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

Enamel paint is a durable paint that has a glossy finish when dry. In addition, the paint has impressive adhesion qualities. So, does enamel paint need a primer?

Enamel paint needs a primer undercoat. Of course, you can apply enamel paint without a primer, but a primer will help the paint stick better and gives a smooth finish.

A primer will fill holes, cover imperfections, and produce a smooth and even layer for the paint to stick to. For these reasons, applying primer is recommended. 

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.

You can apply enamel paint without a primer. Enamel paint has impressive adhesive qualities and will stick to almost every surface. But, the primer will help to get an even finish. 

Enamel paint is a thick paint that offers protection and a colorful finish to surfaces. When dry, enamel paint has a glossy finish that repels moisture. So, for smooth and clean surfaces, a primer isn’t needed. 

However, if the surface has imperfections, you must apply primer before enamel paint. A primer will fill the holes a surface has, cover imperfections, and help the paint stick better.

Also, if the surface is wet or has moisture, you must apply a stain-blocking primer before enamel. A stain-blocking primer will prevent water (or moisture) from bleeding through. If you apply enamel over wet surfaces without a primer, the paint won’t stick and will turn sticky. 

You must apply primer before enamel if painting non-porous surfaces such as plastic. This is because plastic surfaces don’t have fibers, so paint won’t stick. To apply paint over a non-porous surface, you need to apply a primer first, then apply the paint.

Primers are formulated with extra additives that improve their adhesive qualities. So, while paints can’t stick to plastic, primers can. After you apply primer over plastic, the primer will produce a base coat for the paint to stick to. 

You also must apply a primer before enamel if the surface is sealed or painted. A sealed surface won’t allow any liquid to penetrate, including paint. So, paint can’t stick without a primer. Also, if the surface is painted with oil-based paint, but you want to use water-based enamel, you need a primer. 

Related Read:  How Long Does Primer Last?

Primer Types For Enamel Paint

The best primers for enamel paints are alkyd, acrylic, and shellac primers. Depending on the surface you are painting, you can choose one or the other. 

Alkyd Primers

Alkyd primer is a stain, moisture, and UV resistant primer. When painting over a wet surface, apply an alkyd primer first. Since alkyd primers are oil-based, they are compatible with oil-based enamel paints.

However, you must avoid alkyd primers if you are painting over plastic. That’s because these primers tend to yellowish over time. 

Acrylic Primers

You can use acrylic (or latex) primers before applying enamel paint. Water-based primers dry fast and adhere well. 

But, a water-based primer shouldn’t be your first choice for oil-based enamel. There are better options. However, for water-based enamel, an acrylic primer is the best choice. 

Acrylic primers are good for drywall, plaster, and wood. However, this primer isn’t moisture-resistant, so don’t apply it over wet surfaces. 

Shellac Primers

Shellac primers are the best primers for enamel paint. They dry fast, have good coverage, and provide a smooth base for paints to stick to. 

Shellac primers are stain-blocking and will prevent water or moisture from bleeding through. You can use shellac primers to cover water and smoke damage over walls. Some shellac primers can also seal smoke smells. 

Do You Need Primer For Different Surfaces?


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.

Enamel paint doesn’t need a primer on metal. But, a primer will help the enamel paint stick to metal better. 

However, you must use a primer if the metal surface is rusted, wet, or damaged. If you don’t, the rust and moisture will bleed through the paint and change the color shade of the finish. Also, the dry time of enamel paint will increase, and the finish will turn tacky. 

A stain-blocking primer will prevent moisture and rust from bleeding through the paint. It will also fill the holes in the metal surface and create an even base coat for the paint to stick to. However, if the metal surface is severely damaged, you must repair it before applying primer or paint. 

For metal surfaces, you must apply a shellac primer or oil-based primer. You shouldn’t use a water-based primer. That’s because water-based primers use water as their solvent, and if the metal has moisture, the moisture will thin the primer. It also won’t stop moisture from bleeding through. 

Rust in metal surfaces is created by a combination of moisture and air, which causes oxidation. The oxidation forms rust and peels off the enamel paint from the surface. So, to avoid this, apply a moisture-blocking primer such as shellac primer. 

Related Read: How To Apply Enamel Over Latex Paint?


You must apply primer on plastic before applying enamel paint. This is because enamel paint won’t stick to plastic surfaces without a primer.

Plastic is a non-porous surface, and as such, no paint will stick to it. Since plastic doesn’t have fibers, paint can’t penetrate the surface and will slide off. However, primer is formulated with extra additives to allow it to stick to a plastic surface. 

To apply enamel paint on plastic, sand the surface, apply one coat of primer, and then apply the enamel paint. The sanding will produce a ridged layer over the plastic surface to help the primer stick better. Then, the primer will produce a base coat for the paint to stick.

If you apply enamel paint on plastic without a primer, the paint will chip and slide off the surface. 


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

You can apply enamel paint on wood without primer, but the wood must be clean, dry, and smooth. There are also types of enamel paint that come with primer in their formula, so you don’t have to apply it. 

However, the enamel paint won’t stick well if the wooden surface isn’t clean, dry, or smooth. That’s because the dirt and filth will prevent proper adhesion.

The wooden surface must be dry for enamel paint to stick. If the wooden surface is wet, it means the wood fibers are already filled with water, so paint can’t penetrate the surface. You must either remove the water from wood fibers or apply a coat of stain-blocking primer to allow enamel paint to stick. 

If you don’t want to use a primer on wood before enamel, then you must sand the surface first. Sanding will remove the imperfections and leave a smooth surface for enamel paint to stick to. 

To paint wood with enamel, you can use water or oil-based primers. If you are using water-based enamel, use a water-based primer. If you are using oil-based enamel, use an oil-based primer. 


Using a primer for enamel paint isn’t required, but it’s recommended. A primer will help the enamel paint stick better and provide a smoother finish. 

However, a primer for enamel is required only if the surface is dirty, uneven, or wet. That’s because a stain-blocking primer will protect the enamel paint from moisture. A primer will also fill the holes and imperfections the surface has and provide an even base coat for enamel paint to stick to. 

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