How To Get a High-Gloss Finish on Wood: Achieving Mirror-Like Shine

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A shiny finish on wood adds allure, enhancing its natural beauty while accentuating its color and vibrance. It can also effectively protect the wooden surface from damage and wear. 

So If you’re in possession of old furniture, you might want to know how to get a high gloss finish on the wood. Luckily, our paint experts come up with this guide to help you achieve your desired finish!

What Do You Mean By “High-Gloss” Finish?

Wood can grow dull as time goes by. However, you can easily solve this with a high-gloss finish, which adds a nice sheen to the furniture’s allure. A high glossy wood finish pertains to a mirror-like dazzling wooden surface. 

This glossy finish enhances the visual appeal of the object, giving it a polished and luxurious look. It is favored for its ability to create a striking and sophisticated aesthetic that can elevate the overall quality and appeal of a surface.

applying polyurethane on hardwood floor

Should You Do a Highly Glossy Finish on Wooden Surfaces?

High gloss finishes are a wonderful choice for your wooden pieces. In addition to the wood stain applied to the piece, it gives a protective coat and allows the furniture to shine compared to a matte finish. It also hides imperfections, especially after a wood trim. 

What Makes a Wood Surface Glossy?

Cutting wood can result in small cuts and scratches on the surface. Choosing the right finish, like a glossy polyurethane, can produce a shiny surface. However, this will is not smooth to the touch since the grain is not even. 

Removing all the imperfections found on the wood is important to get an even, smooth, and high gloss surface. This can be achieved by glossing it with sandpaper starting from a low grit to a high grit, like 12000. 

Advantages of Having a Glossy Finish

High-gloss wood furniture is easier to clean and maintain. One swipe of a clean damp cloth can effectively remove grime, dust, and oil from the surface. 

Furthermore, a room can benefit from the furniture with a gloss finish. It reflects more light which makes the space appear bigger. 

wooden table

A finished surface with a high gloss finish can also reveal the furniture’s natural color. Furthermore, this finish can make the furniture look more attractive and stunning. 

How to Achieve a Highly Glossy Finish

If you want to know how to get a high gloss finish on wood, follow these steps: 

Preparing Your Wood

The first step for this whole process is to prepare your wood. If you are working on a new piece, you will not need to clean it. 

Lightly sand the surface to eliminate imperfections on the surface using 60, 180, and 220-grit sandpaper. This will eliminate surface cuts and minor abrasions but will also result in an even and smooth surface. You dont need to sand it until it becomes bare wood or raw wood. 

sanding surface of MDF board

However, if your wood is old, it will require some cleaning before sanding. Use mild soap and water to clean the wood’s surface. Do not skimp on these steps to get the best results. 

Supplies You’ll Need

  1. Random orbital sander
  2. Aluminum oxide sandpaper (150, 220, 320, and 400 grit)
  3. Dry clothes for wiping the surface
  4. Paintbrush or foam roller
  5. Silicon carbide sandpaper for wet sanding: 400, 600, 800, and 1000 grit
  6. Tack cloth
  7. Lacquer or varnish
  8. Your preferred choice of wood grain filler
  9. Rubbing compound
  10. Power buffer
  11. Protective hand gloves
  12. Cotton buffing cloths
  13. Plastic paint scraper
  14. Vacuum with a brush attachment
  15. Spray equipment

Step #1: Choose the Right Finish

Choose the right finish for your project. You can then proceed to apply a fresh coat to the surface. You may need to apply one or two coats for this step. We recommend applying at least two coats. 

brushing finish on the wood

Apply the first coat of the finish and wait for it to cure and dry before applying a subsequent coat. 

The whole process will require 10-15 coats of finish by the end of the process. Allow each coat to dry and cure before applying the next thin coat. Depending on the kind of finish, the drying and curing time will vary. 

Lacquer [1] has a fast cure time compared to other finishes like polyurethane. Polyurethane is more durable compared to a lacquer finish.

Selecting Lacquer Paint

It is important to choose the appropriate lacquer paint for your project. Here is a list of lacquer paints ordered from most expensive to cheapest. 

  1. Amy Howards – High-performance furniture lacquer
  2. Rust-oleum – Gross protective enamel
  3. Rust-oleum – 2X ultra cover gloss
  4. Krylon – Colormaster gloss

Step #2: Sanding Wood

Sand wood using high grit sandpaper. We suggest using 600 or 800-grit sandpaper. Utilize an orbit sander to make the job easy. Sand the surface completely and proceed to clean it afterward.  

sanding dresser top

Ensure to Wipe the Dust and Check the Surface

Clean the surface using a wet rag. Once you have wiped off the dust nibs, check the surface to see if it is even and clean. 

Step #3: Apply Wood Fillers for Pores and Other Flaws

Apply the best wood filler or grain filler to imbue the pores on the wood as well as the grain lines. The grain filler is composed of three elements. Silica works as the bulking ingredient; the mineral spirits, on the other hand, are the solvent. 

Utilize a paintbrush or foam roller and scrub to filler into the wood pores. Remove any excess product as quickly as you can. Allow the product to set for approximately 24 hours. Sand the surface using 220-grain sandpaper. 

Use a Strong Stirring Stick to Mix the Wood Filler Before Applying

Make sure to use a strong stirring stick to mix the wood filler completely before the application. However, avoid mixing too much since this can cause the formation of bubbles.

Step #4: Apply Lacquer, Varnish, or Your Preferred Finish

Proceed to apply lacquer, varnish, or your preferred finish. Apply the first coat of lacquer using a brush or a sprayer. Give it enough time to dry and cure, approximately 20 to 30 minutes. If you opt to use a varnish, it will take at least 3 hours to dry and cure. 

Acrylic lacquer

Once the lacquer has dried off, you can sand the surface to eliminate any blemishes. Sand the surface using 320 grit sandpaper and wipe the sanding dust using a rag. Examine your work and sand it once again if you find any minor scratches you may have missed. 

Apply two more coats on the surface. Once you have accomplished this, you can now apply a single coat of varnish on the wood surface. Make sure to sand in between the layers. Allow the coats of lacquer and varnish to dry overnight or for one day. 

How to Apply Lacquer

If you are working with lacquer, it is best to use a sprayer to get excellent results. The product is formulated to dry fast. A sprayer can make the application faster and have more coverage. If you use a brush, it will leave behind brush marks. 

Apply the first coat on the project and wait for it to dry. The surface will be dried for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, then apply the second coat. 

Once the second coat is completely dried, apply one or two coats. Make sure to let the product dry in between coats.

painting furniture with lacquer

Examine the surface for any surface imperfections. If you find any, proceed to sand it using 320-400 grit sandpaper. Do this step again in between coats. 

Lacquer, once applied, results in thin coats, so it is recommended to apply more coats for better coverage.  

How to Apply Varnish

Varnish requires more time to dry than lacquer. You can apply this product with a paintbrush. You may need to give this product a longer time to dry. It takes around 3 hours to dry completely. You may be required to apply up to three coats of the varnish.

Examine the surface for any lumps and imperfections once it is dry. Use 320-grit sandpaper. This will help you lightly sand the varnished surface. Clean and wipe the surface of dust. 

Step #5: Wet and Sand the Surface You’ve Finished

Once you have accomplished the steps and applied the final coat, you can wet sand the surface or wet edge. Wet sanding is important to achieve a mirror finish on the wood. You can accomplish this by using a piece of silicon carbide sandpaper and water. 

sanding table top before applying poly

Wet sanding is recommended on a surface using 400-grit sandpaper. Gently sand the entire surface. Use higher sandpaper, 600 grit sandpaper will do for the next sanding. Then use 800 grit sandpaper to sand the surface. 

Repeat the process until the wood is completely smooth. 

Step #6: Don’t Forget to Buff

After applying the last coat, do not forget to polish or buff the surface. Make sure to level the surface using polishing compounds or level compounds. A polishing compound can result in a sparkling sheen. The downside, however, is that they do not minimize light scratches. 

Apply the rubbing compound using a slow automotive polish. This will prevent swirl marks on the surface. You can also apply the product by hand. Rub the product slowly and circularly. Finish the surface by hand using a cotton rag. 

Extra Tips to Get a Glossy Finish

Here are some extra tips to get a high gloss finish on wood:

round dining table

Ensure Not to Skimp on Sanding

Make sure to allot a substantial amount of elbow grease when sanding the surface. Sanding is crucial to achieving a smooth, even, flat surface. 

Follow the Instructions on the Label When Using Each Product/Tool

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions found on the label when using the products and tools for this process. Allot some time to read the instructions thoroughly to lessen the risks of mistakes and accidents. 

Use the Right Applicator for the Finish

The applicator used in this project can heavily affect the resulting finish. Make sure to use the right applicator for the finish. If you use a varnish, we recommend using a natural bristled brush. Use a sprayer if you will be using a lacquer. 

Apply Wood Conditioner

Consider applying a wood conditioner to your project. A wood condition will allow the wood finish to stick more and make it more durable. 

Can I Achieve a Mirror-Like Shine With Spray Paint?

You can achieve a mirror-like sheen with spray paint. You must clean the surface and spray it evenly with “glossy” paint. 

spray painting chair with tinted polyurethane

Can You Use a Lacquer Spray Paint?

You can use lacquer spray paint. Mix the lacquer, make the necessary adjustments, and load the gun. 

How to Fix Spray Paint Mishaps on Wood

Here are some quick fixes when a paint mishap happens on wood: 

Wait for the Recommended Drying Time

Allow the wood to dry based on the manufacturer’s instructions. This will prevent the surface to become blotchy.

Keep the Lacquer Can at a Safe Distance

Make sure to keep the lacquer can at a safe distance. This will eliminate the chances of getting the can toppled over by guests or kids. 

Keep Checking the Level of Humidity

Check the level of ambient humidity. This can help you identify the time it takes for the paint to dry on the wood. 

Maintaining a High-Gloss Wood Finish

Maintaining a high gloss finish requires you to clean it to prevent the accumulation of dust frequently. You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt.

dining room furniture made of maple

Do You Need to Hire a Professional?

It is difficult to get high gloss finishes without a professional. It is best to hire one, especially since professionals have the experience and tools to complete the job. 

More Wood Finishing Tips:

What are the Cleaning Products I Should Use?

High-gloss furniture will occasionally need some cleaning. Make sure to use a mild detergent and some water to clean a light mess. Here are a few products to help clean the wood.

  1. Premium furniture polish will help maintain the wood looking shiny. 
  2. A silicon-based or Teflon-based spray will help add a layer of protection from minor scratches. 
  3. Use a soft cloth to apply the polish. 


How do you achieve a colorful high-glossy finish on your wood furniture?

You can achieve a colorful high gloss finish on your wood furniture by applying varnish or lacquer. 

Can you get a glossy finish using polyurethane?

You can get a high gloss finish using polyurethane. After applying a coat, use 1500-grit sandpaper to remove debris and lumps. 

What’s the shiniest transparent coat for wooden surfaces?

The shiniest transparent coat for wooden surfaces is polyurethane. This process requires more time to get a smooth finish. 

What’s the recommended type of gloss to use to get a mirror-like finish?

High gloss paint is one of the recommended types of gloss to use to get a mirror-like finish. 


Furniture pieces with a glossy finish can be alluring and spectacular. But in order to get a high gloss finish on wood, you need to invest time, effort, and the correct products and tools to get the job done right. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time; simply follow the instructions and you’ll surely achieve that shiny finish you desire.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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