Lacquer over paint: how can you use it?

Lacquer over paint Paint Advice

Due to various adverse conditions, painted surfaces may lose their attractiveness over time. That is why they require additional protection. You can apply lacquer over the paint job. More details about this procedure will be discussed in this article.


Can lacquer be applied over paint?

Quite often, people are trying to figure out whether to apply lacquer over paint. Yes, you can. However, proper preparation is required. You need to understand that lacquer will not be the best option for any type of paint job. It has poor adhesion to oil-based paints.

If you plan to varnish oil or latex paint, it first requires a thorough cleaning. The paint should also be primed so that it has a latex finish before varnishing. More details about the combination of lacquer with different types of paint will be discussed later.

Chalk paint

The use of lacquer is allowed if the surface has been painted with chalk paint. For these purposes, you should pay attention to the tool from the company Annie Sloan. It has been specially designed to work with chalk paints. It is better to prepare several different samples before the staining process to determine the exact result.

The lacquer in question has a base of water. Therefore, it is not possible to use it on a floor that is covered with wax. Water with oil or wax will not adhere, which can cause various peeling. Before applying the first layer, it is recommended to add a little water to the varnish (about 10%).

This allows a smooth layer to be formed before subsequent layers are applied. You should not stop working halfway through, otherwise, the difference between the layers will be visible, and unattractive seams will form, which are much more difficult to fix.

Gloss paint

If you do not varnish gloss paint, it will crack. To cover this type of lacquer, it is better to use shellac. Only after using shellac varnish can be applied. It is recommended to work with a brush.

If the area of gloss paint to be treated is large, it is recommended to mix 1 gallon of shellac, 1 pound of special shellac flakes, and 1 gallon of alcohol. The prepared mixture is easier to apply with a sprayer. It is important to ensure that the surface is evenly covered with the product. It is best to work with shellac from Zinesser’s Bullseye.

Oil-based paint

As already mentioned, the lacquer is not compatible with oil-based paint. Both tools are considered complete opposites of each other, so it is better not to combine them. If you still plan to do this, then be prepared for scratches to form and the shine from the paint to be lost.

Water-based paint

First, you need to determine the texture of the paint. If after drying it shines a little, then it is glossy. If the gloss is uniform, you can start varnishing. If the shine is uneven, then you first need to apply shellac and then use lacquer.

Acrylic paint

Acrylic lacquer is a great way to coat acrylic paint. You don’t have to worry about texture conflicts. Acrylic paint will deteriorate if exposed to extremely high or low temperatures or humidity. To cover acrylic paint, it is better to use nitrocellulose lacquer. You can take an aerosol manufactured by StewMac.

The packaging is marked guitar varnish. However, it is great for all wood surfaces that have been painted with acrylic paint. The disadvantage of acrylic lacquer is that over time it can become yellow. Therefore, the acrylic paint is slightly discolored. However, this happens after a long period.

Enamel paints

Covering enamel with lacquer is quite difficult. You can never guess whether the lacquer will spoil the texture of the enamel, or not. To determine it, it makes sense to use special test strips.

It is better to leave the enamel on the surface for six months so that it hardens securely. After, you can spray lacquer with a light texture. In the end, you can use products with a denser and more durable texture.

Cellulose-based paint

In this case, it makes sense to use acrylic varnish. Otherwise, the paint is damaged. The advantage of cellulose-based paint is that it has a porous texture and is easy to fix defects.

It is quite difficult to work with it, especially if an additional protective coating is required. Lacquer should be applied in light layers.

Spray paint

Varnish will slightly dilute the paint, which is sold in spray cans. Therefore, it is better to use shellac for coverage of the spray paint. Especially if you want to keep the paint coverage. It is better to apply varnish with a brush, which provides a smooth and glossy finish.

After what time can the lacquer be applied?

If you have painted the surface, you should wait a day, after which you can start applying varnish. This allows the paint to set, so it won’t break down when mixed with the lacquer.

Number of layers of lacquer

Lacquers have recently been in great demand in finishing work. They have an unusual texture. If you don’t apply enough, the coverage will be too thin. If you exceed the recommended dosage, the coating will be too dense.


Quite often people are trying to figure out how many coats of spraying lacquer to put on top of the paint. It is best to apply from two layers; however, their number should be no more than 4. You can use a brush, roller, or spray to work. It is best to work with a brush if you plan to apply a small number of layers.

How long does it take to dry layers of lacquer?

It should be noted that varnishes dry quite quickly. After applying the first layer, you need to wait about half an hour, after which you can proceed to the second layer. For the work to be crowned with a pleasant result, it makes sense to wait a little longer. Experienced masters try to leave the lacquer to dry for 3 hours.

Between layers of lacquer, irregularities, if any, should be removed. You can also sand the surface with 320-grit sandpaper. After that, you can apply the next layer. The surface should be smooth so that no recoating is required

How to speed up the drying of the lacquer?

If the room temperature is not high enough, the varnishes will dry for a long time. Dust will settle on the surface, so the coating does not harden properly. In this case, additional heating is required. To do this, you need to prepare expensive equipment, and you have to pay more for utilities.


However, you can also choose varnishes that contain a minimum amount of volatile organic compounds. Therefore, such compounds will dry much faster, even if extreme temperatures are observed. To speed up the drying rate, you can add a few additives to the lacquer.

It could be acetone. Because acetone evaporates faster, the lacquer will dry faster. And as an alternative, you can use conventional solvents that work on the same principle.

The effect of applying varnish over paint

As already mentioned, recently, more and more often painted surfaces are treated with lacquer. This guarantees better durability and the life of the paint. Almost all varnishes are resistant to moisture and chips. At the same time, they are breathable.

Almost all masters try to apply the compositions with a sprayer, which makes the multiple thin coats. However, if you make the slightest mistake, there is a high probability of encountering failures. If you apply too much product, bubbles, and wrinkles form on the paint.

Therefore, it is better to apply several lacquer thinner layers, which ensures uniformity. You can also treat the surface with shellac before applying the lacquer.

Does the varnish scratch easily?

As already mentioned, excellent durability distinguishes most varnishes. However, minor scratches may remain. However, if you reapply an additional layer, the scratches can be evened out.

Lacquer protection

Lacquer is durable. The products are designed to protect the pigment of the paint, as well as the surface itself. However, varnishes can be subjected to heavy stress, which will cause wear, chips, and scratches. That is why proper care for painted surfaces coated with lacquer is required.

This ensures the long-term preservation of the glossy surface. There are a few care tips to follow, namely:

  • varnished furniture must be protected from moisture;
  • if a liquid spill occurs, the surface should be cleaned quickly to prevent deformation or damage;
  • use a clean cloth to wipe off dust;
  • do not use cleaning products that contain bleach or ammonia;
  • clean the lacquered surface with common cleaning products or mild soap.

Is a primer required before varnishing?

Yes, you need a primer before applying the lacquer. This improves the appearance of the paint. This creates additional adhesion for the durability of the coating.

Is varnish harmful to health?

paint 1

As already mentioned, lacquer over paint surfaces makes them more durable and attractive. However, these tools are quite dangerous to health if they breathe for a long time, or they penetrate the body. This is because the lacquer contains aggressive and toxic substances called hydrocarbons.

When inhaled, they harm all internal organs, which causes the following problems:

  • swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing;
  • impurities of blood in urine and feces;
  • renal failure;
  • pain in the eyes and throat;
  • burning of the mucous membrane;
  • abdominal pain and vomiting;
  • burning in the stomach and hypotension;
  • drowsiness and problems in the brain;
  • irritation and ulcers on the skin;
  • problems with awareness and loss of consciousness.


If you need to treat with the lacquer paint surface, you may encounter numerous questions. The answers to them will be presented below.

Can you use lacquer over paint?

Varnish is inappropriate if you worked with oil paint. After all, poor adhesion is observed. Varnishes are best used with latex paint. Lacquer and latex paint is a great composition

When can I apply lacquer after painting?

The varnish must be applied after the paint has hardened and acquired a glossy sheen. This can be explained by the fact that the creation of adhesion is observed when the solvent in the composition of the lacquer begins to revive the dried layer with the pigment.

Can I lacquer over water-based paint?

Yes, you can apply acrylic clearcoats over water-based paint. The key is to let the paint dry.

Can you spray lacquer on a painted surface?

Yes, you can spray lacquer paint surface. The main thing is that the layers are uniform and hardened. It is better to apply several spray lacquer thinner layers than one dense.


As you can see, it is possible and necessary to varnish the paint. This creates additional protection for the painted surface, and it will look more aesthetic. You need to work carefully so that the layers dry out and are uniform.

Read about spray varnish over latex paint here
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My blog was created specifically to bring you the latest design trends. I graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York 10 years ago. I started drawing as a child. I was very fond of design and could even choose a style for my friends and relatives during the renovation.

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