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Can You Lacquer Over Acrylic Paint? (Read This First!)

Furniture is an integral part of our household since it not only increases our living comfort but also improves the appearance of our household. This is why many of us paint them in order to keep their looks fresh and defined. 

In the extract below, you will know relevant information about different paints.

Can you lacquer over acrylic paint?

There are different lacquers and acrylic paints that may or may not be compatible with each other. You can apply lacquer over acrylic paint if you apply a thinner layer of lacquer on the acrylic. If a thick lacquer layer has been applied instead, it would be corrosive and damage the acrylic paint.

Lacquer is a hard and shiny coating material that is used to coat wooden or metallic items. Lacquer also includes clear as well colorful coatings which produce a hard and glossy coating layer upon drying. 

The lacquer coatings are different from oil-based and latex paint because they are harder and thus more brittle which is why they are used on hard and plain surfaces.

On the other hand, Acrylic paints are fast-drying pigmented paints that are mostly water-based but become water-resistant once they’re dry. Acrylic paints can be also diluted with water or used alongside acrylic gels and other mediums to use as a paint mixture. 

Acrylic paints can be used on canvases and uneven surfaces since they do not form a hard and brittle coating.

Lacquer and Acrylic paint does have a lot of similarities in them with Acrylic paint being an acrylic polymer suspended in a solvent. Acrylic can also be referred to as a non-yellowing form of lacquer whereas the other forms of lacquer consist of nitrocellulose, CAB-acrylic. 

The Nitrocellulose variant is made up of cellulose suspended in a solvent similar to acrylics whereas CAB-acrylic lacquer is a mix of cellulose and acrylic.

Nitrocellulose lacquer: 

You can put Nitrocellulose lacquer over the solvent-based acrylic to form a hybrid coating. The coating is a pigmented paint and can be used on smooth metallic surfaces such as a car surface or wooden boards. 

But nitrocellulose with Acrylic latex does not form a hybrid, instead, it forms a surface coating.

Spray 2k lacquer: 

Spray 2k lacquer can also be used on an acrylic paint layer after it has completely dried out. Since the spray does not mix with the acrylic, it is simply used as a top coat to have a sealing finish.

Do you need to lacquer acrylic paint?

Surfaces painted with acrylic paint need additional protection from dust, UV rays as well as to prevent the layer from yellowing. To prevent the paint from being dulled, people popularly use an additional coating over the acrylic paint – such as lacquer or varnish. 

But using lacquer is controversial due to its nature in the long run; lacquer layers start damaging the wood and the coating underneath due to its corrosive nature.

In contrast, varnishing is a popular coating technique that will not only protect the applied surface from dust, UV rays, and yellowing but also provide a glossy or satin finish. 

The varnish does not have a corrosive nature, which is why it keeps the surface fresh and intact for a long while.

In short, you do need to protect the acrylic painted surface but not with lacquer – varnishing gives a much better and more durable result.

Can you spray lacquer over water-based acrylic? Can you lacquer over acrylic paint on wood?

It is possible to spray lacquer over water-based acrylic but first, you need to make sure that the acrylic layer has been cured. The layer must be perfectly cured and not just dry to the touch, which is why it is recommended that you spray over the acrylic after 24 hours.

Curing of the acrylic layer makes sure that the layer has reached its full hardness and all the solvent has evaporated out of the coating. If you spray before the layer has fully cured, the spray will not stick to the paint well and the end result will be a wrinkly layer.

On the other hand, if the acrylic on the painted wood is oil-based then you cannot lacquer over it at all. If the acrylic is water-based then you can coat it with lacquers as long as the paint layer has properly been cured, else the layer will wrinkle.

3 reasons why you should not lacquer over acrylic paint

Although many people consider lacquering over their acrylic painted surface, it is not efficient in the long run and there are several reasons for choosing an alternative topcoat. The reasons have been explained in detail below:

Corrosive nature of lacquer:

One of the notable reasons why lacquer is not durable in the long run is its corrosive nature. If it is applied over a layer of acrylic paint, then it will react with the layer over time and eventually seep into the surface. 

If the applied surface is wooden, then it will not only eat away the acrylic layer but also damage the wood.

Compatibility of lacquer and acrylic paint:

Lacquers tend to mix with only the solvent-based acrylic paint whereas they are not compatible with other variants such as oil-based acrylic or latex acrylic. 

When lacquer is applied on top of the acrylic layer, the lacquer forms a top coat instead which has a possibility of wearing out fast.

Not as good as varnish:

Surfaces coated with acrylic paint are vulnerable to many atmospheric conditions such as dust, dirt, and UV rays from the sun, besides that the coating also faces yellowing as the coating dulls over time. 

To prevent this deterioration, many people consider using a top coat over acrylic paint such as lacquer and varnish.

But in terms of longevity and performance, lacquer does not live up to the mark compared to varnish. Varnishing over an acrylic paint layer not only gives the paint layer a protective coating but also gives it a glossy outlook and preserves the original look.

What happens when you lacquer over acrylic paint?

When we paint a surface with acrylic paint, we may want to seal the paint surface with a coat to protect it from dust, dirt, UV rays and prevent it from yellowing. To do so, people may choose different options such as lacquering or varnishing the acrylic paint layer.

Using lacquer over acrylic paint is not suggested because they are not compatible with all variants of acrylic paint. This is why they fail to blend in with the acrylic paint and instead stay suspended on the top of the layer

Not only that, if they are applied over the paint layer, they would damage the layer underneath due to its corrosive nature and eventually reach the surface underneath.

How to seal acrylic paint?

Sealing acrylic paint is necessary in order to protect the paint layer from yellowing as well as getting dull from dust and UV rays. Even though lacquering is an option, varnishing is the best option to seal acrylic paint. 

Below stated are the steps to properly varnish an acrylic painted surface:

Let the paint dry completely:

Unless the paint layer has dried completely, applying the varnish mixture could give a terrible result. Brushing over the wet layer of paint will not only ruin the paint layer but also create a smudgy effect with the varnish. 

Therefore, you should wait at least 24 hours to let the acrylic paint completely dry before proceeding to the varnishing part.

Mix the varnish in the correct ratio:

Once the painting has been done, pour the varnish solution into a separate container and use a separate brush for it to prevent it from smudging with the previous paint. 

After that, do not use the raw varnish right out of the can – it needs to be thinned with others significantly before it can be applied over the painted layer.

The ratio of water to varnish mixture varies according to the varnish manufacturers, so make sure you read the packaging well and mix the correct ratio of varnish with water. 

As a rule of thumb, you should prepare more of the mixture than you need since it will help maintain the ratio consistency if you run out of the solution.

Brush the mixture over the surface:

Finally, brush the mixture over the surface and check from different angles while the varnish layer is wet to make sure all of the surfaces have been coated properly. While coating with the varnish, make sure each layer is not too thick, or else they will collapse.

Final Thoughts

There are several lacquers and acrylic paints that may or may not be compatible. Lacquer can be applied over acrylic paint if the lacquer is applied in a thin layer over the acrylic. A thick lacquer layer would be corrosive and would damage the acrylic paint if it was used instead.