Definitions: "Paint" Versus "Lacquer"

An opaque pigmented coating is paint ... but there's a little more to it than that. May 6, 2014

I'm deciding on a white finish for kitchen cabs. I've recently discovered that a lot of folks refer to lacquer as paint. I don't know whether to lacquer or paint the cabs.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
Yes, most people call pigmented lacquers and conversion varnishes paint.

From contributor A:
Paint is an opaque (nontransparent) coating. These include typical house paints and any clear resin that has been pigmented enough to be opaque. You can add a small amount of brown to a clear coating and it is still transparent. That would be called a toner coat. Add enough of the same brown and it will become paint. Many people in the industry use tinted clears because of their ease of use.

From contributor J:
If it's latex or alkyd and brushed or rolled onto the walls or trim of a house, I call it paint. If it's lacquer that gets sprayed onto cabinetry or woodwork, I call it pigmented lacquer. Although in casual references with clients I often do say white painted when I refer to it, as it's what most people are familiar with.

From contributor N:
Anything opaque is paint when talking with a customer. When talking to the cabinetmaker, architect, designer or other painters and finishers, I get as specific as needed. You usually can tell when to stop... Yawning or nodding off is a good sign that have all the info they need.

From contributor R:
Most shops stopped painting cabinets with lacquer in the 80s. It will not last near the stove, dishwasher, or sink. Use pigmented conversion varnish.

From contributor U:
As a coatings technologist in a former life, paint is considered any opaque coating, no matter what the basis. Anything colourless or having a level of translucency (not obliterating) would be considered a stain or varnish.

Lacquer is a term for coatings that would have originally been based on lac or similar resins. In the UK, lacquer is used when referring to translucent coatings and is somewhat interchangeable with varnish as a word.

The only way to avoid confusion with terminology is to agree on the nature of the product required without the use of generic names. So long as the colour, gloss level and performance criteria are met, who cares what it is called?