Can You Paint Over Lacquer?

Image of application of latex paint, but can you paint over lacquer?Your reason for painting a surface could be different from mine or the next person. It could be for decorations such as wood crafts, curvings, etc. Another reason for painting is to offer your structure protection against sunlight and even rain. Paint is a versatile finishing formula, and you can apply it over many surfaces, one question though is can you paint over lacquer?

Yes, you can paint over lacquered surfaces provided that you have prepared the surface well so that it has no imperfection that can compromise your project. If you work with a dirty or poorly prepared surface, your paint will not adhere.

The preparation includes scuffing the lacquered finish, which helps with the formation of strong bonds between the paint and the surface. Sealing the surface with a stain-blocking, oil-based primer and follow up with top-quality oil-based enamel paint-for the best results.

What is Lacquer?

Lacquer is a term that describes a specific kind of finish applied to woodworking projects. This finish is very sophisticated and highly favored by most woodworking enthusiasts, DIYers, and professionals. 

Lacquer is created through dissolving nitrocellulose together with plasticizers and other pigments in a solution of volatile solvents. Additionally, lacquer contains a shellac solution inside alcohol that forms a synthetic coating, giving it a high gloss finish.

Advantages of Lacquer

Lacquer is an excellent finish among the woodworking community, and here are some of the advantages you get when you use this product.

  • Drying Time and Great User Experience

Image of lacquer thinner but can you paint over lacquer?Lacquer is one of those finishes that dry fast. When you are working at room temperature, the formula will take just about 15 minutes to dry. What does this mean? First, it allows you to finish projects with a timeline very fast. Additionally, you can apply up to 3 layers of this finish in just under one hour as it dries and allows you time to sand and apply another coat.

One more thing about lacquer is that it is user-friendly. This formula arrives when it’s ready for use straight out of the package. Additionally, the formula is light, and you can even apply it with a sprayer. You don’t have to think about thinning, and if you choose to brush as the method of application, it will give you a smooth application with less visible stroke marks. You can clean the few marks using lacquer thinner.

  • Durability, Appearance, and Pocket-Friendly Costs

Lacquer cures into a tough finish. This product lasts longer than virtually all the competitors in the market today. Additionally, you will not see any form of flaking or chipping with this finish. You will be fascinated by the fact that this finish remains clear for several years without the yellowing effect that is usually associated with oil-based polyurethane. 

What’s more impressive about this finish is its high level of penetration into the wood, and you can attribute this to the fact that it is a bit thinner than other products. This high penetration allows it to provide a durable seal that enhances the wood’s protection from the inside out. 

If you are going to apply this formula to your wooden structure, you must be aware that you don’t need to use more than two coats to get an attractive sheen. Pricewise, lacquer is considerably less costly if you compare it with other finishes such as varnish, shellac or polyurethane. Finally, this product is versatile and available in up to three different varieties, namely dull, medium, and high-gloss.

Disadvantages of Lacquer

Everything good does have shortcomings, and here are some of the weaknesses of lacquer.

  • Formation of Blush and Fish-eye

The major problem here originates from the application of this formula. If you don’t apply it in the right way, such as moisture inside the airline, you will likely notice blushing. Other conditions that promote blushing include high humidity when working inside a room that is too cold. 

So how do you tell if blushing is occurring? If you notice any milky-white blotch on the wood after the lacquer finish dries, you can tell that blushes happened. 

You can avoid the formation of blushes by checking the airlines for water, and further ensuring that the room has proper ventilation and does not have too much moisture to prevent blushing. 

  • Presence of Orange Peel and Bubbles

It would be frustrating to apply your finish to notice orange peel that looks like the skin of an orange fruit. It’s even worse because you might not see it until your surface is dry, it is rough and ugly, and this is due to poor application process. 

You can avoid this happening to your lacquer finish by avoiding a faster movement of the spray gun. Another thing that causes this effect is working inside a room that is too cold. The occurrence of orange peel is the opposite of bubbles that form on polyurethane finishes and is caused by a warm room in polyurethane. Bubbles occur on a lacquer when the formula dries faster, trapping air under it in the process. 

NOTE: Thin the lacquer to minimize the chances of occurrence of bubbles on your finish.

How To Paint Over Lacquer 

You will find lacquer woodwork finishes available in many different sheens, and they are a favorite of many because they help seal the wood to improve its durability. Whichever the case-glossy or matte, these finishes come with a thick layer of coverage that protects the wood. So if you choose to paint over lacquered woodwork, you will have to work a little harder to make it happen effectively because the surface of lacquer does not accept paint as easily as bare wood surfaces.

There are a few procedures that you need to undertake so that you successfully paint over your lacquer finished surface, they are: 


  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Latex or oil-based primer
  • Paintbrush
  • 300-grit sandpaper
  • Clothing/rag

Step One: You need to know the type of lacquer on the surface of your wood, and you can do that by touching the surface. If you can see a shiny surface with a slick feel when you touch it, you will likely be working with a semi-gloss or hi-gloss finish. In case the surface looks natural and with a rough feeling, it implies that the finish is flat.

Step Two: If you are working with a glossy or semi-gloss lacquered surface, use 150-grit sandpaper for sanding it out. The purpose of sanding is to scour the glossy surfaces so that it is easier to prime. 

In case you are working with a flat or eggshell sheen, sand the surface using 300-grit sandpaper. The 300-grit sandpaper is finer than the 150-grit one, and it helps buff off some of the finish without causing extra abrasion to the surface.

Step Three: After sanding your structure, wipe down the sanded surface using a damp rag to remove sandpaper dust, use a shop vac for dust collection to clear your working area off dust. Remember not to wet the wood as you need to allow it days or hours to dry. So use a damp rag.

Step Four: Apply latex or oil-based primer to your sanded and cleaned surface. Ensure that you are brushing the primer in the direction that’s against the wood grain. If you apply it in the grain’s direction, the primer will not work itself into the wood’s pores properly. Remember that one step’s success determines the success of the next step, and that is why you need to ensure that you get all the steps right.

Step Five: Allow the primer enough time to dry and if you happen to notice the presence of bare spots as the primer soaks into the wood, then go ahead and apply a second layer of primer.

Step Six: At this point, your surface is ready, and you can paint it with an oil or latex paint of any sheen that you like. The sanding and priming of the lacquered surface make it accept the paint.

NOTE: Allow the paint to dry, and if you see bare patches, you can add another layer to help cover the imperfections.

Watch the video below on how to paint over lacquer:

Can You Use Chalk Paint Over Lacquer? 

Yes, you can apply your chalk paint over lacquer! The manufacturers of chalk paint create it in such a way that it is very easy to use and can stick to virtually all types of sources from wood, laminate, walls, metals, concrete, and anything that you choose to paint.

So if you are thinking of having your lacquered surface coated using chalk paint, you should not worry, but instead, go ahead and apply the paint.

Can I Paint Over Lacquer Without Sanding?

No, sanding is an essential step if you want your paint to adhere to the surface properly. Therefore, if you are looking to paint over a surface with lacquer as the finish, ensure that you sand the surface before you can go ahead with the application of the pain. 

Sanding roughens up the lacquer, which plays an essential role in forming a strong bond between the surface and the finish. If you fail to sand your surface, there’s every chance that the paint will not last on the surface of the lacker, and it will start peeling, flaking, and dropping sooner than in the case where you sand.

Can You Apply Latex Paint Over an Old Lacquer Surface?

Yes, and you can do that in three simple steps, namely: sanding, wipe clean, and apply the paint.

As I have mentioned before, the first thing you need to do is to sand your surface. Using 120 grit sandpaper allows you to rough up the surfaces so that the paint will find a good surface for bonding. 

After sanding the surface, wipe it clean using mineral spirits, use a cloth to apply the spirit and ensure that you are making many passes over the surface until there is no more dirt on your piece of cloth (white cloth recommended).

The good thing about mineral spirits is that it wipes down and removes all possible grease, silicones, and dust particles from the sanding process to leave you with a clean surface where the paint can adhere.


Paint is one of the most versatile finishes that you can use in your home or a woodworking shop if you are a woodworking enthusiast. You will end up with an endless list if you try to name some of the uses and surfaces that you can paint. Yes, you can paint virtually all surfaces, but…

Can You Paint Over Lacquer?

Yes, it is okay to paint over your surface that has a lacquer finish. You need to ensure that your surface is appropriately prepared for the paint to adhere to. Painting over an unprepared lacquered surface would be much of a waste of time because the paint will not find a proper surface where it can form a strong bond. You know what to expect when paint does not adhere properly to surface-peeling and flaking, which will translate to a waste of time and financial resources.

I hope you found this blog post useful and that you have your answers regarding painting over lacquer. If that’s true, kindly share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.