Can You Paint Over Lacquer Finish?

Tips to get it right
Can You Paint Over Lacquer?

Lacquer often has the finish quality of being shiny, glassy, high gloss and/or with an orange peel texture. The problem with lacquer is when it wears down over time, it tends to get dull-looking without any shine left in its appearance.

This post will discuss what kind of paint you should use if your goal is to make the lacquer seem new again by applying another layer or coating on top.

Can you Paint over Lacquered wood?

Yes, it’s possible to paint over an existing finish after prepping the surface. Start by wiping it with a dry cloth if it is noticeably dusty, then sand it within the grain using 150-grit then 300-grit sandpaper. After that, wipe away the sanding dust and apply a latex or oil-based primer before painting it. 

How to Paint over Lacquer Finish? 

Lacquers cure into a slid, slick topcoat. Unfortunately, this glossiness can make it challenging for the modern paint to adhere to if you painted or varnished over it without proper surface preparation. Thankfully, this post helps walk you through the process of prepping the surface so that you can paint over lacquered wood.

The supplies you will need

  • Safety goggles 
  • Protective face mask 
  • Gloves 
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • 300-grit sandpaper
  • Latex or oil-based primer
  • Paint
  • Lint-free cloth or rag
  • Power sander (optional)  
  • Paintbrush or spray gun
  • Drop cloth 

Steps to follow when painting over lacquered wood

Here are the simplified steps to follow when painting over lacquered woodwork. 

Step 1: Prepare your working space. 

Whenever sanding is part of your woodwork project, it’s essential to work in a well-ventilated space. For example, you could carry out the project outside in a carport or the garage if possible. 

If you must work indoors within your main living spaces, ensure you open the windows and doors to create better airflow. You don’t want to have sanding dust hanging around your indoor air and risk inhaling it. 

Next, cover the floor and any nearby object you don’t want the wood dust and chemicals on. You can use plastic sheeting or drop cloth for this purpose. 

Finally, protect yourself from the sanding dust, primer, and paint. Some primers and paint could have a relatively strong odor. If this is the case, you could wear a face mask to cover your nose and keep you from feeling the odor. 

In any case, consider wearing a pair of gloves and a face mask before you start sanding. 

Step 2: Sand the glossy lacquered surfaces

Start by touching the surface you want to paint. Touching will let you feel the texture and gauge the amount of sanding required to prep the surface for painting. 

If the surface is slick to the touch with a noticeably shiny appearance, the chances are, it has a hi-gloss or semi-gloss finish. On the other hand, a surface that feels rough and looks natural probably has a flat finish.

Sand a glossy surface with 150-grit sandpaper

A glossy lacquered surface will require sanding with medium-grit sandpaper to scuff it and stimulate adhesion. For such a lacquered piece, use 150-grit sandpaper to texture it accordingly. 

Sand a flat-finished surface with 300-grit sandpaper

If the surface has a flat or eggshell sheen, use fine-grit sandpaper to prep it for painting. 

Ensure you sand along the direction of the wood grain in each case, not against the grain. The latter direction could cause scratches on the lacquered surfaces, which beats the purpose of sanding in the first place. 

You can use a palm sander for a standard project or an electric sander for a relatively large project. Whichever direction you choose, be sure to sand lightly and evenly across the entire surfaces you wish to paint.  

The objective is to scuff up the surface to let the new coat grip it and not cause additional abrasion to the wood surface.

Step 3: Wipe away the sanding dust with a tack cloth followed by a damp rag.

Once you finish sanding, use a tack cloth to wipe the entire work area to remove dust.

After that, saturate a clean lint-free cloth with clean water and remove every drop of the excess water by wringing it. Then, use the damp cloth to wipe down the remaining wood dust from the sanded surface.

It’s crucial not to use a soaking rag because you don’t want to wet the wood. Doing so would raise the grain and roughen the texture.  

Allow the wood a few minutes to dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next step. 

Step 4: Apply Oil based primer. 

Once you have a dry and clean surface, apply an oil-based or latex primer to seal your wood using a latex paintbrush. The brush can be two to four inches in size, depending on what you have or prefer. Importantly, ensure you keep the coats of primer thin. 

Apply the primer in the direction of the wood grain for the best results. Don’t overwhelm the surface with thick coats of sealer, as doing so could lead to delayed drying or undesired runs. 

Let the first coat of primer dry for two hours, then go over it with a second coat for better coverage. 

Allow the second coat to dry for a further two to four hours, depending on the weather. 

Pro tip: Some woods—particularly coniferous ones like cedar—tend to release tannins over time. Tannins are natural stains from lumber that can bleed through regular wood primers and spoil a paint job. So consider using stain-blocking primers whenever you can.

Step 5: Apply paint 

After priming, allow the wood to dry, you can proceed to the central part of your paint job—applying the paint.

What kind of paint can go over lacquer

Use latex or oil-based paint of any sheen because Lacquer is often glossy and other paints won’t adhere well. Oil-based enamel is tough as it dries quickly and adheres well to the smooth lacquer surface.

You can use a paintbrush or roller to apply the paint in the direction of the wood grain, just as you did the primer. Notice the direction of the brush strokes relative to the wood grain isn’t important when painting. 

Paint generally covers the wood, completely blocking out the grain. So you don’t need to align the brush strokes with any direction other than the one you prefer.  

Nonetheless, ensure your brush strokes are consistent and following the same direction for uniformity. Also, apply the paint evenly for better coverage. 

Step 6: Let it dry 

While you can apply one or two layers of paint, the latter will usually produce a more durable coverage even though the application may take more time. 

You will need to wait for about four hours for the paint to dry before applying the second coat. Then let the paint dry completely before putting the furniture or item to use. 

What is Lacquer?

Lacquer refers to a specific liquid comprising shellac and alcohol or synthetic substances, forming a solid, durable finish when dry. Like varnish, it can be used as a protective coating for metal, wood, and more.

Since lacquer dries into a highly durable hard finish, it’s popular for coating and waterproofing wood and furniture. Both do-it-yourself enthusiasts and professionals frequently use lacquer paint in various woodworking projects. 

Types of lacquer Paint

If you intend to paint on lacquer, you may want to understand the product well to know how best to work with it. Understanding lacquer can help you get a more precise knowledge of why you should use one type of paint and not the other when painting over lacquered finishes. 

That said, here is a look at the common types of lacquer you are likely to come across.  

Acrylic Lacquers

Acrylic lacquers are some of the most popular types of lacquer. This group of lacquers was first developed in the 1950s for use on automobiles due to its fast-drying property.

Acrylic lacquers dry to form highly durable clear coats formulated to be non-yellowing. As such, acrylic lacquers are the best choice if you wish to clear cost a light-colored wood. 

Water-based lacquer

This category of lacquers is a popular choice for refinishing kitchen cabinets. The widespread use quickly gaining momentum is mainly due to its eco-friendliness. 

Water-based lacquer is the most environmentally friendly of all lacquer types because it contains no toxic chemicals found in most lacquer types. Despite being water-based, the lacquer still boasts the same durability and scratch resistance as any lacquer. 

Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Nitrocellulose lacquer is the most common type of lacquer. It is comprised of solvents in its formula and is relatively sensitive to heat. It is fast-drying and is most commonly used on wooden products, furniture, and musical instruments.

Like acrylic lacquer, nitrocellulose lacquer was once a popular option for coating automobiles due to its quick-drying characteristic. However, its use of vehicles has since diminished. 

Perhaps the only significant downside of this type of lacquer is its yellowing that happens over time. This yellowing characteristic also means you don’t want to use this lacquer type on lightly colored wood.

Urushiol-based lacquer

These are slow-drying lacquers that produce strong, durable finishes when they fully cure. In addition, the urushiol-based lacquered finish is typically elegant and highly resistant to water damage, alkali, acids, and scratching.

Pros and cons of lacquer 

There’re various topcoats to choose from when you want to waterproof and protect your wooden items. 

Each product has its strengths and limitations that directly affect the quality of protection it provides. This section looks at the pro and cons of lacquer. 

Pros

Lacquer is a popular finish because of the following reasons.   

It has a high-gloss texture. 

Lacquer dries to a glossy finish that tends to enhance a surface’s aesthetic appeal. If you clear coat a piece of furniture with lacquer, for instance, the topcoat will make the wood grain pop while preserving its color. 

A lacquered woodwork would retain its color and appear new for longer. Additionally, the glossy coat is often scratch-resistant, preventing unsightly lines from appearing on the surface of your wood or wooden furniture. 

Lacquer is highly durable. 

This product forms a robust, solid topcoat that can last for many years without needing recoating. If applied correctly, lacquer is one of the most durable topcoats and is resistant to chipping and flaking. 

Also, most types of lacquer remain clear or retain their original color without yellowing, unlike most other coating products. 

Lacquer offers UV protection. 

One of the most damaging weather elements is UV light. Lacquer protects the surface against the sun’s harmful UV light, preventing the coated item from fading. 

Most types of lacquer dry quickly. 

Lacquer can be quick to apply because the coats dry quickly, allowing you to finish the project within a short time. 

Cons

While this product has significant strength, it has its share of limitations. 

A sharp object can scratch a lacquered surface. 

Despite its apparent durability, a lacquered surface is still susceptible to scratching if the object is sharp. This can lead to greying of the scratched surface. Such a problem is rare with a more robust topcoat such as varnish. 

FAQS

Can you apply paint over Lacquer without Sanding?

No, sanding is essential if you want to paint over a lacquered surface. It helps texture the surface to allow the paint to stick better—failure to sand a lacquered item or furniture before painting will cause serious adhesion problems. 

Can you paint on lacquered wooden furniture or cabinets?

Yes, it is possible to paint over lacquered cabinets or furniture so long as you prep the surface accordingly before applying the paint. 

Can you spray lacquer over latex paint?

Yes, laquer can be sprayed over latex paint. Ensure you sand the surface and prime it accordingly for the lacquer to adhere. 

Can you put lacquer over acrylic paint?

Applying lacquer over acrylic paint isn’t recommended. As the paint gets older, it renders the lacquer less effective at finishing the wood or furniture. So, putting lacquer over acrylic paint may cause more visible damage than good. 

Can you spray paint over lacquer?

Yes, you can spray paint over a lacquered surface once you have prepped it. To prepare the lacquered surface for painting, sand it and apply a suitable primer before spraying the paint. 

Can you paint enamel over lacquer?

Yes. you can paint enamel over a lacquer substrate like any painted surface once you have sanded and cleaned it of dirt, dust, and grease.

Can you spray lacquer over water-based acrylic paint?

Yes, it is possible to spray lacquer over water-based acrylic paint, but it is not recommended. While lacquer and the paint layers will bond well, the layer of lacquer will likely crack with fluctuations in humidity and temperature.  

Can you paint lacquer over enamel?

Yes, you can paint lacquer over enamel, but it isn’t advisable because lacquers tend to lift enamel surfaces. However, lacquers should work all right over most fully cured enamels with good film integrity. So, we recommend testing thoroughly in an inconspicuous area before going all in.

How to paint over black lacquer furniture

Wrap up

Paint offers several distinct advantages that you may want to leverage or repair by applying it to your item. If the surface you want to paint has existing lacquer paint, use this guide to walk you through the process. 

We hope this post has enough details to helps you complete your paint project successfully.

Thank you in advance for your suggestions. Cheers. 

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