When finishing wooden furniture or any other element, it is common to refer to a set of products in a confusing way when in reality they are different products with different properties and which may not be suitable for all uses. Some of them are paints based on polyurethane resins, shellac or shellac, varnish and the lacquer itself.


We refer to this type of product when we talk about superior finishes and maintaining the natural appearance of the wood (although it should not be true, as there are varnishes with transparent finishes, there are those with different wood tones).

With the varnish we achieve a resistant, long-lasting and natural-looking finish. As with polyurethane paint, we can find it in water or oil.

It is widely used in rustic decoration environments, in doors and windows, and also in outdoor furniture.

Shellac, shellac or shellac

It is a product of natural origin, obtained from the secretions of an insect that are mixed with alcohol. Provides wood with an amber protective coating.

It is not recommended for use in kitchen furniture, because, although it has good resistance to shocks and scratches, it does not have as much resistance to high temperatures and chemicals as cleaning products.

Its use was widespread in the past, but it has been losing ground in favor of other products. Currently its use is limited to quality furniture in which a certain aesthetic is sought. It is usually applied with a natural bristle brush or cloth.

Differences in lacquer and varnish

These are the most common finishes for wooden furniture, and the difference between varnish and lacquer is not always obvious, especially for those who are not experts in the field.

The main difference is its chemical composition, while the varnish is made from oils or resinous substances in a solvent, lacquer, shellac or shelac is originally a natural product.

Another difference, more evident, is the finish, the lacquer is brighter and is not normally used to give color, although it can give a certain shade. The varnish is less shiny, although it can be found with this characteristic, and it is common to find it in different shades.

The last difference, although not less important, is the water resistance, much greater in the case of varnish. In fact, lacquer is not recommended for exteriors, while varnish is.

Lacquer or Lacquer Paint for Wood

This type of lacquer, which is not to be confused with the aforementioned shellac, is a product that has been used a lot in recent times and offers a good quality glossy finish. It is a resistant and long lasting product, although with time and the action of the sun fades. It can be applied by roller, but if we want a really good, smooth and soft finish, it is advisable to use a spray gun.

Mainly used in interior furniture, it stands out for its use in interior doors and kitchen furniture.

Polyurethane paint or enamel

It is basically a plastic in liquid form that is applied in successive layers. It is available in both water and oil based and the finishes range from matte to glossy.

This type of water-based paint dries faster, is less toxic and has much less odor. However, it is less resistant to heat and abrasive products such as cleaning products. Therefore, its use is recommended as long as the use that the furniture we painted will receive is not excessive or subject to relatively high temperatures. An additional advantage of oil-based paints is that they cover more than water-based paints, although, on the other hand, to clean painting utensils, erroneously painted surfaces and even the use of solvents.

When working with oil paints, it is recommended to use a mask to avoid inhaling the vapors.