The beauty of lacquer spray is its ability to give almost any solid material, be it wood, metal, fiberglass or more, a bright and glossy shine. However, by nature it can be a tricky material to work with. It can be applied either as a lacquer spray or a lacquer brush paint, and there are pros and cons to each.
Applying with a brush can be made difficult due to the lacquer’s naturally fast drying time. However, there are some distinct advantages. For projects on a smaller scale, such as painting model sets, using a lacquer spray could be overkill, or simply not an option if doing tight, detailed work. Also, using a brush reduces certain inherent risks from lacquers. Solvent-based lacquers are volatile, flammable, and toxic. When using a brush, fumes become less of an issue and an accident with an open flame is less likely to occur.
Lacquer spray is by far the preferred method of applying lacquer. Spraying it on allows you to work quickly enough to reduce problems from quick drying. It is also likely to produce a smoother and more even coat. However, it is a tricky method for the novice, and if not careful, you will get the “orange peel” ripple effect, typically caused by spraying too heavily on a single coat. Always wear a respirator and goggles or safety glassed with side shields. Make sure there are no open flames in the area, such as a gas hot water heater or wire element space heater. Lacquer paint fumes can ignite.
There are many municipalities which have regulations for using lacquer paints or expelling them into the outside air. In most cases the best place to use lacquer paints is in a filtered spray booth.
Edward Kimble, professional painter and author of Interior House Painting Blog, contributed to this article.