Kilz 2 vs Kilz 3 Primers: Which is Best for Your Paint Project?

Kilz 2 vs Kilz 3 Primers: Which is Best for Your Paint Project?

With any painting project, choosing the right primer is key. Kilz offers two priming options – Kilz 2 and Kilz 3 – that provide quality results. A close look at these primers reveals differences that impact performance and determine ideal applications.

This guide examines the differences between kilz 2 vs kilz 3 to help you determine the best choice for your needs.

What is Primer, and Why is It Important?

Primer is a preparatory coating applied before painting. It serves several key functions:

  • It Provides a uniform surface for the paint to adhere to, preventing imperfections in the original surface from showing through. It Enhances paint adhesion for a more durable and long-lasting finished product
  • It Seals porous surfaces such as drywall or wood to prevent excess paint absorption. It Blocks stains from bleeding through paint layers. It Promotes better coverage by concealing surface differences and allowing the topcoat color to appear truer.

Overview of Kilz 2 Primer

Overview of Kilz 2 Primer

Kilz 2 primer is a fast drying, low odor, water-based formula offered in white and clear tint bases. It adheres well to a variety of surfaces including:

  • Drywall
  • Plaster
  • Wood
  • Brick
  • Concrete
  • Masonry

The water-based Kilz 2 has less odor compared to oil-based primers, making it suitable for indoor residential paint projects. It ordinarily requires two primer coats to adequately seal porous surfaces prior to painting.

Due to its ability to block stains, Kilz 2 performs well as undercoat when painting over discolored areas or mature graffiti.

Overview of Kilz 3 Primer

Overview of Kilz 3 Primer

Kilz 3 refers to Kilz Premium interior/exterior multi-surface water-based primer formulated to block stains and odors on nearly any building material. It adheres powerfully to prepare surfaces for topcoat paint while also acting as a sealer and stain blocker. Recommended uses include:

  • Interior drywall and plaster
  • Woodwork, furniture, doors
  • Exterior siding, trim, decks
  • Brick, stucco and masonry

Kilz 3 has outstanding adhesion power, applies smoothly, and blocks virtually any stain. These characteristics make it well-suited as an alkyd-based primer for new drywall as well as previously painted or varnished interior woodwork.

Comparing Kilz 2 and Kilz 3

How do Kilz 2 and Kilz 3 stack up against each other? Here is a detailed primer comparison:

Adhesion Capabilities

While both bond tightly to common building materials, Kilz 3 has superior adhesion power for use on glass, metals, tile and laminates. Kilz 2 remains an excellent choice for drywall, plaster and masonry.

Odor Level

Kilz 2 has minimal low-VOC odor. Kilz 3 has stronger solvent odor during the drying phase that disappears once fully cured. Kilz 2 causes less indoor air quality impact.

Drying Time

Kilz 2 dries quickly in about 30 minutes between coats. Kilz 3 has an even faster 20 minute dry time allowing for rapid recoating.

Coverage Area

Both primers provide excellent hiding power and spread easily by brush or roller. Kilz 3 offers slightly higher coverage up to 400-500 square feet per gallon.

Suitability for Surfaces

While both work well on drywall and plaster, Kilz 3 has the upper hand on heavily stained wood, brick, metals and tile. Kilz 2 remains a great basic primer for most porours surfaces.

Stain and Odor Blocking

Kilz 3 claims “best stain blocking primer” title with virtually no stains able to bleed through its thick barrier. Kilz 2 does moderately well blocking water and smoke stains but doesn’t match Kilz Premium abilities.

Pros and Cons

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each.

Kilz 2 Pros

  • Low odor formula does not overwhelm indoor spaces making it ideal for interior bedroom or living room painting projects. The water-based formula emits minimal VOC fumes.
  • Quick 30 minute dry time allows painting rooms efficiently in one day. With multiple coats drying rapidly, you can prime and paint a room in less than 24 hours even in cool temperatures.
  • Water-based formula enables easy soap and water cleanup. Unlike oil-based primers, Kilz 2 brushes and rollers rinse clean with just warm water instead of harsh solvents. This makes the cleanup process much simpler.
  • Excels at adhesion to common surfaces like drywall and plaster creating a tight bond to these porous substrates. As a result, topcoat paint adheres evenly without risk of peeling or cracking.
  • Decent at blocking water and smoke stains from showing through. The water-based formula resists light water stains and partially seals in smoke odors and nicotine discoloration after applying two coats.
  • Available in a wide variety of tint bases to suit project needs. Kilz 2 comes in white, clear and tintable primer varieties offering flexibility.

Kilz 2 Cons

  • Struggles to block heavy stains from water damage or grease. Severe leaks, floods or cooking grease in kitchens often require a shellac-based primer like Kilz Premium instead. The water-based formula doesn’t contain blockers for these rigid stains.
  • Fails to contain stubborn odors from pets, smoke or cooking. Similarly, Kilz 2 allows smells from urine, cigarette smoke or kitchen odors to continue emanating from the substrate rather than permanently sealing them in.
  • Limited stainblocking makes it less versatile than Kilz 3. Without shellac additives, Kilz 2 doesn’t work as effectively on diverse stain problems like marker, rust or cedar bleed.
  • Requires 2 coats on porous surfaces to properly seal them. A single coat often proves inadequate for priming absorbent drywall or plaster prior to painting resulting in increased prep work.

Kilz 3 Pros

  • Blocks virtually every type of stain including grease, mold and rust. The alcohol-based formula uses shellac to seal in the toughest oil and water-based stains that easily overwhelm other primers.
  • Contains shellac to seal in odors from fire smoke, pets or cigarettes permanently entombing them within the primer film even after drying.
  • Superior adhesion power sticks tightly even on slick surfaces like metals and tiles. This allows painting tricky surfaces like galvanized steel or laminates with greater confidence.
  • High hide formulation covers flaws with one coat in some cases minimizing preparation work to save time and money on labor.
  • Quick 20 minute recoat time keeps projects moving efficiently allowing next primer or paint coats soon after prior coat dries.

Kilz 3 Cons

  • Strong solvent fumes require proper ventilation during drying to allow odors to escape safely without inhaling. Without adequate airflow, the long drying time and persistent fumes can overwhelm indoor areas.
  • Cleanup requires mineral spirits instead of convenient soap and water necessitating proper handling of flammable solvents and hazardous waste disposal. This makes the cleanup process more difficult and dangerous.
  • Limited color options compared to water-based primer varieties. Kilz Premium only comes in white and clear base preventing tinting primer to desired hues.
  • Not as effective for typical drywall prep as lower cost Kilz 2. The premium performance comes at a higher price point that proves overkill for basic drywall painting jobs.

Application Tips and Best Practices

Proper application technique goes a long way towards a successful priming project. Here are some key recommendations when using Kilz 2 or Kilz 3 primers:

  • Carefully follow all label preparation and application directions
  • Check forecast and avoid painting in wet or cold conditions
  • Apply two coats of primer for best results
  • Use appropriate brush types and roller nap sizes for smooth flow
  • Maintain a wet edge and avoid lap marks while painting
  • Ensure adequate ventilation while primer dries
  • Allow full curing time before adding topcoats
  • Clean up spills, drips and tools immediately after use

Safety comes first when handling solvent-based primers like Kilz 3 orcleanup methods like mineral spirits. Wear protective eyewear, gloves, and clothing to minimize exposure risk.

Never dispose of liquids down household drains. Allow empty cans to fully dry out before placing in normal garbage receptacles. Always check local regulations for proper hazardous waste disposal.


Kilz 2 and Kilz 3 both offer quality solutions for priming surfaces in preparation for painting. While Kilz 2 works wonderfully as an all-purpose primer for common drywall and plaster applications, Kilz 3 Premium primer-sealer truly shines whenever stains, odors or multiple surface types present difficult challenges.

Understanding strengths of each allows selecting the best product to start paint projects off right. With top-notch adhesion and protection from either Kilz option, you can confidently pick colors and finishes knowing that quality long-lasting results lie underneath.


Which Kilz Primer Hides Imperfections In Surfaces Better?

Kilz 3 has superior hiding power and high-build formulation to conceal defects. The premium-grade shellac base provides great obscuration power that covers irregularities in just one coat.

Can I Use Kilz 2 or Kilz 3 As A Concrete Sealer?

Yes, Kilz Premium works well as a concrete and masonry sealer and base primer prior to painting. It seals porous mineral substrates to provide a uniform painting surface that won’t absorb finish coats unevenly.

Which Primer Adheres Best To Tile And Metal?

Kilz 3 bonds incredibly tight even to slick non-porous surfaces like tile, glass and metal. The alcohol-base helps primer bite into hard surfaces by improving surface tension and adhesion at a molecular level.

Does Kilz 2 Block Cigarette Smoke Smells?

Light Nicotine stains maybe, but Kilz Premium works far better for eliminating heavy tobacco odor and stains. The shellac binder in Kilz 3 fully encapsulates lingering smoke smells in existing paint or wall materials for permanent odor control.

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