Paint And Primer In One Vs Separate [Which is Better?]

For years, you’ve believed that you must use a primer before painting a surface because painting is just the ‘fun part’ and primer is what creates the base. Without using a primer, you wouldn’t believe that the paint can stick to the surface, right?

But all of a sudden, you’ve been informed about paint and primer in one, and tell me, who doesn’t want to use a multi-purpose product?

But paint and primer in one vs separately; which is the better option?

The most straightforward answer is ‘seperate’ is the better option. Although the ‘self-priming products’ will save a step of your work, they cost more, they don’t work well for certain surfaces. And, overall, you won’t get the high quality of a paint job by using a self-priming product that you’ll get from using them separately.

I know you have hundreds of questions to ask about what we just stated above. Don’t worry, this article will answer all the questions regarding using paint and primer in one and the ‘separate’ option.

What Are The Differences Between Paint and Primer In One and Separate?

Although you’re using a mixture of paint and primer in self-priming paint, it’s not the same thing as using them separately. In paint and primer, there’s just a mixture of paint and primer together but the fact is the mixture isn’t as perfect as you differently use them.

It’s because different pigments offer different effects on the binder.

Every primer and paint combination should be mixed a bit differently according to what result you want. And, it’s possible when you differently prime the surface, let the primer dry perfectly, and apply the paint.

However, there are pros and cons to both methods, so it is important to weigh your options before deciding which route to take.

Differentiating ParametersPrimer And Paint In OneUsing Primer and Paint Separately
CoverageNot goodBest
How Many Coats Are Needed?Too Many Coats Needed to Hide ImperfectionsFewer Coats are Needed of Primer and the Paint
RisksDark stains have the risk of bleeding over timeNo risk if the job is done perfectly
Best for Using OnAlready-painted surfacesRaw surfaces

As you can see from the table, there are differences between the two options. Let’s talk about the differences in detail.


The most compelling reason why homeowners are becoming interested in using paint and primer in one is that it saves a lot of time as you only need to do one-step work.

When you prime and paint separately, it’s a must to apply 2 coats of primer, let the coats dry, and set before painting over it. So, you need to invest a significant amount of time whereas self-priming paints save time.

But the quality of work you’ll get as a result will prove that patience is worth it!

Money Saving

Let’s talk about another common confusion- using self-priming paints means spending money on a single product instead of on a primer and paint separately. So, it’s going to save me money.

No, this is not the case actually.

  • Primer and paint in one: The price of a typical gallon of self-priming paint is more or less $25, so, two coats of it will cost more or less $50. So, if you want to finish an exterior paint job that requires 10 gallons of self-priming paint, you’ll need to spend $500 per coat.
  • Primer and paint separately: One coat of primer requires $12-$15 dollars and one gallon of latex paint is $17-$20. And, if you’re willing to paint an exterior with 10 gallons of primer and paint separately, the grand total cost will be in the $290-$300 range.

Therefore, the fact is, using paint and primer in one means you’re spending on an expensive, tinted product against an inexpensive real primer. And, worth mentioning, the tint can arise paint costs further.


The coverage provided by self-priming paints might not be as excellent as what you would get from utilizing separate products.

If you’re painting a large surface area or if you need a lot of coverage, using separate products may be the best option. However, if you’re only painting a small space or if you don’t need a lot of coverage, paint and primer in one may be all you need.

Also, if you have any existing paint or stains that you need to cover up, you may need more than one coat of paint and primer in one product to do the job.

It’s important to consider the type of surface you’re painting. Paint and primer in one may not adhere as well to bare wood or metal surfaces as they would with a separate primer.

The Thickness of The Coatings

Self-priming paint is a fact about much thicker coats. Once the self-priming paint gets dry, you’ll get much thicker final coats compared to standard paint.

Therefore, you may notice indentations in the paint if the paint and primer in one product don’t have a quality paint formula. However, you can still use a primer coat before painting along with a self-priming paint, especially for stubborn surfaces.

Working with such thick layers isn’t great because there’s a chance of the paint bleeding. It’s always best to use a few thin layers of primer/paint than a single thick layer.

And, if we talk about primer and paint separately, 2 coats of primer is enough to create a strong base for the paint and there’s no risk of ugly bleeding points as well.

When Should You Use Paint and Primer In One?

You may ask- is ‘paint and primer in one all about bad? No. There are times when you can get a great result by using a self-priming paint such as when there are no stains or peeling on walls when you switch from a light to dark color, and when you want to repaint the surface with the same color of the old paint.

Self-priming paints work great on interior walls. It’s because exterior paint should be both decorative and protective so there’s no chance to compromise with the primer step.

  • When you paint a similar color to the old paint on the surface, a self-priming paint works well in this case since there’s less to cover. Also, there’s less chance of changing the appearance and color of the new paint.
  • Paint and primer in one can be a good option when you intend to go for a more intense or darker color than the existing paint. In this case, using paint and primer separately is not the best option because you might need a lot of coats of them whereas two or three coats of self-priming paint will do the job perfectly.
  • If your intention is to hide mild stains in the paint and you don’t want to make a big color change, going for ‘paint and primer in one will be worth it. Covering light stains and imperfections is easy with self-priming paint because it’s thicker than typical paint.

Note: Avoid using paint and primer in one over darker stains because there’s a chance of bleeding over time.

  • Paint and primer in one is also a good option for existing paint that has a low-gloss finish (changing a high sheen could be difficult with it).

When Should You Not Use Paint and Primer In One?

The last thing you want as a homeowner is for the paint not to stick to the surface. It costs more money, time, and effort to fix the issue. For this, it’s a must to have a clear idea about when you should use primer and paint separately instead of using self-priming paint.

  • While painting stained wood: Unfortunately, wood surfaces aren’t okay with less-effort paint jobs. Because they need extra attention and care from traditional priming products. For this, use a conventional primer or a primer that’s specifically made for wood surfaces. The primers must have high-quality bonding features and durability.
  • When you touch up same-color paint: When paint fade or chip over time, you want to refresh the existing coat by applying a new coat. In this case, using paint and primer in one could be a waste of money since you can simply wash and prime the walls, and 1-2 coats of plain paint will bring a great result. It also prevents the contrast between the existing paint and the new paint.
  • If the new paint is brighter than the old color: If the new color is a whole different thing than the old color like you’re switching from Royal Yellow to Dark Jungle Green, it will require too many coats of paint and primer in one. There’s no logic to apply too many layers of expensive layers when you’ll get the same result by using traditional primer and paint.
  • When the existing paint surface is highly stained: Minor stains are manageable using paint and primer in one. But stubborn stains from food, smoke, and oil can be difficult to hide. Since paint and primer in one is nothing but a thicker layer of conventional paint and primer, there’s nothing special for creating seals between layers. If you, however, can hide the stains with a single thick layer of paint and primer in one, the stain can bleed through over time.
  • To work on metal surfaces such as patio furniture and guard rails: For these surfaces, it’s a must to use a ‘direct-to-metal’ primer that can prevent rust. 

Is Paint With Primer As Good As Separate Primer?

There’s a lot of debate on this topic and no definitive answer. Paint with primer (self-priming paint) is usually latex-based paint that has a built-in primer. The advantage of this type of paint is that it’s a one-step process – you don’t have to worry about buying or applying a separate primer.

The downside is that the quality of the primer may not be as good as a separate product. If you’re painting a surface that has never been painted before (or if it’s been a while since the last time it was painted), we recommend using a separate primer first. This will help ensure better coverage and adhesion of the paint.

If you’re painting over an existing paint job, you might be able to get away with just using paint with primer – but test a small area first to see how well the new paint adheres.

Can I Run Self-priming Paint Through a Paint Sprayer?

Although self-priming paint is much thicker than traditional style paint you should be able to run them through a paint sprayer. However, when we consider consistency, spraying the thin-bodied primer separately is better because it will soak into porous surfaces more easily resulting in better coverage.

Best ‘Paint & Primer in One’ Brands


Behr Paint and Primer in One is a high-quality, all-in-one paint and primer product that offers excellent coverage and durability. This premium paint and primer is formulated to provide superior one-coat hiding power, making it an ideal choice for both interior and exterior applications. The advanced formula of this paint and primer also helps resist fading, staining, and peeling, making it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas.


Kilz paint and primer in one is a great product for those who are looking to save time and money when painting their home. This product can be used on both new and existing surfaces, which makes it a versatile option for homeowners. Kilz paint and primer in one also provide excellent coverage, making it a great choice for those who want to achieve a professional-looking finish.


If you can’t compromise the quality of the outcome, it’s better to use separate products for each step. This allows them to customize their priming and painting process to better suit their needs. Using separate products also means that you can buy higher quality products for each step, which can lead to a better overall finish.

However, if you are short on time or not confident in your painting skills, using paint and primer in one product may be the better option for you. These products can also be helpful if you are painting over a dark color or covering up imperfections, as they provide an extra layer of protection.

There are pros and cons to both options, so it’s important to consider what will work best for your specific project. When choosing a self-priming paint, be sure to read the label carefully to ensure that it will meet your needs.

It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. In general, you will want to apply two coats of the product, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. For best results, sand lightly between coats for an ultra-smooth finish.

All in all, if you have the time and patience, using separate products for priming and painting may give you the best results. But if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to prime and paint your wall, then Paint and Primer in One is an option worth considering. Be sure to keep the above tips in mind so that you get the best results possible.

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