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Lacquer vs. Paint: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 10, 2024
Lacquer is a fast-drying, solvent-based finish that provides a hard, durable surface, while paint is a colored substance applied to surfaces for color and protection.

Key Differences

Lacquer is typically a solvent-based finish, often used for its clear, glossy surface that enhances the underlying material. Paint, on the other hand, is a colored liquid, usually water or oil-based, used to add color and texture to surfaces.
Lacquers are known for their quick drying time, achieved by solvent evaporation, resulting in a hard, durable finish. Paints dry slower, often requiring longer cure times to achieve their final hardness and durability.
Lacquer generally offers a glossy, smooth finish that is hard and less prone to damage. Paint comes in various finishes, from matte to high gloss, and can be more prone to chipping and scratching compared to lacquer.
Lacquer is often applied with a sprayer for a smooth, brush-free finish. Paint can be applied with brushes, rollers, or sprayers, allowing for a wider range of textural effects.
Lacquer is ideal for furniture and woodwork, providing a protective and decorative finish. Paint is versatile, used on a variety of surfaces, including walls, wood, metal, and plastic, offering both protection and aesthetic appeal.

Comparison Chart

Base Material

Water or oil-based

Drying Time

Fast drying
Slower drying


Typically glossy and hard
Various finishes, from matte to gloss

Application Method

Usually sprayed
Brushed, rolled, or sprayed

Ideal Use

Furniture and woodwork
Walls, wood, metal, plastic

Lacquer and Paint Definitions


A liquid made of shellac dissolved in alcohol.
Lacquer was applied to the wood to give it a glossy finish.


A colored substance applied to surfaces for protection or decoration.
The walls were painted a light blue to brighten the room.


A coating that provides a glossy surface.
She admired the lacquer's shine on her newly refinished cabinets.


A coating material used for artistic or practical purposes.
The artist used acrylic paint for his canvas.


A fast-drying, clear or colored varnish.
The table was coated with a clear lacquer for protection.


A liquid mixture containing pigment.
She mixed the paint thoroughly before starting the project.


A hard protective coating.
The lacquer on the car helped prevent scratches.


A substance that dries to form a thin colored layer.
The paint on the fence chipped over time.


A finish that dries by solvent evaporation.
The lacquer dried quickly, leaving a smooth surface.


A product used to cover surfaces in a layer of color.
He bought red paint for the barn.


Any of various clear or colored synthetic coatings made by dissolving nitrocellulose or other cellulose derivatives together with plasticizers and pigments in a mixture of volatile solvents and used to impart a high gloss to surfaces.


A liquid mixture, usually of a solid pigment in a liquid vehicle, used as a decorative or protective coating.


A glossy, resinous material, such as the processed sap of the lacquer tree, used as a surface coating.


The thin dry film formed by such a mixture when applied to a surface.


Can paint be used on metal surfaces?

Yes, with the appropriate primer, paint can be used on metal.

Can paint be used over lacquer?

Yes, but proper surface preparation and priming are necessary for adhesion.

Does lacquer yellow over time?

Some types of lacquer, especially nitrocellulose, can yellow with age.

Can lacquer be used outdoors?

Yes, but it must be suitable for exterior use as it can be affected by UV light.

Is lacquer more durable than paint?

Generally, lacquer is more durable and resistant to damage compared to some paints.

What is the main solvent in lacquer?

The main solvent in lacquer is typically a volatile organic compound (VOC).

Is paint environmentally friendly?

Water-based paints are more environmentally friendly than solvent-based paints.

Are there water-based lacquers?

Yes, water-based lacquers are available and are more environmentally friendly.

How long does paint take to cure?

Paint cure times vary, but it can take up to a few weeks for complete curing.

Is lacquer food safe?

Not all lacquers are food safe; specific food-safe grades should be used for such purposes.

What is the best application method for lacquer?

Spraying is often the best method for a smooth, even application of lacquer.

How many coats of paint are typically needed?

Usually two coats of paint are needed, but it can vary based on color and type.

Can paint be mixed to create custom colors?

Yes, paints can be mixed to create a wide range of custom colors.

Does lacquer provide UV protection?

Some lacquers offer UV protection, but it varies by product.

Is paint suitable for high humidity areas?

Specialized paints are designed for high humidity areas to prevent peeling and mold growth.

Can lacquer finishes be matte?

Yes, while typically glossy, lacquers can also come in matte finishes.

How does temperature affect paint application?

Extreme temperatures can affect paint drying and adhesion; ideal conditions are usually moderate.

Can paint be easily removed?

Removal depends on the paint type; some require specific strippers or sanding.

What is the difference in cost between lacquer and paint?

Lacquer can be more expensive than paint, depending on the type and quality.

What are the health risks of using lacquer?

Lacquer fumes can be toxic; proper ventilation and protective gear are necessary.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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