Should Plywood Be Primed Before Painting? Here’s The Truth!

Whether you are new to DIY handiwork or have been at it for a while, painting wood can be an intimidating yet rewarding task. If you are busy with a project involving plywood, it is safe to assume that you would be painting it at some stage. But should you prime it first? Let’s find out. 

For best results, plywood should be primed and prepared before painting it as much as any other wood. By prepping and priming it correctly, you will ultimately seal the wood and use less paint, as it simultaneously enhances the results of the project you are busy with. 

Priming plywood is also not the only step towards preparing plywood for paint. First, you need to ensure a smooth surface by filling all dents and holes with wood filler and sanding them down. Only after ensuring it has a smooth surface can you prime it. 

Why Should Plywood Be Primed Before Painting?

Plywood, as you might be aware, is a strong composite usually made of thin veneers of wood that has been peeled from logs. These veneers are then sandwiched together with binders and then pressed and heated. 

Since its durable nature, plywood is often used in DIY projects for indoor and outdoor use. However, it’s not the best-looking wood, and you would more than likely be painting it before completing the project or item.

Because wood and even plywood are dried materials, the surface can often soak in paint when applied. So, to prime it before painting ensures that the surface and its pores are sealed rather than the paint being absorbed in by the pores. 

Primer dries quicker and does a better job than just painting over the raw wood and helps you use less paint when eventually painting the plywood. 

Using a primer on a well-prepared surface will also promote proper bonding between your paint and the plywood. In addition, the primer will help that the paint does not peel off or chip easily once the final coat has dried, giving your handmade project a longer lifetime. 

How Do You Prepare And Prime Plywood For Painting?

Since painting plywood is much like painting any other type of wood, the first thing you would need to do before even thinking of priming it would be to fill all the holes and non-uniformities with some wood filler. 

It is recommended to use wood filler with a natural color to avoid paint-out stains when you get to the painting process. 

The wood filler typically dries overnight and tends to shrink as it dries, which would require a second coat. However, don’t be dismayed by the extended process; the result when painting the plywood will be worth it. 

Should Plywood Be Primed Before Painting? Here's The Truth!

Pro tip: Wood filler can become quite hard, so it is best not to apply it excessively as it will take much longer to sand down excessive amounts of it. 

Sanding the wood filler with 120-grit sandpaper before applying a new coat of wood filler will also ensure that you apply the second coat over a smooth surface. 

While you are waiting for the wood filler to dry, you can start filling the ends of the plywood boards. Generally, these are pretty rough and might have some voids in them. However, filling it allows you to have a smooth surface once you are painting. 

Some people swear by applying joint compound over the whole surface of the plywood, ensuring that any other dents you might not notice are filled, improving the result once painted. 

If your plywood is of good quality, this might not be necessary, but if not, it might be worth it for you to do. 

After the wood filler has dried, it is time to sand the plywood. Sanding wood of any type is the messiest part of a painting project, and the dust it creates can be harmful to you. That being said, with plywood made of different materials, it is even better to ensure you are wearing a mask and sanding it in a well-ventilated area. 

Once sanded, your plywood can be cleaned well with a clean wet rag when it is dry. Then, it is time to prime it. 

Priming Plywood For Painting

When it comes to priming, and you have followed the procedure listed above, it is smooth sailing from there. Choosing the correct primer for the plywood is also a crucial part of the process.

Should Plywood Be Primed Before Painting? Here's The Truth!

Choosing a primer that is wood specific is always a good option if you are priming plywood for furniture use indoors and outdoors. 

Wood primer is specifically designed to fill the pores and give an excellent seal to the wood. However, it would also mean that you do not use as much primer as you would if you used another primer. 

Depending on the size of the plywood, you would choose to either use a sponge roller or a brush. Whichever you choose, it helps to always brush in the direction of the surface grain by using long smooth strokes. If you think that you would not get this done with a brush, use a sponge roller instead. 

Once your primer has dried, you may notice some of the flaws of the wood or lack of wood filler indents show up. Unfortunately, these are easy to miss when preparing the plywood for painting. 

The easiest way to rectify this is by filling it with some filler and touching up the primer on those spots. It should be small enough to not make too much of a difference.  

Once your primer has completely dried, you can lightly sand the primer by hand with 150 to 180 grit sandpaper. This will ensure that any wood fibers that were not entirely attached to the plywood surface comes off and give you a smooth finish to paint on. 

Once sanded, you can go ahead and paint the plywood. More than often, you would not need more than two coats of paint for the perfect finish of your project. Depending on the paint you use, you might not need to apply a finish to the plywood. 


The visible difference between primed plywood versus non-primed plywood is uncanny. The surface will appear smoother giving your project a professionally painted look. 

It also gives you the opportunity to work with a bit of a lower grain quality plywood and still have a rewarding result for your project. 


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