Tinted Conversion Varnish Basics

Conversion varnish can be tinted white or other colors, but it requires special pigments, so it has to be ordered from a knowledgeable source. January 27, 2008

I love conversion varnish because it is durable, water resistant, and dries very fast here in my climate (warm days even in the winter). My problem is that I have a big paint grade kitchen to do which requires a "fine" off-white finish. Is CV tintable? Whenever I ask this question at my paint and finish source, I just get blank stares.

Is there any other finish which has these desired properties (other than NC lacquer, which I will not use) which work well? I have previously thinned and sprayed high end acrylic water base paint, but I was not too happy with the results. The paint film seemed too permeable in a satin gloss. I keep hearing that that product is getting better all the time, but I don't do painted kitchen cabinets enough to have found a good one.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
CV is fully tintable to any color imaginable. Where are you getting your CV that they don't know that?

From contributor R:
I have done quite a few painted CV jobs. I use tinted vinyl sealer for the color and clear coated with conversion varnish. I have heard from my supplier not to tint CV because the catalyst does something to the color. So I have never added color to clear CV.

From contributor H:
When we need to do a white job, we can order white CV from our supplier. It's actually a pigmented CV and requires a different catalyst, but it works great.

From contributor A:
Pigmented CV works great for a "painted" finish. Base white pigmented CV can be tinted to match virtually any paint color and sheen. Lighter colors are easier to match. It's not necessary to topcoat pigmented CV with a clear coat. Pigmented vinyl sealers are also available, and can be tinted as well. All of these pigmented products are higher in solids and viscosity than their clear counterparts, and will likely require a different spray gun needle/nozzle setup to spray properly. The pigmented products build rapidly. You have to pay attention to film thickness, or you will exceed the maximum 4 - 5 mil dry film thickness and risk finish failure. Sherwin Williams, Mohawk, ML Campbell, and others make pigmented CVs and offer color matching services.

From contributor W:
We use SW pigmented CV for all of our painted finishes. I have to get it from their chemical coatings store because it takes industrial tints instead of the regular tint you would find in a paint store.

We have been tinkering around with some waterbased finish as well. ML Campbell makes a pigmented WB finish called Polystar which we get tinted at our local paint store. We then have topcoated with Agualende clear which is almost as good as the CV. I talked to the tech dept at MLC and they said that the pigmented version of Agualende is in testing now and should be available soon.

From the original questioner:
So, as I understand it, I can either tint my undercoat (sealer) and clear coat it with CV, or tint the CV itself. I asked at my paint store which sells me the CV and they had no clue about getting special tinted CV. I have only standard paint store pigments to use if I want to tint it myself. The jury here seems to be out on whether I can use those.

If I just tint the undercoat, should I just use the vinyl sealer mentioned above? I have never used anything but CV as its own primer, so I am not sure what else I can use under CV. Is this vinyl sealer just an ordinary wall paint primer, as in "vinyl acrylic" primer, or is it another product altogether? The only primer I have ever used on cabinets other than lacquer primer is oil base wood primer like you use on woodwork in houses. Can CV go over oil base primer? I know it can't go over lacquer primer.

From contributor R:
Vinyl sealer has nothing to do with house paint or acrylic. I use Mohawk. I think Sherwin Williams and MLC sells it also. I buy white. It is easy to tint to off white. It dries faster than CV and sands to a fine dust. It is an excellent primer for CV and offers very good protection from water.

From contributor D:
Degussa 844 acrylic colorants are what are commonly used for CV. I use Valspar CV (Resistovar Ultra) and it works fine in it.

From contributor W:
See if you can find a Sherwin Williams Chemical Coatings store close to you. SW sells CV in clear, white and black. The white can be tinted to whatever paint color you want. We only coat the pigmented with clear if we apply a glaze. Otherwise, the pigmented finish is the topcoat.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the good advice. As you may have guessed, I'm just an old cabinet maker, not a professional finisher. I've gotten by all these years by finishing my cabinets with NC lacquer and spit, but I have to admit that CV is superior, especially around water splash locations.