Paint over lacquer works with the right products.

Painting Furniture With a Lacquer Finish

by Wade Shaddy

Lacquer is one of a woodworker's top choices when it comes to finishing. It's user friendly, dries fast, looks fantastic, seals well, cleans up easily and it's affordable. It's almost foolproof. Carpenters and builders paint lacquer on doors, cabinets, molding and everything remotely related to woodworking. The nice thing about lacquer is that it makes a perfect base for almost any kind of paint. If you've decided to paint over furniture that's been previously finished with lacquer, your work is already half done. The key is using lacquer-based paint, or pigmented lacquer.

Place the piece of furniture at waist level on a worktable or bench. It should be high enough that you can see under the arms, seat or up under the top. You need access to all the parts on the piece.

Sand the furniture lightly to scuff up the lacquer finish. Use a folded piece of 120-grit sandpaper by hand to scrub the previous lacquer finish until it looks dull. Sand lightly only. Don't sand through the original lacquer finish.

Wipe the funiture down with a tack cloth to remove any debris or dust.

Hold a can of lacquer-based paint eight inches from the surface of the wood, tilted at 30 degrees. Spray an even band of lacquer paint over the furniture. Repeat spraying, overlapping the previous band by one inch. Continue on in this manner until all the visible surfaces are wet with lacquer paint.

Spray under the arms, seat, back or anywhere you might have missed the first time. Turn the item as needed to expose the back or sides. When you've covered everything, allow the lacquer paint to dry for at least one hour.

Sand the furniture lightly with a folded piece of 120-grit sandpaper. Sand until the paint looks slightly dull, but don't sand hard enough to remove any of the lacquer paint.

Repeat Steps 4 and 5 to finish the job.

Items you will need

  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Lacquer-based aerosol paint


  • Two coats of lacquer-based paint is sufficient, but you can add up to two more for a deeper gloss. You only need to sand after the first coat.


  • Wear eye and breathing protection when sanding or using wood-finishing products. Use lacquer-based paint at room temperature for best results.

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images