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Choosing Between Kilz and Zinsser Primers

Zinsser and Kilz Primer, Kilz and Zinsser both make good primers for paint jobs. These two brands are arguably the biggest in the coatings market, and you have two capable primers.

You can only choose one, and a solid primer and well-done priming work are crucial to the paint job. Many factors affect picking either, including substrate type. The primer’s qualities matter too.

Some primers are best for rough, damaged, and uneven substrates, while others are only for indoor use.

How you prepare the substrate may determine the brand you choose, and the contractor you choose will also affect the end product. Some primers are for DIY projects, while others are for professionals.

All these factors affect the quality of the priming work but have little to do with the primer brand.

This is a general summary of these two brands’ primers, which are suitable for diverse purposes. The most common primers from each brand are:

  • Kilz Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior / Exterior Primer
  • Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Interior / Exterior Water-Based Primer

Below are the factors to consider when deciding on either:

Kilz and Zinsser Primers

  • VOC rating
  • Strong offensive odor
  • Coverage
  • Adhesion
  • Consistency
  • Mold resistance
  • Rust inhibition
  • Fast drying
  • Diy vs professional application
  • Price

VOC Rating

While nearly all paints and primers today have a Zero VOC rating, some such as the Kilz Premium is a low VOC-rated primer which is important. 

It means that working with this particular primer does expose you to the harmful substances that when inhaled could cause both short-term and long-term respiratory problems. 

Additionally, they tend to be harmful to the environment as well. 

The Zinsser Bulls Eye is the better option, especially for contractors who have to expose themselves to primer fumes continually. Zinsser Bulls Eye has a Zero VOC rating.

Strong offensive odor

While all primers have a strong odor, Kilz Premium has a much stronger one than Zinsser Bulls Eye partly owing to the presence of VOCs in the paint so for a long contract, this primer may present considerable discomfort to work with.


Both primers offer excellent coverage but contractors offer that Zinsser is a lot better than Kilz Premium in this regard.

Zinsser covers stains well, however Kilz Premium may need to be reapplied to cover darker substrates.

Kilz Premium has some bleedthrough, whereas Zinsser Bulls Eye does not.


Zinsser Bulls Eye adheres better than Kilz Premium, however Kilz will perform well provided the surface is thoroughly prepped before priming.

The advantage that Zinsser offers over Kilz Premium primer is that it can adhere to all kinds of substrates without the substrate requiring prior preparation such as cleaning or sanding down.

Zinsser also requires just a single coat of application to adhere to all these surfaces while Kilz Premium may demand a second coat to get sufficient enough adhesion to move on to paint.


Zinsser Bulls Eye is a thicker primer than Kilz primer and this may be both an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the type of substrate you are working on. Some substrates are incredibly porous and require a lot more primer to get covered.

A thinner primer may be easier to work with, especially on a smooth well-primed surface, and will definitely dry faster compared to a thicker one. A thick primer is not easy to work with and may end up leaving streak marks but might be better for uneven damaged substrates.

The substrate determines whether consistency is a merit or a demerit.

Mold resistance

Both primers include mold-killers. Mold resistance eliminates mold growth on surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom.

Rust Inhibition

If you have surfaces that are prone to rust, use the Zinsser Bulls Eye which has rust inhibiting action. 

Fast drying

Both primers are fast drying which is a great advantage for DIY enthusiasts and also contractors who can move from one job to the next without delay. 

Fast-drying primers also eliminate the chances of primer sitting on the surface while wet only to get destroyed accidentally.

DIY vs Professional application

Kilz and Zinsser Primers

Kilz Premium is the easier primer to work with in terms of consistency and applying it is a lot easier. 

However, the strong smell may be too much for novices who have probably never had to work with paint or primer. The fact that the substrate must be sanded down to even it out before using Kilz premium is certainly not favorable for DIYers.

Zinsser is thicker therefore it may be difficult to apply correctly for a DIY project. The advantage of using Zinsser is that it is safe for DIY projects owing to the lack of VOCs that may affect novice painters adversely. 

Zinsser does not have the characteristic odor that Kilz has so DIY projects should be done using this primer.

You will not have to prepare your surface to use Zinsser Bulls Eye since it adheres well and covers just about any surface you may need to work with.

On the whole, your expertise and the size of the job will inform the decision to pick either.


Zinsser Bulls Eye is pricier than Kilz Premium so the overall cost of your paint job will go up if you go for Zinsser. 

An extensive project will cost considerably more so despite Zinsser being the better choice overall it may not be the practical choice financially.