer – White primer is the best choice for covering dark walls, as it provides a base for your new paint colour, especially if your new colour is light.
  • Roll using the M technique – When applying your primer, roll up and down in an M motion. This will give you an even, line-free coverage.
  • Lay it on thick – Don’t be afraid to use more when applying primer. Using too little will make it more difficult to cover the old colour.
  • Smooth it out – Use a foam brush or foam roller to blend any drips or splatters into the rest of the primer. This will keep the surface smooth and not ruin your work.
  • Apply 2 or more coats – If the old colour continues to show through your primer, apply a second coat or more until it can no longer be seen. This will help you be certain that it will not affect your new paint colour.
  • Sand between coats – To ensure you get the smoothest finish, take time to sand between coats of primer and paint. This will help you remove imperfections and even everything out.

 

Top 6 mistakes to avoid while painting dark walls

With a job like this, it’s easy to make a lot of mistakes, especially when it’s your first time painting. These are the most common mistakes that people tend to make when painting over dark walls.

1. Not cleaning the walls

This step is always tempting to skip, but your walls are dirtier than they appear. Not cleaning them before you begin priming or painting can cause dirt and debris to appear in your finished work, and prevent you from achieving smooth coverage.

2. Not sanding the walls

Sanding is another step that many want to skip and come to regret it later. Sanding is super important for smoothing the surface and creating a buffer for your primer and paint to stick to. It’s also really helpful to sand between coats so you can get flawless results.

3. Not using primer

For those thinking about painting over dark colors without primer, you might want to think again. Pairing a primer with your paint is the only way to properly cover the old colour and keep it from showing through your work. Primer is also crucial for increasing your paint’s durability.

A closeup of a can of primer in use

4. Using the wrong primer

Another mistake when it comes to primer is assuming you can use anything available. This is where many people run into issues, as different types, finish, and colours can cause you to end up with unfavorable results. It’s also important to make sure your primer is stain-blocking, as walls are one of the most vulnerable surfaces in your home.

5. Painting over a glossy primer

If you end up going with a primer with some gloss, you need to make sure your paint is compatible with it. Most paints will refuse to stick to glossy primers, meaning you’ll end up with a very poor finish. Make sure your paint is compatible with your glossy primer, or opt for a flat primer that will let you use whatever paint you want.

6. Not giving yourself enough time

Painting over dark walls is supposed to be a lengthy process. Rushing any part of the process, especially not letting each of your coats dry, can cause damage to your work. Make sure to plan so you have enough time to properly complete your project.

 

Now that you know everything about selecting and using the best paint primer for dark colors, it’s time to get started on your project. If you think you’d like to hire a professional instead, the City Painters are here to help. Contact us here or give us a call for a free quote.

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