Can You Paint over Lacquer? Yes, and Here is How. Discover now!

The question “Can you paint over lacquer?” has been brought up quite often here and there, and it stands to reason.

Lacquer has always been a top contender for wood finishing due to its durable performance and glossy finish; however, it still comes with disadvantages and needs repainting sometimes. 

The problem here is, because of its characteristics, lacquer is ill-suited to paint adhesion. Painting over lacquer will be an uphill battle if you don’t figure out exactly what to do.

So before you get down to work, it is essential that you know well about the material you are dealing with.

Let’s get started.

An Overview of Lacquer

First thing first, get to know this material and its characteristics.

What is Lacquer?

Lacquer describes a specific kind of coating on woodworking projects, especially wooden furniture or automobiles. 

It is a type of solvent-based product made of shellac (a resinous substance from female bugs) dissolved in alcohol. The final result will be a hard, smooth, high-gloss finish.

Lacquer sheen is used to measure the shine of lacquer. A lacquer finish will range from the least shiny to the shiniest, respectively: flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Each type will have different approaches.

Can You Paint over Lacquer


Lacquer’s Characteristics


  • Lacquer finishes dry out quickly
  • Smooth, high-gloss finishes last for a long time
  • Waterproof and acid-resistant
  • Doesn’t need extra care


  • Difficult to apply properly
  • Difficult to remove scratches or dents

In spite of drawbacks, lacquer has been an all-time favorite for homeowners, the woodwork enthusiasts, and professionals who take a fancy of glossy finishes.

Can You Paint over Lacquer?

Like we have mentioned, you can totally refinish a lacquered surface. But whether glossy or matte, lacquered finish is a strong, protective barrier, which will pose some major problems. It doesn’t easily accept another layer of paint as easily as the raw wood surface does.

Painting over an unprepared lacquered surface and hoping for the best is such a wild-goose chase. To achieve a successful outcome, you have to pay great attention to prep work.

We’ll tell you how to get it right step by step.

Materials and The Prep Work

You will need:

  • 150-grit and 300-grit sanding paper
  • Primer (Latex or oil-based is recommended)
  • Paint and paint pan
  • Sponge or a piece of cloth
  • Safety gear: a pair of rubber gloves, eye protection, mask
  • Paintbrush and roller (if necessary)

Can You Paint over Lacquer

To get ready, make sure to:

  1. Prepare for the working space: You surely don’t want the fumes from paint to stink up your space or have the floor full of stains. It is best to ventilate the area before beginning the project or just do it outside your house.
  2. Clean the surface: Your paint will not adhere to dirt, filth, or grease, so a clean surface is significant. Make sure to remove every debris, wipe off the woodwork with a damp rag, and let it dry.

Can You Paint over Lacquer

  1. Know which type it is: By determining the type, you will decide which suitable sandpaper is. If the surface is shiny with a smooth, slick feeling, that’s semi-gloss or high-gloss. The surface seems rough with a natural look? That may be an eggshell or flat.

That’s all with the prep work. And now, let’s get down to business.


Step 1: Abrasion

This is a vital step when you work with a lacquered finish.

Sand out equally on the surface until the shiny coating appears dull using the right sandpaper. Go for 150-grit sandpaper if it is semi-gloss or high-gloss. The 300-grit one will be used for eggshell or flat surfaces.

This is because 300-grit sandpaper is finer, which helps to rub the finish without extra damage, while 150-grit sandpaper is rougher, suitable for finishes that are already uneven.

Can You Paint over Lacquer

Scuffing the structure creates a strong bond between the paint and the woodwork, helping the finish last longer. It also helps in the later step by ensuring your surface retains the desired texture.

Step 2: Cleaning

After rubbing the surface, wipe all the dust from the sandpaper with a wet rag to get rid of the residues. Remember not to use excess water for the wood to dry quickly. A little moisture is enough.

Step 3: Primer

After abrasion, the primer acts as a protective fence for the woodwork.

Pour primer into a paint pan. Use either a brush or a roller to apply a coat of primer on the surface. 

Ensure that you are applying it against the wood grain; otherwise, the primer cannot penetrate into the wood’s pores properly. Also, the primer has to be applied in the same direction. Every time!

Allow the primer enough time to dry. It may take you a couple of hours to wait before the primer dries out completely. Do ask the salesperson or read the instruction tag from the manufacturer to know how much time it takes.

Can You Paint over Lacquer

In case you notice spots on the primed surface, apply a second layer of primer, and of course, in the same direction as the last one.

Step 4: Painting

After being sanded and primed carefully, your surface is now ready to be painted.

Paint the woodwork with oil or latex paint of any sheen and color of your choice. To maintain consistency and obtain a nice, smooth finish, remember to apply paint in the same direction, just as the way you apply primer.

Can You Paint over Lacquer

Let it dry thoroughly before adding another layer. The time it takes to dry can be affected by a few factors, such as the temperature, the humidity of the environment, the type of paint you use, etc.

Don’t be impatient!

At least 2 coats of paint are required. The application of 2 coats gives the finish less uneven spots with better wearability against the elements. 

Step 5: Clear coating

The clear coat is a transparent layer of paint that goes over the colored coat and is also the last coat.

Clear coating is not a mandatory step, but it brings some benefits to consider: prevent oxidation, increase color depth, and add a protective layer to the panel.

Since paint is not as durable as lacquer, protecting your work with a clear topcoat is recommended.

Related Articles:


  • Is it okay to skip abrasion when you paint over lacquer?

Yes, you can paint over lacquer and skip abrasion. Will it turn out well? Well, I’m not so sure.

We have already mentioned that sanding is the essential step for the surface to accept another paint coat, especially if the piece you are painting has any rough spots. Without it, paint peeling or flaking is likely to happen soon. 

But if, for some reason, you decide not to sand a lacquered finish before painting, a tip for you is to go for oil-based paint. It sticks better to this kind of surface compared to others.

  • Can you paint over lacquer without a primer?

Remember how important it is to apply primer before wearing your makeup?

That’s also the case in painting. Primers will “prime” or optimize the performance of the next products.

Priming sounds like a minor, optional step to some, though it still plays a role in the lasting of the finish. Some consequences will appear immediately, but some will only become visible over time. With the quality of paint nowadays, you can skip primer when the surface is NOT porous, glossy, or stained.

However, if you can, it is advised to apply primer first thing before painting.

  • How to prevent and handle paint peeling?

Peeling, flaking, and chipping will eventually happen with the painted surfaces. It is just a matter of time. These problems are usually the result of inadequate preparation and poor application method. So first and foremost, try to apply the paint correctly.

After that, consider these factors because they are the main causes that damage the performance of paint: excess humidity and condensation, exposure to intense sunlight, and low-quality paint.

If peeling has already happened? Patching compound is an instant solution. Scrape down all the peeling or cracked paint using sandpaper, then use a putty knife to put thin layers of patching material on that damaged area.


Here is our response to the question, “Can you paint over lacquer?”. 

It might be a pain in the neck at first, but with all the prep work and instructions above, you should find it less perplexing.

When handling some kinds of chemical problems, which is painting in this case, never forget to wear your protective clothing and do a little research beforehand for the sake of you and the project.

Always be careful and be creative! That’s how you will find doing arts and crafts enjoyable.

Reference source: How to Paint over Lacquer And High Gloss Finish


Leave a Comment