Can You Use Latex Paint Over Oil Based Primer?

Many homeowners struggle to find a suitable primer and paint for their projects, whether renovating or moving into a new house. If you’re painting a wooden object, you’ve probably heard about using latex paint and oil-based primer together. But can oil-based paints be used with other paint types? Can you use latex paint over oil based primer?

In general, you can use latex paint over an oil-based primer. It’s even ideal for projects with bare wood, such as furniture. However, the process is tricky. You must take the time to sand and prepare the surface properly before you start painting for the best results. 

In this article, we’ll explain the difference between latex paint and oil-based primer and show you how (and when) using the two together is suitable for your project.

Can You Use Latex Paint Over Oil Based Primer

Can You Use Latex Paint Over Oil-Based Primer?

Latex paints don’t stick to oil-based paints. However, you can use any topcoat paint over an oil-based primer. However, it’s a tricky process. The surface must be fully cured and free of debris or dirt, anything that could prevent you from adding another layer of paint. The paint and primer are also best used together for specific projects.

What is Latex Paint?

Latex paint is a water-based option. Similar to acrylic paint, it’s made using acrylic resin. However, the paint is called latex because it initially included a rubber base. Various forms of rubber were the paint’s resin. Today, a water-soluble base replaces the rubber for general painting projects.

The paint comes in large quantities, so use latex paint when painting large areas. Latex paint is also suitable for painting:

  • Walls and ceilings
  • Furniture
  • Drywall

Latex paint also comes in three main types: acrylic, vinyl-acrylic, and alkyd-modified. The type of paint you buy may depend on your project.

A 100% acrylic option is the highest-performing type of paint because it adheres well and retains excellent, vivid color over time. Vinyl-acrylic is the least expensive, but it’s ideal for walls. The alkyd modified latex paint is perfect for painting exterior objects.

When to Use Oil-Based Primer?

Oil-based primer is a unique paint type that you apply before painting. It’s the base or foundation of your paint, helping create a smooth and even texture. Primer allows the result to last a long time. The paint adheres to your painted object with little worries about flaking or cracking.

Oil-based primers are the most popular type. They’re ideal for interior and exterior projects like:

  • Bare or unfinished wood
  • Varnished wood
  • Severely weathered wood
  • Interior and exterior furniture
  • Walls
  • Moisture-filled rooms like bathrooms

The primer is especially famous for its versatility. It works well with a wide range of surfaces, and it’s compatible with oil and latex paints. These features allow you to use them for many projects around the home.

Contractors choose oil-based primer as their go-to choice for base wood due to the ability to seal porous surfaces well. Woods like cedar or redwood even stop releasing harmful tannins into the atmosphere when you use an oil-based primer.

Oil-based primers also have unique features like stain killers. They’re ideal for dealing with ink, nicotine, and water stains. The primer can slow down paint cracking, peeling, and blistering overtime as well. However, using an oil-based primer requires a surface that’s bare and unfinished.

Another massive benefit to using oil-based primers is that it’s better than other primers at sealing nail heads or covering knots in the bare wood. They penetrate the wood deeper and more thoroughly, making them better for preparing weathered wood for a fresh paint coat.

Reasons You Should Use Latex Paint Over Oil Primer

If you use latex paint over an oil-based primer, you can create some solid and exceptional results. But only with suitable preparation.

The combination is powerful when you work on projects like:

  • Wooden surfaces: Oil-based primers prevent bare wooden surfaces from emitting tannins or bleeding through the latex paint’s surface. Latex paint could make the wood swell, but the primer prevents the surface from expanding if you properly sand it.
  • Unfinished surfaces: Oil-based primers provide a proper seal, allowing the top latex paint layer with better surface coverage.

Using the paint and primer together produces long-lasting and robust results. Latex is excellent for softwood, and oil-based primers also show excellent results with various woods.

Finally, oil primers and paints take longer to dry than other paint types. They also require ventilation for safety, so using a blend of latex and oil can help you reduce the time your project takes to complete without sacrificing durability.

However, you may want to avoid the primer and paint combination for painting large interior surfaces like walls or ceilings. The odor and cleanup process is harsh. Also, avoid using the two for exterior surfaces like siding, as they won’t hold long-term.

How to Paint Over Oil-Based Primer with Latex

Latex paint over oil primer

You can paint over an oil-based primer with latex with the proper preparation. If you apply latex paint over an oil-based primer without preparing the surface first, the paint will not stick properly and likely crack or peel. The two paints have different dry times that cause the paint to expand and contract at varying rates, which causes trouble.

If you fail to use the following steps, the paint will peel off the surface entirely in a few weeks. Follow the instructions carefully.

Step 1: Get Your Workspace Ready

Before you start painting, you’ll want to select your workspace carefully. The materials are dangerous to inhale, so head outside or work in a well-ventilated area. Use proper breathing equipment if needed. Set down a tarp or newspaper to protect your work area.

Step 2: Clean the Surface

Like many other painting projects, you want to begin with a clean surface. Remove any grease, dirt, dust, or contaminants. Clean the surface with soapy water thoroughly. Use a high-quality degreasing pre-paint cleaner if needed for deep cleaning.

If you’re cleaning a large piece of furniture or the exterior of your home, you could use a pressure washer for faster cleaning. Allow the surface to dry before moving to the next step.

Step 3: Sand the Top Layer

Use 100-grit sandpaper to rough up your surface. You can also use an electric sander. Sanding allows the primer to stick to the material, and this step is especially crucial for bare wood. If you’re painting over old oil-based paint, rough the surface with 100-grit sandpaper first. When the gloss is gone, wash the surface and leave it to dry.

After sanding, always remove the dust from the surface with a damp towel. Alternatively, you could rinse the surface with a garden hose or pressure washer for large surfaces. Give the object plenty of time to dry.

Step 4: Apply Primer

Apply your primer next, following the direction on the label. The primer layer allows the latex to bond to the oil.

Step 5: Sand Again

You’ll need to sand over the primer for the best results to allow the latex and oil to mix well. The process is perfect for creating smooth wooden surfaces.

After your primer dries, lightly sand the surface using 180-grit sandpaper. Doing so helps the latex paint adhere to the primer, creating a more accessible bonding surface. Wash away any dust or debris from sanding and allow the area to dry before painting.

Step 6: Paint

Tape off any sections you want to avoid painting. Apply two even layers of latex paint over the primer, leaving between two and four hours for each layer to dry. Use a roller, brush, or airless sprayer of your favorite latex topcoat.

Make sure to select a latex paint that’s appropriate to your project. For example, high-quality exterior paint helps outdoor objects last longer.

Step 7: Seal

You can extend the lifespan of your newly painted object by sealing the paint next. Find a sealer made for latex paint, and apply a thin layer when the paint is dry. A water-based polyacrylic protective finish is excellent for most furniture projects.

Step 8: Dry Time

Although latex paint may dry to the touch in an hour, you cannot add another coat of paint for four hours. Allow no less than 48 hours of dry time before touching or moving your completed project.

You could speed up the dry time by using light coats of paint. Thinner paint coats tend to dry faster. Using a fan, space heater, or hairdryer can also help the paint dry quicker.

Can You Use Water-Based Paint Over Oil-Based Primer?

Using water-based paint over oil-based primer is highly recommended. You can use an oil-based primer with any type of paint. However, the steps you take may differ. Oil-based primer is recommended over any oil topcoat of paint. But you can add a water-based paint as the top coat or sand the primer to apply water-based paint directly on top.

Oil-Based Primer vs. Water-Based Primer: What is the Difference?

The primary difference between oil-based and water-based primers is the paints you pair them with. Water-based primer is great for acrylic and latex paints, while the oil-based primer is typically for enamel paints. However, you can use an oil-based primer and water-based paints with the right preparation.

The reason for the confusion comes down to everyday uses. Water-based primer is better for walls or ceiling, while oil-based is primarily for windows, doors, metal, or woodwork.

Another significant difference between the primers is the toxicity. Oil-based versions have a strong odor and require paint thinner or mineral spirits to break down and clean the primer. Water-based primers are easy to clean with soap and water, and they’re typically less harmful to the environment (and humans).

However, oil-based primers are more reliable for blocking odors, water issues, and stains from nicotine, rust, smoke, wood tannins, and more.

How Long Does Oil-Based Primer Take to Dry?

Painting over oil based primer

Oil-based primer takes no less than 8 hours to dry completely. An entire large room could take around 16 hours of dry time for primer and two layers of latex paint. The dry time is much longer than water-based paints. However, the finish is harder and more durable.

Expect your project to span a couple of days. However, don’t wait too long to apply latex paint to the primer, either. You’ll want to complete the job within two weeks of using an oil-based primer.

Is Oil-Based Primer Safe?

The slow-drying primer emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) harmful to the environment. It also causes damage to people in high concentrations or prolonged exposure. The harsh thinners and solvents you use to clean your tools from oil-based primers are also toxic. However, you can use mineral spirits for cleanup.

On the other hand, latex paint releases fewer harmful fumes as it dries than different paint types. It’s also much better for the environment.

How Can You Tell If Paint Is Latex or Oil-Based?

When painting over a previously painted wall, you must first determine what type of paint you’re painting over. You can prepare for new paint by performing a simple test to determine the finish.

There are two main ways you can tell if your paint is latex or oil-based, including:

  • Checking the paint’s feel. Oil is glossy or smooth, while latex paint is typically matte with a more rubbery-feeling finish.
  • Dip a cotton ball in acetone or denatured alcohol. Dab the wall slightly to test the painted surface. If the paint slightly dissolves, it’s latex or water-based. Oil-based paint should remain unaffected.

The Best Latex Paint

There are many fantastic brands of interior and exterior latex paints. Most have a satin finish and high-quality color.

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Latex Paint

Rust-Oleum 1979502 Painter's Touch Latex Paint, Quart, Gloss Black, 1 QuartRust-Oleum Painters Touch Latex Paint is an acrylic type with a semi-gloss finish. It’s ideal for indoor and outdoor surfaces like wood, metal, masonry, plaster, or unglazed ceramic. The formula is low odor and will last a long time, as it adds extra protection to resist chipping. The quart-size paint can cover up to 120 square feet, and it dries quickly.

The best part about this Rust-Oleum paint is that you can provide a clean, fresh look for surfaces. The paint hides any imperfections. However, you need to sand the surface with 180 or 200-grit sandpaper and wash with a degreaser before applying the paint.

KILZ Interior/Exterior Enamel Paint

KILZ Low-Lustre Enamel Porch & Patio Latex Floor Paint, Interior/Exterior, Silver Gray, 1 GallonKILZ is a well-known name brand for products that help with outdoor projects, like taking care of wood stains or painting fences and barns. This porch and patio floor paint is a flat matte finish covering 200 to 400 square feet of flooring. It also dries in as little as six hours.

As you’d expect from porch and patio paint, KILZ latex floor paint is highly durable and easy to clean. It resists fading, cracking, peeling, scuffing, and water-related issues like mildew. The acrylic paint has a low-luster enamel surface, making it tough against weather conditions.

The Best Oil-Based Primer

KILZ and Rust-Oleum are two of the most famous oil-based primers on the market. The best options are great at preventing and removing stains while keeping the harmful fumes under control for safety purposes.

Rust-Oleum Zinsser Primer and Sealer

Rust-Oleum 3554 Zinsser High Hide Cover Stain Primer and Sealer, White 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)This Rust-Oleum oil-based primer is excellent for converting deep stains and priming or sealing paint. It does it all. The primer is ideal for both interior and exterior use so that the gallon-size paint can last for tons of projects. The primer is best for wood surfaces. However, you can also use it with metal, concrete, and more.

A single can of primer can cover 100 square feet of wood. The finish is flat, and the primer hides dark paint colors and tannins. It’s a high-hiding primer that can penetrate and seal in as little as two hours.

KILZ Stain Blocking Oil-Based Primer

KILZ Original Low VOC Primer, Interior, 1 QuartIf you’re looking for the best oil-based primer to help hide unsightly stains, KILZ is an excellent brand for you. The formula is low in VOCs, so it’s safer than many other oil-based primers on the market. Plus, KILZ blocks a variety of stains on multiple surfaces, such as masonry.

You can even purchase this primer in smaller 32-fluid ounce cans instead of the larger quart-size for smaller projects. It takes an hour to cure fully and covers around a 75 to 100-square-foot area. KILZ even blocks pencil, marker, and ink stains.


Never use an oil-based paint over a latex one, but you can use latex paint over an oil-based primer if you prep the surface carefully. Otherwise, the paint may peel from the primer in a matter of weeks. Latex paint and oil-based primer are an excellent combination for bare wood, especially exterior objects. Sanding the surface and the primer allows for proper adhesion.

Did you find the tips you need to apply latex paint over an oil-based primer? If you found our article helpful, please let us know. Tell us about your painting experiences in the comments, and share the post with your friends and family.