Painters Putty vs Spackle: Unraveling the Mystery

Bob Thomas


Today, we're going to unravel a common mystery that confounds many DIYers and even some professionals - the debate between painters putty and spackle.

Which one should you use? What are the differences?

Don't worry, we're going to iron out these wrinkles together.

Quick Summary

When deciding between painters putty and spackle: consider the task at hand. 1) Painters putty is great for minor repairs on wood surfaces, while 2) spackle is the go-to for drywall repairs. Both have their unique qualities, but the 3) choice ultimately depends on your specific needs. Let's dive into the details.

Painters Putty 101

Painters putty, also known as glazing putty, is a pliable material primarily used for filling small holes, cracks, and defects in woodwork before painting.

It's a favorite among many painters and carpenters due to its ease of use and effective results.

Pro Tip: Apply painters putty after priming the surface for best results. It helps the putty to adhere better and reduces the chances of it cracking over time.

The Scoop on Spackle

Spackle, on the other hand, is a lightweight compound typically used for patching holes and cracks in drywall or plaster.

Unlike painters putty, it dries quickly and doesn't shrink, making it ideal for quick fixes before painting or wallpapering.

Pro Tip: After applying spackle, make sure to sand it down to create a smooth surface. I recommend using a fine-grit sandpaper, like a 220-grit, for the best results.

So, Which One Should You Use?

Well, it depends on the surface and the kind of repair you need to do.

Painters Putty

Best Used On

Wood surfaces

Drywall or plaster

Drying Time






Ease of Sanding



I Remember the time when I was restoring an old Victorian home, the woodwork around the windows was full of small defects. Painters putty was my best friend then. 

It filled in all the imperfections seamlessly, and with a little patience in drying and a good sanding, the woodwork looked as good as new after painting.

However, when I was helping a friend patch up some holes in their drywall, spackle was the superstar.

It dried quickly, sanded down easily, and after a coat of paint, the wall looked brand new.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. Can I use painter's putty and spackle interchangeably?

  A: While both products have similar uses, they are not entirely interchangeable.

Painter's putty is best for filling small holes and minor imperfections in wood, while spackle is a more versatile compound used to fill larger holes and cracks in various types of surfaces, including drywall and plaster.

Q. Is painter's putty or spackle better for outdoor projects?

  A: Painter's putty, due to its oil-based formulation, is generally more resistant to weather conditions and is thus preferable for outdoor projects.

Spackle, on the other hand, is typically used for indoor projects.

However, there are some water-resistant spackling products available for outdoor use as well.

Q. How long does it take for painter's putty and spackle to dry?

  A: The drying time for both materials can vary based on the product, the thickness of the application, and the environmental conditions.

Typically, spackle can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours to dry.

Painter's putty, being oil-based, takes considerably longer to dry and can require up to a week before it's ready to be painted over.

Q. Can I sand both painter's putty and spackle?

  A: Yes, both painter's putty and spackle can be sanded once fully dried.

This is to ensure a smooth, seamless finish before applying paint.

However, remember to use a fine-grit sandpaper (around 220-grit) to avoid scratching the surface.

Q. What happens if I paint over painter's putty or spackle before it's completely dry?

  A: Painting over these materials before they're fully dry can result in an uneven finish.

The paint may crack or peel off as the underlying material continues to dry and contract.

Always wait for the putty or spackle to completely dry before proceeding with painting.

Q. How should I store unused painter's putty and spackle?

  A: Both painter's putty and spackle should be stored in a cool, dry place.

Make sure to seal their containers tightly to prevent them from drying out.

It's also advisable to clean the rim of the container before closing it to ensure a good seal.

Q. Can I use painter's putty or spackle to fill nail holes in trim?

  A: Yes, both products can be used to fill nail holes in trim.

However, painter's putty is often preferred for this specific task due to its smoother finish and easier application in small, precise areas.

Q. Is there a noticeable difference in the finish between painter's putty and spackle?

  A: If properly applied, sanded, and painted, both painter's putty and spackle should provide a seamless finish.

However, some DIYers find that painter's putty gives a slightly smoother finish on wood surfaces.


Whether you choose painters putty or spackle depends on the job at hand.

For wood repairs, painters putty is your best bet.

For drywall or plaster, spackle takes the cake.

Remember, the key to a perfect finish is patience and preparation.

So take your time, choose the right product, and let's make your DIY project a masterpiece!

Remember, friends, always take the time to do it right. Your home deserves the best.

Suggested Products:

Painter's Putty

  1. DAP '33' Glazing Compound: As mentioned, this is a widely-used painter's putty, great for sealing windows, filling nail holes, and repairing cracks in wood and drywall. It is ready-mixed and suitable for both interior and exterior use.
  2. Linseed Oil Putty Natural: This is a traditional-style putty, often used by professional painters. It's made with linseed oil, which gives it great flexibility and adhesion. It's particularly useful for window glazing.
  3. LePage Painter's Putty: This is a versatile, ready-to-use putty that is ideal for filling nail holes and covering minor imperfections in painted, bare, stained, and finished wood.


  1. DAP DryDex Spackling: This is a top-quality spackling product that is easy to apply and sand. It has a unique feature where it goes on pink and dries white, letting you know when it's ready to sand and paint. Ideal for repairing holes, cracks, and dents in drywall, plaster, and wood.
  2. 3M Patch Plus Primer 4-in-1: This spackle and primer in one is designed to save you time by eliminating the need to prime before painting. It's ideal for small repairs and fills holes and cracks quickly and easily.
  3. Red Devil ONETIME Lightweight Spackling: This product is known for its ease of application and superior lightweight formula. It requires no sanding and can be painted

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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