The promise of "self-priming" paints is that you can skip the time-consuming priming step and still have your paint job turn out terrific. Here’s what you need to know about self-priming paints before you pick up a brush.

We run a number of tests on interior paints, including hiding— how well a paint covers dark colors in one coat. Our tests found that when a paint earned a very good or excellent score in hiding, one coat should be enough to hide the old paint for many surfaces. You’ll be able to cover the darkest colors in two coats. “These self-priming paints don’t care if there’s brown paint on the wall, a glossy finish, or a stain, just paint,” says Rico De Paz, who conducts our paint tests.

Paints getting only a good score in hiding might need three or four coats. Skip the finishes in our interior paint ratings that earn a fair or poor score in hiding. Most of the interior paints we've reviewed are self-priming.

But even the paints that we rate highest won’t look their best if the surface isn’t well prepared. Follow De Paz's advice for getting a room ready to paint. 

How to Prep Your Walls

  • Use a metal putty knife to scrape away cracked or peeling paint, and any bumps, like those left when a nail is pulled out.
  • Fill gouges and gaps with drywall compound or spackle, allowing it to dry completely before sanding the wall smooth.
  • Clean your walls with a scrub sponge and a diluted solution of a nonsudsing cleaner such as Spic 'n Span (a sudsy detergent will make the wall too slick to hold the paint). The scrub sponge cleans, sands down imperfections, and roughs up the surface for better adhesion.

Buying paint? Compare brands by checking our interior paint ratings. You'll find our top-rated interior paints at AceHome Depot, and Lowe's. (Our tests have shown that a brand's flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss formulations perform similarly overall.)

Email your questions about paint to me at kjaneway@consumer.org.


If you're planning to paint the exterior of your home or your deck, check our ratings of exterior paints and wood stains.