Does Enamel Paint Need Primer? (Find Out Now!)

Primer is a product that can is used on almost any surface to create a smooth and uniform finish. Primers are also known for filling in minor imperfections. That can help prevent the need for extensive sanding or other repairs later on.

For these reasons, primers should always be applied before applying enamel paints. This will give you the optimal results and make your enamel paint last much longer.

Can You Paint Enamel Without Primer?

Applying prime before enamel paint is recommended. But, can you apply enamel without prime? Yes, you can. But, it's not recommended. The paint won't stick as well as it would with prime.

Yes, you can paint enamel without a primer coat. There are surfaces like metal that don’t usually require a coat of primer before applying enamel paint. But, it is not advisable to directly apply enamel; using a primer will always be beneficial.

Enamel is a paint that provides both protection and a colorful finish to the surfaces. It can be applied without primer on most surfaces, but this is not advisable as it will eventually peel off the surface.

Enamel is a thick paint, and it needs a gummy surface to stick appropriately. Putting the first coat of primer can provide the enamel that sticky texture. And eventually, it will increase the life of paint applied on the surface.

However, if you wish to apply enamel without primer, then you can do that. Some enamel paint brands produce paints that already have primer in them.

These paints are also being used widely now. But, experts still believe that the quality of the surface will not be smooth and durable as it is when using a primer before coating enamel. Prepping the surface was always advisable earlier, and it still retains the same importance in the painting process.

Related Read:  How Long Does Primer Last?

Do You Need Undercoat For Enamel Paint?

If you are planning to apply enamel paint over an existing surface that has been painted before, you must use an undercoat. Otherwise, on a new surface, it is not mandatory if you are using primer. 

Undercoats are basically a subset of primers used to cover the flaws in the surfaces. Undercoats provide a smooth, uniform, and even base for applying topcoats. It is advisable that using an undercoat over an already painted surface is more ideal than applying it directly over a new surface.

New surfaces have many imperfections that need to be sealed first. Therefore, good-quality primers seal the surface, hide, and bond to form a sturdy base for the topcoat. However, using both primer and undercoat is not mandatory before applying enamel over a new surface. You can always choose anyone amongst them.

But, if you want to use both, then remember that undercoats will only provide you the desired results if applied over a coat of primer. Also, never forget to sand the layer of the undercoat before applying enamel paint over it.

Does Enamel Paint Need Primer On Metal?

Metal is known as a rough surface, and paint sticks better when the surface is rough. So, does enamel paint need primer on metal? Using a primer on metal is optional. It's better to use it, but if you don't have any left then don't worry.

Metals don’t require a coat of primer before applying enamel paint, but many professionals believe that using a primer is the best practice. So, if you want to paint enamel over any metal surface, it would be best to use a good primer as a first coat.

Using primer as the first coat after sanding and cleaning the metal surface acid or any solvent will provide a layer of protection over the surface.

Primer increases the strength of adhesion on the metal surface, which helps the enamel stick to the surface aggressively. So, no more paint flaking or cracking. Further, primer also covers the imperfections of the metal surface and makes it smoother for enamel topcoats.

Moreover, if you plan to paint enamel over such metal surfaces, which will be used outdoors, then using primer becomes more crucial. When metals are placed outside under harsh weather conditions, the metal tends to contact moisture and dust.

Moisture affects the metal surfaces and causes oxidation. Oxidation of metal can result in rust formation, eventually peeling off the enamel paint from the metal surface. However, if you use a primer before applying enamel, the chances of metal getting rust decrease considerably.

Therefore, always practice putting a coat of primer before applying enamel over a metal surface. That will give a smooth, shiny, and long-lasting finish.

Also, do remember that using water-based primers for metal surfaces is not a good choice. Always choose rust-inhibiting primers, galvanized primers, or iron oxide primers; they will provide the best results.

Related Read: How To Apply Enamel Over Latex Paint?

Does Enamel Paint Need Primer On Plastic?

Yes, primer helps the paint adhere better and smoother, which means your paint will last longer. Most of the paints don’t easily stick to the plastic surfaces on their own. Therefore, using a primer coat is a good choice.

Painting plastic surfaces can be tough. Unlike wood, the paint doesn’t have much to stick to due to it not being porous. However, there is a way through which this process can be a success if done carefully and with patience.

Also, understand that depending on the type of paint and plastic you are working with, the paint may chip off after heavy or frequent use. But, you don’t have to worry as long as you’re careful.

However, to make your plastic surface ideal for applying enamel paint, you need to prep it properly first. Always start your prep process by removing dirt from the surface by washing the surface with mild dish soap and warm water.

Then lightly sand the plastic surface using 220 to 300-grit sandpaper. And, remove the sanding residue using a cloth dipped in alcohol or spirit. After performing these steps, let the surface dry, and once it gets dried, place it in a well-ventilated area.

Next, it is time to apply a coat of primer over the surface. If you are using a brush to apply primer, do remember to spread it evenly and in thin layers to avoid running and dripping. Or, if you are using a spray-able primer, then do cover the surfaces that you don’t want to work on as off-target sprays can harm them.

Once the primer coat is dried, apply enamel paint over the surface in thin and fine coats to avoid drippings. After applying two to three coats, let the paint dry to get a perfect finish.

What Primer Do I Use For Enamel Paint?

Three types of primer are used widely, alkyd primers, acrylic primers, shellac primers. However, any of these can be applied before enamel paint, but it is best to choose based on the surface type to ensure durability.

Alkyd Primers

Alkyd primers or oil-based primers are the most used primers all across the globe. It can be applied as the first coat before painting the surface with enamel paint.

Alkyd primers can go on almost every surface, and they also offer extreme stain resistance. You can easily cover a stained surface with this type of primer. However, some professionals believe that using it over a plastic surface may not be the best choice as it gets yellowish with time.

Acrylic Primers

They are known as latex primers and are water-based. Acrylic primers can be easily used on various surfaces like drywall, plaster, wood, metal, and masonry.

They dry very quickly, and unlike oil-based primers, they don’t contain VOCs, which makes them an ideal choice to use on indoor surfaces.

If you are painting on a smaller surface and want to spend less time on it, then acrylic primers are the best choice to use as the first coat before applying enamel paint.

Shellac Primers

This type of primer is the ultimate choice for applying on interior surfaces. If you want to use enamel over furniture or cabinets, shellac primers can provide you with a smooth and durable finish.

They dry in less than an hour, which means you can cover more surfaces in less time. The only downside of this type of primer is that they contain a considerably higher amount of VOCs.

Related Read: Water-Based vs Oil Based Primer?

Does Enamel Paint Need Primer On Wood?

Does enamel paint need prime on a wood surface? Yes, it does. Priming a wood surface before applying enamel is very recommended.

Always try to use primer over a wooden surface before applying enamel paint on it. Enamel paint applied without primer is more likely to get squeezing, cracking, and peeling issues.

Applying enamel paint over wood is tricky and doesn’t stick to it easily. The wooden surface is porous, and it absorbs coats applied over it. So, to seal it and improve the surface’s imperfections, use a good quality primer as the first coat.

Earlier, there used to be only one choice in terms of primer, which was the oil-based primers. Oil-based primers have been considered as most suitable for wooden surfaces for a very long time now, but they have one major drawback.

Oil-based primers take a very long time to dry; their drying time is almost 24 hours to get good results. But, this more extended drying period also has a positive aspect. The primer has plenty of time to get soaked by the wood, which provides better adhesion between primer and wood.

Moreover, after some research and development, companies have started producing water-based primers, known as acrylic primers. These provide quick drying time, which can help you apply enamel paint over a large surface in less time. The water-based primers also don’t get a yellowish tint after a particular duration.

However, oil-based primer is still the best choice if you don’t want to hurry up the process or have the patience to wait for oil-based primers to dry. The adhesion quality of oil-based primers is still the best among all.

Related Read: How To Apply Enamel Paint on Wood?


To get the best finish, always use a primer before applying enamel paint over any surface. Primer provides better adhesion, smooth and durable finish.

It is recommended to use it on wood or metal furniture to make the painting process smoother. If your project is large, we recommend dividing up the area into smaller sections.

That’s how you can coat each section with primer separately without having to move back and forth too much between coats.

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