What Kind of Paint and Primer Is Best for Plywood?

Plywood is a popular material for DIY projects thanks to its versatility and affordability. With the right paint and primer, it can also be an excellent option for various home improvement projects. So what kind of paint and primer is best for plywood?

An acrylic-latex paint is best for painting plywood. This type of paint is water-based and durable. It is also easy to clean up. As for the primer, a stain-blocking primer is the best option. Stain-blocking primers are designed to block out stains, making them ideal for a wood surface such as plywood. It also promotes better paint adhesion.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 4 factors to consider when choosing paint for plywood
  • What type of paint to use
  • What finish is best
  • My top picks for the best paint and primer for plywood

The 4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for Plywood

1. Type of Plywood

The type of plywood you are painting will determine the type of paint to use. The two most common types of plywood are interior and exterior grade plywood.

For interior plywood, acrylic or water-based paint will work best. An oil-based paint with a water sealant will work best for exterior plywood because it is more durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions.

2. Intended Use

The purpose of the plywood will also determine the type of paint you should use. For example, if you are painting a surface that gets a lot of wear and tear, such as a floor, you will need a paint that is durable and hardwearing.

3. Finish

The finish you choose will determine the level of durability and overall appearance of the plywood. Always remember that the higher the gloss, the more durability it will provide.

A flat finish is a good choice for surfaces that don’t get much wear and tear since it’s the least durable finish.

4. Cost

Pricing should be an important consideration when choosing paint for plywood, as the price varies depending on the type and quality of the paint. While high-quality paints are pricier, they tend to be more durable, so you’ll save on repainting costs in the long run.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Acrylic Latex Paint

Acrylic latex paint is a water-based paint with an acrylic resin binder. It is 100 percent acrylic latex and is regarded as the best-quality paint. It provides superior adhesion, durability, and flexibility compared to other paints.


  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Flexible and resistant to cracking
  • Easy to clean up with soap and water
  • Low odor
  • Good coverage
  • Variety of finishes are available


  • More expensive than other types of paints
  • Can be difficult to apply in high humidity or extreme temperatures
  • Not suitable for outdoor surfaces exposed to direct sunlight or extreme weather conditions

Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paint is a highly durable type of paint that uses an oil-based solvent as its medium. However, it can no longer be used in some countries because of its environmental impact.


  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Resistant to wear and tear
  • Provides a smooth and glossy finish
  • Good for high-traffic areas and surfaces that need to withstand moisture or mildew
  • Can be used on a wide range of surfaces, including metal, wood, and masonry
  • Often used for exterior painting projects due to its weather-resistant properties


  • Slow to dry, which makes it difficult to work with and may require multiple coats
  • Strong odor and requires proper ventilation during application
  • Requires solvents such as mineral spirits for cleanup
  • Can yellow over time
  • More expensive than water-based paints
  • Not as environmentally friendly

What Paint Finish Is Best?

It is essential to choose the right paint finish for plywood. The type of paint finish suitable for plywood largely depends on certain factors, including the location of the plywood, the type of plywood, and the purpose of the paint job.

Determining whether the plywood will be located inside or outside is essential. For exterior plywood, it’s advisable to use a paint finish with higher durability that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

Gloss and semi-gloss finishes are ideal for exterior plywood as they provide protection against moisture buildup, fading, and cracking over time.

The type of plywood used will largely determine the type of suitable paint finish. Plywood is graded from A to D. These grades are smooth and clean, with no appearance of knots or splits.

High-grade plywood is usually suitable for gloss and semi-gloss paint finishes, while low-grade plywood is suitable for low-gloss finishes to help hide imperfections.

Lastly, the purpose of the paint job will determine the type of finish required. For instance, a matte or satin finish is more suitable if the plywood is meant for decorative or aesthetic purposes.

However, if the plywood is continuously exposed to high traffic or environmental factors, a gloss finish may be necessary as it provides an added layer of scratch resistance.

The Best Paint and Primer for Plywood

Best Paint

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Latex Paint is a high-quality paint with long-lasting protection and durability. This acrylic-latex paint is specially formulated to bond with the porous surface of plywood, ensuring a smooth and even finish.

Additionally, it dries quickly, which is convenient for those who want to complete their painting projects promptly.

Another benefit of this paint is its low odor. Unlike other paints that emit a strong smell during application, this latex paint is virtually odorless.

The high coverage rate is also noteworthy. With just one coat, this paint can cover a large surface area of plywood, providing excellent value for money.

Moreover, this paint is available in a wide range of colors, providing homeowners and professionals with endless options.

Regarding durability, Rust-Oleum Latex Paint is also superior. Its chip resistance and color retention properties ensure that the painted plywood surface remains intact for years, even in high-traffic areas.

Best Primer

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer is the best primer for painting plywood. Its water-based formula adheres uniformly to various surfaces, including drywall, concrete, wood, masonry, metal, and even glossy surfaces. 

One of the standout features of this primer is its ability to block tough stains and seal smelly odors. This makes it an excellent choice for painting interior and exterior plywood surfaces that may have previously been exposed to harsh elements or environmental factors, such as moisture or mold.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer also has a fast-drying formula that takes only 35 minutes to dry to the touch. Additionally, it is ready to be top-coated in just one hour, saving you valuable time during your painting project.

Another advantage of this primer is its exceptional coverage rate. With a coverage area of approximately 85-110 sq. ft. per quart (8-10m² per liter), you can easily prime a large surface area with just a few cans of this product.

Joshua Milton

Joshua Milton is a passionate DIY and home improvement enthusiast. With his expertise in various projects, he provides practical tips, step-by-step guides, and creative ideas for transforming your living space.

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