Can I Use Lacquer Primer for Wood?

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Utilizing lacquer primer can significantly improve the durability and overall quality of your wood finish. However, it’s essential to apply lacquer primer correctly to ensure proper adhesion and protect the wood effectively. 

In this article, I will provide guidance on selecting and applying lacquer primer for wood, helping you achieve a lasting and aesthetically pleasing finish.

About Lacquer Primer

Lacquer primer is one of the most durable types of primer that many woodworkers prefer. It’s an excellent choice for those who want a fast, efficient, professional-looking finish that can withstand wear and tear.

Typically, it’s made of a mixture of solvents, pigments, and resins that create a smooth and uniform surface, ideal for the final coat of lacquer paint or finish on the wood. 

Lacquer primer has excellent sealing properties that protect the underlying surface from moisture and other types of damage. Due to its superior durability, it’s ideal for high-traffic areas, such as floors, doors, and cabinets.

spraying lacquer on tabletop

Lacquer primer dries faster than other types of primers, allowing you to apply multiple coats in a shorter time frame. This quick drying time contributes to creating a smooth and even base for the final coat, resulting in a glossy and beautiful finish.

Is It Possible To Apply Lacquer Primer On Wooden Surfaces?

Yes, it’s ideal for applying lacquer primer on wooden surfaces before applying topcoat or paint. Using lacquer primer is important in achieving a high-quality, long-lasting finish for your woodworking project. 

Lacquer primer provides excellent protection to the wood against moisture, UV rays, and other environmental factors that can cause damage to the finish. 

It creates the proper surface texture that helps the topcoat or paint adhere more effectively, improving the overall durability and longevity of the finish. 

Additionally, it fills in small imperfections and creates a smoother surface. It serves as a consistent base layer to improve the color and gloss of the topcoat or paint, creating a more vibrant and appealing finish.

mixing lacquer paint

Generally, lacquer primer has the following qualities:

spraying lacquer to dining table

What Tools and Materials are Needed to Apply Lacquer Primer on Wood?

Buying Considerations for Lacquer Primer

There are many factors you should consider when buying lacquer primer for wood, such as the following:

lacquer primer for wood

Steps to Using Lacquer Primer on Wood

Step #1: Prepare the Surface by Cleaning It Thoroughly.

Cleaning the wood surface thoroughly before coating it with lacquer primer is an essential step in ensuring a high-quality finish. 

person holding cloth

Properly cleaning the wood surface helps to ensure that the lacquer primer can bond effectively with the wood. This creates a strong foundation for the finish coat, which helps to prevent peeling, cracking, or flaking over time.

To start, you must ensure that your work area is well-ventilated. It’s crucial to have proper air circulation in your workspace when working with lacquer primer, topcoats, and paints to eliminate the release of harmful chemicals and fumes effectively. 

Step #2: Sand the Wood to Ensure a Smooth Surface.

Now, sand the wood surface to allow the lacquer primer to penetrate evenly and creates a smooth, even finish. Choosing sandpaper with the appropriate grit for the specific type of wood surface you are working on is important. 

For rough wood surfaces that contain bumps and imperfections, it’s recommended to begin with coarse-grit sandpaper before moving on to finer-grit sandpaper for a smoother finish. Gently sand the surface along the wood grains’ direction to avoid damaging the wood.  

sanding wood surface

Once you have sanded the whole wood surface, get a clean, lint-free rag, and wipe the surface to remove sanding debris. Ensure not to leave any dust on the surface, which can cause an uneven finish. 

Step #3: Apply A Coat Of Lacquer Primer To The Surface.

Use a soft bristle paintbrush to apply a thin layer of lacquer primer on the clean and dry wood surface. Avoid applying a thicker coat of lacquer as it results in a blotchy finish, and often the wood surface becomes tacky. 

Additionally, thicker coats take longer to dry and completely cure.  

Essentially, the first layer of lacquer primer tends to saturate the wood fibers to seal the wood surface effectively. It is the preparatory coating or undercoat applied on the wood surface, making the finish more durable and extending longevity. 

Step #4: Allow The Lacquer Primer To Dry Completely.

Allow it to sit on the wood surface for one hour to let it fully dry and cure. Typically, lacquer primer takes only 30 minutes to dry. But it can vary depending on the climate and humidity in your area. 

Also, the quality of the lacquer primer you used and the coating thickness can affect the drying and curing time. It’s crucial to allow the first coat to fully dry before moving on to the next step, ensuring the surface is properly prepared for subsequent coating layers. 

using foam brush

If the primer is not fully dried, it may cause issues such as bubbling, cracking, or peeling of the subsequent coatings, resulting in an unsatisfactory finish. Allow the primer to dry completely to ensure optimal adhesion, leading to a more durable and long-lasting finish.

Step #5: Perform Light Sanding to Smooth Out Any Imperfections.

Gently sand the wood using 320-grit sandpaper to eliminate any flaws or raised wood fibers that might have emerged while applying the lacquer primer.

Also, it creates a smoother surface for the subsequent coats to be applied to, resulting in a more even finish. Lightly sanding the wood surface helps improve the subsequent coats’ adhesion by creating a more receptive surface to the paint or lacquer. 

Step #6: Apply A Second Coat Of Lacquer Primer.

You may now apply a second layer of lacquer primer on the wood. The second coating is important to fill in any small gaps or imperfections you may have missed during the first application. 

Also, the second coat helps to enhance the adhesion of paint or topcoat, ensuring that the finish adheres well to the wood surface and lasts longer.

lacquer primer

You may use the same paintbrush you used to apply the lacquer primer’s first layer. Apply the brush along the wood grains’ direction to avoid leaving marks. Keep the layer thin to achieve a smoother and more even surface.

Allow the second coat to completely dry and fully cure for at least two hours. The second coat takes longer to dry as it already sits on the first lacquer layer, making the coats thicker. 

But it will enhance the protection and durability of the lacquer primer. You can also prevent lacquer from turning white over time. 

After the second layer has dried, lightly sand the wood surface, following the same procedure as you did on the first coat. Ensure that the surface is clean and free of sanding debris before proceeding to the next step.

Step #7: Apply the Desired Paint Color or Topcoat to Finish the Project.

Now, the wood is ready to be painted. Proceed to apply the first layer of the paint over the lacquer primer coats. To achieve the best results, using a clean brush when applying the paint and following the wood grains’ direction is important. 

As you apply the paint, you will notice that it does not seep into the wood but rather rests on top of the lacquer coat while altering the color of the wood. This makes the painting process more efficient and effective. 

Nuvo cabinet paint

Essentially, since you already applied lacquer primer, you will not need to apply more paint coatings to achieve a beautiful finish. 

But you may apply a second layer of paint or topcoat for a more desirable finish. Allow the wood surface to fully dry following the drying time indicated on the paint label. 

Lacquer Primer and Epoxy Primer Comparison

The choice between epoxy primer and lacquer primer depends on the specific requirements of your woodworking project, such as the type of wood, the intended use, and the environment it will be exposed. 

Below are some of the characteristic comparisons of epoxy and lacquer primers:

epoxy primer
Epoxy PrimerLacquer Primer
Strong adhesion to paintAdheres well with all types of paint
Does not shrink over timeIt may shrink after some time if not maintained properly
Moisture cannot penetrate through epoxy even when exposed to extreme conditions, as it completely waterproofs the wood surface. Moisture can penetrate through lacquer when exposed to extreme conditions, leading to the internal decay of the wood.
Costs higher than lacquer primerCheaper than an epoxy primer

Based on the above comparisons, epoxy primer is more durable and suits extreme environmental conditions. But lacquer primer is a better option if your project has a limited budget. 

Lacquer Primer and Urethane Comparison

Choosing between urethane and lacquer primers for wood may depend on several factors. But below are the main comparisons between urethane and lacquer prime that you may want to consider.

paint brush and Minwax Helmsman Indoor-Outdoor Spar Urethane
UrethaneLacquer Primer
Strong adhesion to paintAdheres well with all types of paint
Requires only one coat since it’s thicker and has more solidsRequires at least two coats for better protection
Highly durableLess durable compared to Urethane primer

While urethane is more durable than lacquer primer, applying it can be more difficult. So, if your main priority is application efficiency, lacquer primer can be your better option.

What Is The Most Recommended Lacquer Primer?

Below are some of my most recommended lacquer primers available in the market:

lacquer paints and thinner

Is A Primer Necessary Before Applying Lacquer?

No, a primer is not necessary before applying lacquer [1]. But it’s recommended to seal the surface and create a smooth base for the lacquer to adhere to. Therefore, using a primer before applying lacquer can help improve the finish’s overall quality and durability.

Is It Possible To Use Lacquer With Enamel Paint?

Yes, it is possible to use lacquer with enamel paint. Lacquer primer can be an undercoat since it adheres well to enamel paint. But lightly sanding the lacquer primer can promote better adhesion of enamel paint. 

spray painting cabinet drawer with enamel paint

Is It Possible To Use Lacquer With Urethane?

Using lacquer primer with urethane paint is not recommended, as they do not mix well and can lead to problems such as peeling and flaking. It’s advisable to use urethane primer specifically designed for urethane paint to achieve a more durable and smoother finish.

Next Readings


In summary, the application of lacquer primer on wood can significantly enhance the quality and durability of the final finish. It effectively seals the wood to prevent stains or discolorations from affecting the topcoat. 

Furthermore, it promotes better adhesion of the paint or topcoat, increasing its longevity. However, it’s crucial to select a high-quality lacquer primer and follow the correct application procedure to achieve the best results. 

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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