Best Oil Based Primers For Wood And More

If you are looking for the best oil-based primers that are fast-drying Oil-based primers then Sherwin Williams ProBlock has the fastest turn-around time. However, Zinsser Coverstain dries to a harder and more durable finish. Fine Paints Of Europe makes a phenomenal undercoat primer that is great when you topcoat it with an FPOE product but it is a bit pricey for average use.

best oil based primers

Why use an oil-based primer?

Although oil-based primers can be difficult to work with and require real good ventilation plus a respirator, they are almost guaranteed to get the job done.

When a surface is prepped correctly, an OB primer will adhere to it and provide a bonding medium for your topcoat.

Whether you are painting metal, wood, laminate, or other hard-to-paint surfaces.

Good prep and a good OB primer will get you the results you need.

Is oil-based primer better?

If you are unsure whether you need an OB primer or water-based primer then there are a few things questions you should ask yourself first:

Are oil-based primer fumes harmful?

Ob primers have a volatile smell and can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, skin irritation, and vomiting just to name a few symptoms.
Always make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area and are wearing the proper face mask that is made to filter fumes.

Do you really need an OB Primer?

The majority of the time a water-based primer will do the job. But for some surfaces, it’s inevitable to use Oil-based primers.
These surfaces include:
Bare wood
Wood that has tannin bleed
Knotty Pine
Knotty Wood

And surfaces that have oil paint on them
(a lot of homes before the ’80s have these)

What kind of paint can I use on oil-based primer?

You can use any water-based paint or OB paint.
There is really nothing you can’t use over OBP.
However, if the surface was previously painted with OB paint then you CAN NOT use water-based products over it.

Can I put oil-based primer over latex primer?

You can paint OB primer over latex paint and primer. Just remember to clean the surface and lightly scuff it up first. Always!

How long should I wait for oil-based primers to dry?

Although some primers such as Sherwin Williams ProBlock allow for a recoat time that can range from 4-6 hours under the right conditions (see product spec sheet) you should always wait 12-24 hours before applying your topcoat. That gives the primer enough time to release gasses that could potentially mess with the topcoat and cause cracking, chipping, or adhesion difficulties.

Follow These Rules!

ALWAYS prep your surface and then test a small area first before committing to the entire project.

There is nothing worse than priming everything and realizing that you did not properly prep the surface and now it is failing.

You should always clean and de-grease your surface.

And always scuff your surface with a fine to medium grit pad or sandpaper to create a tooth in the surface that will create a mechanical bond between primer and surface.

If your primer is peeling and does not pass a fingernail scratch test then you either did not clean the surface correctly or you did not scuff up the surface enough.

If you would like to know the in-depth difference between shellac, water-based, and oil-based primers then read this article about the best paint primers.

Best 3 Oil-Based Primers For Your Project:

Sherwin-Williams ProBlock

sherwin williams problock oil based primer


  • Dries in 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Re-coat possible after 2-4 hours
  • High build (great for filling grainy wood)
  • Hides well, therefore, needs fewer coats
    Sands really easy


  • Dries too fast sometimes and gets heavy when brushing
    (Needs to be thinned with Paint Thinner to spread easier)
  • Some Tannin Bleed needs a second coat

Zinsser Coverstain

oil based primer

Get It On Amazon


  • Dries to a durable finish
  • Sands easy
  • Blocks stains easily


  • Smells really bad for a day or 2
  • It does not hide as well and looks yellowish which makes you question if it is bleedthrough from the wood.

Kilz Original OB Primer

kilz original oil based

Get It On Amazon


  • Blocks Stains
  • Hides well
  • Blocks odors


  • Smells really bad
  • Sands poorly

In Conclusion

These products are in my opinion the top 3 best oil-based primers for your average painting projects before going into a more costly and high-end option such as Fine Paints Of Europe For example.
However, to guarantee success you absolutely must prep your surface correctly.
This includes cleaning it with a de-greaser and scuffing up the surface by lightly sanding it.

If you are painting kitchen cabinets then check out this article on how to prep your surfaces before painting.

This ultimate guide to painting kitchen cabinets has everything you need to know about the process, materials, and determining what type of cabinets you have!

how to paint kitchen cabinets guide download

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