Lacquer Painting


Throughout the history of the world, numerous decorative painting techniques have been developed. “Tole painting,” “faux-finishing techniques,” “Pickling,” or the “Trompe-l’oeil technique,” are all options to decorate furniture or a piece of art.

Lacquer paint is equally popular among contemporary artists. One who particularly stands out is Yoel Benharrouche, an artist who originated from France. Inspired by famous painters such as Picasso, he is recognized for his vibrant artwork. He has also released a black and white collection named “Lacquer on Metal.” The use of lacquer allows him to add and highlight contrasts in his work.

What is Lacquer Painting?

Frequently mistaken for varnish because of its glossy finish, lacquer is a completely different material. Lacquer is a type of coating that originated in Asia. This coating was originally obtained from extracted tree sap, which was replaced gradually over time with other resin materials to improve durability and quality.

Another way to obtain lacquer is from an organic resin secreted by an insect called “lac.” The resin used to obtain lacquer is called shellac and is only secreted by the female lac. Once dissolved in alcohol, this mixture provides the lacquer.

Lacquer paint used nowadays is a solvent-based synthetic version. Users can choose between nitrocellulose lacquer, acrylic lacquer, water-based lacquer, or metal lacquer which have their own specific characteristics and uses.

What are the Characteristics of Lacquer Painting?

One of the great advantages of lacquer painting is its durability. Indeed, compared to another type of coating, it will take more time to wear off. In addition, lacquer painting is waterproof, and the modern synthetic version dries faster.

People often chose to use lacquer paint because of the elegant finish it creates. Depending on the number of layers and the technique used, finishes can be matte, satin, or glossy but will invariably have a smooth texture. Lacquer painting can also give a clear transparent look or be pigmented to give a colored look.

Apart from its aesthetic function, lacquer painting also has a protective use. It doesn’t matter if it is applied on wood, laminated material, or metal, it prevents damage caused by sunlight, acid, water, or oil that could be spilled on it. For wood, particularly softer types like pine wood, lacquer paint also protects from bumps and staining.

What are the Differences Between Lacquer and Paint?

Lacquer and paint are two different products but hold some similarities including their protective feature. However, depending on the expected result, it is practical to identify the difference between lacquer and paint.

For the finish, lacquer provides a glossy and translucent effect but is subjected to yellowing. Paint, on the other hand, especially acrylic paint, does not have the shiny finish of lacquer but keeps its color over time. Regarding practicality, lacquer dries faster than paint and is less likely to crack.

As it is typically applied with spray, lacquer also provides a more uniform result. However, paint is more affordable and is better for DIY projects since lacquer is flammable and needs more caution to be applied.

What is the Use of Lacquer Paint?

  • Home Furnishing and Decoration

Nowadays, lacquer painting is widely used to coat and protect furniture. It is principally used for indoor furniture for the kitchen, the bedroom, or the living room. Additionally, lacquer can also be used to seal and provide a beautiful finish to the hardwood floor. For both options, it can be applied by a professional or some people are comfortable enough to do it on their own.

In whatever way it is used, the application of lacquer paint must follow some essential rules. Because of its thinness compared to basic paint, it must be applied with a spray. For the best quality finish, the material preparation is a very important step specifically for wood.

For the lacquer paint to stick, the previous coating should be removed by sanding. Afterward, lacquer paint should only be applied once the material is cleaned and totally dry. Depending on the desired finish, several layers might be necessary. Lacquer paint is flammable; therefore, it should only be applied in a well-ventilated room or outside and away from any heat or fire source.

  • Lacquer Painting in Art

Before being used for modern home furnishing, lacquer painting was used as a form of art. Originally from Asia, the most famous techniques of lacquer painting for art are rooted in this region of the world. It is used for wooden boards and paintings, sculptures, decorative plates or trays, boxes, or pots. Those items, due to their lacquer finish are called lacquerware.

Depending on their origin, Chinese, Japanese, or Vietnamese lacquerware both hold their own specificities. Chinese art has the diaoqi or carved lacquer technique, while Japanese lacquerware sticks out thanks to the maki-e technique involving the use of gold powder to create sophisticated patterns.

Among all of the choices, the Vietnamese technique called Sơn mài distinguishes itself thanks to the origin of its lacquer, the technique itself, and the high cost of the finished piece. High-quality Sơn mài lacquerware can take up to several months to create as there is layering and sanding involved. This technique also uses the sap of the Rhus tree, which is a toxic resin.

To explore more Lacquer painting in art, click here to take a look at Yoel Benharrouche’s mystical artworks.

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