Always a big question, especially with chalk style paints, is when to prime before prime before painting your furniture? It can often be confusing to know when it’s necessary to prime. So, when do you prime before painting? Well, I’ll talk about that in this blog post. But, if you prefer not to read the post, I’ll just give my quick answer. And that answer is yes, it is best to prime almost always when painting a light color. Honestly really any paint colors except maybe deep reds or oranges, dark blues, or blacks. Most other colors do better with primer.
In my experience it is super frustrating to paint a piece of furniture and then a while later see stain spots creep through that paint finish! So frustrating. The fact is that oils and tannins will eventually show through your paint finish if you paint your wood or furniture a lighter color. Tannins come from man-made stains on previously stained or painted furniture. But tannins are also found in natural unpainted wood, originating from the sap within the wood itself. These tannins typically looks brown, pink, or red when they peep through your stain finish. This is called “bleed through” or “bleeding”.
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HOW TO TEST FOR BLEED THROUGH
Some woods or stains are notorious for “bleed through”. Cedars and pines are bad for causing bleed through, especially pine with lots of knots. These knotty areas allow the tannins to show up faster. Also very old vintage furniture, often painted with a cherry or mahogany finish, will almost always bleed through, especially if you sand them down before painting.
When you are cleaning your furniture to prep for painting you can check for potential bleed through. Use a white cloth and a good cleaner, like Dixie Belle White Lightening. If you wipe across your furniture to clean and you see pink, tan, brown, or red color on your white cloth, I guarantee that you have a “bleeder”. This little technique often helps to know when to prime before painting.
Honestly, I prime most all my furniture. Even if I think that I am going to paint a very dark color. Maybe with my darkest navys or blacks, it may not be necessary. But I usually do prime anyway just in case. It’s a simple step that is fairly easy and prevents many issues in the long run. So, we’ve talked about when to prime before painting. Therefore next, let’s talk about how to prime furniture for painting. Which primers work best and how to use them?
Prep Products Discussed In This Blog Post
BullsEye 123 Primer – Water Based Primer in White
Dixie Belle BOSS Primer – Clear, Gray, or White
Another Type of Prep Product – Dixie Belle Slick Stick
When To Prime Before Painting & A Few Tips About My Favorite Primers
Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer – White
Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer is a great stain and odor blocking white primer. It is especially useful when painting white or light colored finishes. It provides great coverage and prevents bleed through of any tannins or oily stains. However it is thin and stinky and because it is oil-based it is flammable. So you must take some precautions when using this primer. Always use this primer either outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Oil-based products are flammable as are any cloths or brushes soaked with the product. So never use them near heat or flame. And any soaked cloths, brushes or other applicators need to be laid out to dry before disposal.
Safety Precautions With Oil-Based Products
I use this primer typically either outside or in my garage with the garage door open. And it is best to wear gloves and wear eye protection when using in case of splatter, but this goes with any paint product. You can clean your brushes with a paint thinner. But I just use a cheap brush that I can toss out. To apply this primer, I pour out desired amount in a paper plate. Using a 4 inch roller I apply the primer to the flat areas. I use the tip of the roller to get into grooves and details. And I also use a cheap 2 inch synthetic brush for those areas that the roller won’t reach.
This primer is messy! So I recommend wearing old clothes and protect your work surface from splatters. It is water thin and splatters everywhere! Since I work mostly in the garage I don’t worry too much about that. But, you may wish to use a drop cloth to protect any surfaces from splatter.
Another important tip about this primer is that it dries super fast! Like 10-15 minutes fast. Almost as soon as you roll it on it begins to dry and gets sticky. So try to apply it in one area and then move on to other areas. Basically avoid going back over previously painted areas. Because it dries so fast and you can re-coat in 30-45 minutes or sooner. I usually do 2-3 coats for coverage.
Zinsser BIN Shellac – Clear
This product is very similar to the previously discussed white primer, except that it is clear. It goes on similarly. Also it comes in spray form which many people prefer. Generally if I am looking for a clear primer, I choose Dixie Belle BOSS in clear. I’ll tell you more about BOSS below. As with any oil-based primer, Zinsser Shellac must be use with ventilation and never near heat or flame. And, take precautions to dispose of soiled applicators carefully only after they dry out completely.
BullsEye 123 Primer
BullsEye 123 Primer, unlike the other Zinsser products discussed, is water-based. Therefore it is not very odorous and can be used safely indoors. It’s always good to have ventilation and take precautions with eye protection when using any paint product. But this product is water-based so you can clean up your brushes with soap and water. One thing I like about this primer is that it sticks to any surface without sanding. So, you can use this on glass and slick surfaces like laminate. It is a good choice when you need a primer or stain blocker, but also desire a slick-surface prep product.
I used Zinsser BullsEye 123 on my kitchen cabinets before I painted with General Finishes Milk Paint. It worked great and I have had no issues with my paint coming off! If you’d like to read more about my Kitchen Cabinet Makeover, you can find that here in this post: Painting Kitchen Cabinets Without Sanding
Dixie Belle BOSS
This product is another one of my favorites! One great thing about BOSS is that it is water-based and has no odor. It can be used safely indoors and is non-toxic, low VOCs. Clean up of brushes and applicators is very easy with soap and water. And BOSS comes in white, clear and now gray! So many choices! This is typically my go-to primer when I need a clear primer rather than white. And I love the new gray color choice as well.
BOSS is easy to use. The downside if that it takes about an hour to dry, so a little longer than the shellac-based white primer. But is a nice super creamy, self-leveling formula that goes on smoothly and it is not sticky when drying. It is great at blocking both stains and odors, and since you can use it indoors, it is great for use in winter! Dixie Belle recommends two coats for full stain and odor blocking capabilities. After 1-2 hours you can apply your paint color of choice. I love how all the water-based Dixie Belle products work together, including their paints, waxes, topcoats, and the BOSS primer.
Let’s also talk about Dixie Belle Slick Stick
I’m including Dixie Belle Slick Stick in this post, as it is a type of primer. But Slick Stick is also more of a prep product. Slick Stick comes in white and it is used as a prep to bond paint to slick surfaces, such as glass, slick plastics, and laminates. Slick Stick goes on like paint, nice and creamy and “sticks” to the slick surface. Dixie Belle recommends applying two coats of Slick Stick and then let it dry overnight. Once thoroughly dry apply the paint color of your choice.
I use Dixie Belle Slick Stick often to paint mason jars. Without Slick Stick, paint can easily be scratched off of glass. This is not the case when prepped with Slick Stick. If you’d like to check out those painted mason jar posts, you can find them here: Americana Painted Mason Jar Décor, DIY Fall Chalk Painted Mason Jar Ideas and Christmas Painted Mason Jars.
Another great benefit is that Slick Stick is water-based so clean up is easy with soap and water. I like to apply Slick Stick with either my Dixie Belle Synthetic brushes like the Oval Medium and Mini-Angle or the Dixie Belle Premium Chip Brushes. Purdy XL Cub is a great brush also and is available at your local hardware store such as Lowe’s and Home Depot.
A TIP ABOUT SLICK STICK
Here is a little tip about Slick Stick:
Slick Stick is good stuff. It dries really hard and I have more than once had trouble getting the lids off. I am not the neatest painter and it’s hard to keep paint from getting into the threads of the containers. So I have found the best way to store Slick Stick is in a Fifo bottle. These bottles work great for your most used paints. I find these bottles on Amazon.
SUMMARY: When To Prime Before Painting & My Top Primer Choices
I hope this post has been helpful to you in sorting out all the primer choices. And more importantly, on helping you know when to prime before painting. Honestly you can’t go wrong with Dixie Belle BOSS primer since it can be used indoors and is more safe than the other oil-based options. However, I’ll admit that I do use the Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based white primer often, especially when I want a super quick drying product and I can work outdoors.
If you have any questions at all about primers or other chalk style paint products, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram, message on Facebook, or use the contact email on my blog. Let’s connect on social on either Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook! I’m starting to put a few videos on YouTube that you might find helpful as well.
And if you’d like a bit more info on the basics of chalk painting you can check out this post here.