Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has established the functional relevance of early visual cortex (EVC) for visual awareness with great temporal specificity non-invasively in conscious human volunteers. Many studies have found a suppressive effect when TMS was applied over EVC 80–100 ms after the onset of the visual stimulus (post-stimulus TMS time window). Yet, few studies found task performance to also suffer when TMS was applied even before visual stimulus presentation (pre-stimulus TMS time window). This pre-stimulus TMS effect, however, remains controversially debated and its origin had mainly been ascribed to TMS-induced eye-blinking artifacts. Here, we applied chronometric TMS over EVC during the execution of a visual discrimination task, covering an exhaustive range of visual stimulus-locked TMS time windows ranging from − 80 pre-stimulus to 300 ms post-stimulus onset. Electrooculographical (EoG) recordings, sham TMS stimulation, and vertex TMS stimulation controlled for different types of non-neural TMS effects. Our findings clearly reveal TMS-induced masking effects for both pre- and post-stimulus time windows, and for both objective visual discrimination performance and subjective visibility. Importantly, all effects proved to be still present after post hoc removal of eye blink trials, suggesting a neural origin for the pre-stimulus TMS suppression effect on visual awareness. We speculate based on our data that TMS exerts its pre-stimulus effect via generation of a neural state which interacts with subsequent visual input.