With some painting projects, you can skate by without priming your material. But in the case of new, unpainted drywall, you cannot do this. This is one area where ignoring the priming stage could have consequences later on down the road.
Even though you should prime your drywall before painting, it is not necessary to overthink this and spend a lot of money. Your best options are:
1. Flat Latex Paint: Simple Is Sometimes Good Enough
If you are not a professional drywall installer seeking utter perfection, then flat latex is your ticket to inexpensive drywall priming.
Flat latex as a pre-coat does not hit all of the sweet spots listed below with the drywall-specific primers. But it hits enough to satisfy the needs of most homeowners.
Many drywall manufacturers, such as USG, even recommend plain flat latex paint as a viable type of drywall primer.
2. Behr Premium Plus Drywall Primer and Sealer: For Inexpensive Sealing
Home Depot can be counted on for cheap, basic quality paint. While their premium pants like Behr Marquee may leave something to be desired, it is hard to go wrong with a rock-bottom cheap (about $13/gallon) primer/sealer such as this one.
Yes, you can tint it if you want. However, it comes in a neutral color that is compatible with any top coat.
3. Sheetrock Brand First Coat: Skimcoating, Yet Without the Work of Skimcoating
Skimcoating, listed below, is an excellent way to prime drywall--at a very low cost. But all of that skimming is more work than rolling out paint.
First Coat, by USG, takes drywall priming to its logical conclusion.
In an apt comparison, one professional painter characterizes First Coat as a primer that operates just like skimcoating.
First Coat costs more than flat latex and "hiding paints," but it is specially formulated for drywall priming.
It contains a vinyl acrylic binder and calcium carbonate filler to equalize surface textures.
4. "Hiding Paints" Such As Benjamin Moore Super Hide: For Troublesome Drywall
Super Hide takes the concept one more step. Super Hide is still flat latex, but it is slightly thicker and has more color-hiding properties than plain flat latex.
There are a lot of "hiding paints" on the market, and any one is just as good as Super Hide. Just make sure that it is compatible with raw drywall, though.
5. Skimcoating With Drywall Compound: For a Level 5 Finish
Skimcoating is the process of using a drywall taping knife to scrape on, and then immediately scrape off, drywall compound from raw drywall. The remaining compound that your knife cannot scrape off is the skimcoat.
This is the fabled Level 5 drywall finishing step that professional wall installers do to achieve perfect wall texture. Can you do this?
Yes. But it is far easier for the average homeowner to roll on any of the compounds listed above than to skimcoat an entire room--or several rooms. The result is about the same, yet the amount of work is lessened.
New Drywall = Varying Textures
The root of the problem is that new, finished drywall will present you with three different textures, each with differing absorption rates:
- Sanded Joint Compound ("Mud"): These are the sanded-down joints and screw holes.
- Unsanded Drywall Paper: This is the bare drywall paper that lies outside of mudded areas. It has not been touched with the sander.
- Sanded Drywall Paper: This is drywall paper beyond mudded areas that has been scuffed from the sander. Expert drywall installers can minimize scuffing, but few DIYers are experts. Thus, some of this paper will become porous and fuzzy.
What Drywall Primer Does
- Color Equalization: Primer equalizes base colors of mud and paper, so that the paint colors can truly shine without interference. With new finished drywall, you will have two base colors: the color of the paper (gray, off-white, or green) and the color of the mud (white or off-white). One coat of flat latex will go a long way towards covering up these colors; thicker drywall primer or "hiding paint" will completely cover them up.
- Equalizes Porosity: Drywall primer soaks into paper, scuffed paper, and mud--areas of differing porosity--and creates a uniformly porous surface for the finish paint coat to stick. Have you ever look at a painted wall from a sharp angle and seen the finished joints show through? This is an effect called "joint banding" or "photographing." Drywall primer will reduce or completely eliminate that effect.