What Are Lacquer Thinners?

Some people are unfamiliar with lacquer thinners, and others mistake them for other types of paint and thinners. But what exactly are they? How are lacquer thinners used? What about it sets it apart from the rest? And lastly, are you wondering the same thing? If you are, this blog is for you! We’re here to talk about lacquer thinners and maybe throw some paint in the mix. Let’s get right into it!


  1. What are Lacquer Thinners?
  2. 3 different types of Lacquer Thinners
  3. 3 different types of Lacquer Paints
  4. Watch BJ explain what Lacquer Thinners are

What Are Lacquer Thinners?

What is lacquer thinner?

A lacquer thinner is a combination of solvents that has the ability to dissolve various different resins or plastics used in modern lacquers. It is regarded as a potent chemical solvent and is a great thinning agent for lacquer-based paints .

It is praised as a superior cleaning solution and is known to clean better than acetone, paint thinner, and mineral spirits despite sharing a similar composition. It is typically a combination of acetone, toluene, and methanol and often includes thickeners and waxes.

What is it used for?

Lacquer thinners are primarily used for thinning lacquer-based paints. It is a very flexible thinner that can change the properties of lacquer, such as its viscosity. By altering the viscosity of lacquer, for example, lacquer finishes are able to resist drooping and running on vertical surfaces.

It is a great cleaning agent for tools that have come into contact with lacquer-based materials. Using regular paint thinners to clean tools that have been exposed to lacquer-based paints comes with a great deal of difficulty, so lacquer thinners are used to finish the job.

Due to its potency, tar, grease, tree sap, and even rust can be removed using this substance. It is often used to remove stains, inks, and streaks from different types of surfaces. Lacquer thinner is also useful for removing sheen from surfaces to make them more appealing.

Effective uses:

  • Used for thinning lacquer-based paints
  • Effectively cleans tools exposed to lacquer-based materials
  • Removes tar, grease, tree sap, rust, and other stubborn stains
  • Removes streaks and inks in different types of surfaces
  • Eliminates surface sheen

3 Different Types of Lacquer Thinners

1. Slow Dry

A slow-drying thinner, sometimes referred to as a "leveling thinner", is a type of lacquer thinner that has a leveler added to it. The leveler functions as a retarder, which lengthens the drying period of paint.

The Review

Slow-drying thinners are excellent if you want a much smoother surface than the one standard lacquer thinners provide. It gives you a superior gloss finish because it allows the paint time to settle and flatten before drying. Therefore, gloss-type paints work best with this type.

Shop the featured Product: Mr. Color Leveling Thinner

2. Regular Dry

It features the standard formula that is commonly found on the market. This type of thinner is primarily used as a cleaning agent and is often used to remove lacquer, ink, and adhesive residues as well as to clean up after using tools and equipment.

The Review

Regular dry thinners are ideal for everyday use due to their versatility. They are also much easier to acquire and relatively cheaper than specialized thinners. It is an all-purpose lacquer thinner you can use everywhere.

Shop the featured Product: Mr. Color Thinner

3. Rapid Thinner

As implied by the name, rapid thinners are fast-drying thinners with chemical additives that speed up the drying process of lacquer paints. Because of this, it allows the paint to dry immediately when it touches the surface, preventing movement or mess in the actual paint finish.

The Review

Rapid thinners are recommended for matte paints if you’re going for a very dusty, quick-drying finish. It is also perfect for working with metallic paints to speed up their drying time. This prevents paint from moving around, which can cause noticeable marks in a metallic paint finish.

Shop the featured Product: Mr. Color Rapid Thinner

3 Types of Lacquer and Acrylic Paints 

Although there are many different kinds of paints and thinners available, you can't just mix a paint and a thinner and call it a day. Knowing which thinner to use with your paint will ensure that it is thinned properly; otherwise, you will just have a mound of seized-up, worthless paint. Here is our take on various paint types, their pros and cons, and how to use them:

1. Acrylic Lacquer Paints

Acrylic Lacquer Paints are solvent-based paints that use acrylic pigments. Although it is called "Acrylic Lacquer Paint," this type of paint is not water-based and is unsuitable for acrylic water-based thinners. Instead, it is made to go with lacquer thinners. The acrylic part of it, as mentioned earlier, is the pigment and not the base itself.

Advantages of Acrylic Lacquer Paints:

  • Quick-dry
  • Develops fewer paint runs and dust smudges
  • Solid and durable finish

Disadvantage of Acrylic Lacquer Paints:

  • Strong odor

How to use it:

  • Use ONLY a lacquer thinner to dilute the paint.
  • Work fast with it as lacquer-based paints are fast-drying.
  • Don’t put too much paint on your palette right off the bat to avoid premature drying.

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2. Hybrid Acrylic Lacquer Paints (Alcohol-Based)

This paint is a hybrid-type compatible with both Lacquer and Acrylic thinners. Whichever thinner you have on hand, you can use them interchangeably because of their adaptability. Because it is an acrylic type, it is also low-odor and is ideal for people that are sensitive to strong smells.

Advantages of Hybrid Acrylic Lacquer Paints:

  • Compatible with both Lacquer and Acrylic thinners
  • Low-odor if used with acrylic thinner
  • Depending on the type of thinner used, it can be fast-drying
  • Quick clean-up

Disadvantage of Hybrid Acrylic Lacquer Paints:

  • Strong odor if used with lacquer thinner

How to use it:

  • When airbrushing, use acrylic thinner for low-odor spraying
  • Use lacquer thinner for a fast drying coat

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3. Water-based Paints

These are artist-type water-based paints that are compatible with acrylic thinners, with some even working well with lacquer thinners. "Artist-type" refers to the fact that, unlike the first two paint kinds that are often used in coating, water-based paints are more commonly used in painting.

Advantages of Water-Based Paints:

  • Quick clean-up
  • Thinners, hardeners, and additives are optional
  • Good color retention
  • Odorless

Disadvantages of Water-Based Paints:

  • Damage-prone finish

How to use it:

  • When using a brush, keep the brush wet
  • Focus on a specific area when painting to avoid disrupting the drying parts
  • Do not spread it too thick to avoid patchiness

Some water-based paints work well with lacquer thinners, which may surprise you; if you arre still not convinced, watch the demonstration here.

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Shop here for paints, thinners and everything in between.

In Conclusion

There are many different types of paint and thinners out there, but it does not mean that any paint or thinner will do. Finding the correct match will ensure that your paint turns out well, that you will achieve your desired finish, and most importantly, that you will not wind up with a puddle of pigmented goo.

Watch and Learn!

See it in motion! In this video, BJ's shows which paints work best with lacquer thinners:

We hope this guide has helped you learn more about lacquer thinners and which paints work well with them. If you want to learn more customisation tips, feel free to browse through our blog posts.

Have any tips up your sleeve? Feel free to share it with us at hh@hearnshobbies.com!

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