So just what is an Acrylic Lacquer?

So just what is an Acrylic Lacquer?

A question that comes up quite a lot both online and at the many shows & events that we attend, is "Acrylic Lacquer? How can an Acrylic be a Lacquer?"

Short answer, because an Acrylic isn't solely a water based paint.

The term "Acrylic" has been used in hobby/art talk as a descriptor solely for water based paints incorrectly for a long time and this is where the confusion begins.

Before I started our company, I too thought of water based paints as Acrylic. That was what they were labelled as and what they were marketed by.

Acrylic, Enamel, Lacquer.

The names of the three types of paints that were commonly used in hobby/art applications.

The more I researched about how paint is made, what it consists of and how to improve it, one thing was glaringly obvious - the word "acrylic" almost NEVER means water based in industry outside of hobby industry. "Acrylic" always refers to solvent based paints, what hobbists refer to as Lacquers. 

So, as this question began to be asked more and more when people began to notice our brand and products in stores, my answer to this confusion became this : NEVER refer to your paints by their popular names, but instead learn about their bases and it will remove all confusion.

Wipe Acrylic, Enamel, Lacquer from your mind and replace it with the base types of Water, Oil and Solvent.

Doing this will allow the user to instantly understand the product they are using and treat it accordingly with correct use alongside other paints and thinning/cleaning agents.

But why are Acrylic Lacquers named as such? The binders that suspend the pigment in place are a thermoplastic polymer, a clear plastic resin otherwise known as Acrylic. That plus the fact there are multiple different types of lacquer paints out there, using the term Acrylic Lacquer also instantly indicates to the user what type of paint it is and how best to handle it. 

One of the most concerning things I have discovered since beginning our product line, is that most modellers have very little knowledge of the products they are using. Many people believe marketing hype without a second thought, often doing things that are unsafe.

Always remember to use a spray booth and a P2 rated face mask when air brushing. It doesn't matter what type of paint you are air brushing - if it's atomized in the air and you are breathing in that paint mist, it's not good for you.

Please, take the time to fully understand the products you are using - it will save you a lot of time, money and your health if you use it right the first time.

Our SDS for our Acrylic Lacquers are available on our website.

Keep on modelling!

- Scott


  • John McCormack

    Is a surface primer needed before using an acrylic lacquer paint then?

  • Steven Rowe

    I put my hand up, I know nothing about paints I simply use them, I do agree with all the safety, there seems to be a false wensexof security about water based paints as if they are safe.
    Perhaps safer than oil based enamels but safer doesn’t mean safe.
    Oil based enamels have been the mainstay of model paint for decades so now we have accrylic laquers , I have heard SMS paints virtually idiot proof for spraying and easy to spray than enamels.
    Apart from this what are the reasons to change from oil to accylis lacquer, is it safer and are there other advantages.
    There seems be some much BS spread by so called experts who are not chemists and no nothing about paints.
    I’m simply looking for the correct information

  • Ron Torrence

    Acrylic is a resin. It is used in both latex paints and solvent based paints.

  • Dean Girard

    Thanks for that explanation, but now I have another question. May one use both “acrylic” AND “acrylic enamels” together in modeling?

  • Larry DeLaruelle

    Thank you. That is the best explanation of the subject that I have read. It certainly helped clarify the differences in the three types of modeling paints. Much appreciated

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published