Can You Tint Lacquer for Furniture Finishing?

can you tint lacquer

For centuries, lacquer has been used as a finishing product for furniture created with wood.

Lacquer is easy to apply and under normal conditions will last a long time. It also helps bring out the beauty of wood products.

And that’s made possible by tinting clear lacquer with dye and colorants.

Adding a dye stain and opaque colorants to lacquer is one secret technique by which professional painters and finishers make an ordinary wood look extraordinary.

Plus, it offers depth and rich color to the wood finish you are working on while letting the wood grains still visible.

However, to find the right lacquer for your needs, it helps to understand what it is and how the coloring can be changed to suit your needs.

What is Lacquer?

Lacquer is not a single product, but rather a group of products that are designed to seal and protect the wood.

While wood is strong and durable, it is also porous which makes it subject to damage over time, especially when exposed to the elements.

The lacquer is a liquid coating that penetrates the wood and seals up the surface. This prevents moisture from penetrating the surface and causing damage.

Lacquer is a popular product because it is easy to apply.

Plus, it is quite durable which means for indoor furniture, it can last a very long time with little maintenance.

Can Lacquer be Tinted?

One of the reasons that lacquer is so popular is that it can be tinted with a wide variety of colorants and dyes.

In fact, tinted lacquer is preferable because it can create a remarkable finish that makes the furniture stand out.

So popular is tinted lacquer that it dominates the market.

This means when you go to a hardware or home improvement store, you will mostly find lacquer that has been tinted in some way.

While it is true that staining is more popular for adding color to wood, lacquer can do the job quite well on its own.

For many people who want to change the color of their furniture, adding a coat of tinted lacquer over the stain is preferable.

Keep in mind that tinted lacquer can help overcome a poor job of staining, but even the best staining cannot correct a poor job of applying lacquer.

Now that you know what lacquer is and that it comes in many colors and tints, the next step is to choose the transparency.

tint lacquer for furniture

Transparent vs. Opaque: What is Better?

When choosing the right lacquer for the job, the most important question is whether to choose a clear form of the product or one that is opaque.

This will come down to whether you want to see through the lacquer and present the natural beauty of the wood.

Or, if you want an opaque effect that provides its own beauty.

For many people, a combination of transparent and opaque is the answer.


This is normally a dye that is added to the lacquer which provides color and depth while still being clear enough to see what is underneath.

If you want to bring out the wood grain, then transparent lacquer is the right choice.

In addition to the color, you can control the amount of stain that is used.

If you are looking to custom match the finish to other furniture, then this is a vital component to add to your wood item.

The dyes used in transparent lacquer will often include colonial maple, brown mahogany, and brown walnut just to name a few.


Using colorants that are opaque in nature is less popular compared to transparent.

This is because most people want to see the wood grain of the furniture.

Colorants used in opaque lacquer do not have the richness of color found in transparent lacquer, but they do offer their own advantages.

Most opaque colorants are rather generic in nature, usually revolving around raw sienna, burned umber, and the like.

There are two main mixture types common with combining opaque and transparent lacquer.

Either a considerable amount of opaque colorants are used to create a solid color that does not show the wood grain underneath.  

Or, only a little is used to add a unique color that is otherwise not present in transparent lacquer.

The small amounts are often used to hide a specific feature or make the wood grain stand out less compared to transparent alone.  

Color Shifting to Use Dye Stains in Lacquer

This is an alternative to the way dyes are added to lacquer.

When refinishing furniture, color shifting can be used to alter the intensity of a color that is already present.

You can change a color that is too brown, too red, or too much of any color and lessen its effect by adding another color.

This can also be applied to the tone of the color, so you can shift it to something else if desired.

Such processes can be used if the lacquer or stain originally used featured too much color that is no longer wanted.

For example, a table and chair that have been refinished may include a color change to match the new home décor.

The process of refinishing does not require the current finish to be stripped away, it simply needs its color shifted to something new and different.

When too much of one color is present, especially in the staining, then it can be a challenge to shift without stripping it all away.

But it can be done when you add a different color that mixes with the current one.

When adding the proper color combination, you can downplay the tones of the original color.

The result is a color shift that may be most desirable. It is effective in downplaying the current color or by adding more to enhance a specific tone.

To shift a yellow tone to furniture, for example, you may want to apply trans tint dyes that include Bordeaux which will reduce the yellow considerably.

Add dark walnut and black over several coats to achieve the desired effect.

Then finish with a honey amber color that adds warmth without causing the yellow tones to come back.

You can find many trans tint colors that can alter the appearance of the wood from your local hardware store or online.

lacquer dye

What Dyes and Colorants Can I Use in Lacquer?

You have many excellent choices of products that can be mixed with lacquer.

In fact, with so many on the market, it may be difficult to find the right one for your needs.

This is especially true of popular brands of dyes and colorants that are often purchased by other companies and their names changed which makes them more difficult to find.

a) Mohawk:

This is a popular brand that provides NGR dye stains which are used to shift the color of wood furniture.

Keep in mind that Mohawk was purchased by RPM which also has the Behlen product line which is also quite good.

Behlen is generally less expensive, but Mohawk is more often used by professionals.

b) Trans Tints:

This is a popular brand that offers a concentrated product perfect for tinting lacquer.

The concentration is such that you only need a little to make it work. But that means the product will last for a long time.

A few drops will tint the lacquer to the desired color.

This means that you’ll have plenty more to work with over the years.

Finding the right tint and colorants will help you change or alter the coloring of your furniture.

Be sure to consider all the options first before making your purchase.

The Bottom Line

Lacquer is available in a variety of different colors. And in different sheens like semi-gloss, gloss, or high gloss.

Adding colorants to lacquer (no matter its clear, white, black, or any other color) can create a beautiful opaque lacquer-type paint that can help make your wood furniture look appealing.

You can also tint lacquer to turn out into a transparent toner that can be applied much like a varnish to get a long-lasting finish.

The good thing is it does not get oxidized much like standard paint.

Whatever color or shades you try, make sure you use the right techniques and tools to get the job done that can last for longer without fading.  

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