We've talked about WHY you should prime, we've talked about WHEN you should prime, and we've talked about WHICH primer you should choose....but HOW should you apply it??
This comes down to your comfort and personal preferences....and also a little dependent on the piece of furniture you are tackling. To apply primer, you've got three main options and each have pros. Let's break 'em down....
-Brush: With a shellac or oil based primer, you typically want to grab a cheapo brush because getting the product out of the bristles is such a pain in the butt that you'll likely just toss the brush in the trash. Not the case here! Because Wise Owl Primer is a water based product, it washes out of brushes beautifully. (Just be sure to wash it as soon as you are done working...it dries fast and insanely tough so its not gonna budge if you wait too long!). I prefer a synthetic brush for primer, specifically my good old Cling Ons. The brush you choose will be determined by your project. If you are priming something with lots of curves, spindles, or details, pick a round brush. If your project is mostly flat areas like a large dresser, go with a flat brush. And if you've got a combo, or you only want to get one brush for all projects...get an oval, its the best of both worlds. When brushing on primer, be sure your brush is DRY first! With our chalk style paint, we recommend using a damp brush...but that is not the case here. Watering down your primer with a damp brush can effect its durability, adhesion, and stain blocking abilities...so stick with a dry brush for best results.
-Roller: For primer, I personally prefer a 4" high density foam roller. It provides nice light coats, even distribution, and little bubbling. If you do experience some bubbles or inconsistencies, lightly drag a brush over your freshly rolled primer and it'll even things out and pop any possible bubbles. I aim to apply long even strips of primer running the length of my piece. Working in 4" sections, roll from one end of the area to the other, and then back over again once or twice. Anything more than that isn't usually necessary and can actually start pulling your previous coat back up. The primer dries really fast, so its best to apply it and then step back and let it do its job!
-Sprayer: Yup, you can spray this primer too! For most sprayers, it doesn't even need to be diluted. If for some reason, you are finding that its too thick for your sprayer, it can be diluted, but no more than 10%. Adding too much water to it can drastically reduce its durability, adhesion, and blocking powers....so leave it as is for best results! Be sure to allow 4-6 hours between coats. This can be hard if you are spraying because it will likely dry a bit faster. But if you are using the primer for stain block purposes, its best to follow the recoat times to let it do its job to the fullest!
Can you use a foam brush? Sure, but get the higher quality ones because the super cheap foam brushes tend to fall apart and that's a bummer in the middle of a big job. Even with a quality foam brush, I still prefer my Cling Ons....I feel that they work better with the self leveling properties of the primer.
Can you use your old throw away brushes? Absolutely...but you'll probably want to give your primer a quick sanding to get rid of all the brush marks. And who really wants more steps? Just use a good brush and you'll save yourself a ton of time!
Can you just pour the primer on the furniture and hope for the best? No, no you can't. 😆
Whichever approach you choose, be sure to STIRRRRRR the primer really well! Make sure its fully incorporated to get the best results. Apply two coats for full coverage, and allow them to dry 4-6 hours in between. If you are worried about bleed thru, its also super important to wait 24 hours AFTER you are finished painting before you top coat! You don't want your varnish reactivating everything and having those tannins jump up and ruin your day.
Oh and one more quick tip....if you are experiencing tannin bleed thru, don't be alarmed if your primer turns yellow. Give it 6 hours to dry and then apply a second coat. Often times, the second coat will turn yellow as well, but then when it fully dries it will be amazing at blocking in further stains. So just because the primer looks like tannins have made their way through to the surface, doesn't mean its not doing its job. If you are in doubt, paint a small test area and see how it holds up. I've seen a few projects require 3 coats of primer, but its really rare!
I think that just about wraps up our little tour of primer. You've learned the how, why, when, and what....now its time to get your hands dirty! (Just be sure to wash them right away...primer likes to stick around!...extra side note, if you do let the primer dry on your skin, massage it with a little olive oil and it'll come right off) Is there anything we missed? Any questions about primer that weren't covered? Let me know!!
(This post contains a few Amazon affiliate links (for the sprayer and the rollers). When you make purchases through these links, you don't pay any extra, but I get a small kickback for the referral and that helps keep this lil website afloat! Thank you so much for supporting a small business!)
If you've been around here for any length of time, you've likely heard me preach about prep work. For me, its an absolute non-negotiable. I've talked to y'all at length about stripping old paint, sanding, cleaning (you KNOW I don't believe in painting over cobwebs...yuuuuuuuck).....but what about priming? Do you know when and why you should prime? A few days ago I broke down the different color options in Wise Owl primer...but how do you know you even need it and what does it do?
Primer is used for two main reasons: Stain blocking & adhesion. There are plenty of products on the market that can help with one or the other, but finding one product that does both AND is low VOCs and water based? Sign me up! But first, let's break things down and decide if you NEED primer...
*Wise Owl Primer*
-Stain Blocking: There are actually quite a few stains that can creep up through your paint and cause you all sorts of trouble, but the most frustrating can be tannins. Tannins are a substance derived from the acids inside plants. They serve all sorts of benefits in nature (particularly in fruit trees...if you bite into unripened fruit and get that pucker face, dry tongue, and acidic flavor, that's the tannins doing their job to deter you from eating the fruit before its ripe), they have been used for generations to tan animal hides, provide astringents needed in medicine, and even play a large roll in that glass of red wine you might be sipping (they leach out from the wooden barrels the wine is stored in and play a huge part in the flavoring and chemical breakdown of your fav cabernet). They also are used in many dyes and tints. Have you ever seen a body of water surrounded by mangrove trees? Chances are, that water has a brown tint, similar to tea....that's because tree roots are essentially steeping in the water, leaching tannins out of the bark, changing the color of the water. This is essential for plant life...but can be an absolute headache when painting furniture. When painting, particularly with water based products, tannins can bleed through your finishes and cause staining that is far from attractive. Sometimes, the tannins show up right away, but other times, they don’t appear until you add your last coat of varnish, or even worse, a few months later. This is particularly common in cherry, mahogany, and deeply tinted woods...those tannins show up in the form of ugly yellow streaks in your painting surface. Using a high quality, stain blocking primer can save HOURS of work by locking in all those tannins, stains, oils, and discolorations before you apply that first coat of paint. For optimal stain blocking abilities, apply TWO coats, and allow 4-6 hours to dry in between. After you’ve painted, be sure to wait 24 hours before adding a top coat!! When using a water based varnish, you can actually reactivate your water based paint, and reopen the pore space, allowing room for those tannins to leak back through. Waiting a solid day will give your paint enough time to begin the curing process and will help lock those tannins in beneath the primer.
-Adhesion: If you are painting an old, dry, rough antique...you’ll likely have zero issues with your paint sticking to the surface. (Wise Owl Chalk Synthesis Paint is super porous so its going to stick to most surfaces with ease! If you are using the One Hour Enamel...its best to prime first! It’s incredibly tough, but not quite as adhesive as the chalk line, so primer helps a ton!) But what if your piece has a lacquered finish? What if it’s laminate, glass, ceramic, or even metal? Some surfaces are just too slick for paint to grip on to. You can give it a go with some sand paper to rough up the surface and give your piece a little tooth, but lots of times that isn’t an option. If your piece has lots of intricate details...the idea of somehow sanding them can be super daunting. For lots of projects, you can skip the heavy sanding and instead give it one quick scuff up and then prime instead. The primer will stick to just about all surfaces. (Be sure the surface is clean though!! Kitchen cabinets that have 10 years of bacon grease coated on them? Ain’t nothin gonna stick to that!) Do 2 coats of primer, with 4 hours of dry time in between, and you’re ready to paint! If a surface is super slick, I let the primer dry overnight to get the best possible adhesion before I jump into painting.
If in doubt….prime!! The primer is water based, low VOCs, washes out of brushes easily (wash as soon as you are done priming though! It dries incredibly tough!), and goes on just as easily as paint. It’s far better to prime when you don’t HAVE to than to skip priming and regret it later. If you are contemplating priming for adhesion issues, but you aren’t 100% sure you need to….paint a little 2”x2” section, let it dry for an hour, and then give it a little scratch with your finger nail. Does the paint peel off or scratch right up? You need to prime! (If it just leaves a white chalky scratch mark, you are totally fine! Go ahead and paint!)
Keep in mind...these are just the two most common reasons you’ll need primer. The list is longer though, and each project is different! Have a dresser that smells like years of cigarette smoking? Prime that baby and lock that stink in. Painting a dark oak table bright white?? Prime and save yourself coats and coats of paint! And as always, if you have any questions or you have a project that is stumping you….reach out! I’m always happy to do consultations to discuss your project and figure out the best plan of attack. These consults are always free of charge and customized to your particular project. Get one on one help choosing your prep steps, the perfect color combination, and the appropriate top coat, so you’re piece ends up exactly as you hoped!
Too long, didn't read? (Yeah, I see you! 😆) :
*Painting mahogany or cherry wood and using a light color: PRIME
*Painting slick surfaces: PRIME
*Painting something stinky: PRIME
*Not sure that your paint will adhere and you are on the fence about using primer: TEST IT (paint a 2x2" square and scratch it an hour later...if it scratches, you need to prep more!)
Which primer should I use?!?!?!
Wise Owl Primer comes in three options: Clear, White, and Gray. So which should you pick? The different colors will provide different benefits in different situations. So let's break them down one at a time, shall we??
Clear: If you plan to paint a piece and then distress areas back down to the wood, but you still need help with adhesion or stain blocking....then clear primer is for you! The clear primer will lock in tannins and give you a great, grippy surface to paint on...while also allowing you to distress back down to the bare wood without having your primer peak through. It will also be your go-to if you are starting from a dark shade and painting to another dark shade. You don't want to prime those dark wood cabinets with bright white primer before painting them black. Instead, prime them with clear primer and you won't have to jump shades....and that means you'll use LESS paint!
White: If you are painting white, cream, or beige...white primer is your best friend. Trust me. If you plan to take a dark piece of furniture and paint it white, using a coat or two of white primer will cut the amount of paint you'll need in half. No joke. Its also got incredible stain blocking abilities which are super important when painting light colors. If you've got mahogany, cherry, or cedar...those tannins can creep through your paint and cause all sorts of headaches. The white primer will not only lighten your base shade, resulting in less coats of paint, but will also block in all potential stains and bleeds, giving you a flawless finish.
Gray: Are you planning to paint red? Pink? Orange? Use gray primer and you will thank me. Gray is the perfect base for any red toned paints, and it will drastically cut down the amount of coats you'll need for your paint. Reds are notorious for being the most finicky colors, sometimes requiring 4, 5, even 6 coats for full coverage. (Side note, start using Wise Owl and you won't ever use more than 3 coats of reds. Fo real.) Use the gray primer underneath your hot pinks, and you'll get away with just two coats. Take a look at the photo and you'll see just how much the color of primer can impact your paint. That board has only one coat of Republic Red. Over the gray primer, its just about full coverage. One coat of red paint?!? Yup! Gray primer is also perfect if you are going from a super light wood or something that was already painted white...and you want to go dark. Throwing gray primer underneath your blues, grays, and blacks will step up your color shade so you won't have to make such a drastic jump when you start painting.
If you need to snag the perfect primer for your project, you can find it here!!
Too long, didn't read, right?? Here's the short notes 😆:
Want to distress down to the wood? CLEAR
Going from a dark surface to a dark paint? CLEAR
Painting anything white, cream, or beige? WHITE
Going from a dark surface to a light paint? WHITE
Painting with reds, pinks, or oranges? GRAY
Going from a light surface to a dark paint? GRAY
And, as always, if you aren't sure, just send me a pic and we'll work through it together 😘