Can I Use Kilz as Paint?

Kilz is best known as a primer – a base coat designed to prepare surfaces for painting. But some DIYers have pondered using Kilz as a standalone paint. This leads to the key question: Can Kilz be used effectively as a finishing paint without an additional topcoat?

The answer depends on the specific project, surface type, and desired outcome. With the right approach, Kilz can serve as a paint in certain scenarios. However, there are also limitations to relying solely on primer for a finished look.

Can I Use Kilz as Paint

Understanding Kilz Primer

Before assessing Kilz’s use as paint, it helps to understand Kilz primers themselves. Kilz makes several primer types for various applications.

Kilz 2 is a fast-drying latex-based primer suitable for drywall, plaster, wood, masonry, and metal. It dries completely in 30 minutes and can be topcoated in 1 hour. Kilz 2 provides good adhesion and seals surfaces for uniform paint absorption.

Kilz Original is an oil-based primer with strong stain- and odor-blocking abilities. It leaves a mildew-resistant coating. However, it requires mineral spirits for cleanup and has a strong odor during application.

Kilz Restoration primes and seals severe stains from water, rust, grease, ink, pencil, felt marker, and smoke damage. It has a “maximum stain and odor blocking” formula.

Kilz Adhesion promotes adhesion on slick surfaces like tile, glass, metals, vinyl, and glossy laminates. It contains shellac to “bite into” slick materials.

Kilz Porch and Patio is a multi-surface latex primer and sealer suitable for outdoor project surfaces. It resists mildew growth and UV damage.

So while Kilz makes numerous primer types, they all serve a similar fundamental purpose – to prepare surfaces for painting by improving adhesion, blocking stains, and sealing porous materials. No Kilz primer is specifically designed as a standalone paint. But could they work adequately in that role?

Can You Get Paint With Kilz In It?

Before using plain Kilz as paint, it helps to know that some premixed paint+primer products contain Kilz. So you can achieve a “painted” look with Kilz as an ingredient:

  • Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint & Primer has Kilz formulated into the all-in-one acrylic latex paint. It simplifies projects by including primer and paint in one.
  • Kilz Complete Coat Interior Paint & Primer also blends paint and primer together, providing a mildew-resistant one-coat finish.
  • Valspar Optimus Interior Latex Paint & Primer uses Kilz primer in its acrylic latex formulation, offering stainblocking and topcoat coverage.

However, using these Kilz-infused paints differs from relying solely on plain Kilz primer for a painted finish. The included paint provides tinting and improved aesthetics. But is plain Kilz up for being used as paint?

Can You Paint Walls With Kilz?

Painting walls is one of the most common DIY projects. And if you have Kilz primer on hand, using it alone may seem convenient. But how effective is plain Kilz for coloring walls?

The consensus is you can paint walls with Kilz primer, but the results tend to be subpar compared to actual wall paint. Kilz dries fast, but it lacks the binders and pigments of real paint. Walls coated only in Kilz often look flat, porous, or unfinished.

However, Kilz does offer some level of color. White Kilz primers like Kilz Original impart a white cast that effectively obscures darker colors beneath. Tinted Kilz primer also provides a degree of coloration, though less vivid than actual paint.

So in a pinch, or on surfaces hidden from view, a coat of Kilz can suffice to color walls. But for visible wall surfaces where looks matter, Kilz should not replace standard wall paint. Opt for a Kilz-infused paint or dedicated topcoat instead.

Can Kilz Be Used As A Ceiling Paint?

Painting ceilings and overhead surfaces poses some unique challenges. And similar to walls, using only Kilz primer on ceilings is possible but not ideal.

The main limitation of Kilz for ceilings is its lack of durability and stain resistance compared to ceiling paints. Kilz dries rapidly, letting you recoat faster. But it lacks the tough acrylic resins of ceiling paints formulated to withstand cleaning, humidity, and yellowing.

Kilz also provides minimal resistance to stains from water leaks, condensation, or overspray. It may require frequent recoating to maintain a fresh appearance. Proper ceiling paints have stain blockers and scrub-resistant finishes.

However, Kilz does offer decent coverage for obscuring old ceiling colors. Its limited porosity helps minimize uneven absorption. For garage or basement ceilings not subject to cleaning, Kilz can temporarily serve as a primer coat. But the final ceiling finish should have a durable topcoat.

Can You Just Use Primer As Paint?

Beyond ceilings and walls, what about using Kilz as paint for other surfaces? In general:

  • Primers like Kilz lack the colorant pigments, binders, and additives of quality paints. This leads to subpar aesthetics and durability.
  • Kilz has minimal mildew/stain resistance compared to kitchen, bath, and trim enamels designed for those spaces.
  • Kilz doesn’t offer the rich gloss of enamels for doors, cabinets, and woodwork.

However, primers excel at certain roles paints cannot match:

  • Kilz binds well to slick surfaces that give paint adhesion issues.
  • Kilz blocks stubborn stains that bleed through paint.
  • Kilz seals porous surfaces for uniform topcoat absorption.

So relying solely on Kilz primer as paint should generally be avoided. Optimal results come from using the right primer and paint pairing based on the surface and project goals.

Practical Applications And Limitations

While Kilz isn’t an ideal substitute across the board, are there situations where plain Kilz primer could work sufficiently as a finish coat? Let’s explore some specific scenarios.

Can I Use Kilz As Ceiling Paint?

For drywall ceilings, a coat of white Kilz Original oil-based primer may suffice in basement or utility areas not subject to frequent cleaning or condensation. The low ceiling height means the primer isn’t scrutinized up close.

However, don’t rely solely on Kilz for ceiling finishes in bathrooms, kitchens, or laundry rooms. The humidity will degrade plain Kilz. Use a dedicated bathroom/kitchen paint for stainproof, scrubbable results.

On concrete ceilings, Kilz has very limited penetration ability. A masonry-specific coating would bond and seal better. For wood panel ceilings, an enamel undercoater is a better choice to condition the wood before finishing.

Can I Use Kilz Primer As Paint?

On properly prepared interior walls, a coat of white or tinted Kilz 2 latex primer could temporarily improve the appearance of a space during renovations or between tenants. It obscures old colors and provides a uniform primed surface.

For kids’ rooms, offices, or other low-wear areas, tinted Kilz offers a budget-friendly colored coating. Just touch it up more frequently versus higher quality paint.

Kilz also works for painting over dark colors without bleed-through. It blocks stains and provides a light base layer before repainting fully.

For interior doors, cabinets, and trim, stick with proper primer + paint systems. Kilz lacks the gloss, hardness, and durability of quality enamels.

Can I Just Use Kilz Primer As Paint?

Relying solely on Kilz primer as a permanent wall or ceiling finish often leads to disappointment. Without a quality topcoat, the results tend to look dull or unfinished. Surfaces lack texture and depth.

Kilz also touch ups poorly compared to real paint. The porosity differences between primer and paint layers can create blotchiness.

While Kilz primer alone can work temporarily, the longevity and aesthetics suffer. Add a compatible finish paint for professional, long-lasting results on visible surfaces.

Advanced Usage Of Kilz

Beyond basic wall and ceiling applications, Kilz primers can also be used in more advanced ways as part of a painting system.

Can I Use Kilz In A Paint Sprayer?

Kilz latex and oil-based primers can both be applied using a paint sprayer. Latex Kilz sprays easily from an airless sprayer. For oil-based Kilz, carefully follow sprayer cleanup procedures.

When spraying Kilz primer:

  • Use a fine finish spray tip for the best atomization.
  • Apply wet, overlapping coats for uniform coverage.
  • Allow proper dry time between coats.
  • Keep the sprayer moving to avoid drips or sags.

Kilz spray application works great for large jobs. It saves time and gives a consistent primed surface.

Can I Use Kilz Over Latex Paint?

For refinishing projects, Kilz primer adheres well to existing latex paints after proper prep. To apply Kilz over latex paint:

  • Clean and lightly scuff the old latex paint.
  • Use spackle to fill any cracks or holes.
  • Sand glossy areas to dull the sheen.
  • Remove all dust before priming.
  • Apply 1-2 coats of Kilz primer.

The oil-based Kilz Original works best for blocking stains from water, smoke, or markers that bleed through old latex paint. Latex Kilz 2 also works well for general adhesion without strong solvent odors.

Can I Put Kilz Over Paint?

In addition to latex paint, Kilz primer also adheres to oil-based paints after proper prep. To apply Kilz over old oil paint:

  • Clean and sand the surface thoroughly.
  • Use TSP substitute to degrease oil-painted kitchen or bathroom walls.
  • Patch and fill uneven areas with spackle.
  • Sand any glossy areas to improve adhesion.
  • Remove all sanding dust before applying Kilz.

Oil-based Kilz Original bonds well to existing oil paint. But latex Kilz 2 also works in most cases unless stains require oil-based blocking. Always do a test patch to ensure proper adhesion.

Pre-Painting Considerations

Before starting any painting project, proper prep work ensures optimal results. So how does prepping for Kilz primer differ from standard painting?

Should I Use Kilz Before Painting?

In most cases, yes – apply Kilz primer before painting walls, ceilings, or trim. Kilz helps standard water or oil-based paints adhere and perform better.

Reasons to apply Kilz primer before painting:

  • Seals drywall and plaster for uniform paint absorption
  • Binds paint to slick surfaces like metal or tile
  • Blocks stains from bleeding into finish coat
  • Provides white base for brighter paint colors
  • Allows painting over glossy surfaces by improving adhesion

For new drywall, a coat of Kilz 2 before painting results in a more even finish. For staining issues, oil-based Kilz Original prevents bleed-through.

Can I Use Kilz Over Oil-Based Paint?

Yes, Kilz primers work over existing oil paint after proper prep. To prepare oil-painted surfaces for Kilz:

  • Clean with TSP or degreasing agent
  • Lightly sand to dull glossy areas
  • Patch and fill holes, cracks, or imperfections
  • Remove all sanding dust

Oil-based Kilz Original bonds well to existing oil paint. Latex Kilz 2 also adheres sufficiently unless stains require oil-based blockers. Always test adhesion on a small area first.

Comparative Analysis

How does plain Kilz primer really compare to quality wall paint in terms of finish and performance? Here’s an overview:

Durability – Kilz scuffs and stains easily compared to quality latex wall paints. It lacks abrasion-resistant binders.

Finish – Kilz dries flat without the subtle sheen of wall paints. The texture also appears porous rather than smooth.

Color – Kilz tints provide muted, less vivid colors than paint with full pigmentation.

Coverage – Kilz requires several coats for even opacity compared to thicker wall paint.

Washability – Kilz has minimal resistance to scrubbing. Wall paints with acrylic binders clean easily.

Touch-ups – Kilz primers touch up poorly, while quality paints blend seamlessly.

Odor – Oil-based Kilz has strong solvent fumes during application compared to water-based paint.

Cost – Using only Kilz primer provides moderate upfront savings versus quality paint. But it requires more frequent recoating to maintain appearance.

Case Studies and User Experiences

How does plain Kilz hold up in real world use cases according to DIYers and professionals? Here are some firsthand accounts:

“I painted my kid’s bedroom walls with two coats of Kilz primer to try and save money. It looked okay at first, but scuffs very easily and stains if you don’t wipe it quickly. I wish I had just used regular paint.”

  • DIY Homeowner

“We specified Kilz primer on the walls of a commercial office space during renovations. Without a paint topcoat, the results were poor. The Kilz absorbed office dirt quickly and needed frequent touching up.”

  • Professional Painter

“I used white Kilz primer as a base layer when repainting my kitchen blue. It provided good coverage over the previous yellow. But two coats of blue paint were still needed for a quality finish.”

  • DIY Blogger

“Once when flipping a house, I ran low on wall paint so just used Kilz primer in a back bedroom. You could definitely tell the difference – the primer was alright but lacked the depth and durability of real paint.”

  • House Flipper


Kilz primer has limited viability as standalone paint in certain circumstances like low-wear areas, temporary spaces, or between tenants. It does provide basic coloration and a uniform surface.

However, for quality results with good longevity, Kilz should not substitute for actual wall paint in visible areas. Dedicated paints offer superior durability, washability, color depth, and stain resistance tailored to their specific application.

For best results, use Kilz as a primer before applying suitable paint finishes. Opt for paint + primer products if seeking an all-in-one solution. With the right prep work and paint pairing, Kilz primers enhance coating performance rather than serving as makeshift paint.

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