How to Paint over Lacquer: Guide and Tips to get it Right the First Time

how to paint over lacquer

Lacquered finishing’s are long-lasting and provide a fine finish, however, painting over lacquer can be a big challenge if you are not aware of the right steps and material needed to complete the job. Unfortunately, lacquer finishing chip easily, making it necessary to repaint constantly. So, you need to learn how to paint over lacquer if you don’t want to spend unnecessarily.

To get you started lets us take a deeper look at lacquer, 

Lacquer paint, unlike ordinary oil-based and water-based paint, contains resin and is designed to create the perfect finish on wooden furniture. Lacquered surfaces, on the other hand, do not use the same procedure as plain wood during painting, making it a little harder than an ordinary painting project. 

How to Paint Over Lacquer

Join in as we go through a step to step guide on how to paint over lacquer and get it right the first time, as well as essential tips, safety concerns, and some of the benefits of using lacquer paint.

multiple colored paint

Items Needed

Sanding paper, preferred sanding paper for a lacquered finish, is 150 and 300 grit.  



Sponge or rag

Safety gear

Paintbrush or spray gun

Before painting on lacquer the first and most crucial step is understanding lacquer paint, the different kind of lacquer paints include:

Water-based Lacquer

To curb environmental risks caused by solvent-based lacquers, manufacturers have come up with a safer and better option the water-based varnish. This lacquer is mostly used on bare wood and automobile interiors. 

Water-based lacquer has a high presence of solids. Owing to this, a fine finish requires three-coat and should be done after every 24 hours, additionally when using the water-based lacquer, use water as a lubricant when sanding, water helps produce a smoother finish.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer

This lacquer is mostly used on musical instruments and wooden products. Nitrocellulose lacquer dries fast and also ideal if you are looking for a brightly colored look. Due to the fast drying feature, this lacquer is not suitable for beginners. 

Acrylic Lacquers

The acrylic lacquer is a super dry lacquer paint but is extensively used on automobile, but is now used on wood. 

Urushiol-based Lacquer

The urushiol-based lacquer is resistant to water, acid, and alkaline; this lacquer has a durable finish. Unlike other lacquers, urushiol is slow drying and set best in warm and humid areas. 

Step One

Now that you have identified the different kinds of lacquer paints, find out the best varnish for your project. Some lacquer paints are ideal for metals, bare wood, while others give an excellent finishing on lacquer surfaces. 

Step Two

Assemble, clean, and prepare your work area. 

Remove dust and dirt from the area you are painting. Then you need to sand the surface, this is especially necessary if you are working on a lacquered wood surface. Sanding helps in priming by ensuring your surfaces retain the desired texture. 

 To find out the best sanding paper, on a semi-gloss lacquered project, ask for a 150 grit sanding paper. If the surface has a flat sheen, then use a 300 grit sanding paper as it retains the texture of the surface without causing damage.

Step Three

Wipe the dust with a wet cloth, but do not use excess water. 

Step Four

Apply an even layer of primer.

This step determines your final look, the first important thing to consider when applying premier is using the same primer as the lacquer paint, using a different primer from your paint also affects the color. 

The second vital procedure to pay attention to when applying the primer is ensuring the primer is applied in the same direction, whether you are using a spray gun or a brush.

After applying your primer, you may need to wait from 1 to 24 hours before the primer is fully dry, ensure you ask your paint salesperson on the waiting time during the purchase. 

If you notice spots on the primed surface, gently apply a second coat, but remember to apply the layer in the same direction always.

Tip: when priming the lacquered surface, use an oil-based or latex premier.

Step Five

After properly sanding and allowing the primer to dry, the lacquered surface is now ready to be painted. Remember to maintain consistency by applying the same direction as the primer after applying the first layer, allow the surface to dry. Although these weather conditions may affect the time needed for the paint to dry, the water-based lacquer dry out fast through evaporation while the urushiol-based lacquer dry up better under humid or warm weather. 

Step Six

Sanding the surface, for a smoother look, one is recommended to sand after every layer. For instance, if you want to paint two layers. Wait for your first layer to dry, then sand the surface before applying the second coat. Sanding between layers has been seen to be effective on garden furniture and motorcycle metal. 

Step Seven

Applying the clear coat, after applying your two coats, and allowing the paint to dry completely. The next and final step is applying a clear coat. The clear coat gives the surfaces a shiner and finer look, allow the clear coat to dry before wiping the surface with a cloth.

paint in containers/How to Paint Over Lacquer

Applying paint over lacquer no longer needs to be fail the first time. With the above seven steps, you are guaranteed a smooth final look. 

Lacquer paint cannot be used on all household items; however, to help you decide your next DIY home decoration, here is a list of household items that do well with lacquer paint or finishing. 

Kitchen cabinets

Revamp your trunk with paint over the lacquer project.


House art, to mention a few.

Tips to get it Right the First Time

Allow the paint to dry up completely, unlike ordinary paint, lacquer is different and behaves differently under different weather conditions, to ensure your final look is not distorted allow your layers to dry. 

Use a synthetic brush with fine bristles, this brush paints a thin, evenly distributed layer preventing bubbling. 

Safety Concerns and Measures

Lacquer paints are highly toxin, and although manufacturers have tried to produce environment-friendly lacquer, most of the paints are still lethal, thus a need to maintain high safety procedures. 

Use a respirator, due to their toxic nature, painting without a respirator might cause severe health damage to your lungs. Always use a respirator when using lacquer paint

Secondly, paint in an open area, unlike ordinary paints that can be used for household purposes and in interior spaces. Lacquer paints require you to be in an open area. 

The third safety procedure is wearing safety clothes and gloves when in contact with your skin one is advised to wash thoroughly under running water as contact with your skin may lead to irritation or other skin conditions. Also, when using lacquer paint, do not leave your hair uncovered. 

Lacquer paints are highly flammable, avoid working near heat sources. 

Personal Care

Avoid eating or drinking in the work area

Avoid storing your food or drink near the working area

If possible, always take a shower before changing into your day clothes. 

In case of contact, here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for.

Skin irritation


Running nose


Fever and sore throat 

In case of any of these symptoms, give first aid treatment before seeking further medical attention. 

The health and safety concern may scare you away from using lacquer but, with proper safety procedures and personal care, the project is not only cost-effective but is also fast. More advantages of using lacquer paint include

Lacquer finishing is finer and beautiful compared to traditional paints. Giving your home a modern and serene ambiance.

Lacquer paints are cheaper compared to ordinary paints. Additionally, these paints are available in spray guns and aerosol sprays, making them ideal for DIY projects. 

Lacquer paints are not affected by the weather. Most lacquer paints dry fast even in warmer places compared to other paints. Lacquer is also not affected by dust, meaning one can apply varnish in any space without worrying about the final look.

Lacquer finishing’s are easier and faster to clean, owing to the smooth finish, having lacquer finished wood, meaning less time cleaning the kitchen cabinet.

hands in hand paint

Bottom Line on How to Paint Over Lacquer

Despite the procedures and time consumed in painting, lacquer paints provide much more value, with the above information you are not only equipped on how to get it right the first time but also understand health concerns to ensure you are not endangered. 

Painting is a fun experience, and with the right color paints, you can easily transform your home. Find out what paint does well with what part of the house, and for decorative items or furniture in the house, why not try out a new DIY experience by trying out painting over the already existing lacquer.

 But remember lacquer paint does not work on all surfaces but is ideal if you are looking for sheen and love noticing details on the items as the paints bring out the very best in the household materials. Also, paint behind the toilet with these tips.

Don’t miss more painting tips for your home here!