Can You Use Shellac Over Paint? (Detailed Explanation)

Painting the wood is one of the most common ways of aesthetically improving your project, as the natural color of the wood itself does not always suit the environment in which you plan on placing your project.

While the paint is often enough to make a project look aesthetically pleasing, many woodworkers enjoy the glossy look shellac brings to the table, which raises the question of whether it’s possible to use shellac over paint or not.

So, can you use shellac over paint?

You can indeed use shellac over paint, but choosing the correct shellac is vital.

If you plan on using shellac over latex (water-based) paint, you will need de-waxed shellac.

On the other hand, if you want to use shellac on oil-based paint, both regular and de-waxed shellac should do the job.

Moving on, we will be going into greater detail about using shellac over latex paint and why de-waxed shellac is a necessity when you use latex paint.

Can You Use Shellac Over Latex Paint?

While you can use shellac over latex paint without problems, there is a small detail to be extremely careful of during shellac selection.

Due to its chemical composition, regular shellac doesn’t stick to latex (water-based) paints, making it an unsuitable option to use in this scenario.

The substance that prevents the adhesion between shellac and water-based paint is wax, which means that the same problem also exists between water-based paint and any other wax-based product, such as wood wax and wax polishes.

On the other hand, de-waxed shellac, which is basically shellac that is completely wax-free, is perfectly compatible with latex paints. Since wax is removed from the equation, there is nothing to stop the adhesion between shellac and water-based paint in this case.

If it’s your first time using de-waxed shellac, you may notice that it’s harder than regular shellac, which is perfectly normal.

While there aren’t any glaring disadvantages that come with using de-waxed shellac, you may find it slightly harder to sand compared to regular shellac, which is something to keep in mind.

Can You Use Shellac Over Oil-Based Paint?

While using shellac over water-based paints requires you to pay a certain level of attention to the shellac you buy, this isn’t the case with oil-based paints.

You can use shellac over oil-based paints without having to worry about shellac selection, as you won’t experience any issues with the two not sticking to each other.

In fact, shellac is one of the best finishes for sticking to almost all surfaces, with only water-based paints being an exception, which is part of the reason behind it being used in many different areas.

Can You Use Shellac Over Enamel Paint?

Using shellac over enamel paint is a tricky one. As the words “enamel paint” can refer to a few different things, it’s impossible to have a concrete answer without further details.

Back then, the term “enamel paint” was a blanket term that included a variety of oil-based finishes, including oil-based paints.

On the other hand, nowadays, the term “enamel paint” refers to durable paints of high quality, including latex (water-based) paints.

As water-based paints require de-waxed shellac, it wouldn’t be right to say that you can use any shellac over enamel paint as the more recent meaning also includes latex paints, and regular shellac won’t stick to them.

To be on the safe side, you can use de-waxed shellac over enamel paint, as de-waxed shellac can easily stick to both water-based and oil-based paint.

Can You Use Shellac Over Milk Paint?

Milk paint is water-based, just like latex paints, meaning that using shellac over milk paint is similar to using shellac over latex paint.

Similar to how the wax in shellac prevents it from sticking to water-based paints, it also prevents adhesion between shellac and milk paint.

As a result, you can only use de-waxed shellac over milk paint for the two substances to adhere to each other.

To be on the safe side, you can always use de-waxed shellac if you are unsure whether regular shellac will adhere to the paint you are using or not, as de-waxed shellac works with any paint without issues.

Can You Use Latex Paint Over BIN Shellac Primer?

You can use either latex paint or oil-based paint over BIN shellac primer (or any other Zinsser primer such as 1-2-3 or cover stain) without any issues.

The vital part to consider before using latex paint over BIN shellac primer is to wait until the primer is completely dry before proceeding with the painting process.

If you attempt to paint over the BIN shellac while it’s still dry, the paint most likely won’t hold.

Shellac Alternatives For Usage Over Paint

If you prefer not to use shellac over paint, there are alternative finishes you can go with to produce a similar effect.

Here are some shellac alternatives for usage over paint.

  • Polyurethane – Polyurethane is the closest alternative to shellac in terms of aesthetics as it produces a similar glossy finish. While it’s possible to find both oil-based and water-based polyurethane, you can use either for both latex and oil-based paints.
  • Gloss lacquer – As lacquer can be glossy, matte, or satin, it’s vital to ensure that the lacquer you’re buying is glossy to achieve a similar finish to shellac. Only use lacquer over latex paints as it won’t adhere properly to oil-based paints.
  • Gloss varnish – Similar to lacquers, varnish can be satin, matte, or glossy, so ensure that you get the glossy one if you want your finish to look similar to shellac. As varnish won’t adhere to oil-based paint without a primer either, only use it with latex paints if you plan on applying it directly on top.

Wrapping Up

Using shellac over paint is a fantastic way to add some beautiful gloss to the project you have painted, as long as you are careful with the shellac selection.

To quickly recap, regular shellac won’t stick on paints that are latex-based, which is why you specifically require de-waxed shellac if you are planning on working with them.

To ensure that the shellac you’re buying is de-waxed, make sure that there is a mention of it on the label, such as wax-free or de-waxed.

On the other hand, you can apply any shellac over oil-based paints without having to worry about sticking, as shellac easily sticks to oil-based paints.