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Best Primer for Wood and Antique Wood Furniture

Learn about the best primer for wood and antique wood furniture with a few examples of products that work great as well as a pros and cons list.

When it comes to painting furniture, most people will spend hours debating over color and type but forgo probably the most important decision to make; which primer.

You don’t really need a primer when using chalk paint right? Wrong.

Primer is used for so much more than allowing a new coat of paint to stick to the surface or covering up a dark color with a light one. I won’t go into too much detail about that because I’ve got an entire post about why you need to use primer when painting furniture…even when using chalk paint.


If primer really is that important, then which type should you choose? There are so many different brands and products it can be overwhelming to know which primer to buy.

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Different types of primer and what to consider before choosing a primer

There are 3 types of primers:

  1. oil based primers
  2. latex based primers (water based)
  3. shellac based primers

Just keep in mind a few things;

  • If you are going to use an oil based paint over a water based paint, make sure to use a water based primer first (shellac or latex).
  • If you are going to use a water based paint over oil based paint, you can use oil or water based primer.

How To figure out what type of paint has been previously used on the surface

Pour a bit of acetone (nail polish remover) on a rag and wipe the surface with it. If the old paint rubs off on the rag then it’s latex or water based. If it doesn’t wipe off then it’s oil based.

Once you know more about the surface you are painting, proceed to deciding on the best primer.

I’m going to share my all time favorite primer products for wood furniture WITH real life pictures and my experience.

5 Best Primers for Wood and Antique Wood Furniture

  1. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer
  2. KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Latex primer
  3. KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer
  4. General Finishes stain blocking primer
  5. Zinsser Shellac primer

Zinsser Bulls Eye All Surface Primer

This is my all time favorite primer. It is so versatile and can be used successfully with so many different types of surfaces. I’ve used it to paint laminate cabinets, paint IKEA furniture and cover countless wood furniture surfaces.

zinsser primer 1-2-3


All purpose- works on most surfaces


High hiding, stain blocking

Great coverage


Doesn’t adhere quite as well as Shellac primers

This is my go to primer for virtually all projects mainly because it has great coverage and works well with so many different surfaces, especially all types of wood- from painted to stained to bare wood.

Kilz Premium High Hide Stain blocking latex primer

This primer is very useful for wood that has an odor, has been previously painted or stained and you need to properly seal the previous layer. I’ve used this primer on a few older wood furniture pieces and it’s covered the surface beautifully.

You can see I used it when I painted this antique desk with an Ombre effect. This desk reeked of smoke and old wood (even with a previous paint job). With only one coat of this primer it smelled and looked so much better!

Kilz premium primer

I also used this primer to cover a previously painted TV stand.

using KILZ primer


Great at hiding previous odors and stains

Seals well

Zero VOC’s


Thick formula

Doesn’t dry as evenly as others

Kilz Adhesion High Bonding Interior Latex primer

Kilz adhesion high bonding primer is great to use if you are worried about your new paint not adhering well. This is especially useful if you are trying to paint over a previously glossy or semi gloss finish.


Excellent at hiding stains and previous finishes

Bonds securely to even slick finishes

Quick dry time


Thick formula

General Finishes Stain Blocking Primer

General Finishes stain blocking primer is formulated specifically to hide old tannins and stains on wood. General finishes product’s aren’t cheap, but they are well worth the money. This product is great to use on bare wood surfaces as it will effectively block any tannins from the raw wood from seeping through the new paint.


High hide formula

Formulated specifically with highest quality ingredients



Must apply two coats

Zinsser Shellac Primer

Zinsser Shellac primer is well known for its ability to bond well to any surface. Shellac based primers are very effective at sealing wood from water damage and odors. This happens to be the go-to primer for many people when painting non wood surfaces like laminate. Beware that this type of primer is not supposed to be used in a paint sprayer.


Excellent bonding capabilities

Great at sealing odors and water damage


High VOC’s and fumes

Cleanup requires denatured alcohol

Best overall primer for wood furniture

Even though all of these primers are highly rated, our pick for the best overall primer for wood or wood furniture would be the Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer for a few reasons:

  • Best and most even coverage
  • High hiding capabilities
  • Low to no VOC’s
  • Easy cleanup
  • Adheres to a wide variety of surfaces

Are you looking for a primer to paint your cabinets? Check out our list of the five best primer for cabinets here!

best primer for cabinets

Check out more of my Paint reviews below:

Best White Paint Products for Kitchen Cabinets

Valspar Cabinet and Furniture Paint Review

Best Metallic Paint for Furniture

Heirloom Traditions All-in-One paint review

Rust-Oleum Home Floor Coating

Valspar One-Coat Exterior stain and sealer in solid review

I hope this list has helped you decide which primer to use. Thanks for stopping by!