What Is The Best Primer For Painting Over Wallpaper

What Is The Best Primer For Painting Over Wallpaper

What Is The Best Primer For Painting Over Wallpaper

Introduction to Priming Over Wallpaper

Priming over wallpaper can seem like a daunting task, especially if you haven't done it before. However, with the right primer and proper technique, it's a wholly achievable home improvement project.

Understanding the Process

Before diving into the specific steps, it's important to understand what priming is and why it's necessary. Primer provides a base for the paint to stick to and increases the durability of the finish. When painting over wallpaper, priming helps seal the wallpaper, preventing the paint from soaking in.

Types of Wallpaper

Paper-based and vinyl wallpapers are the two major types, and each has unique priming needs. Vinyl wallpaper, in particular, can be troublesome because paint doesn't stick to it well. In these cases, priming becomes even more crucial.

Choosing the Right Primer

Picking the correct primer is vital for a successful project. Oil-based primers are generally the best choice for painting over wallpaper. They are adept at sealing the wallpaper and preventing peeling. However, some situations may call for a shellac-based primer, especially when dealing with water or smoke damage.

The Priming Process

Initially, the wall should be clean, dry, and smooth. The successful application of primer depends on properly preparing the wallpapered surface. Once primed, the wall should be left to dry thoroughly before painting.

Essential Tips

Though the process may seem straightforward, a few tips can make the task smoother. For instance, avoid overly soaking the roller to prevent the wallpaper from peeling. Also, It's essential to test a small section first to ensure the primer adheres correctly.

Problems and Solutions

Occasionally, you might encounter problems such as bubbles forming in the wallpaper due to moisture from the primer. Using an oil-based primer can prevent this, as can punching small holes in the wallpaper bubbles, allowing the moisture to escape.

The Importance of Priming

The process of painting over wallpaper is made considerably easier with the right primer. The task might seem daunting at first, but with the right products, preparation, and patience, it leads to a truly rewarding transformation of any space.

Why Choose Priming Before Painting Over Wallpaper?

Prior to painting, it's common practice to apply a layer of primer, especially when you're painting over wallpaper. But why’s priming so crucial? Let’s find out.

The Role of Primer

The primary purpose of a primer is to provide a link between the material below and the new layer of paint. It ensures the paint adheres adequately to the surface, preventing it from peeling off prematurely. A good primer can also cover any stains, ensuring they do not bleed through the new paint. Additionally, primer can equalize the absorption of paint, so that it is uniform all over the wall, leading to an even layer of paint.

Smoothening the Surface

Wallpaper, especially the older types, can have raised patterns or textures that could show up even after several coats of paint. Applying a primer can help smooth out these patterns and textures, reducing their visibility.

Binding Layers Together

The adhesive used to stick wallpaper to the wall can sometimes react with paint, causing it to crack, flake, or peel off. A layer of primer acts as a barrier between the wallpaper and paint, preventing these issues. Moreover, priming can also bond the layers together, ensuring that the paint does not pull off parts of the wallpaper when applied.

Correcting Colour Issues

Some wallpapers have vibrant or dark colours that can affect the look of the new paint. A priming layer is beneficial as it can block the wallpaper's colour from seeping through to the new paint.

Future Repaints

Painting directly on wallpaper makes it tough to change the paint colour in the future. Applying primer first, you mitigate this issue as it separates the wallpaper and paint layers, simplifying future repaints.

Saves Time and Money

Using primer before painting over wallpaper may appear like an additional task, but it can save time and money in the long run. The primer gives a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to, meaning fewer coats of paint are needed. This not only reduces the overall cost of the painting project but also decreases the time required, as fewer coats of paint means less drying time.

Choosing the Best Primer

With countless products on the market, picking the right primer can be daunting. To help, consider the colour scheme you plan to use, the type of wallpaper you're painting over, and the wallpaper's condition. Some primers are designed to work best with certain colours or types of wallpaper, so always read the information on the can before making your choice.

Types of Wallpaper and Their Corresponding Primers

Understanding the different types of wallpaper and their corresponding primers is essential when preparing to paint over wallpaper. The type of wallpaper you're dealing with will largely dictate the primer that should be used.

Vinyl Wallpaper

Vinyl wallpaper is known for its durability and ease of cleaning. When it comes to painting over vinyl, an oil-based primer is usually recommended. This type of primer helps to provide a solid base for the paint and prevents the color of the wallpaper from showing through.

Flock Wallpaper

Flock wallpaper is characterized by its raised pattern. This type of wallpaper can present a challenge when trying to paint over it due to the texture. Using an oil-based primer can certainly help, but it's important to apply it evenly to avoid spots with unusual texture.

Foil Wallpaper

Foil type wallpapers have a shiny and reflective finish, making it hard for paint to adhere to. It is recommended to use a high build primer that can provide a good foundation for paint to stick to effectively. An oil-based primer is a good choice for this type of wallpaper as it helps to conceal the shiny surface.

Non-Woven Wallpaper

Non-woven wallpapers are breathable, helping to prevent the growth of mildew and mold on the walls. When painting over non-woven wallpaper, a water-based primer is usually a good choice as it can allow the walls to continue to 'breathe' even when painted.

Traditional Wallpaper

Last but not least, traditional paper-based wallpaper responds well to both water-based and oil-based primers. The choice largely depends on whether you want a finish that conceals the wallpaper design (oil-based) or one that allows for more breathability (water-based).

Selecting the Right Primer

Choosing the right primer to paint over wallpaper is crucial in achieving an attractive finish. It's important to consider the type of wallpaper, the desired finish, and the durability. As mentioned before, oil-based primers are perfect for concealing designs and providing a solid base for paint, while water-based primers allow walls to breathe and are more environmentally friendly. Equally using high build primers on specific hard to adhere surfaces can be the key to a successful painting project.

Application Tips

When applying primer over wallpaper, ensure that the surface is clean and free of dust or dirt. Apply primer evenly and allow it to dry completely before painting. Two coats of primer may be necessary for textures or darker wallpapers. Following these steps will help you achieve a smooth and professional finish when painting over wallpaper.

Top-Rated Primers for Wallpaper

Overlaying wallpaper with a fresh, dazzling layer of paint isn't only a superb way of refreshing your room decor, but it’s also time and effort-effective. However, this process can present challenges if not correctly managed. The success of this transformation largely depends on the primer type you opt for. Here are some of the most recommended primers you should consider.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer

The Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 is widely recognized in the wallpaper community due to its superior performance. It is a water-based primer that does an excellent job of covering imperfections and preparing surfaces for painting. Its superior adhesive properties allow it to stick to slick surfaces without sanding. It is also permeable enough to prevent moisture and mildew growth. Being water-based also means it has lower VOCs (volatile organic compounds), making it safer for your health and the environment.

KILZ MAX Maximum Stain and Odor Blocking Interior Latex Primer/Sealer

KILZ MAX is an ideal choice if the wallpaper you intend to paint over has dark patterns or stains. This primer can hide these imperfections while blocking typical indoor stains, odors, and resists mildew growth. It's also known to level well, giving a smoother finish for the subsequent paint layer.

Zinsser Gardz Problem Surface Sealer

Zinsser Gardz Problem Surface Sealer serves a specific purpose. If you have wallpaper that’s damaged or has lots of seams, this primer is designed to bind and seal the wallpaper, fortifying it and smoothing the surface. It also helps in avoiding bubbles formation during painting, thus giving an outstanding finish.

Rust-Oleum Corporation 02001 Water Base Primer, 1-Gallon, White

Rust-Oleum's line offers a water-based primer known for its remarkable adherence and durability. It forms a fast-drying, low-odor film that seals wallpaper and prevents bleeding. In addition, its stain-blocking capabilities make it perfect for bathrooms and kitchens, where humidity and grease stains can be cumbersome.

Picking the Right Primer for Your Wallpaper Project

While all these primers come highly recommended, your choice should be guided by the specifics of your wallpaper project. Consider the wallpaper condition, the room's humidity, patterns, and the desired finish. Consulting a wallpaper professional may also help in making the right decision.

Primer Selection: Oil-Based vs Water-Based

The two main types of primer you'll typically encounter when preparing to paint over wallpaper are oil-based and water-based. The type used primarily depends on the specific needs of your project, the type of wallpaper, and your desired finish.

Oil-based Primers

Oil-based primers have a reputation for being extremely durable and exceptionally good at blocking stains. They have strong adhesion properties that can stick not only to wallpaper but also to tricky surfaces like glossy or uneven textures. This makes them an excellent choice for older wallpapers that might have accrued stains or discolorations over the years.

However, it is crucial to note that oil-based primers take longer to dry than their water-based counterparts, typically requiring 24 hours before the application of the topcoat. Further, they produce strong odors and are more challenging to clean up because you'll require a specific thinner or solvent. Hence, if choosing an oil-based primer, effective ventilation during and after the application is paramount.

Water-based Primers

Water-based primers, also known as latex or acrylic primers, are easy to clean, quick-drying, and have a less offensive odor – making them a more user-friendly choice for DIY enthusiasts. They are suitable for most wallpaper materials and provide a nice, smooth base for your topcoat.

Despite their conveniences, water-based primers are not as proficient at blocking stains as oil-based variants. If your wallpaper has heavy stains, they may seep through a water-based primer. Nevertheless, they are the go-to option for clean, newer wallpapers or ones without any significant staining.

Which to Choose

Deciding between the two primarily comes down to the specifics of your project. If you are dealing with older, stained, or tricky wallpaper, an oil-based primer would likely be the best choice. However, if you prefer a quicker, less odorous process and the wallpaper is in reasonably good condition without significant stains, a water-based primer would suffice.

Application Tips

Regardless of the type selected, priming should always be done correctly. Ensure even application and let the primer dry completely before painting. Not doing so could give you bubbling wallpaper and a poor final result. A top tip would be to use a pigmented shellac primer for high-stain wallpapers - these are oil-based and provide excellent stain coverage.

Environmental Considerations

Lastly, if you happen to be environmentally conscious, water-based primers are generally a more eco-friendly option. They contain lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and their clean-up process is less harmful to the environment due to the lack of harsh chemicals.

Step-by-Step Guide to Apply Primer on Wallpaper

Painting over wallpaper may seem counterintuitive, but with the correct steps and materials, it can be an efficient way to revive a room. The key step in this process revolves around using a suitable primer to ensure a smooth and long-lasting paint job.


  • Primer specifically designed for wallpaper
  • Paint roller and tray
  • Quality paintbrushes
  • Drop cloths or old sheets
  • Painters tape
  • Clean, damp cloth

Once you have gathered your materials, you can begin the process:


Start by laying out drop cloths or old sheets to protect your floors from any accidental drips. Using painters tape, carefully tape off all baseboards, trim, and any other areas where you do not want paint to go.


It's essential to clean the wallpaper before you apply primer. Use a clean, slightly damp cloth to wipe down the wallpaper, removing any dust or grime. This allows the primer to adhere better to the wallpaper.


Pour your wallpaper-specific primer into a paint tray. Using a paint roller, apply the primer to the wall, making sure to cover every inch of wallpaper. For smaller, harder-to-reach areas, use a quality paintbrush. Remember to work in small sections and in a vertical motion.


One coat of primer is often enough, but particularly dark or bold wallpapers may require a second coat. Allow the first coat to dry thoroughly before deciding if a second coat is needed.


Once your last coat of primer is applied, let it dry completely. This process could take a few hours to overnight, depending on the primer. After the primer has dried, inspect the walls. If you see any areas where the wallpaper pattern shows through, you might need to apply an additional coat of primer in that spot.


After the primer is completely dry, and you're satisfied with the coverage, you're ready to paint. Now you can apply your color of choice, safe in the knowledge that the primer has provided a solid base for this new layer of life to adhere.

With these steps, you can confidently quit worrying about old or outdated wallpaper. Instead, look forward to a fresh, vibrant room, all thanks to the power of primer and a few strokes of paint.

Tips and Techniques for Effective Priming

Priming over wallpaper can be a tricky task. Having the right techniques under your belt will go a long way in ensuring a successful outcome. Here are some key tips to guide you through the process.

Clean the Wallpaper Thoroughly

Before applying a primer, it is vital to clean the wallpaper thoroughly. Any dust, dirt or grease on the surface can hinder the primer's efficiency. Use a mild detergent and a sponge to remove these impurities. This leaves you with a clean surface that is ready for priming.

Repair Wallpaper Rips and Tears

Any damage on the wallpaper should be repaired before applying the primer. Use wallpaper glue or adhesive to mend rips or tears. This prevents the creation of seams and texture irregularities that can be visible after painting.

Choose the Right Primer

Choosing a high-quality oil-based or shellac primer is advisable. These types of primers are known to adhere better to wallpaper and prevent any ink or designs from seeping through the paint. Also, the right primer should be able to cover any color or pattern on the wallpaper effectively.

Even Application of the Primer

For best results, apply the primer in an even layer using a roller or a high-density foam paintbrush. Uneven application can result in patches and streaks, compromising the final paint's appearance.

Let the Primer Dry Completely

Before proceeding with painting, allow the primer to dry completely. Oil-based primers usually take longer to dry than their shellac or water-based counterparts. By allowing the primer to dry, you will ensure the paint adheres better and the wallpaper does not start peeling off.

Sand the Primed Wallpaper

Once the primer is completely dried, lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper. This creates a smoother surface for the paint to adhere to and ensures a cleaner, more professional finish.

Additional Considerations

Lastly, always remember to maintain proper ventilation during the priming and painting processes. Primers can have strong fumes which may be harmful if inhaled in large amounts. Safety must always be your top priority.

Frequently Asked Questions About Painting Over Wallpaper

When tackling a project like painting over wallpaper, it's common to have a lot of questions. Here, we'll address some of the most frequently asked questions to ensure you feel confident moving forward.

Can you really paint over wallpaper?

Yes, painting over wallpaper is possible and can provide excellent results if done properly. It can be a convenient solution if the wallpaper is too tricky to remove or you want to maintain its textural interest.

What kind of primer should be used for painting over wallpaper?

It's best to use an oil-based primer when painting over wallpaper. This type of primer will help in sealing the adhesive within the wallpaper and keep it from loosening. It can also help deter stains from seeping through the paint.

Should you sand the wallpaper before painting over it?

Generally, you do not need to sand the wallpaper before priming and painting because it can damage the paper, causing more problems. The goal is to create a smooth surface for painting, which can be achieved primarily with a good primer.

What should you do if the wallpaper is peeling off?

If the wallpaper is peeling or bubbling, it is recommended to remove it before painting. Painting over such wallpaper can lead to uneven surfaces and potential damage. If minor peeling or bubbling exists, these areas can be glued back, and then they should be Primed before painting.

Do I need to prepare my wallpaper in any way before painting?

Absolutely. Ensure the wallpaper is clean, free of dust and dirt, and firmly adhered to the wall. All holes and tears should be repaired using joint compound and sanded smooth before applying the primer.

Can all types of wallpaper be painted over?

Most wallpapers can be painted over, but it's not recommended for non-porous wallpapers like vinyl or foil. These types might not accept the paint well, leading to peeling or cracking over time.


Always remember to test a small area first before you proceed to paint the entire wall. This will allow you to observe how well the paint adheres to your specific wallpaper. If you notice any issues, it's better to consult with a professional painter.