Several years ago I did what you are contemplating. Painted the dark paneling in our living room to a nice light color. I used a primer from Sherwin-Williams on the paneling that was excellent. It was a Pro-block interior primer. Gave excellent adheison to the paneling - no problems at all to date (3 years) and sealed and lightened the paneling so the topcoat looks great.
There are cheaper primers that you can use, but this one was worth the money at about $22/ gallon.
Once you get the paneling primed with a good primer, it's all downhill. Then follow with a quality topcoat and you're set.