Differences Between Lacquer, Acrylic, and Enamel Paint

A woman paint a seagrass basket

If you are going to be painting, it is good to understand the differences between different types of paint as lacquer, acrylic, and enamel paint. All these paints have other properties.

Lacquer paint is a quick-drying paint that is very hard and scratch-resistant; it is a traditional paint used for handicraft production in Vietnam and Japan. Acrylic paint is one of the most versatile paints and easiest to work with; acrylic paint can be used with water. Enamel paint is also a paint that dries hard but usually has a shiny topcoat.

Here are some significant differences between lacquer, acrylic, and enamel paint.

What Is Lacquer Paint?

A woman paints the kitchen cabinet
Lacquer paint can be used in kitchen cabinets to produce a solid and durable finish.

There are many different types of lacquer paint, from traditional lacquer paints, which are still manufactured today in the lacquer villages outside Hanoi, Vietnam, to the more commercially available lacquer paints. All kinds of lacquer paints are used in various other applications, including kitchen cabinets or furniture production.

When dried, lacquer paint has a clear coating that produces a solid, durable finish. It is designed to be chip-resistant, waterproof, and breathable. Lacquer paint is considered toxic, especially if you do not know how to use it properly, so it can be the least commonly used paint compared to acrylic and enamel. 

Vietnamese Son Mai Lacquer Paint

Harvesting the resin from the lacquer Tree
Harvesting the resin from the Lacquer Tree
Waiting for the resin to go down
Waiting for the resin to go down

Lacquer paint and lacquerware is one of the traditional handicrafts of Vietnam. Vietnamese lacquer paint uses a lacquer that is harvested from the conventional lacquer tree. The lacquer paint is created by extracting the resin from the lacquer tree similarly that rubber is tapped out of a rubber tree.

As the Vietnamese and Japanese artisans have shown us, lacquer paint works well when layered; each lacquer layer is sanded between layers, and products are built up layer upon layer.

The Vietnamese lacquer comes from a tree known as a lacquer tree pr also Rhus succedanea. The tree is also known as the wax tree.

The tree is grown mainly in Southeast Asia but has also been transplanted to other parts of the world, such as New Zealand and Australia. The tree is considered toxic as many people may have allergic reactions; this is officially classified as a noxious weed in Australia and New Zealand.

This lacquer plant is an essential part of lacquer paint production for Vietnam. It is from the lacquer tree that the resin is extracted to make the Vietnamese lacquer paint; lacquerware manufacturing is a very important handicraft in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the production of lacquerware and the use of lacquer paint is a traditional art form. In the lacquer villages outside Hanoi, families have been producing lacquer products and working with lacquer paints for hundreds of years.

The Vietnamese artisans are skilled in carefully mixing the paint colors to sand between each layer; they are trained to understand how to use the traditional lacquer resin extracted from the lacquer tree.

What Is Acrylic Paint?

A man painting a table using a acrylic paint
This paint dries quickly and has a matte finish. It won’t crack or fade quickly, making it perfect for many items.

Acrylic paint is one of the most common paint types. Acrylic paints are the most accessible paints to handle as they are water-based and are not toxic. They are one of the most popular and versatile of all the paints.

Acrylic paint can be thinned with water and also cleaned up with water. Because it can be used with water, this makes it a straightforward type of paint for most people to work with, including beginners. You can also use acrylic thinner to thin the acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is made from the binding agent using acrylic polymer emulsion.

Acrylic paints are also popular paints for many fine artists to use. Because the paint can dry quicker than other paints as oil paints, acrylic paints are used by many fine artists.

Compared to lacquer and enamel paint, acrylic paint is the thinnest of the paints; this gives you the ability to put a thin coat on a surface. Because it is the thinnest of all the paints, it is also a paint that will scratch easier than the other paints.

Because acrylic paints can easily scratch, most people will put spray a topcoat on the acrylic paints.

What Is Enamel Paint?

Steel painting with enamel
The enamel paint is long-lasting and durable, so it’s typically used for metal surfaces.

Enamel paint is paint that usually dries to a hard and glossy finish. Enamel dries relatively fast, or in about 2 to 3 hours. Enamel paint is tough and resistant to scratches, which can be necessary depending on your use.

Enamel paint is used to describe many oil-based products, but some oil-based and latex paint products have also recently used the words enamel. Because of this, the name enamel means hard-surface paint.

Many of the enamel paints are alkyd resin-based. Some enamel paints are also made by adding a varnish to oil-based paints. That is why enamel paints can mean various types of paints.

If you are looking for a shiny finish and paint that will dry very fast, then enamel paint is an excellent paint to use. Enamel paint is more toxic than acrylic paint but is less toxic than lacquer paint.

Differences Between Lacquer, Acrylic, Enamel Paints

One of the main differences between the lacquer, acrylic, and enamel paint is how you will use the paint and what type and kind of finish you want to achieve.

Here are some of the differences between the lacquer, acrylic, and enamel paints:

  • Lacquer paint – is the most toxic of the paints. It is also one of the hardest and difficult paints to use. The advantage of lacquer paint is that the paints can be used to be layered. There are many kinds of finsihes that only be acheived using lacquer paints. Lacquer paints can required a lot of hand-sanding, but it can also create some complex finishes. Many parts of the world have traditionally used lacquer paint for their handicraft production in particular in Vietnam and Japan.
  • Acrylic Paints – are one of the most versatile and easiest paints to use. As acrylic is a water-based paint it is easy to clean up with water. It is also a paint that will scratch easier than some of the other paints. Many fine artists use acrylic paint for their artwork.
  • Enamel Paint – is also a hard-drying paint, that is less toxic than lacquer paint, but more toxic than acrylic paint. Enamel paint normally has a higher shine than some of the other paints. The term enamel paint is a term that is used to describe a lot of other paints that can include latex or even acrylic paints.

The types of paint you will use will depend a lot upon the product you produce and your specific production needs. We manufacture products using the traditional Vietnamese lacquer.

Because lacquer is a layered finish, it is also an excellent paint for home decor and interior home products. It is an excellent paint for areas where a tough surface coat is needed, such as furniture or home decor products.

If you are interested in seeing how Mondoro can help you manufacture Vietnamese lacquerware or other products – we would love to talk to you to see how we can help you.

Find out more about how Mondoro can help you create, develop, and manufacture excellent home decor and home interior products – don’t hesitate to contact me, Anita. Check out my email by clicking here or become a part of our community and join our newsletter by clicking here.

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Can You Paint Plastic Rattan Or Faux Rattan Furniture?

The short answer to this is that you should not paint your plastic or faux rattan furniture. The plastic or faux rattan material is not made or manufactured to be painted. If you paint on your plastic or faux rattan furniture, the paint will eventually peel and crack; the painting could also damage the furniture.

You can discover more by reading Can You Paint Plastic Rattan Or Faux Rattan Furniture? by clicking here.

The Nano Paint Coating, All You Need to Know

Nano paint is liquid paint that is sprayed onto a surface. It is then heated to ensure the Nano paint topcoat is hardened. Because of its properties and nature of the application, the Nano surface is fragile yet very tough and durable. This makes it an excellent paint choice for all kinds of home decor and home furnishing product development.

To find out more about The Nano Paint Coating, All You Need to Know, click here.

Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I am the President of Mondoro. I am passionate about helping you CREATE, DEVELOP, and MANUFACTURE home decor and home furnishing products. I am also an avid blogger with a love of travel and riding my motorcycle around the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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Differences Between Lacquer, Acrylic and Enamel Paint