Preparation is important when painting. The right lacquer for wood or other materials will help insulate and protect any surface.
This article discusses what, why and how the best lacquer for wood and other surfaces is essential when painting.
Deft Interior Clear
SM Arnold (66-108)
Lacquer Spray Paint
What Is Lacquer?
Lacquer is a solvent based painting or finishing product, normally used as a final coating when painting wood or other products. It is made up of a combination of dissolved nitrocellulose along with plasticizers and pigments, mixed together in a solvent.
A solution of shellac in alcohol is also added to pride a durable coating with a matte, semi-gloss or high gloss finish, according to your preference. If you are looking for the best lacquer for wood or other surfaces, read on.
Varnish Vs. Lacquer
Both can provide a shiny protective coating to your product but while varnishes are generally clear, lacquers can come in a range of color options.
Lacquer tends to be more durable and hard wearing due to the inclusion of plasticizers.
They are generally sprayed on (unlike varnish which is normally painted on) and is fast drying. Lacquers also provide a range of sheen levels, ranging from ultra matte up to a high gloss finish.
Lacquer sprays are relatively inexpensive, easy to use and will give your piece a professional finish. The protective outer coating will give additional protections against dirt, oils and liquids and is easy to clean.
Lacquer for Wood: What Should You Look For?
When you are purchasing lacquer for wood, there are several things you’ll want to know about the various formulations that are on the market. Each of these will have its own characteristics.
Nitrocellulose lacquer is one of the more common choices. If the can doesn’t specify what kind it is, you can generally bet that it is nitrocellulose.
This is made from an alkyd and nitrocellulose resin that is dissolved. Once it’s dissolved, it is mixed with solvents that allow it to evaporate quickly.
This lacquer offers moderate water resistance but can be sensitive to certain solvents and heat. As it ages, it has a tendency to yellow slightly which shows up more prominently on light-colored wood.
Acrylic-modified lacquer has a mixture of non-yellowing cellulose resin or often called cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB) and acrylic. This has many of the same properties as the nitrocellulose lacquer but it is water-white. It will not appear as an amber color when applied to light-colored woods and the finish doesn’t yellow over time.
Catalyzed lacquer is more complex and made of urea formaldehyde or urea melamine with an alkyd. This has some nitrocellulose resin to allow it to act like a normal lacquer. This formula provides a durable, tough finish. You can purchase these in two forms: pre-catalyzed and post-catalyzed.
The pre-catalyzed lacquer has all the components pre-mixed either by the manufacturer or from the store you purchase it from. The post-catalyzed lacquer is actually a two-part system that you will have to mix. This can be tricky since you have to follow a precise ratio. They also have a short pot life once mixed.
Spray Paint or Paint Can: Which Should You Use?
Deciding what application of lacquer you need can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.
Brushing on lacquer will dry quickly but is also formulated to give a little extra time for application. This allows you to even out the finish as necessary.
If you are going to brush on the lacquer, be sure you use a bristle brush made from high-quality natural bristles. You also need a high quality paint. According to the Home Dweller website, deck paint is available in 4 main options - natural finish sealer, stain finish sealer, natural finish with oils and painted finish.
Start with a thin coat and don’t over-brush your work. Then, add another coat as needed once the first has dried.
If you would rather spray on the lacquer, you can use your airless sprayer or buy aerosol cans. Using the cans is a more expensive solution, but when you are doing a small project, they are quite convenient.
When you choose to spray lacquer you need to make sure you are working in an environment with good ventilation. The solvents tend to have a strong odor and are flammable.
8 Best Lacquers For Wood & Other Surfaces
We have tried and tested a number of different lacquers on the market as well as read numerous accounts of actual customer feedback.
Based on out findings, we can confidently recommend the following as some of best lacquer paint products available on the market. Read these reviews to find out which is good for your needs.
1. Deft 037125017132 Interior Clear Wood Finish Satin Lacquer
- This product adds a great value
- The fastest drying finish available
- Ideal for enhancing interior wood surfaces...
- This clear wood finish brushing spray is...
This spray lacquer is the fastest drying finish available and works at enhancing wood surfaces.
The deep, rich finish is ideal for furniture and cabinets. It is 100-percent nitrocellulose lacquer and can also be used on metal surfaces. This easy to apply formula allows for professional results and gives a satin finish. It is great for beginners or novice refinishers and is known for its easy to use application and fast drying times.
This crystal clear lacquer also will not yellow. In addition, it is baby-safe, resistant to alcohol, water, and fruit juices. You can also use this on paneling, antiques, crafts, rosewoods and other exotic hardwoods.
If your wood project needs multiple coats, this lacquer will allow you to apply as many coats as you need and can be buffed to a high polish, it won’t show signs of thickness and will remain thin and hard, even with four coats applied.
2. Minwax 15200 Gloss Brushing Lacquer Spray, Clear
This Minwax formula provides a beautiful, clear, and protective finish to your wood or metal.
It can be applied on bare or stained wood and dries to the touch in just 30 minutes. If you need to reapply, simply wait 2 hours. There is no sanding required between coats, and the lacquer acts as its own sealer.
The Minwax formula offers a superior finish with no bubbles, streaks, or splatters. It also dries thin with a durable finish that will glow when polished. If you have never used lacquer paint before, this may not be the best one to practice with. However, for a trained hand (or confident beginner), the Minwax 15200 will surprise you in its application, finish and durability.
This can be used on a variety of tasks, including drums, guitars, furniture, blacksmithing products, metal goods, craft projects, and more.
3. Rust-Oleum 63041 Watco Lacquer Finish
- Ideal for use on furniture, doors, cabinets...
- Formulated for a higher clarity finish than...
- Dries to the touch in 1 hour and covers up to...
- Eliminates the need for wood filler and...
For a super clear finish and durable protection, you’ll want this top lacquer from the Rust-Oleum brand. It provides an elegant and smooth finish to all your home projects.
Apply this to your furniture, doors, cabinets, and paneling to give them a resilient shine that is easy to maintain. In addition, it dries in just 30 minutes and will not require sanding between coats. Once it is dry, the lacquer will be crystal clear. Like most lacquer finishes, it won’t yellow over time.
You can purchase a quart of finish in three varying varieties: clear gloss, clear satin, and clear semi-gloss. Consider using this lacquer for all your household projects, including crafts and musical instruments.
For the furniture up-scaler or refinisher, the Rust-Oleum brand is touted as one of the easiest to use and care for. Regardless of your initial application, you will look for other projects to use it on.
4. Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish Gloss Brushing Lacquer
This non-yellowing formula will dry crystal clear in just 30 minutes. The clear wood finish lacquer is 100-percent nitrocellulose to be used on most interior wood and metal surfaces.
This easy to apply formula provides even the amateur user with professional results. In fact, you don’t need to sand between coats which makes this simple to use. You can expect to cover about 400-square feet per gallon of materials.
Deft is self-leveling and will also spray nicely from a quality paint gun. Use this on most household projects including furniture, doors, cabinets, craft projects and musical instruments.
5. PlastiKote T-5 Clear Lacquer Paint
- Can be used on metal or wood; indoors or out
- Most versatile spray paint available anywhere
- Tough, hard wearing and resistant to...
- Very UV resistant, water resistant, and will...
This versatile lacquer paint can be used for wood or metal and is suitable for indoor or outdoor use.
It provides a tough, durable finish that is scratch resistant.
The product is also UV resistant which means it will not yellow or fade over time and it is water resistant.
This premium product provides a deep-gloss finish on metal or wood and is one of the best lacquer paint products on the market.
6. Rust-Oleum 1904830 Lacquer Spray
- Ideal for use on interior/exterior surfaces...
- Acrylic formula offers an ultra-hard, high...
- Dries to the touch in 20 minutes, covers up...
- Durable coating can sanded and recoated for a...
Rust-Oleum is a popular choice and rates as on of the best lacquer paints for wood.
It is available in white, black and clear.
Made in the United States, this product will give your work an elegant and professional finish, making it a very popular choice for furniture and accessories.
It is fast curing and fast drying and can be polished up to enhance the gloss, if required.
7. SM Arnold (66-108) Lacquer Spray Paint
- Superior grade coating formulated with...
- Suited for alternators, calipers, water pumps...
- Heat resistant to 250 degrees Fahrenheit
- Will not rub off after application
Another highly rated lacquer paint is this one by SM Arnold. It offers a high-grade coating and the acrylic resin that has been incorporated ensures maximum adhesion and excellent durability.
It has the added benefit of being heat resistant up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it extremely versatile and it can be used on water pumps, alternators, calipers, and transmission housing as well as most wood and other metal pieces.
The product is also perfect for giving aluminum parts a brand new look. The additional durability and non-leafing pigment means it does not rub off with time. It is VOC compliant. The lacquer is fast drying and does not smudge, ideal for a single coat covering.
8. Deft 37125015138 Lacquer Sanding Sealer Spray
- Use for the first coat on any lacquer...
- 1 thin coat will block most stains from...
- Non-yellowing & will not skin over or harden...
- This clear wood finish brushing spray is...
This was one of the highest rated of the lacquer products we tested is definitely one of the best lacquer paints for wood.
It is ideal for a first coat on lacquer finishing item. The single coat will prevent the majority of stains from seeping through the outer coat. It does not yellow with age.
The clear wood finish spray is totally nitrocellulose brushing lacquer suitable for almost any interior wood and metal surfaces. It will dry in 30 minutes and be ready to sand in an hour. Once dry, the product is non-toxic.
One coat is ideal for sealing softwood, hardwood, plywood, particleboard, and MDF. It comes in a handy 12-ounce aerosol spray and has spray valve that can be adjusted.
Advantages of Using Lacquer
Lacquer paints have a few advantages over other types of paint. While they are thicker than a lot of paints and they aren’t designed for every surface, there is a use for them.
Different Types of Lacquer
Just as with almost all paints, lacquer has different types. The three largest types of lacquer paint, discussed here, can perform a myriad of projects.
A solvent-based paint, nitrocellulose lacquer, is extremely fast drying. It goes on smooth, has a natural shine and layers well. Even with multiple coats, the nitrocellulose paints remain thin but highly dense and strong.
Acrylic lacquer is the chosen paint for automotive restoration shops. It has an uncanny adhesion to metal and, once applied, has a very quick fast time. After the lacquer is applied, it can be buffed (by hand or machine) to enhance the sheen further, giving cars that like-new showroom glow.
Catalyzed lacquer comes in two forms, pre, and post-catalyzed. The lacquer itself is a basic lacquer but dries fast, but uses a catalyst to cure properly. This lacquer is the chosen paint for woodworkers and furniture restoration professionals.
Safety Precautions When Applying Lacquer
Lacquer has the same precautions of any paint. It is highly flammable and harmful if inhaled or ingested. When working with lacquer paints, you need to protect your skin at all times. This means using gloves, long sleeves, goggles, and respirators.
When working in the home, keep the paint away from all food sources and do not put near heat or flame and do not smoke nearby.
For your brushes, tools, and equipment, you should wash thoroughly and completely before storing to remove any trace of the lacquer paint.
How to Remove Lacquer from Wood?
Start by putting rubber gloves on your hands for protection. Then, clean the wood with turpentine on a clean cloth. This takes off any wax that’s on the lacquer.
Mix equal parts of lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol. Apply a coat of this mixture to a tiny area with your paintbrush.
Scrub it with steel wool. To do this, you’ll move in small circles until the finish is scraped off. You might need to use a scraper as well. Then, wipe off any remaining thinner with a cloth while it is still wet.
If any lacquer remains, don’t be afraid to repeat the process.
How To Lacquer Wood
If you want to lacquer wood, here are the steps you’d follow.
- 1First, use a 50/50 mixture of lacquer and thinner. Start by applying a thick coat of sealant with a brush. You’ll want to wait about 30 minutes and then use some steel wool for buffing.
- 2After that, you’ll prepare your sprayer by adjusting the regulator to 30 PSI. Fill up your gun with the mixture. It’s essential that you spray on a piece of wood you don’t need first.
- 3Once you have the application technique down, you can move on to your wood surface. Be sure you apply a wet coat evenly.
- 4Wait a minimum of two hours and then wipe with steel wool again.
- 5Do a few more wet coats. Then, leave your work alone for at least two days.
- 6If there’s any dust or bugs afterward, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth.
Maintaining a Lacquer Finish
To maintain a lacquer finish, you need to protect it. Even though it is considered a hard finish, it scratches easily. Even dragging a cup across your coffee table can leave marks. Lacquer also readily shows dust and dirt faster than other finishes.
When cleaning, never use circular motions and only use plain water (a drop or two of detergent is okay) and don’t use a soaking wet cloth. If a spill happens, you will need to clean it up quickly. Otherwise, you will find that familiar white ring or blotch that is common from water-damaged lacquer.
If you do get a white ring, there is a simple trick to remove it. Place a clean, dry towel over the white mark and place a clothes iron over the towel. Iron the towel normally, using high-heat/steam settings (cotton setting works well). The heat will release the water from the lacquer, where the towel will then soak it up. A couple of minutes is all you need.
What's the Difference Between Polyurethane, Varnish and Shellac?
This is just a plastic material in liquid form. It comes in both oil and water-based formulations and you’ll find both satin and glossy options.
Water-based polyurethane has low toxicity and odor. It applies clear and dries quickly. It’s ideal for use on desks, side tables, picture frames and bookcases. Use it wherever you won’t face extreme temperature or abuse.
This product is often used as a top coat or finish. It’s durable because of its high ratio of solids. That’s why it’s commonly used on outdoor projects like exterior doors or trim work. Varnish is also found in glossy or satin formulations. You’ll want to apply this with a natural-bristle brush for the best results.
Surprisingly, this is actually a natural finish. That’s because it’s made from the secretion of a lac bug and mixed with alcohol. Once it’s hard and dry, it’s incredibly safe. Not only does it provide you with a protective coat to your project, but also adds a warmer amber color.
Shellac is affected by heat. You’ll notice white rings if you place anything hot on it. Because of this, your kitchen table isn’t the best place for shellac usage. Use a cotton rag or bristle brush to apply.
Whatever the object that you wish to lacquer is, you want it to look professionally finished and stay that way for some time.
Invest in one of these top quality lacquer paints for a convenient, easy to use products that will make you work look perfect immediately and stay that way for years to come.