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

After a while, lacquer paint gets old. So, can you paint over lacquer paint?

You can paint over lacquer. But, you need to sand and prime the lacquer finish first. This is because lacquer is a sealant and isn’t designed to be painted over.

Lacquer has a high level of oils, solvents, and gloss; as such, it can’t absorb paint as well as other paints. So, if you paint over lacquer directly, the paint will not stick, and the finish will come out poor.

Types of Paints To Use 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. That’s because chalk paint is designed to stick to any surface, regardless of the texture. So, chalk paint sticks over lacquer. 

When dry, chalk paint produces a dry matte finish. So, if you want an antique or vintage finish, chalk paint is the one for you.

Pros 

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

Cons

  • Chalk paint is not 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 sealant will add to the cost of applying the chalk. This can make chalk application over lacquer more expensive.

Mineral Paint

You can use mineral paint over lacquer. Mineral paint has mineral binders and is a durable paint. Plus, you don’t have to sand or prime the lacquer before applying mineral paint. That’s because mineral paint is self-leveling paint, which sticks to lacquer.

Pros

  • Mineral paint is very easy to apply.
  • The paint produces a smooth and fine finish.
  • Mineral paint dries fast 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 

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

Enamel Paint

You can apply enamel paint over lacquer. The best type of enamel to use over lacquer is spray or acrylic enamel. Two coats of spray enamel paint are enough on lacquer. Too many coats can make the paint blurry.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Enamel paint is oil-based, so it’s hard to clean and maintain.
  • Enamel paint dries hard and can be difficult to shape or distress.

You can use spray paint and 100% acrylic over lacquer paint too.

Can You Paint Over Lacquer Without Sanding?

You can paint over lacquer without sanding, but only if you use oil-based paint. To paint over lacquer without sanding, you must use oil-based primer as an undercoat. The oil-based primer will provide a smooth surface for the next paint to stick. Since the primer is oil-based, you can’t use water-based paints over it.

However, you can use mineral paint over lacquer without sanding. Mineral paint is self-leveling paint that sticks to any surface, including glossy and textured surfaces. Also, mineral paint has a built-in top coat that protects the finish and material underneath. 

On the other hand, water-based and acrylic paints won’t stick to lacquer if you don’t sand first. If you apply water-based paint to lacquer without sanding, the paint will peel off. Lacquer is rich in paint oils and gloss; water-based paints will not adhere to oil-based or glossy paints. Lacquer is both of these (oil-based and glossy).

Sanding is required before painting over lacquer 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, the paint can not stick well since all paints are either water or oil-based.

However, sanding the glossy top coat will create ridges and scratch marks in the gloss where the paint can penetrate and bite into. So, sanding the lacquer will improve paint adhesion making the finish better.

How To Paint Over Lacquer?

Before you paint over lacquer, here are the tools that you need:

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

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

1. Determine The Kind of Lacquer Used

Determine The Kind of Lacquer Used

First, you need to know what type of lacquer you are working with. When you know the type of lacquer, you’ll know how to prep it. 

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

Next, check if the lacquer has a high, medium, or satin (flat) finish. If the lacquer is shiny and sleek, it has a high or medium glossy finish. If the lacquer is dry and textured, it’s a 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, use medium-grit sandpaper (150-grit). The 150-grit sandpaper will remove the glossy finish from the lacquer. After sanding with medium-grit sandpaper, even out grain with fine-grit sandpaper.

If you don’t remove the glossy finish of lacquer, the paint won’t stick. The glossy finish is moisture-resistant and won’t let any liquid, including paint, stick or penetrate the surface. So, it’s best to remove or abrade the top layer to make paint adhesion easier. 

For the ordinary and flat lacquer finish, sand with ultra fine-grit sandpaper to scuff the finish. Scuffing helps to improve the paint adhesion, but it’s not necessary. Since the finish doesn’t have a glossy top coat, the paint can stick. 

3. Remove Dust

Remove Dust

After sanding the lacquer, you must get rid of the dust. If you don’t remove dust, the paint will be riddled with paint bumps when the finish gets dry. 

To remove dust, use a 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

Priming is necessary before applying paint over lacquer. The primer helps to create a smooth surface for the next paint to stick to. Plus, prime covers the leftovers of the existing lacquer. 

The primer you use must be compatible with the paint you will use. So, use oil-based primer for oil-based paints, and water-based primer for water-based paints. 

You need two coats of primer. The first coat should dry before you apply the next one. It takes primer 2 hours to dry enough for a re-coat. When both primer coats are dry, you can apply the paint. 

To paint over lacquer, it’s better to use latex paint. 

5. Apply 3 Coats of Paint

Apply Up To 3 Coats of Paint

Next, apply paint over lacquer. To apply over lacquer, you can use a paintbrush or spray gun, don’t use a roller. 

If you use latex paint, apply 3 coats. If you use oil-based paint, you must apply 1-2 coats only so the finish doesn’t yellow over time. Each coat of paint should dry before applying the next one. Water-based paints will dry faster than oil-based paints.  Also, you don’t have to sand between coats of paint when applying over lacquer. 

6. Seal The Paint (Optional)

Seal The Paint (Optional)

This step is optional, but you can seal the paint to make it last longer. To seal the paint, 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?

Types of Finishes To Use Over Lacquer

You can put polyurethane, wax, gel stain, and alkyd varnish over lacquer. However, a glossy alkyd varnish is the best finish to apply over lacquer.

Glossy alkyd varnish is a polyester resin that sticks to lacquer better than other sealants. The glossy alkyd varnish has a natural appearance, it’s easy to clean and maintain, and has different sheens that will match the lacquer finish. Spray gel is also a good choice to use over lacquer. On the other hand, polyurethane doesn’t stick well on lacquer, the finish will come off after a while if subjected to regular or heavy use. 

However, not every type of lacquer needs a topcoat. There are two types of lacquer finishes: catalyzed lacquer and ordinary lacquer. The catalyzed lacquer is a strong and durable sealant that doesn’t need a top coat. In contrast, ordinary lacquer isn’t as durable, so you have to apply a top coat over it.

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

Final Words

So, you can paint over lacquer paint, but you must sand and prime it first. 

If you want to paint over lacquer without sanding, use oil-based paint. Other types of paint will require sanding and a primer.

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