Lacquer is a clear or colored wood finish that dries by solvent evaporation or a curing process that produces a hard, durable finish. This finish can be of any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss, and it can be further polished as required. It is also used for “lacquer paint”, which typically is a paint that dries to a more than usually hard and smooth surface.
Lacquers using acrylic resin, a synthetic polymer, were developed in the 1950s. Acrylic resin is colorless, transparent thermoplastic, obtained by the polymerization of derivatives of acrylic acid. Acrylic is also used in enamel paints, which have the advantage of not needing to be buffed to obtain a shine. Enamels, however, are slow drying. The advantage of acrylic lacquer is its exceptionally fast drying time. The use of lacquers in automobile finishes was discontinued when tougher, more durable, weather- and chemical-resistant two-component polyurethane coatings were developed. The system usually consists of a primer, color coat and clear topcoat, commonly known as clear coat finishes.
Due to health risks and environmental considerations involved in the use of solvent-based lacquers, much work has gone into the development of water-based lacquers. Such lacquers are considerably less toxic and more environmentally friendly, and in many cases, produce acceptable results. More and more water-based colored lacquers are replacing solvent-based clear and colored lacquers in under hood and interior applications in the automobile and other similar industrial applications. Water based lacquers are used extensively in wood furniture finishing as well.