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Comparison of Clear Lacquers

We are often asked "which lacquer is best for my project?". Wood finishes can be a baffling world, many types of finish each with their own characteristics, their own advantages and disadvantages. In an attempt to clear things up a bit we've put together this comparison table.

If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to get in touch - we're happy to help, and will expand these guides over time to encompass more detailed information.

  1K Lacquer Nitrocellulose Lacquer Pre-Cat Lacquer Waterborne Acrylic Lacquer
Completely clear? Yes Very slight amber tint which only shows on white base/paint. 'Warms' wood grain. Almost, similar to nitrocellulose but less obvious. Very slight blue tint only apparent on white base/paint. 'Cools' wood grain, use our warming sealer to counteract this.
Can be used on wood? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Can be used on metal? Yes Yes Yes No
Suitable for use on interior items? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Suitable for use on exterior items? Metal only Metal only Metal only No
Resilience Highly resistant to abrasion, liquids, chemicals, UV and some resistance to heat.  Waterproof when used on metals. Mild resistance to abrasion.  Susceptible to damage from liquids, heat, chemicals and strong abrasion.  Softened by some adhesives (such as vinyl decals). Discolours when exposed to UV. Mild resistance to abrasion, chemicals and UV.  Slight water resistance. Susceptible to damage from strong chemicals, submersion and strong abrasion. Good resistance to damage from abrasion and UV exposure.  Mild resistance to chemicals and heat.  Water resistance.  Susceptible to damage from high and prolonged heat, strong chemicals, prolonged submersion, very strong abrasion.
Easy to repair? No - needs to be sanded off and reapplied. Yes, melts into layer below so can be spot-repaired with ease. Within first couple of weeks of first spraying, otherwise is trickier. Within the first week of spraying, otherwise trickier.
Breathing apparatus required when spraying? Yes - formaldehyde filtered halfmask respirator or better. Yes - formaldehyde filtered halfmask respirator or better. Yes - formaldehyde filtered halfmask respirator or better. Yes - dust mask or better.
Extraction required when spraying? Yes - area must be well ventilated and extraction should have active carbon filter. Yes - area must be well ventilated and extraction should have active carbon filter. Yes - area must be well ventilated and extraction should have active carbon filter. Area should be well ventilated.
UV resistant? Yes No Yes- mildly Yes - mildly
Waterproof? On metal only Water resistant on metal only Water resistant on metal only Water resistant
Can be brushed on? No Clear only, one coat only, retarder should be used. Small items can be dipped. No Yes
Enhances wood grain? No Yes - warms and emphasises grain in the wood. Yes - warms and emphasises grain in the wood. Use with our Warming Sanding Sealer to help bring out grain.
Available in gloss? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Available in satin? No Yes Yes Yes
Available in matt? No Yes Yes Yes
Available in aerosols? Yes Yes Yes No - use Preval sprayer if no access to spray gun.
Available bottled for spray guns? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Available in tinted/coloured versions? No Yes - more than 25 colours stocked. Colours can be mixed to make your own blend. No Yes
Typical number of coats required. 2 4 3 3
Drying time before polishing. Min. 48 hours 2 weeks 4 weeks 3 days
Drying time between coats. 30 minutes 4 hours 4 hours 4 hours
Thinned using.. Supplied ready to spray. Clean equipment using Standard Thinners/Gun Wash Premium Anti Bloom Cellulose Thinners (10 - 30%) Premium Anti Bloom Cellulose Thinners (10 - 30%) Water (5 - 10%)
Can be used over Cellulose Paint? No Yes Yes Yes
Can be used over Nitrocellulose Lacquer No Yes Yes Yes
Can be used over oil? No No No No
Can be used over wood stains? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Needs a sanding sealer/base coat? No Yes - use Cellulose Sanding Sealer Yes - use Pre-Cat Sanding Sealer Yes - use Warming Waterborne Sanding Sealer
Ideal spraying temperature.. 21 degrees C 21 degrees C - use retarder in warmer conditions. 21 degrees C 21 degrees C
Ideal spraying humidity.. Less than 80% Less than 60% - use retarder in more humid conditions. Less than 60% Less than 80%
Susceptible to blooming? Not under normal conditions. Yes - avoid very damp or cold conditions. Yes - avoid very damp or cold conditions. Not under normal conditions.
Susceptible to cracking? Not under normal conditions. Yes - will definitely happen eventually. Cracking is accelerated by changes in temperature, inappropriate base coats, lack of keying between coats, and over-thinned lacquer. Not under normal conditions. Not under normal conditions.
Discolours with age? Not under normal conditions. Yes - will gradually yellow with age. Process is difficult to accelerate but can be mimiced using our Light Brown or Weak Amber tinted lacquers. Not under normal conditions. Not under normal conditions.
Build/finish thickness High build - for a thin finish spray lightly. Low build gives a thin overall finish even when base and colour coats are included. Medium build Medium build
Dries glossy or needs polishing? Dries to high gloss, minimal machine polishing required. Dries to low gloss, requires polishing with wet/dry and liquid compounds. Hand polishing recommended, take care if using a machine notto go through the lacquer. Dries to medium gloss, can be hand or machine polished. Dries to medium gloss, can be hand or machine polished.