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Can You Lacquer Over Water Based Paint? (Do This)

Why, yes, you certainly can lacquer over water-based paint of any type. Before you attempt this process, though, you need to make certain that it is indeed water-based paint and not oil-based paint. If it’s oil-based paint, then you can’t lacquer over it because it will not bond properly and your lacquered project won’t look very good. You can apply lacquer to a project with oil-based paint, but you have to strip all of the paint off and paint it with water-based paint first.

What Is Lacquer?

Paint brush with tin of lacquer paint

Lacquer is a clear product that serves to protect your painted surfaces from scratches, dents and dings in the future.

There are several coating options to seal your painted projects, such as varnish, shellac and lacquer.

Lacquer is the most durable and long lasting protection coat that you can use, but you need to follow a particular process for it to bond well with paint and protect your projects both inside and outside.

Why Use Lacquer In The First Place?

Lacquer is the most durable and versatile clear finish to put on painted surfaces for protection.

The more coats of lacquer you add, the stronger the protection is, so that your painted projects look new and shiny for many years to come.

Comparing clear coat finishes with paint will give you an idea of why most people like to use lacquer for their work.

The drying times of products vary greatly in top coats.

Shellac takes about 30 minutes to dry after a coat is applied and varnish takes a full 24 hours to dry entirely.

Lacquer only takes one hour to be completely dry between your coats. This allows you to finish your product more quickly.

The easiest clear coatings to apply are polyurethane and sprayed lacquer. Lacquer gives you the best clear finish without changing the paint color, like shellac or oil-based polyurethane which adds a golden glow to the finished piece.

Lacquer is the easiest to repair and the most durable finish of all as well. So you can see that lacquer is the clear winner–pun intended.

What Is Lacquer Good For?

Using water based lacquer spray paint

The best projects for clear spray lacquer as a finishing coat for protection are smaller projects so it is cost effective and for projects with an uneven finish where a brush or wiped finish won’t cover the surfaces well.

You can purchase spray cans of lacquer for ease of use on smaller projects where you would most likely not want to use an actual paint sprayer.

If you intend to use it for large projects, lacquer is not cost effective and just using paint would be better.

What Is Water-Based Paint?

Water-based paints have microscopic pigmented plastic particles in them along with binders and water. They are water-soluble, but not after they dry.

Water-based paints are generally used on projects that won’t get a lot of wear and tear and they dry quicker than other types of paints, so it takes less time for your projects.

Using water-based paints on the walls of your home is a good idea.You can easily clean smudges and dirty hand prints off with water and a mild dish soap.

Also, if  you are rolling the paint and happen to have a spill, you can clean it up in the same way while it’s still wet.

The most common water-based paints are latex and acrylic.

The acrylic counterpart is usually used for furniture, cabinets and outdoor furniture as well, and it’s a bit more expensive than latex.

Larger projects on the interior of your home, such as walls and ceilings, usually use acrylic water-based paint because it is more affordable.

What Will Lacquer Do To Water-Based Paint?

Lacquer will form a nice clear protective coating over your water-based paint.

It’s easy to apply and a quick solution to keep your projects in tip-top condition so they don’t wear, scratch or scrape.

Will It Improve Or Ruin Water-Based Paint?

Lacquer will improve the structure of water-based paint and protect it as well.

As long as you let each coat of the paint dry thoroughly before adding another and you do the same with the lacquer while lightly sanding each coat of it, it will give you great satisfaction.

Can I Use Primer Instead Of Lacquer For Water-Based Paint?

Using primer for water based paint

Yes, you can use primer with water-based paint. Most builders use water-based primers on the drywall before they paint them with water-based paint.

This is so that the paint sticks better to the walls with a more flexible material in the primer and it also dries very fast to speed up the project.

How About Spraying Lacquer Over Water-Based Acrylic Paint

Yes, you can spray lacquer as a sealant and protectant over water-based acrylic paint.

However, the most important item to note with this combination is that the water-based acrylic paint must be absolutely dry and not just dry to the touch.

It’s best to wait at least 24 hours after your last coat of paint before spraying the lacquer on it.

Can I Put Lacquer Over Latex Water-Based Paint?

Yes, you can. However, latex water-based paint will only accept the lacquer coating if the paint is a flat color without any sheen to it.

Putting lacquer over latex paint with a sheen will cause the paint to bubble up and have wrinkles in it, which will put you back to square one on your project of stripping all the paint off and starting over the entire painting and sealing process.

How To Tell If Paint Is Water Based Or Oil Based?

Many DIY enthusiasts purchase a piece of furniture or other items at a second-hand or thrift store so that it isn’t as costly for them to refinish them in the manner they want to.

When you do this you can’t really tell what type of paint is on the piece already.

So how can you tell what type of paint it is?

There’s a simple test that can show you what type of paint is on an object.

Dip a cotton ball, cotton pad or cotton swab in a small amount of either denatured alcohol or thinner.

Find an inconspicuous area on your piece of furniture and rub the cotton on it. If the paint rubs off easily, it is water-based paint.

However, If it takes very vigorous scrubbing with the cotton to remove the paint, then you have a piece that is oil-based paint.

If it is oil-based paint, note that you will need to prime the surface first before you can apply lacquer to it.

If it’s water-based paint, then you don’t need to prime the surfaces before applying your coats of lacquer to it.

Tips And Expert Answers To Lacquer Based Questions

How Many Coats Of Lacquer Should I Use?

There is no exact answer to this question. The fewer coats of lacquer you use, the less protection your painted item will have from being marred because it will be too thin.

If you add too many layers of lacquer, it will be too thick and not look as nice.

The rule of thumb for most professional painters is to use 2 to 4 coats of lacquer on any project.

You can apply it with a brush, a roller or spray it on for versatility.

Usually, if you are using a brush, you will use fewer coats because brushing it is thicker than spraying light misting coats on your project.

How Long For Coats Of Lacquer To Dry Completely?

Lacquer is a fast drying product and it is dry to the touch within about an hour of putting a coat on it.

The best idea, though, is to wait at least 3 hours before adding another coat of lacquer to ensure it’s completely dry.

Lacquer dries much more slowly in very cold temperatures, so if you can work on your project in a garage or a shed with a space heater, it will help the lacquer to cure faster in the winter time.

Make sure you lightly sand the surface with 320 grit sandpaper between each layer as well.

How To Care For Lacquered Furniture

Using lacquer over wood furniture

If your project is a piece of furniture that you put lacquer on to protect it, then you should know how to take care of it so it’s more durable and long lasting.

You should always keep your furniture dry and if there is a spill of something on it, you should clean it up right away with a soft cloth to absorb the spill or paper towels.

You should dust your lacquered furniture with a clean and dry rag every so often to remove the dust.

There is no need to use any type of furniture polish on your piece.

Never clean your lacquer coated furniture with any product that has ammonia or bleach in it and, if needed, you can clean the surface with a mild dish soap and water on a rag.

About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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