Can You Use Latex Paint Over Oil-Based Primer?

latex paint over oiled primer

One of the confusing questions regarding priming and painting is that: We know that oil and water do not make a good bond such that we don’t mix oil-based paints over water-based primers. Because they don’t better adhere.

But, the same thing when getting opposite, for instance, you can question why do people use latex-primers over oil-based? Are they both really make a strong bond? 

Let’s find this out in this article that explains everything regarding painting latex over oil-based primers.

The short answer is:

Yes, if you prep the surface carefully, latex paint can adhere to an oil-based primed surface. The preparation includes dusting off, cleaning stains, and using sand grit to create holes on the surface. This will prevent the paint from peeling from the primer in a matter of weeks. A sanded surface will allow for the paint to adhere effectively.

Moreover, If you’re painting your wooden objects outside, a mix of latex paint and oil-based primer will be extremely effective. 

Can you use latex paint over-based primers?

Any type of latex paint can be applied over oil-based primers. They both can make a good bond. However, in some cases, a surface primed using an oil-based primer could be too smooth for latex paints to adhere to. For these reasons, sometimes sanding is needed to improve the texture so the paint can hold onto it.

Oil-based primers have a strong smell and feel oily upon application for some time. They emit a high quantity of VOC that could be dangerous for a person working without wearing a mask or in any enclosed area. Fortunately, this will go away after a couple of days. 

When a coat of oil-based primer has dried to the touch, there will be no more oil present on the surface, and the odor will also disappear. Which makes the latex or water-based coats be applied since the surface is no longer oily. The applied paint can adhere to, as usual, it would.

The interesting fact here is that you might have heard oil and water do not make a good bond. That’s true actually beside the fact a water-based paint can hold onto an oil-based surface. But, the exact opposite is not true. 

In simple terms, let’s say if the primer is water or latex-based and the paint you’re going to apply is oil-based, they both would not stick to each other. It is no longer practiced in the painting industry to try doing this anymore since the outcome will remain a fact: a waste of time and effort.

I found this video on youtube worth to be shared with you guys to help painting latex over oil. This guy did an amazing job explaining the pros and cons, you will surely get to know something beneficial. Spend your best 3 minutes on this video. 

Which Latex-based paints can adhere to oil-based primers?

The term latex is used to identify that the product contains water as the main agent. This means that the coating emulsion is water-borne and contains a synthetic acrylic binder.

The main types of latex paint are as follows.

  1. Vinyl Acrylic: Due to its lower cost than all the other types, vinyl acrylic paint is an excellent option for indoor applications, such as walls. This can be applied over oil-based.

  1. Alkyd Modified Latex: Due to its excellent structural integrity, this type of latex is well suited for exterior applications. When it comes to applying it over oil-based, this will give you just smoother results.

  1. 100% Latex Acrylic: Latex acrylic is known to adhere best to surfaces, and its color also remains vibrant for a surprisingly long time. Unfortunately, this paint does not adhere to an oil-based primed surface.

What is an oil-based primer?

Primers that are called oil-based, are ones that have oil as their main agent in addition to some additive chemicals mixed with resins. 

In woodwork, oil-based primers give a smooth coat and prevent the formation of wood grains, and seal the pores in the wood. As a result, a smooth, glossy, and the highly protective surface is all we get.

Unlike water-based primers, oil-based primers can have their coats covered with most types of paint. Paints of all types of latex are suitable to be applied to them, as well as primers based on oils.

Sealing in stains and tannins is easier with these products. Therefore, if you want to cover a nasty smoke stain or smell, they offer a good deal for you.

Latex paint over oil-based primer- What will happen?

Although they are not compatible with each other, you can still apply latex paint over oil-based primer and get reliable results. 

But there are some extra actions to take into account. That is proper sanding, cleaning off dust, and making sure the surface is totally dried and cured. After that, you can go for your next step, which is priming.

Because of the difference in both surfaces, unlike latex primers that provide a matte-like surface, the oil-based primer creates a glossy and extra smooth surface. Making the sanding part is a necessary thing.

Painting latex over oil-based primers, there are some weird things that could happen instantly or after a month or years.

  • If you don’t sand the surface first, the paint will have difficulty making a strong bond on an oil-based primer because.
  • If left in humid conditions, the paint will flake off Or will be wiped away when cleaning.
  • When the temperature is high, the paint will crack.
  • The painted coat will not be evenly applied, due to smoothness, so it could change its position and there might be bumps at different locations.

Which paint doesn’t mix with oil-based primers?

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paints, one of the popular paint these days, cannot adhere to a wall previously coated with an oil-based primer. If you apply acrylic over an oil-based primer, after it gets dried you can easily wipe out the paint with a wet rag since there is no strong bonding between them. 

There are numerous types of acrylic paint, each made from pigment and acrylic polymer solution. Acrylic paint is chemical-based, so when it dries, it becomes water-resistant. 

One of the reasons why acrylic paints are popular is that they have a quicker drying time than other paints. Which makes these paints ideal for people working on a small project since they don’t have to wait for hours to dry. However, acrylic paints are not an idea for applying over a large project because of faster drying time. It’s not recommended.

How to tell if the primer is latex or oil-based?

If you are uncertain whether your old-painted project has used oil or water-based primer? Then worry not. You can still determine with this simplest method.

When determining whether your paint is oil-based or latex, there are two main ways:

  • Getting a sense of the coat by touching it. The texture of oil paint is usually glossy, whereas latex paint is typically matte with a more rubbery feel.

  • Get a piece of cloth and dip it in acetone or denatured alcohol. Scrub the wall or any piece of furniture with this wet rag. Look closely and notice if the paint slightly dissolves, it could be latex-based or water-based. Oil-based primers will remain still without taking any damage.

How to apply latex paint over oil-based primer?

The following are the steps to apply latex paint over oil-based primer. The steps mentioned below are very important for everyone going to tackle a painting project. 

Regardless of painting using only latex paint. You are advised to keep the steps noted for all your painting jobs.

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Your workspace should be carefully chosen before you begin painting. 

Take your project outside or work in a well-ventilated area to prevent inhalation of the materials. Look for the temperature if it’s freezing or rainy weather. You should wait for the weather to get back to normal otherwise it will not only dry you out but also make the final results poor.

Don’t forget to wear a mask to cover your face and wear hand gloves to save your hands from getting dirty. If required, put a tarp or sheet of paper down to protect your work area.

Step 2: Wash the surface

A clean surface is the first step in any painting project. It should be free of contaminants, debris, and dust. 

With any cleaning product like a backing soda or just simple soapy water, clean the surface thoroughly. If you need to deep clean whatever you’re going to apply latex paint on, you should use a high-quality degreasing paint prep cleaner.

Once you are done with cleaning, give the surface proper required time until it gets dried thoroughly.

Step 3: Sand the Top Layer

If your surface is too smooth, use 150-grit sandpaper. Alternatively, an electric sander can be used but choose the orbital sander which will sand it lightly than the belt sander.

Sanding a surface is important regardless of whether the project is already primed, painted, or it’s important for bare wood as well. However, you cannot use the same grit sandpaper.

  • Use 220 grit sandpaper for light sanding, (primed surfaces need this sandpaper mostly)
  • Use 150 grit sandpaper for normal sanding.
  • Use 100 grit sandpaper for rough sanding, used for bare woods that have bumps.

When you’re done sanding, there will be debris leftover. Take the time to clean it up!

Step 6: Apply latex paint

Use a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer to apply coats of latex paint over the primer. Apply in the horizontal direction to avoid getting brush marks. The best way to achieve smooth results is to keep the direction the same. If you have started applying paint from left to right, then keep painting in this way throughout the painting job.

In case your project requires more than one coat, then make sure to allow each layer to dry for two to four hours before applying the next coat.

About latex paint drying time-

Even though latex paint can dry to the touch after only an hour, another layer cannot be applied until after four hours. Don’t touch or move your finished project until it has dried for at least 48 hours.

 It is also possible to speed up the drying process by using a space heater, fan, or hairdryer.

And apply thinner paint coats that have a quicker drying time.

Latex paint mix: types of primers.

Oil-based primers

Oil-based primers can work with almost any type of paint as long as you apply the respective method. Latex or water-based paints can be applied to them, but still, the preferred choice is to use oil-based paints.

For wooden materials, these primers have conquered the industry of being versatile. Along with that, they offer durability more than other primers.

In terms of preference for building materials, contractors overwhelmingly use it for bare wood since it’s so effective at sealing porous surfaces. 

Upon encapsulation, wood species like redwood and cedar stop releasing harmful tannins which can be prevented using oil-based primers.

They can slow or prevent future peeling, cracking, blistering, and stains because they are excellent at absorbing inks, ink stains, nicotine, and water.

Latex primers

Over latex-based primers, sometimes known as acrylic or water-based primers. The only paint that can hold onto better is water-based paints. Oil paints on latex primers don’t make a good bond and easily get the peel off or wipe away.

It’s best to use latex primers on surfaces made of masonry, concrete, and metals as well since it dries fast (3 to 4 hours) and doesn’t get peeled and cracked off on these surfaces as these primers do on softwoods like pine wood. 

They are low- or no-VOC products since latex is a water-soluble material. This is the healthiest interior option than other primers in the market.

Shellac primers

Shellac and oil-based products have the same ability to prevent tannins from soaking into paints. Shellac primers can be used for plaster, metal, and even plastic, due to their flexibility.

The priming process takes much less time with this fast-drying ability. So, if a faster option is all you need. You should go with these primers that take a maximum of 1 hour to get dried.

Despite professional opinions that these primers don’t offer longevity compared to other options we have, many painters still prefer shellac when sealing or trimming wood, door frames, plaster, or wallpaper.

Our recommended latex paints

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Latex Paint

Painters Touch latex paint by Rust-Oleum comes in a semi-gloss finish and it is acrylic. Wood, metal, masonry, plaster, and unglazed ceramic surfaces are some of the best surfaces to use it on since it better adheres to them.

Acrylic paint has a quick drying time, so using it in one masonry would be a wise choice. With a low odor, it has a long shelf life and offers extra protection for long-lasting use. A quart of the paint covers 120 square feet.

KILZ Interior/Exterior Enamel Paint

KILZ is a popular brand among painters. There are loads of paints, primers, and other painting products are included in their arsenal to provide painters a reliable choice. 

Featured here is a flat matte finish latex paint for porch and patio floors that covers 200 to 400 square feet. You can also expect it to dry in as little as six hours.

KILZ latex paints are well suited for surfaces primed either using an oil-based primer or latex or water-based. Thanks to their unique bonding formula, their paints adhere well, and they have a vibrant color.

Our recommended Oil-Based Primer

Rust-Oleum Zinsser Primer and Sealer

Use this primer for exterior or interior uses, to paint or seal previously painted plaster, wood, metal, and concrete, it can also be used on bare wood as well.

The oil-based primer hides dark colors, penetrates and seals exterior wood, and blocks tannins from bleeding through use this primer to apply on woods that have a tendency to bleed out such as redwood, cedar, as well pinewood. 

The product also offers outstanding stain protection, permanently blocking and sealing tough stains caused by smoke, fire, and water damage.

KILZ Stain Blocking Oil-Based Primer

By using this primer from the KILZ brand, you get your paint to stick better to surfaces, keep the color more true to the original, and use less paint. A barrier to existing stains and odors while preventing new stains and odors.

It can provide a surface for all types of paints to adhere to including latex-based ones. But still, to get the best possible results, an oil-based paint should be coated over it. 

Primer is designed to be used on several interior surfaces including wood, drywall, plaster, paneling, wallpaper, masonry, brickwork, and metal painted with a glossy finish. 

You can trust KILZ to conceal unsightly stains, so if you’re looking for the best oil-based primer consider it. The best thing about their products is, they emit low-VOC, and thus for this reason they are extremely popular among professional painters as well DIYers.


If you’re going to apply oil-based primer on bare wood, then after applying, wait for at least 24 hours to get it dried before placing latex or water-based paint’s coat over it. Or else although you think the surface is dry to the touch the undercoats are the ones that take additional time. 

Remember, two coats are better than one. So, if you end up with one coat of oil-based primer. I would recommend you to go for a second coat as well. 

Anyways, the main action to take here is to sand the surface first after your applied primer gets fully dried. This is necessary for the surface to make a strong bond.

A sandgrit of 180 or 220 will be enough to get the surface ready. It’s because you will need light sanding just to make the surface rough. 

Words of advice: don’t go for hard sanding otherwise you would end up damaging the priming surface.

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