What Kind of Paint and Primer Is Best for Wood Paneling?

Painting is an affordable and easy way to modernize wood paneling, but before you get started, you need to know what kind of paint and primer is best for the job.

Water-based paint and primer is the best choice for painting wood paneling. It dries quickly, doesn’t require as many layers of paint, and won’t leave a strong odor. For best results, use a stain-blocking primer first to ensure that the paneling is properly sealed and to prevent any discoloration from showing through. 

In this article, you will learn:

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

The 4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for Wood Paneling

1. Type of Wood Paneling

Different types of wood paneling require different types of paint. You need to consider if your wood paneling is glossy or matte. Matte wood paneling will require a different type of paint than glossy wood paneling.

2. Paint Finish

Knowing the finish of the paint you are going to use is important. If you want a smooth, glossy finish, you will need to use paint with a high gloss finish. If you prefer a more subdued and matte look, go for a paint with a flat finish.

3. Quality of the Paint

Choosing high-quality paint is important if you want your wood paneling to look great for years to come. High-quality paint will not only adhere better but will also have better pigment and a longer-lasting finish.

Quality paint may be more expensive, but it will save you money in the long run as you may not have to repaint your wooden panels as often.

4. Type of Primer

The type of primer you choose is just as important as the type of paint. A primer will help the paint adhere to the wood paneling better. For instance, if you have glossy paneling, you will need a stronger primer to ensure the paint sticks.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Water-based Paints (Latex, Acrylic, etc.)

Water-based paint, also known as latex paint or acrylic paint, is a type of paint that uses water as its medium for dissolving pigments and binders.

The main components of water-based paint include pigment, binder (such as acrylic or vinyl resin), and water as the solvent.


  • Fast-drying, which allows for the quick application of multiple coats
  • Easy cleanup with soap and water
  • Lower levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • Resistant to yellowing and cracking


  • Not as durable as oil-based paints
  • Sensitive to temperature and humidity changes 
  • Requires multiple layers
  • Less suitable for exterior applications

Oil-based Paints

Oil-based paint is a type of paint that uses an oil-based solvent as its medium. The main components of oil-based paint include pigment, binder, and a solvent (such as mineral spirits or turpentine). This type of paint is known for its durability, long-lasting finish, and resistance to wear and tear.


  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Resistant to wear and tear
  • Provides a smooth and glossy finish
  • Good for high-traffic areas
  • Weather-resistant properties


  • Slow to dry
  • Strong odor
  • Requires solvents for cleanup
  • Can yellow over time
  • More expensive 
  • Not as environmentally friendly 

What Paint Finish Is Best?

When it comes to finishing wood paneling, a variety of options are available to ensure a flawless finish. Depending on your desired aesthetic and level of durability, the paint finish you choose can significantly affect the outcome.

One of the most popular finishes for wood paneling is a satin finish. This type of finish offers a slightly glossy look that is not too shiny, and it provides a great level of durability.

Satin is perfect for high-traffic areas or rooms that are frequently used since it is easy to clean and resists scratches and scuffs. It also holds up well against moisture and humidity, making it an excellent choice for bathrooms or other damp areas.

Another option to consider is a semi-gloss finish. This finish is slightly more reflective than satin but is still easy to clean and durable. It also provides a bit more resistance to moisture than a satin finish, making it a great choice for kitchens or other areas where moisture is present.

A matte finish is a great choice for those looking for a more traditional finish. This type of finish offers a flat look that gives a more natural appearance to wood paneling.

However, it is less durable than a satin or semi-gloss finish and is more prone to marks and scratches. Matte finish is better suited to low-traffic areas or rooms where the wood paneling is purely decorative and not likely to be touched.

The Best Paint and Primer for Wood Paneling

Choosing the best paint and primer for painting wood paneling is important because it directly impacts the finished project’s quality, durability, and overall appearance.

Spray-painting wood paneling is a great option for an even, seamless finish. However, if you plan to use a brush or roller, make sure to avoid brush marks by employing the right technique.

Best Paint

Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel is not just any paint; it is the ultimate solution for transforming your wood paneling into a masterpiece.

This paint is specially formulated with advanced technology, making it the best choice for upgrading the appearance and durability of wood paneling.

This paint exhibits superior flow, leveling, and sag resistance, providing a smooth and even finish that is second to none.

It is perfect for tackling the rough and uneven texture of wood paneling, leaving a beautifully smooth and uniform coat without any brush or roller marks.

One of the standout features of Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel is its excellent adhesion, which means it adheres firmly to the wood paneling surface and doesn’t easily peel off, crack or fade. This ensures a long-lasting and durable finish that will withstand the test of time.

Moreover, this paint is water-based, making it eco-friendly and easy to clean up with just soap and water. It also dries quickly, so you can apply a second coat within hours of the first one.

Best Primer

KILZ 2 All-Purpose Primer (previously KILZ 2 Latex) is the go-to primer for wood paneling. It is a fast-drying, water-based formula with excellent adhesion properties, mildew resistance, and odorless qualities.

This primer sealer stain-blocker is designed to block medium stains, including minor water stains, rust, grease, ink, pencil, and felt marker, making it perfect for priming wood paneling.

One of the most remarkable attributes of this primer is its enhanced hiding capabilities. This means it is ideal for changing colors and can significantly reduce the number of paint coats required, saving you time and money.

This primer’s exceptional multi-surface adhesion properties make it perfect for use on interior and exterior surfaces. KILZ 2 All-Purpose Primer is specially designed to be compatible with waterborne or oil-based paints.

Therefore, it is not only perfect for priming wood paneling but can also be used for other surfaces in your home. However, it is crucial to note that it is not recommended for use on flooring.

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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