To prime or not to prime. That is the question. About a decade ago, manufacturers introduced so-called self-priming paints, touted to allow consumers to skip priming.

But people still debate whether that’s a good idea.

“Contractors rarely use self-priming paints,” says Deborah Zimmer, a spokeswoman for the Paint Quality Institute, the education division of the Dow Chemical Company. “They worry that if the paint-and-primer product doesn’t give them the appearance or performance they need, they will waste time having to redo the job.”

Typically, contractors use a primer, then two coats of paint—the primer to seal the surface and improve paint adhesion and the paint to provide color and protection.

“Contractors like to stick with what they know,” Zimmer says.

As for consumers, we think you’re better off with the new approach. Most of the paints Consumer Reports buys and tests are self-priming, and we’ve found that they work well.

“Self-priming paints have improved over the years to the point where you no longer need to prime,” says our paint expert, Enrique de Paz. “And I would say that’s true whether there’s paint already on the walls or it’s new construction.”

But why not use an inexpensive primer plus one coat of good paint?

“It might seem like it would save you money, but primers do not hide as well,” de Paz says. “If your walls are smooth and you’re putting a similar or darker color over light, one coat of self-priming paint that’s excellent at hiding will do the job.”

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.