Latex paint is one of the most commonly used paints around the world. It dries incredibly fast, while still maintaining decent durability. Oil-based primers can seal porous, unfinished surfaces, including inside and outside walls, floors, doors, and so on. There’s long been a conflict about whether or not they can be combined, though.

You can use latex paint over oil-based primer after sanding the surface. If it’s already raw or untreated, you can use the primer right away, followed by the latex paint. This combination is not only effective, but it continues to be one of the most popular choices for interior and exterior design.

Throughout this post, you’ll also learn the following information about latex paint and oil-based primer:

  • A step-by-step guide to using them together
  • Lists of rules and expectations when using an oil-based primer with latex paint
  • Several reasons that it’s such a popular combination

How to Paint With Latex on an Oil-Based Primer

As with most paint jobs, using a primer before you jump right into painting serves several purposes. For example, it hides the undercoat of paint.

If you’re trying to paint with a light color, such as yellow, over a bold red paint, then a primer is absolutely necessary. Some paints claim that primers aren’t necessary, but it’s safe to say that latex paint almost always requires a primer.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to use latex paint on an oil-based primer. Follow this simple step-by-step guide for more details:

  1. If the surface is painted, primed, or finished, use a 110-grit sander to remove the topcoat. It’s important to sand down any treatments to make the wood porous again. Finished wood won’t accept an oil-based primer, just like you can’t mix oil with water. Using this metaphor will make the rest of the process make more sense.
  2. Use a brush to lay down a thin layer of the oil-based primer. Oil-based primer stops the wood from bleeding and releasing tannins that can cause all sorts of visual flaws. Brush back and forth, trying not to overlap the coat. Follow this same suggestion if you’re using a spray can as well.
  3. Once the primer has dried, review the company’s recommendations referring to a second coat. Occasionally, you’ll need to perform two coats with some primers as opposed to only one with others. Again, using the manufacturer’s recommendations will yield the best results.
  4. Now that the primer step is complete, start brushing a single layer of the latex paint on top of the primer. Follow the same motions, gently going back and forth. Always worth from top to bottom, so you don’t have to go back and fix droplets. Just as with the previous step, you’ll have to apply a second coat of the latex paint.
  5. Allow the paint to dry in the sunlight or by using fans. Never use blow dryers or anything too powerful (as some might suggest) because they can cause the paint to dry in pools. You’ll end up with a warped paint job that needs patches right away. It also thins out the paint, exposing the underlying primer.

Rules to Remember

Oil-based primer is considered to be one of the best choices on the market. It’s long-lasting, easy to use, and it works with almost any surface. That being said, there’s a handful of rules to remember, so let’s review them in the list below:

  • You can’t mix oil paints with other oil paints, which sometimes applies with primer, too. If you’ve ever painted on a canvas with oil-based paint, then you know that it only smears similar paints around. This reasoning is why you should mix it up by using oil primer with a latex-based paint on top.
  • Latex isn’t the most durable paint. It works perfectly for interior design and other work around the house, but don’t try to use latex on floors with heavy foot traffic. Latex paints rank among the best for indoor use, but the worst for durability in heavily-worked spaces.
  • Oil primer works better in wet environments than other primers. Since oil can dry over water (again, because they don’t mix or blend), you can lay it right on top of a rain-soak log. It’s definitely a top choice for people who live in humid environments or those who paint during storm seasons.
  • Always allow the oil to dry before painting. Oil doesn’t blend with just about anything, including latex paint. If you don’t wait for it to dry completely, the paint and primer will mix together and look dull. Furthermore, it won’t be nearly as durable as it could’ve been if you’d waited for it to dry.
  • Test the previous surface with acetone. If you want to know if the painted surface is oil-based or latex-based paint, use a cotton swab and acetone. Dab the cotton into the acetone, touch it against the surface, and look at the swab. If it’s colored like the surface, then you’re dealing with latex. If it’s unchanged, then it’s oil-based paint.

If you’re worried about the primer working because it’s covered in stains, try the KILZ Original Stain-Blocking Oil-Based Primer. It comes in a 32-ounce can that covers stains from water, natural wood tannins, smoke, and more. Each container has enough primer for up to 400 square feet.

The Benefits of the Combination

With countless recommendations from the experts, there’s no denying the benefits of using an oil-based primer underneath latex paint. You’ll be able to enjoy a long-lasting, beautiful paint job that doesn’t take too long to do at all.

One of the best benefits of the combination is that, once the oil dries, latex can dry in a matter of minutes. It’s based on rubber, which has a very low natural solid-state. Once the paint dries, it’s still a good idea to wait about 24 hours before you do anything too extreme in the room that might damage the walls.

Another benefit is that oil-based primer can hide old marks, unlike any other primer. As you probably read above, the recommended primer covers stains from wood-leaked tannins, water spills, and a plethora of other problematic causes.

If you’re DIYing the paint job, then relax with the peace of mind that latex paint can be redone whenever you want to. It’s not like other paints that take forever to remove. Simply use acetone, let it dry, and repaint the surface by using the guide at the beginning of this article.

Latex is bolder and brighter than most other types of paint, especially when it has an oil-based primer underneath. Latex usually has a solid matte appearance that doesn’t see-through very well. With a shiny oil-based primer under it, the combination is as beautiful as it gets.


Not only is it possible to use latex paint over an oil-based primer, but it’s also highly recommended! All of the top-notch benefits of oil primers make latex paint hold onto the surface better than anything else.

Here’s a quick recap of the article:

  • Remember to sand the surface with 110-grit sandpaper prior to using primer and paint.
  • Oil-based primer can work on wet, marked, and old wooden surfaces.
  • Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations to find out if the primer needs a second coat.
  • Latex paint isn’t the most durable choice, but it’s perfect for indoor solutions.
  • Latex paint dries quicker than most other types of paint since it’s made out of rubber.

Write A Comment