Skip to Content

Can You Use Primer as Ceiling Paint? (All You Need to Know)

When painting any part of the house, it is very vital that the right combination of primer and paint is being used. Because this will ensure if the paint will last for a decade or if it will begin to crack and peel away only after a few months.

Can you use primer as ceiling paint?

Primer can not be used as an alternative to ceiling paint. Its main purpose is to smooth over porous and uneven surfaces to create a flat surface for paint. When the paint is not applied on top of the primer within a few weeks of its application, it will begin to deteriorate and turn chalky.

Primers are not all manufactured in the same process, so naturally, they will perform slightly dissimilarly to one another but using a primer with paint will guarantee the best and most long-lasting result. 

The primer creates the main base for the paint and as a result, the paint ends up sealing in the primer underneath and helps it stay intact for a longer period of time.

Kilz primer: 

Kilz offers an odorless primer that will work amazingly to cover any tiny holes, cracks, or dark stains on the ceiling while also providing a strong base for the paint to grip onto. 

But in order for this to work well, paint should be applied on top of the Kilz primer, or else it will not only deteriorate gradually but will also begin to pull in dust, dirt, and odor from its surroundings.

PVA primer: 

PVA makes latex primers that will adhere to a number of various walls such as drywall, bare brick walls, and many others, better than paint and will also seamlessly hide imperfections and reduce paint splatters. 

But stopping thereafter covering the ceiling wall with only PVA primer will be highly unwise because even though it is an excellent primer, it will not be able to manage on its own and will most likely fall apart in a few days’ time without the top coat of paint painted over it.

Drywall primer: 

Interior latex drywall primer will be the right option if you are thinking of preparing a high-build ceiling that comes with a deeper texture. This primer will work like magic to cover up imperfections on the surface of the ceiling. 

And when the primer dries down completely, take a high-quality paint of your choice and paint over the primer. The paint will be able to grip better with the help of the primer. But leaving the primer without paint on top will not be sustainable and must be avoided at all costs.

White primer: 

White primer may look identical to ceiling paint, as ceiling paint mainly comes in white or slightly different shades of white and also has quite a few similar properties to a white primer. But this does not make them interchangeable. 

The white primer will do its job as a sealant for the bare wall and will create a base for the paint to adhere better. The paint will need to be applied on top of it.

3 reasons why you cannot use primer as ceiling paint – What happens if you don’t paint over primer?

Three reasons why you can’t use primer as ceiling paint are given below –

Properties to combat the elements:

The main purpose of a primer is to bond and cover up a surface that is uneven or porous. It does not have the properties to combat the elements on its own. Hence, it begins to slowly deteriorate and break away if left bare on the ceiling walls. 

And this is why paint is a necessity after primer.

Tends to collect dust:

When a ceiling is left with only a coat of primer, it tends to collect dust, smoke and causes odors to cling to the ceiling wall. 

This occurs because primers work as an adhesive to paint and this causes it to work similarly with dust, dirt, and odor when it has no paint on top.

Begin to yellow:

The primer on the ceiling will inevitably begin to yellow from the original white color no matter how many layers of it you apply. Therefore, it is required to paint over the primer to avoid premature yellowing and excessive staining.

What is the difference between primer and ceiling paint?

Many people seem to believe that primer and ceiling paint can be used as alternatives because they come in similar shades and also have a few key properties that match and sometimes leftover ceiling paint is used as a primer for walls. 

But this does not make the same or mean that one can be used instead of the other.

So, let us look at differences that set them apart:


Primer is made up of pigments mainly while the primary ingredient in paint is resin.


Primer will not be able to protect the ceiling and will disintegrate in a couple of months but ceiling paint will be able to protect the ceiling.

Works as an adhesive:

Primer works as an adhesive and helps paint bond which paint is unable to do on its own.

Easier to clean:

Ceiling paint is much easier to clean than if only primer was used to paint ceilings.

Is it OK to leave the primer unpainted?

It is recommended not to leave the primer unpainted. Primer is a base for paint that has adhesive qualities, this provides a large surface area for the paint to stick to and not slide off. 

But when left unpainted the primer will begin to collect and grip dust and smoke and if that’s left for too long, there will be no other option left but to completely sand off the primer and re-do it from scratch.

Primer is also not going to be able to withstand moisture and water damage like paint does. And if the room is near a kitchen or fireplace, there will also be a significant amount of heat and smoke damage to the primed walls. 

All of these things will cause the walls with only primer on them to deteriorate and break apart within a matter of months to a chalk-like texture. Once this happens, future paint will not be able to stick or go on top of the primer smoothly.

How long can you leave ceiling primer unpainted?

The time period a primer can go unpainted varies on the type of primer used. Some latex primers can last up to 30 days without being painted while oil primers will not be able to go more than 14 days unpainted. 

There are some extended-time primers available in the market that will be able to last a few more days without being painted. But any more than that will result in the paint not being able to stick to the primer and the entire wall will need to be sanded off and re-primed.

Therefore, it is best to not leave a wall with primer unpainted. If you use latex primer, the wall or ceiling should be dry and ready to be painted in 3 to 4 hours while oil primer should be left for at least 24 hours and if possible more before painting over it.

How to apply primer on the ceiling?

Priming the ceiling will be slightly harder than priming the walls or floors but it can be done at home if the right tools are available and if a few bothersome but helpful steps are followed carefully.

Move furniture:

Begin by moving out all the furniture from the room and cover up the ones that are too big or cumbersome to move with drop clothes and cover up the floors entirely with a few more extra drop clothes. 

This will ensure the furniture and floor will stay protected from any primer spillage or mishaps.

Cover the part:

Now, with the help of easy-release painters’ tape, cover the part where the walls meet the ceiling and also any additional crown moldings and fixtures that work as a decoration for the ceiling.

Choose the right primer:

It is finally time to choose the right primer. Interior latex drywall primer for lightly textured walls and high-build primer for ceilings with deeper texture.

Apply the primer:

To start applying the primer, pour it onto a painters’ tray and apply it in an even layer onto the ceiling with the help of a roller.

Apply another coat if needed:

If you notice stains or texture peeking through, apply a second coat of primer after the first dries and allow that to dry as well.

When the textures and stains are fully covered and the primer has completely dried, the ceiling is now ready to be painted!

Final thoughts:

Primer can not be used as ceiling paint even though it shares a few similarities with ceiling paint. The primer will collect dust faster and begin to disintegrate if left unpainted. Therefore, it is always best to paint the ceiling with ceiling paint after the primer has dried completely.