Can You Paint Over Lacquer? (Latex, Chalk Paint, Enamel)

The painting world is characterized by frequent changes in taste. So no wonder you want to change the look of lacquer on your wood by painting over it. But can you paint over lacquer? Here is the answer to that.

You can paint over lacquer but only after some prep work. You need to sand the lacquer and prime the wood before you can apply paint over it. This is because lacquer is a sealant and as such isn’t designed to be painted over.

Also, lacquer doesn’t absorb paint as well as other paint types because it has a high level of oils, solvents, and gloss. If you paint over lacquer directly, the paint will not stick and the finish will come out poor.

But there is more to know about painting over lacquer. For instance, can you paint over lacquer without sanding? let’s find out.

What Kind of Paint Can Go Over Lacquer?

There are a few types of paints that can go over lacquer. Let’s check out some top choices.

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a top choice to use over lacquer. This is because chalk paint is designed to adhere to any surface regardless of the texture. Chalk paint is dry and produces a matte finish. So if you are looking to get an antique or vintage finish, chalk paint is the one for you.

Pros of Using Chalk Paint Over Lacquer

  • Chalk paint is easy to apply and user-friendly
  • Chalk paint dries very quickly and you can finish the application of chalk in less than 30 minutes.
  • Chalk paint adheres well and would need very little prep work before it is applied.
  • Chalk paint is easy to clean and maintain.

Cons of Using Chalk Paint Over Lacquer

  • Chalk paint is not very durable and will wear off if used in high-traffic areas.
  • Chalk paint will need a sealant to protect it from scratches and dents. The cost of the sealant will add to the overall cost of applying the chalk. This can make chalk application over lacquer more expensive.

Mineral Paint

Mineral paint can also be used over lacquer. The paint is based on mineral binders and is very durable. Mineral paint requires zero prep work and the paint is self -leveling which means it will go on smoothly on lacquer.

Pros of Mineral Paint

  • Mineral paint is very easy to apply
  • The paint produces a smooth and fine finish
  • Mineral paint dries quickly because it’s water-based
  • Mineral paint doesn’t need a top coat because it is designed with a built-in top coat.
  • Mineral paint is super durable
  • Mineral paint is eco-friendly

Cons of Mineral Paint

  • Mineral paint is a bit more expensive than other paints.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint is another durable paint that will go on well on lacquer. The best type to use over lacquer is spray enamel or acrylic enamel. Two coats of spray enamel paint are enough on lacquer. Too many coats can make the paint blurry.

Pros of Enamel Paint

  • Enamel Paint is very durable
  • Enamel paint can be water-resistant
  • Enamel paint is easy to apply
  • Enamel paint produces a glossy finish

Cons of Enamel Paint

  • Enamel paint can be tough to clean and maintain due to its oil-based nature.
  • Enamel paint dries to be very hard and it can be difficult to shape or distress.

Other paints that can be used over lacquer include spray paint and 100% acrylic paint.

What Finish Can I Put Over Lacquer?

You can put different kinds of finishes on lacquer. The list includes polyurethane, wax, a gel stain, and alkyd varnish. However, the best type of finish to use over lacquer is a glossy alkyd varnish.

Glossy alkyd varnish is a polyester resin that will stick better to lacquer than several other sealants. Also, alkyd gloss varnish has a natural appearance, it’s easy to clean and maintain, and several sheens will match the lacquer finish. Another finish that goes on lacquer well is spray gel.

However, polyurethane doesn’t go very well on lacquer. Though lacquer can be finished with polyurethane, the finish will not stick well and will come off after a while if subjected to regular or heavy use.

You should also know that lacquer doesn’t usually need a finish. There are two types of lacquer finish; catalyzed lacquer and ordinary lacquer. Catalyzed lacquer is very strong and durable and doesn’t need a sealant or finish. However, ordinary lacquer can be sealed with a finish.

To know which you have on your wood, wipe a small spot on the lacquer finish with a rag soaked in lacquer thinner or mineral spirits. If the finish comes off on the rag, then it’s ordinary lacquer and can be sealed with a finish. If the lacquer doesn’t come off, it’s catalyzed lacquer and doesn’t need a finish.

Once you know this, you can then decide on which finish you want to use on the lacquer. However, finishing lacquer is one thing. Painting over lacquer is another. So how do you paint over lacquer? Let’s find out.

How To Paint Over Lacquer (Made Easy)?

Painting over lacquer isn’t difficult but the task can be time-consuming due to the level of prep work required before the paint can be applied. To paint over lacquer, you’ll need a few tools to make the task faster:

  • Rags
  • Medium-grit sandpaper (preferably 150-grit)
  • Ultrafine sandpaper (preferably 320-grit)
  • Paintbrushes
  • A soft brush
  • Paint primer
  • Mineral spirit
  • Latex or enamel paint.

Here is a quick rundown of how to paint over lacquer:

  1. Determine the kind of lacquer used
  2. Sand the lacquer
  3. Remove dust with a rag or soft brush
  4. Apply two coats of primer
  5. Apply up to 3 coats of the required paint
  6. Seal the paint when it’s dry (optional)

To prevent injuries and blisters, put on a pair of work gloves before going on with the task.

Now, roll those sleeves, and let’s get to work.

1. Determine The Kind of Lacquer Used

Determine The Kind of Lacquer Used

The first step is to know the kind of lacquer you are working with. When you know the kind of lacquer, you’ll know how to prep it for paint.

The first thing to check is if the lacquer is catalyzed or ordinary. To do this, dip a clean rag in mineral spirits or lacquer thinner. Then use the damp rag to wipe the lacquer. If the lacquer comes off on the rag, it’s ordinary. If the lacquer doesn’t come off, it’s catalyzed.

Next, check if the lacquer is hi-gloss, medium-gloss, or satin (flat) finish. If the lacquer is shiny and sleek, it’s hi-gloss or medium-gloss. If it’s dry and textured, it’s flat or satin lacquer.

Now that you know the type of lacquer you are working with, let’s move on to preparing it for paint application.

2. Sand The Lacquer

Sand The Lacquer

For semi-gloss, high-gloss, and catalyzed lacquer, you should use medium-grit sandpaper. 150-grit would work. The reason for sanding these lacquers with 150-grit sandpaper is to remove or abrade the glossy top layer.

As explained earlier, the glossy top layer of the lacquer will prevent paint from adhering properly. So it’s best to remove or abrade the top layer to make paint adhesion easier. After sanding with medium-grit sandpaper, even out grain with a fine-grit sandpaper.

For the ordinary and flat or satin lacquered finish, you should sand with fine-grit sandpaper. But, it’s best to sand with ultra-fine sandpaper. The reason for sanding these lacquered finishes with fine or ultra fine-grit sandpaper is to scuff the finish.

Since these lacquered finishes don’t have a glossy top coat, the paint will stick better. Scuffing only helps to improve paint binding but you don’t have to sand before applying paint over an ordinary or flat lacquered finish.

3. Remove Dust

Remove Dust

After sanding the lacquer, there are bound to be dust nibs and grain on the wood. You need to get rid of the dust if not the paint applied will be riddled with paint pimples when the finish gets dry.

You can vacuum (with a portable vacuum) or brush off (with a soft brush) the dust grain from the surface. After, wipe down the surface with a clean rag. Don’t use a cloth with loose threads or wool as the wood can poke out loose threads.

4. Apply Two Coats of Primer

Apply Two Coats of Primer

When applying paint over lacquer or any other paint or sealer, priming is a good idea before the paint is applied. Priming helps to create a smooth surface for the paint to sit on and it improves paint adhesion. Primer also helps to cover the leftover of the existing lacquer.

You should use a primer that suits the paint you want to apply. Use an oil-based primer for oil-based paint and a water-based primer for water-based paints.

To paint over lacquer, it’s better to use latex paint. So this means, you’ll need two coats of a water-based primer. Ensure to allow each coat of primer to dry before applying the next coat. When both coats are fully dry, you need to apply paint.

5. Apply Up To 3 Coats of Paint

Apply Up To 3 Coats of Paint

With the primer dry, you can apply paint over the lacquer. For latex paints, you can apply up to 3 coats of paint. Oil-based paints require a coat or two so the finish doesn’t yellow over time. Ensure to allow each coat of paint to dry before applying the next.

Also, you don’t need to sand between coats of paint. You can apply the paint using a paintbrush or spray gun. Don’t use a roller.

6. Seal The Paint (Optional)

Seal The Paint (Optional)

This step is optional. You can seal the paint to make it last longer. To seal the paint, you can use a glossy finish, wax, or polyurethane.

To seal the paint, apply two or 3 coats of the required sealant. When the entire finish is dry, leave it for at least 48 hours before you subject it to regular use.

Related Read: Lacquer vs Polyurethane?

Can You Paint Over Lacquer Without Sanding?

You can paint over lacquer without sanding but only if you plan on using oil-based paint. This is because to paint over lacquer without sanding, you’ll need to apply an oil-based primer to provide a suitable undercoat for the paint to sit on.

Since oil-based primer is used as an undercoat for oil-based paints, you can only use oil-based paint over lacquer without sanding first.

You can also apply mineral paint on lacquer without sanding. Mineral paint doesn’t require any prep work and it sticks to virtually every type of surface, glossy or textured. Also, mineral paint has a built-in top coat which makes it capable of protecting the finish and material underneath. Chalk is rumored to also go over lacquered wood.

Water-based, latex, or acrylic paints will not stick to lacquer if you don’t sand first. If you use water-based, latex, or acrylic paint over lacquer without sanding, the paint will be repelled. Lacquer is rich in paint oils and gloss, and painting 101 teaches us that water-based paints will not adhere to oil-based or glossy paints. Lacquer is both of these (oil-based and glossy).

The reason sanding is required before painting over lacquer is to remove the top glossy layer of the lacquer. The glossy top coat prevents moisture (water or oil) from penetrating the finish to the material underneath. Since the top coat prevents water and oil from penetrating, it means the paint can not stick well since all paints are either water or oil-based.

However, if you sand the glossy top coat, you will create ridges and scratch marks in the gloss making it easier for the paint to penetrate and bite into the lacquer. So sanding the lacquer will improve paint adhesion making the finish better.

Can You Apply Latex Paint Over Lacquer?

You can apply latex paint over lacquer but you need to sand and prime the lacquer before applying the latex paint.

If you apply latex paint on lacquer without sanding or priming first, the latex paint will not stick well. Lacquer is oil-based and the water-based nature of the latex paint will not allow the latex paint to sit well on the lacquer.

Latex paint will work fine on lacquer with enough prep work and proper paint application. The flexibility of the latex paint will also make it cope with temperature changes and constant use. Latex paint is also easy to clean and maintain so it’s a top choice to use on lacquer.

Final Words

Overall, lacquer can be painted over but you need to ensure adequate prep work and paint application to enjoy a durable and smooth finish.

If you want to paint over lacquer without sanding, ensure to only use oil-based paint as the lacquer too is oil-based. Other types of paint will require sanding and a primer.

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