Primer paints may be oil- or water-based and are used to seal unpainted surfaces to prevent covering coats of paint soaking in. The appropriate type of primer should be used for the surface being painted - wood, metal, plaster or tiles. There are some 'all purpose primers' available which are designed for two or more of these surfaces.
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One precaution: You can't paint with it in cold weather. The chemical reaction that transforms the water solution into a durable finish will not take place if the temperature is below 50°. (Conventional oil paints don't stick well in cold weather, either.)
If you decide to do your own body work discuss it with the paint shop first. They'll probably have recommendations on the type of primer you use. Some brands will be more compatible with their primers or color coats. The rule of thumb is to stay within the same brand of paint, both for prep and color. Even the cheapest paint shops typically use a brand name on their intermediate and higher paint jobs. Find out what it is and use the same brand as your primer coat. This will ensure you don't create adhesion problems for yourself down the road.
If you are grappling with the problem of choosing a woodwork colour to go with neutral walls, check out Architectural Colours by David Oliver, the founder of Paint & Paper Library. He arranged his off-whites for ceilings, cornices, walls and woodwork in chromatical groups and the concept has been so well received that chromatically arranged colours, such as soft greys, greens and pinks, have been introduced.
Choose from historical hues for period homes; sleek chalky finishes that stand up to the rigours of modern life; or new formulas designed to suit all surfaces. By understanding the product you can unleash all the design possibilities of paint that make it such a tempting medium.
Store your leftover paint in plastic Rubbermaid beverage jugs or other plastic seal-able containers. Paint left in the can always gets funny after time. Either the can isn't properly sealed of it gets exposed to extreme heat or cold. I like to store my paint inside where the temperature is controlled.