How do you paint furniture using lacquer?? Until just recently I didn’t have the answer to that question. I was asked to paint an antique bed with a black lacquer paint and gold leaf accents. The photograph to the left is the inspiration I was given. My client wanted her bed to look just like the designer bed in this photo. Since it was my first time working with lacquer I did a ton of research on how to apply it and how to achieve that perfect, shiny finish that is desired.
I have to say that working with lacquer is much more difficult and time consuming than working with acrylic paints, which is what I normally use. It is also less forgiving than acrylic paint, so small imperfections really stand out. If you are not extremely patient or are unwilling to spend several days working on perfecting the finish, I wouldn’t recommend attempting a lacquer finish. That being said, below are the steps that I followed to transform the antique bed shown below.
How to apply lacquer to wood furniture:
  1. The bed was natural wood. It was dry and had an open grain. The first step was to seal the wood. I applied two coats of shellac using my spray gun. Between each coat I sanded well with 320 grit sand paper. Shellac will shrink, so you do not want to apply subsequent layers too quickly. The consequence will be cracks in your finish. Be sure to read the label and follow the suggested dry times.
  2. To ensure the shellac had thoroughly dried I waited until the following day to apply a tinted bonding primer. This primer will stick to anything including metal and glass. Once dry sand again using 320 grit sand paper. Again, follow the instructions on the can, dry times can be as short as 30 minutes between coats and as long as 6 hours depending on the product and the brand.
  3. I waited a few days before coming back and applying two coats of lacquer. I used Luster Lac by Valspar wood. It can be purchased at Dunn Edwards or Frazee Paints. With lacquer it is important to remember that less is more. You do not want to get it on to thick. Sand between each coat using 320 grit sand paper.
  4. The following day I applied another two coats of lacquer.
  5. A few days later I used 0000 steel wool to hand buff the finish. The steel wool will remove any over spray, orange peel, or other imperfections in the finish. This step was one of the most tedious and time consuming, but it is very important to achieve a perfect, smooth finish.
  6. I used tack cloth to remove all of the debris from the steel wool before moving on to the next step.
  7. I used paste wax to polish the finish. I took a cheese cloth and folded it over so it was doubled, then I placed a big scoop of paste wax on it and wrapped it up. The wax is easy to apply in an even thin layer using this method, just enough squeezes out through the cloth. I used a circular motion to rub the wax across the surface. I waited about 15 minutes, as recommended by the manufacturer, and then I used a clean, lint free cloth to buff the wax to a lustrous shine.
  8. Last I used gold leaf in a squeezable tube to highlight the details of this bed. The gold leaf was applied with a small craft brush and buffed with a rag after it had dried.
Here is how the bed turned out……………………
List of products used to create a black lacquer finish:
Klean Strip. Easy liquid sander deglosser.
Zinsser  Bulls Eye Shellac. Traditional finish and sealer.
Zinsser Cover Stain. Oil Base. Interior & Exterior. Primer Bond Coat. Tinted dark grey.
Valspar Luster Lac professional lacquer.
Minwax. Paste finishing wax.
Supplies needed to create a black lacquer finish:
320 grit sand paper
0000 steel wool
Tack cloth
Clean, lint free rags
Cheese cloth




4 Responses to How to paint furniture with lacquer

  1. Robin Henderson says:

    Hi Deana!
    I am Googling in search of a product I once had but now can find no more. It was a lacquer/shellac – metho based called FEZLAC and I do not know what paint brand it was. Together with it I used pure liquid tinters and I mixed my own colours to combine with the Fezlac….then lacuered whatever..mainly furniture for my own pleasure and the occasional funky artwork.
    Wonder have you heard of that product or would you know the name of the manufacturer? The specialised paint shop where I used to buy it has closed and my srtist friend who often loved to help me has advanced secondary breast cancer and do not want to disturb her with this. Can you offer me any leads please Deana? Maybe even alternative products comprising of shellac/lcquer and bottles of transparent pure tints…only need the primary colours.
    Thanks in advance and…LOVE the bed!

  2. Deana says:

    Hi Robin, this sounds like an amazing product! I wish I was familiar with it, but unfortunately I have never heard of it, or anything like it. I wish I could be of help.

  3. monica conklin says:

    ilove you website. what a talented gal you are. where do i get lacquar paint in the bulk. I live in michigan and cant travel to california for my furniture pieces i want to paint with lacquar paint. can you help with a company? thanks in advance. monica

  4. Deana says:

    Hi Monica, unfortunately lacquer can be really hard to find. I believe some states have banned it entirely. I can only find it at one store out here and that is Dunn Edwards. I’m not sure if they sell it in larger than a gallon size, I’ve never needed that much of it.