Toning with Waterborne Lacquer

Tips on sneaking up on the tone you want. August 15, 2011

I want to tint Hydrocote Resithane pre-cat water based lacquer using Trans Tint dye. The effect I'm after is a transparent, lightly tinted topcoat that allows the grain to show through with as much depth as possible. I'm thinking I should spray a light coat of clear to seal the wood (to prevent uneven absorption of the dye) and then spray lightly tinted topcoats to get the depth and color I want, then topcoat with clear.

For this first trial, I'm spraying birch plywood shelves for a closet and want to tint the lacquer lightly with black tint. I'm not trying to make the shelves black, just a tint of black, transparent with a good buildup.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
It will work perfectly. What you are making is called a toner and I use this technique all the time. You do not need to topcoat with clear unless you want more build. I use a toner over a wipe or dye stain quite often. I have used MLC WS2 stains with waterborne topcoats and CNA stains as well. The toner adds nice depth. Here are some spindles I did.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

Click here for higher quality, full size image

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor J:
Do these look milky to anyone? Why use waterbase?

From the original questioner:
You're right, contributor D, working like a champ. It's a trial and error deal, but I finally have it down and am getting pretty close to what I wanted.

And contributor J, I have a feeling that solvent based lacquers aren't going to be around for much longer with the EPA closing in. And personally, I think they're right. If I'm going to spend the time trying to get used to a finish, might as well get on board with the future rather than the past. Besides, I don't have a fireproof booth to spray in and I like the idea of soap and water clean up as opposed to lacquer thinner - easier on the lungs. Most of my finishing is in the hand applied area anyway.

From contributor D:
They do look a bit milky, but I think the lighting was poor. I know that the waterborne may not have the brilliant clarity of solvent sometimes, but I have been doing some pretty nice silky smooth work with it. The toner used in the picture was a CNA and Target EM2000 blend. CNA is a pigment stain rather than a dye, so it has a slightly muddy quality. I am working on another job where I am using a Van Dyke Brown dye in the Target product and the colour is beautiful when laid down over an oil stain on cherry.

I am also concerned about the planet, my health and my wife and children's health. I should have been using waterborne years ago. I have been using it now for 4 years and I think I am one of maybe 5 shops in Saskatchewan that uses 100% waterborne products, and I am very proud of that fact.

From contributor T:
I use a lot of toners in waterborne for the products that I finish. I love the look I achieve in part because it seems to mitigate some of the blue hues that you can see under some lighting situations. One thing that really seems to help is to mix the dye (Transtint, Colorfx, etc.) with a little bit of water before mixing into the finish.

From the original questioner:
Thanx, contributor T. One problem I had was slightly uneven shading that I figured out wasn't an uneven overlapping as much as an incomplete mixing of the Trans Tint. I can see that mixing it with a little water would make it much easier.

By the way, I'm using a Grayco HVLP gun with the 3M PPS cups. I think I need to mix the lacquer in a separate container and then pour it into the cup. I would end up with a more consistent coloring. I know, duh! Hey, I'm new at this, but giving it my best shot.