Black Laquer Furniture Painting Tips


Black lacquer paint is a popular furniture finish because of its attractive high gloss finish. An illusion of depth is achieved in the finish by applying multiple thin coats of paint rather than one thick coat. The buildup of thin coats will give the best finish. Lacquer is a good finish for furniture because it is moderately resistant to water, heat and solvents. It is easy to repair and resistant to wear.

Choosing the Paint

  • It is a popular misconception that automotive paints of acrylic lacquer are the best to use, giving a better shine. While black automotive lacquer will give a good shine, it is not meant for the softer surfaces of wood and will sometimes crack with use because of the movement of the wood. Instead, choose a more flexible black lacquer made from nitrocellulose or polyurethane to give a nice finish and avoid cracking problems.

Prepare the Surface

  • Bare wood should be sanded smooth and sealed before applying lacquer. When applying lacquer to a painted surface, it is important to determine what type of paint was used. An oil-based paint will cause the lacquer to wrinkle and lift the paint, generally making a sticky mess.

    Clean the furniture thoroughly to remove any residue of polish or wax that may be lingering. Sand the furniture with 180 grit sandpaper to score the surface and ensure that the paint will stick. Pay special attention to any chipping that may be found in the surface; sand these smooth. After sanding, remove the dust with a tack cloth or vacuum the surface thoroughly. Seal the wood with a thin base coat of lacquer or shellac.

Set Up the Work Area

  • Lay a drop cloth under and behind the area where you will be working. Arrange the surface to be painted so that there is plenty of reflected light. Looking at the surface in reflected light will allow you to distinguish wet surfaces from dry surfaces.

Brush Application

  • When applying black lacquer by brush, it is important to thin the lacquer with lacquer thinner so that the lacquer will be smooth and not leave brush marks. It is best to apply many very thin coats rather than one thick coat.

    Allow each coat to dry overnight before sanding with 220 grit sandpaper. Remove the dust with a tack cloth before applying the next coat. Three to five coats or more will be needed, depending on the thickness of each coat.

Spray Application

  • Spray application is the preferred method for painting with black lacquer. Paint can be purchased in spray cans, or a spray gun can be used. If you are using a spray gun, you may need to thin the paint with lacquer thinner.

    Spray less visible parts and edges first. If possible, begin spraying a few inches off the wood and move onto the surface. Spray a uniform 8-10 inches from the surface, holding the spray can or gun perpendicular to the surface. Overlap the spray slightly with each pass. Your goal is to spray a very thin coat.

    Allow the paint to dry thoroughly, usually overnight. Sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper and remove the dust with the tack cloth before spraying the next coat. Three to five coats or more will be needed.

Avoid Runs and Sags

  • Runs and sags are caused by applying too much paint, allowing it to run. Apply multiple thin coats rather than a thicker coat.


  • Black lacquer paints are solvent-based paints and therefore toxic and flammable. Their high solvent content causes health risks. Use black lacquer only in a very well-ventilated area and take adequate safety precautions as prescribed on the can. Some states have restricted the use of lacquer because of these risks.

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  • Understanding Wood Finishes: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish, Bob Flexner, 2005
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