Can You Use Lacquer over Spray Paint? Quick Answers

If you start talking with painting professionals about spray paint, they usually smile and say that spray paint will not do anything good to your project. But newbies always want to make their first projects without investing a lot of money in equipment, professional paints, and all those materials that come with it. Spray paint almost always seems like a good idea.

The question is can you make your spray paint look better by applying lacquer over it? The answer may be yes or no, it depends on many factors. You should know how to apply these materials and when to apply them to make them look good and remain looking good for a long time. In this article, we’ll try to figure out some important guidelines on how to apply lacquer over spray paint.

Here’s what you are going to learn from here:

  1. Applying spray paint – are there any important rules to consider?
  2. Is it at all possible to apply lacquer over spray paint?
  3. How to correctly apply lacquer over spray paint to make it look good?
  4. What problems can you have with your project?

Let’s get started!

Applying spray paint – what should you know?

If you have some experience with painting and already have some good completed projects, you may skip this section because we’ll be covering some basic things. First of all, you should know how to apply paint in a spray can. This is a specific process and you should learn on some test surface that is not important. It may be an invisible side of your project or just another thing.

Usually, you will need at least three coats of your spray paint, but in most cases, more coats are needed. Also, you should remember to prime the surface. Primers are important to create a good base for your paint. Without priming, the process of painting may be just useless.

Here are some important things you should know about spray painting:

  • spray paint can’t be mixed with hardeners, or lacquers, whatsoever, it just comes as it is and has its pros and cons;
  • spray paint will never be as smooth and shiny as professionally applied paint and it’s important to understand;
  • low-quality spray paint will never be a good idea, it’s going to show up a lot of defects on the surface after it’s applied;
  • in most cases, the estimated painted area that you can see on a can should be divided at least by three;
  • spray paint is not that durable, it will last at least twice less than professionally applied paint;
  • also, spray paint is going to change its color faster than professional enamel because of sunbeams, temperatures, etc.

Now you know why professionals almost never use spray paint for important surfaces. But still, you can have a good result if you follow the simple rules and recommendations when you apply spray paint.

One question you may have is whether it is a good idea to apply lacquer right over spray paint. If you paint your project with a paint gun connected to a compressor, you may just add lacquer to your paint, mix them together, and you’ll be fine. But it’s impossible to add anything to spray paint, so you may think of spraying lacquer over spray paint once it is applied. And you can do it following some rules.

Why is it a good idea to apply lacquer?

Lacquer is going to be a protection for your project. With lacquer over your paint, you may not worry much about little scratches, sunbeams, etc. Also, lacquer is shiny and it will make the color of the project more beautiful.

You should know that lacquer and clear coat are not the same. Applying clear coat is only good over base coat when you use the special paint that is designed for clear coats. Applying clear coat over spray paint is not a good idea – you may just damage the paint and destroy the project.

But lacquers can be applied over spray paint. We don’t say you will always have good results, but you may try. Of course, the main idea is to try it on a small spot of the test surface and see if it works well.

How to correctly apply lacquer over spray paint?

Painting is not a simple thing to do. Every kind of paint needs its own technique and understanding of the curing process. Spray paint dries quite fast. It will take about 10-15 minutes in between coats and up to 24 hours until the spray paint is fully cured.

Lacquers shouldn’t be applied on a fully cured surface. The thing is that lacquers contain some chemicals that react with base coat and create a special bond making all paint coats into a single coat. It means applying the lacquer on fully cured paint is never a good idea – it will just go off within a month or two.

Here are some things you should know:

  1. The right choice of lacquer is extremely important. Different types of lacquers need different kinds of applications. You should follow the recommendations you read on a can with lacquer you buy.
  2. Also, applying lacquer too soon will most likely destroy your paint. Lacquers contain chemicals that are aimed to penetrate the paint and create a bond. But if the paint is too wet, it will destroy it by dissolving paint and creating drips.
  3. You should understand the best time for applying lacquer. Read on your spray can how long it takes for this paint to fully cure. The application of lacquer should be carried out somewhere in the middle between spraying your paint and when it should finally cure.
  4. Lacquer doesn’t need a lot of coats to create firm protection. Usually, two coats are enough if you are using it over spray paint. The maximum you may get is three coats. Otherwise, drips and other problems will be there to cope with.
  5. If your paint has already cured, you may wet-sand it with fine-grit sandpaper and then spray lacquer over it once it dries. This is not the ideal situation but acceptable with high-quality spray paint types.
  6. Spray paint is never going to be a professional finish, so applying a lot of coats of lacquer and spending a lot of time on it is not recommended.

Whatever you do with your spray paint, always remember that this is still spray paint and it’s not going to be much better after all. Don’t expect it to look like professional finish. If it’s your kitchen chair, for example, it will be OK. But if it’s your car body part, it’s not going to be perfect at all.

Spray paint with lacquer over it is a good option for many projects that can be painted in a simple workshop and that are not expected to look like a smoothly painted vehicle. But if your expectations are high, then you should invest in a compressor, a good paint gun, professional paint, and also some learning.

What problems can you get when applying lacquer over spray paint?

We’ve decided to include this section with possible problems because we guess a lot of people will still have big expectations when applying these materials. Even if you aren’t going to have problems, the finish is not supposed to be very smooth, professional, and ideal. Please consider this before you even buy your materials.

Here are some issues you may expect to face:

  1. Your paint may be just dissolved. Lacquers contain chemical compounds that dissolve the thin layer of paint to form a single protected coat. If the paint is not of high quality or applied with mistakes in the process, it will be destroyed.
  2. Lacquer may not form decent protection. If spray paint has already cured, lacquer is not going to provide you with any good results.
  3. Lacquer may not stick. If your paint and lacquer are not made to work together, lacquer may just not stick to the paint and go off the moment you apply it.
  4. The surface may not be smooth and even. Not all lacquers will work well on spray paint. It’s almost unpredictable how they will do, so you should always test it on an invisible side of the project or on the test surface.
  5. Lacquer may destroy paint, change its color, etc. This depends on the quality and contents of your spray paint.

We always recommend testing your materials on some surface that is not that important. Just take a piece of wood or metal (depending on what your project is made of) and test your paint. After that, you’ll be sure of what exactly you need to do with the project.

Final words

Sometimes, the best is the enemy of good. We always want to make our projects better than they are now. But often it doesn’t make sense. When you apply spray paint, it’s not always a good idea to cover it with lacquer. The consequences will be unpredictable. If you want to give it a try, always check it on a test surface before applying the lacquer to your project.