Lacquer Versus Oil Paint for White Cabinet Finishing

Advice on spraying solid white cabinets. June 17, 2010

I'm finishing new kitchen cabinets with Sherwin Williams Pro Classic Oil white paint. Is there concern about discoloring? What can I thin with to quicken dry time? How many coats of primer and finish coat are suggested? I'm not too comfortable with lacquer. I'm spraying with HVLP.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
I don't know the SW paint myself, but before switching to lacquer I sprayed a fair amount of Ben Moore Impervo oil, which may be similar. I used to add naphtha as a thinner, which set up faster than mineral spirits.

From contributor G:
Spraying lacquer is easier than spraying oil paint, mostly because of the way quicker dry time.

From contributor T:
Try some japan dryers. Not sure of the ratio per gallon. An ML Campbell rep would help you to understand the benefits of switching to lacquer.

From contributor R:
Most white coatings will eventually become yellow - it's just the nature of the beast. One of the coatings that retains its intended color for a longer period of time is a cab acrylic lacquer.

I would venture a guess and say that if you are comfortable spraying an oil based enamel, you would be pleasantly surprised with the ease of applying the lacquer type coatings. You will follow the same safety precautions with a lacquer as you do with an oil based coating. As contributor G pointed out, the drying time is a real benefit with a lacquer when you compare it to an oil based material. Top it off with the non-yellowing properties of the cab acrylic and you have a win/win situation. If time allows, you could consider the acrylics as an option to the Sherwin Pro Classic.

From contributor B:
The SW Pro Classic is a quality paint, but as already pointed out, like all oil whites, it will take on a yellow cast over time. Either naphtha or Japan drier will quicken the drying time. Japan drier is a touch more expensive, but you use a lot less. Also don't add too much Japan drier or you can end up with a brittle film coat. A good coat of primer and two coats are usually sufficient. Apply primer and one coat of paint in one day without sanding. Next day, light sand before final coat. More time the first coat gets to dry, the better off you'll be.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. If I used high gloss enamel such as Rustoleum, would I be better off? Someone mentioned acrylics. Will they dry out okay and not be tacky? If I use the Pro Classic, will yellowing be slow over time, and how noticeable?

From contributor J:
They didn't mention acrylics as in acrylic based paint, they mentioned CAB as in Cellulose Acrylic Butate (or something like that) lacquer. It is a fast drying non-yellowing lacquer. It's basically lacquer without the nitrocellulose so it doesn't yellow.

I suggest you go to your Sherwin Williams store and tell them you want a non-yellowing lacquer tinted to whatever color. If they give you a funny look, find a Becker Acroma, ML Campbell, Valspar, etc, dealer who doesn't give you a funny look when you ask this question.

Lacquer is a much more suitable product for finishing cabinets than oil based paint. It will make your life so much easier to work with lacquer.

From contributor K:
I posted a very similar question about a year and a half ago and got great advice and, subsequently, great results. The main difference in our situation is that I've been spraying clear lacquers forever with HVLP, but if you can spray oils, this lacquer solution should be easy for you. A lot more dangerous fumes, though.

There's Sherwin Williams, then there is Sherwin Williams. You need one of their commercial outlets for the right materials and the right knowledge. I used a white vinyl sealer (24% solids) tinted to match a regular SW paint chip. They don't have formulas for this, so you need their best color matcher to mix it.

I thinned it about 10% and just blasted the stuff on. It took three coats in a few areas for real good coverage, but most covered nice in two. Quick 220 scuffs and tacks in between. Spray, 20 minutes flip and spray, 20 minutes flip and spray. You can hit spots and edges pretty fearlessly because at the end, you 220 all of it down to a uniform flat coat. Go light on the edges.

The clear CAB acrylic is your money shot, but like I say, if you can spray oils, you probably can do this fine. Practice a little. This stuff is a clear water white and according to some picky clients and architects, the color match was perfect. I used a MRE which is just a hair below a semi-gloss paint. One good coat each side and you're done in an hour. This is one hell of a beautiful "paint" job.

The vinyl sealer comes in 1 or 5 gallon. The CAB I get in singles. I ate up a 5 VS on a medium sized kitchen and about 1.5 gallon CAB. This is a very good kitchen/bathroom solution.

From contributor I:
We spray a lot of SW Pro Classic oil on interior shutters. To answer your question about yellowing, it usually takes several years to be noticeable. I have not had a customer say anything in the 12 years I've been using oil. This used to worry me, but I found the surrounding paints in the home are also aging and turning with time. I would not switch to Rustoleum high gloss either - stay with SW or Ben Moore. When I mix my paint, I add 1/2 cup mineral spirits (paint thinner) and 1-2 oz. of japan drier per quart, to speed dry time. In some cases, when I want my surface to stay wet longer, I leave off the japan drier. I actually did the opposite of what several suggest - I went from lacquer to oil finishes in most cases, but with stains, I still use lacquer. But we are not spraying cabinets, so the requirements are different.