Can You Paint Over Lacquer?

Image of wood Painting but Can You Paint Over Lacquer?Lacquer finishes are popular among woodworkers because they are affordable, easy to apply, and last longer than most wood finishes. However, without proper application techniques, lacquer coats will blush or form fish eyes as they dry. Additionally, lacquer easily cracks and chips when pricked by sharp objects, unlike most clear finishes, leaving the surface ugly. Removing old or ruined finishes from any surface is a daunting task which is why many people ask, Can You Paint Over Lacquer?

You can paint over a lacquered surface provided you follow a specific set of steps to get the job right. The glossiness of lacquer makes it difficult for paint to adhere, so it is vital to use proper materials and perform proper surface preparation to ensure that the paint stays on the surface for longer.

What Kind of Paint Can Go Over Lacquer?

Latex and oil-based paints are the best products to use over lacquered surfaces because they will adhere better to the glossy finish than other types of paints. Good paint adhesion to a surface reduces the risks of runs during application and premature cracking and chipping after the paint cures.

You can also use an oil-based enamel over lacquer because it is tougher and dries quicker than regular oil-based paint. It will also adhere better to the finish giving your surface longer-lasting beauty and protection. 

Chalk paint also adheres well to lacquered surfaces, but I do not recommend this product because it wears out faster than the other paints mentioned above. If you color a surface with chalk paint, you will have to perform constant maintenance to keep the paint looking good. However, if you only have access to chalk paint, worry not because you can apply a clear top coat over the paint to make it last longer.

How To Paint Over Lacquer 

Follow the steps below for the best finish when painting over lacquer…

Step 1: Determine the sheen of the lacquer.

Start by touching the surface to determine the sheen of the finish. If it is shiny and feels slick or slippery to the touch, then you likely have a hi-gloss or semi-gloss finish. If the surface has a more natural look with a rough texture, you have a flat or eggshell finish.

Step 2: Sand the surface

Use 150-grit sandpaper to scuff glossy and semi-gloss finishes. The rough sandpaper will remove the gloss, making it easier for primer and paint to adhere to the surface.

For flat finishes, use finer 300-grit sandpaper because the finish is already a bit rough. The fine grit will help buff off some lacquer without causing further abrasions to the surface that may show after the paint dries.

Step 3: Remove the sanding dust.

Vacuum away as much dust as you can, then use a damp rag to wipe off any excess to ensure a clean surface for products to adhere well. Take care not to use a dripping wet rag to wipe the surface because it will take longer to dry, thus prolonging your project.

Step 4: Apply primer.

While sanding, you may expose some areas on the surface, so you need to apply a quality primer to act as a protective barrier for the wood. Brush on an oil-based or latex primer working against the direction of the wood grain to ensure that the product lodges properly into the pores on the surface. If you brush in the direction of the wood grain, some pores may remain open, and they will cause the paint to lift and crack in some places sooner than others.

Let the first coat of primer dry, then apply a second one if you notice any bare spots on the surface.

Step 5: Paint

Once the primer dries, you can paint your surface with oil or latex paint with any sheen you desire. I suggest brushing on at least two coats of paint to ensure ample coverage of your surface. Also, make sure to apply thin coats of the paint to lessen the drying time between coats.

Can I Paint Over Lacquer Without Sanding?

You can paint over lacquer without sanding, but I do not recommend doing that. Lacquer cures into a smooth and slick coat that cannot hold paint unless you scuff it, and sanding is the best way to do that.

However, if you find sanding messy and time-consuming, use the methods below to ensure that your paint stays on the surface for longer.

  • Use a liquid sander

Liquid sanders, aka deglossers, are chemicals that remove the sheen from glossy surfaces without scratching the finish. They are safe, easy to use, and they especially come in handy for novice painters who may not know how much pressure to use when sanding to avoid ruining the surface.

  • Use milk paint and a bonding agent.

Milk paint is an all-natural alternative to regular paints because it uses a milk protein as a binder instead of synthetic resins or chemicals. Most painters use milk paint instead of chalk paint because it is more durable even though the two products possess similar characteristics.

On the other hand, a bonding agent is a whitish product that works like a primer to help adhere to similar or different materials. Manufacturers often formulate bonding agents from acrylic resins to make them easy to use and increase their gripping power.

To use this method:

Add equal amounts of milk paint and the bonding agent into a small mixing bowl. You can use a bowl of any material but avoid plastic ones because the chemicals in plastic could start leaching into your mixture after some time.

Next, Stir the two ingredients together in a small bowl using a paint stirrer and ensure that they are fully combined.

Finally, use a paintbrush or a foam roller to paint the surface.

Note:  You will only need the bonding agent when applying the first coat. Use pure milk paint for subsequent coats because the milk paint will stick to itself well.

  • Use a bonding primer.

Using a good-quality bonding primer instead of regular universal primers will make all your painting projects easier and faster. Manufacturers formulate the best quality products to bond to various challenging surfaces, including high gloss clear finishes like lacquer without sanding.

Always look for brands that boast of “No Sanding Required” to ensure that you don’t end up with a universal primer. Also, look for brands that include a stain blocker to cover stains and reduce the chances of bleed-throughs on the paint. Remember, good-quality bonding primers are more expensive than regular primers, but they are worth it.

  • Use mineral paint

Mineral paints are environmentally friendly, easy to use, and come in a wide range of colors. Like milk paint, mineral paint does not require sanding to stick to surfaces. They are highly adhesive and can stick to challenging surfaces, including high gloss finishes, drywall, and plaster.

Furthermore, mineral paints are water-based; hence, you can clean them easily with soap and warm water—no need to use solvents or harsh chemicals that could negatively impact your health or environment.

Note: The key to the success of the methods mentioned above is a clean surface. So, ensure that you clean your project piece with warm water and mild soap to remove grease and other dirt that may prevent the paint or primers from sticking to the surface.

How Do You Paint Over High Gloss Lacquer?

The best way to paint over high gloss lacquer is by brushing on the paint because it requires less paint and work area preparation before starting the project. All you have to do is cover the areas directly below the surface you want to color to avoid drips, stir the product in the can and begin painting away.

This method also allows you to pay close attention to details as you paint. If a spot needs an immediate fix as you work, you’ll see it better when brushing than when using other methods. Using a paintbrush is also a great way of conserving paint because it allows you to apply thicker coats with less product.

On the downside, brushing paint onto a surface is a physically demanding task that takes a long time to complete. Moreover, your surface is likely to end up with brush streaks if you don’t use proper application techniques.

If you are coating a larger lacquered surface, you can use a paint roller instead of a paintbrush. Paint rollers cover larger surfaces quickly; however, they sometimes leave bubbles in the finish.

Can You Apply Latex Paint Over an Old Lacquer Surface?

Yes, you can put latex paint over an old lacquered surface, provided the finish does not have any chips or cracks on it. Manufacturers make latex paint from a water-soluble base, making it versatile and easy to clean up.

It goes on the surface smoothly, and you can use it for both interior and exterior projects. Because of its water base, you can thin latex paint with water if you prefer to spray it on your old lacquer surface instead of brushing. Furthermore, you can easily clean spills and stains from latex paint using only mild soap and warm water.

The trick to rejuvenating your old lacquer surface using latex paint is to repair all cracks and holes in the old lacquer before spreading the paint on it. Even though painters use paint to hide imperfections on surfaces, you cannot hide cracks with it.

Paint often makes surface imperfections stand out even more, so you have to ensure that the surface is smooth for your paint job to be flawless. 

The lacquer formulation makes it easy to repair because it is primarily cellulose dissolved in a solvent. When you apply lacquer, the solvent evaporates almost instantly, and the coating hardens; however, when you apply more product, the coat will soften again.

The redissolving nature of lacquer allows you to use repair strategies that would be impossible with other finishes like poly or varnish. Below is a step-by-step guide on repairing an old lacquer surface that has imperfections before applying latex paint.

Step 1: Prepare the work area.

Use masking tape or heavy paper to mask the area you want to repair so that the solvent doesn’t reach and affect the rest of the piece. If the surface is too old and the damage is all over, you can skip this step.

Step 2: Apply Lacquer thinner.

Spray a generous amount of lacquer thinner on the surface to emulsify the old lacquer. Doing this will help fill up the tiny cracks and holes, and when the lacquer hardens again, the defects should disappear. If you do not have pure lacquer thinner, you can use thinned-down lacquer to achieve the same results.

Step 3: Add a retarding agent

Next, add a retarder before the thinner evaporates to correct any blushing on the old finish. Blushing is when moisture gets under the finishing coat through cracks and holes, causing the lacquer to look cloudy. Adding a retarding agent will slow down the evaporation of the thinner, giving the trapped moisture time to escape before the finish hardens again.

If you still notice white spots on the finish after it hardens, repeat steps two and three. Once all blemishes clear, allow the newly repaired finish to dry for at least 24 hours before proceeding.

Step 4: Touch up where needed.

Use a number 0000 steel wool to rub the repaired areas to check for any surface exposed parts. If you find any, use light coats of spray lacquer to touch up the area and dry it as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

It is important to touch up any exposed areas of the surface before painting to ensure the evenness of the color.

Step 5: Sand, prime, and paint

  • Once you finish all repairs and the lacquer coat has dried, use 300-grit sandpaper to scuff the surface lightly. 
  • Next, apply a bonding primer with stain-blocking properties to lay a good foundation for the latex paint.
  • Once the primer dries, use the latex paint of your choice to give your old lacquer surface a new look.

Warning: always wear a respirator mask when spraying lacquer or lacquer thinner and ensure that your work area is well ventilated. Also, keep both products away from open flames because they are flammable.

Can You Use Spray Paint Over Lacquer?

You can use spray paint over a lacquered surface provided you sand and clean the surface properly to allow the paint to stick. Most spray paints are oil-based-,the most recommended type of paint on lacquered surfaces. They stick well to the surface, especially if you apply a quality bonding primer before spraying on the paint.

Spray painting over lacquer allows even coverage of the surface without leaving brush strokes and is much faster than brushing or rolling on the paint. Spray paint dries quicker than regular paint since it is thinner, and it is easier to apply over surfaces with spindles, small pieces, or intricate nooks and crannies.

Furthermore, it is easier to clean up after yourself upon completing a spray painting project because there are no rollers, brushes, or paint trays to wash.

On the downside, you need to have some spray painting experience before using this method to paint over lacquer. Because of this, novice painters often end up with an uneven finish with several drips and runs.

Furthermore, spray painting is more expensive compared to the other methods. You will require a lot of paint to ensure even coverage and the necessary equipment for the job cost a fortune.

Can You Chalk Paint Over Lacquer?

Yes, you can use chalk paint to color a lacquered surface. Chalk paint is a mixture of chalk, low VOC/water-based pigments, and an emulsifier – a formulation that allows it to stick to any surface, including high gloss lacquer. It is the ideal product to use if you want to give your surface a unique antique style finish.

The best way to apply chalk paint over lacquer is to sand the surface, seal it with a quality bonding primer then coat it with paint. However, you can also skip the sanding and priming and still end up with a decent finish for your piece.

Skipping these two steps may work at that moment, but the chalk paint will wear out faster than if you had committed to the full process. You will have to perform retouches every few months to keep the surface beautiful.

The key to a long-lasting chalk paint finish is to wax the coating after it cures completely. Waxing is especially important for surfaces that you use daily or areas that come into contact with water regularly.

The wax will act as a waterproof barricade while adding sheen and enhancing the color and texture of the chalk paint. You can also use a clear topcoat instead of wax to protect the color and shield it against knocks and bumps.

How Do You Paint Over Black Lacquer Furniture?

Homeowners who desire a modern look often use black lacquer to give the furniture a refined and sleek finish. It is a bold and dramatic decision for interior design that pays off, but it has a few cons. Black lacquer can make the furniture and the room they are in feel smaller than they are.

They also absorb heat fast, so the color starts to fade when left out in the sun for too long, leaving the furniture looking horrible. Furthermore, black color is unforgiving when it comes to showing imperfections – meaning that all the fish eyes, blushing, and other dents on the finish will show clearly.

You can hide the blemishes or completely change the look of black lacquered furniture using paint. But how do you do that without the black lacquer showing through the paint?


Homeowners dread painting over dark-colored finishes because they worry that they will show through the paint, especially white or lighter colors. However, you can use a white stain-blocking primer to provide a neutral slate to paint on. The lightness of the primer will cover the dark lacquer giving you a light-colored blank surface to paint.

If you do not have a white primer, you can use the paint you intend to use on your surface to tint the primer before applying it to the surface. Do this by mixing a little of your paint with the primer, stirring thoroughly to ensure that it mixes properly. Also, ensure that the primer and paint have the same base before mixing – both products should be water-based or oil-based.


Even after applying the white stain-blocking primer, the lacquer still shows through the paint if you do not correctly apply it to the surface. You may have to apply more than two coats of paint to ensure that the color you are covering up does not show through. To ensure even paint coverage:

  • Get enough paint on your brush or roller.

We recommend heavy to thin coverage whenever you are painting over a dark surface because it means fewer coats and less work. However, do not slather on the paint too thick, or you will end up with paint drips and blobs on your surface.

Furthermore, thicker coats of paint often take longer to dry, and you may end up with unwanted bubbles in the finish.

  • Painting pattern

If you are using a paint roller, aim to apply the paint in an “M” or a “W” pattern to help ensure even coverage and prevent paint streaks from showing once the coat dries. For brushing, apply the paint from left to right in a straight line making sure to go over any uncovered parts or wet lines to prevent brush strokes from showing in the dried coat.

If you leave any part of the surface unpainted, or if the paint is thinner in some parts than others, the black lacquer may show in the finish.

  • Feathering the edges

Feathering refers to smoothing out or blurring paint along the edges of a surface. It is important to keep the edging of your paint consistent to avoid a noticeable dark border around your furniture. This technique may be time-consuming, especially when you want to apply three or more coats of paint; however, it is worth it if you want a seamless look.

  • Let each coat dry fully.

It is vital to allow each layer of paint to dry well before applying the next one. The reason is that a sticky layer of paint does not provide a good surface for the next coat to stick, and you could end up with an uneven finish.

The amount of time each coat of paint takes to dry will depend on the ventilation and humidity in your work area. I recommend allowing each coat to dry for about 24 hours or more to achieve a flawless finish.

Do not expect your black lacquered furniture to look perfect right away because the first coats will always look patchy. It will take time to achieve the desired paint coverage for your furniture, so put in the work now to avoid repairs later.

How Can You Tell If Paint Is Enamel or Lacquer?

Sometimes during a painting project, you will need to figure out the product that previously covered your surface to avoid making mistakes. Enamel and lacquer paint finishes strikingly resemble each other.

They both have a glossy look, so it is hard to tell them apart just by looking at them. The main contrast between these two products is the solvents used to formulate them. Manufacturers use White spirits as the solvent in enamel paints and lacquer as the thinner in lacquer paints. 

You can easily tell if a paint is an enamel or lacquer when packaged because of labels. However, when the paint is dried and cured on a surface, you must test a spot on the surface to determine the type. Here’s how:

  • Dip a clean white cloth in lacquer thinner, then rub an inconspicuous paint spot to see the reaction.
  • If the spot starts forming wrinkles or the color comes off instantly, the coat is enamel paint. However, if the color only comes off after vigorous rubbing of the spot, then you are dealing with lacquer paint.


Lacquer is a popular and versatile finish preferred by woodworkers and painters. It is easy to apply and provides long-lasting protection for surfaces. For lacquer to last long, you need to employ proper surface preparation and application techniques. Without good technique, the coating will form bubbles and crack or form holes.

The cracks and holes eventually allow moisture to accumulate under the finish leaving behind white streaks and spots called blushes and fish eyes. These specks make the surface look unsightly hence you may have to remove the lacquer or find a way to hide the flaws.

The most common method of hiding blemishes on surfaces is painting, so homeowners ask,

Can You Paint Over Lacquer?

You can paint over lacquer successfully as long as you sand, clean and prime the surface with the right products and technique. The lacquer’s glossiness makes it hard for products to stick to it without proper preparation, so failure to prepare will result in a blotchy and uneven finish.