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How to Faux Paint your Dresser to look like Asian Lacquer

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How to Faux Paint your Dresser to look like Asian Lacquer

Do you love the classy, exotic look of Asian décor? Do you gaze longingly at the catalogs, wishing it were in your budget to get that sleek-looking oriental style dresser? Well, wish no more. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can turn a second-hand dresser into a stylish work of art with a good faux paint job.

Real lacquer is a costly, labor-intensive and time-consuming technique that is difficult even for skilled painters. For a bargain, you can capture the same look with some glossy paint and the right painting techniques.

Shopping List

Supplies you will definitely need are: drop cloths or tarps, screwdriver, dust masks, protective eye-wear, medium grain sandpaper, fine grain sandpaper, a vacuum, tack cloths, oil based primer, oil based enamel paint and turpentine.

If you’re using regular canned paint (not spray paint), you’ll need paint rollers, ¼ inch roller naps, roller pans, 1-inch or 2-inch paint brush and paint stirrers.

Depending whether the dresser has been previously painted, you might need a paint stripper kit or a plastic paint scraper.

If you’re using new hardware that will require re-drilling holes for screws and drawer pulls, you’ll need joint compound, a putty knife and a drill with drill bits.

If you want to use the tinted glaze for color variation, you’ll need oil-based clear glaze, a second color of oil-based paint (small touch-up can size is fine), an old container for mixing and lint-free rags.

Finally, if you wish to finish up with a clear sealer to protect the coating and make it stain resistant, you’ll need an oil-based polyurethane non-yellowing clear varnish and paint brushes.

Beautiful Asian Lacquered Furniture


Old Dresser:

Choosing a Dresser

Choosing a Dresser

A second hand dresser is ideal for this project, especially if you can find one with ornate Asian-style carvings or intricate shapes that are reminiscent of the Orient. If you can’t find anything that exciting in your price range,go for simple. A lot of Asian furnishings are very square, boxy and simple for a modern, minimalist look.

Wood is ideal because it takes paint so easily and is sturdy, but if you come across a laminate or pressed wood dresser you can make it work.

Take a good look at the hardware on the dresser as well. If you want to replace it with something more luxurious looking, now’s the time to find something you like.

Getting Ready

Work outdoors or in a garage. The type of paint you’ll be using can be messy and have pretty strong fumes, so someplace well ventilated and spacious is a must.

Work on a dry day that is neither too cold nor too hot. Extreme temperatures and humidity can interfere with drying.

Cover the area with tarps or drop cloths. Don’t just cover the floor— cover nearby walls and furnishings, too, because a splash of paint can ruin other items.

Roller Naps

Paint Prepping the Dresser

Place the dresser on a drop cloth. Take out all the drawers. Remove all the hardware, such as cabinet hinges and drawer handles.

Scroll to Continue

Has your dresser been painted before? Take a good look at the paint job— if it’s been painted multiple times, so that the paint is built up and thick, it’s worth it to strip the paint. It’s not a requirement to strip it, but a bad former paint job can’t be covered up well.

Purchase a paint stripper kit from your local paint store and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Paint strippers are highly volatile chemicals so follow directions carefully.

If the dresser has been previously painted with a neat, thin coating, you don’t need to strip it. Just take a plastic scraper and go over any areas of paint that appear to be blistering or peeling.

If the dresser has been stained, waxed, sealed or is natural wood, you can proceed to sanding. Just put on a dust mask and eye protection before you get started.

Sand the entire exterior of the dresser, drawers and cabinets, with a medium grit sand paper. It’s best to use a palm sander for the job, however you can use old-fashioned elbow grease if you don’t own one.

Stop to vacuum occasionally to prevent sawdust from building up.Sand until any traces of a shineare gone and you’ve sufficiently scuffed up the surface.

At this point, if you plan on changing the hardware, use a joint compound or Spackle to with a putty knife to fill in any screw holes. Allow the compound to full dry. If you’re not changing the hardware, or if you found hardware with screws that fit in the existing holes, you don’t need to fill them in.

Change to a fine sand paper and re-sand the entire dresser, vacuuming occasionally.

When the entire dresser and all of the drawer and cabinet surfaces have been sufficiently sanded, vacuum up the dust and wipe away remnants with a tack cloth. You need to get all the particles off or they’ll later cause the paint to peel prematurely

Oil Based Primer

Priming and Painting


Prime the dresser surfaces with an oil-based primer. Use a product in spray cans, or if you prefer you can work with traditional rollers.

If using a spray can, get a high quality product and remember to test the spray away from the piece first, at a piece of scrap cardboard or newspaper, to make sure it’s coming out in a fine mist. Sweep the spray can back and forth for very light, even coats, keeping the can in constant motion. Apply a second coat after the first coat dries.

If using rollers, use a 1/8 inch roller nap to keep the finish smooth.You can use brushes in combination with the rollers if there are any intricate carvings, but rollers are preferred whenever possible because you don’t want to leave any brush strokes.

Let the primer dry at least a full 24 hours, or according to the manufacturer’s directions, before proceeding.


Again, you have the choice of going with the spray paint cans or the roller to paint your dresser— whichever material you feel more comfortable using.

Choose an oil-based enamel high gloss paint. Pick a color you like for your décor. Black lacquer is among the most popular, with a bright, bold red coming in a close second. Don’t feel you have to completely limit yourself, though. Asian styles incorporate many colors, such as rich shades of gold, burnt orange or soft sage green.

Paint the dresser in two light coats with the color of your choice, letting the first coat dry before applying the second. Don’t forget to paint any drawers and doors as well.

Let the paints completely dry according to the manufacturer.

Oil-Based Clear Glaze

Glazing and Varnishing


At this point, you can leave your dresser as-is, and it will serve you beautifully. However, you can make even more of a statement by adding a contrasting color tint with a glaze.

Choose an oil-based clear glaze. You will also need to choose a second color. If your dresser is black, think about what color you would love to shine and reflect off the surface— fire engine red, cobalt blue, perhaps yellow ochre? If your furniture is a bold color already, you may want to choose black or a burnt umber to subdue it and give it a more natural sheen.

Mix one part paint with three parts glaze in a container. Brush or roll the glaze onto one surface of the dresser.

Take a rag and rub the glaze immediately in an oval motion, until it’s almost all gone. Repeat if necessary. You can leave on as much or as little as the tinted glaze color as you want. Continue the process for each surface of the dresser exterior, trying to make the shade of the glaze tint even with the other surfaces.

Let the glaze dry completely.


While not necessary, a final sealer can make the look last longer if you plan to keep the dresser for a long while if it’s in a high traffic area.

Use an oil-based polyurethane varnish with a glossy finish. This shine will further the illusion of a lacquered finish. Brush an even, thin coat on all surfaces, being very careful not to leave brush strokes behind. Use a quality paint brush to prevent stray hairs. Apply a second coat if you wish.

Finishing the Job

When your dresser is finished, bring it back to its spot where it belongs. It’s best to leave the drawers out and hardware off for a few more days, even after the paint and varnish appear to be dry. Also, give it a few days before putting anything heavy on top. Allowing some time to cure will prevent sticking.

Re-drill the holes if you plan to change the hardware. Replace all the hardware and put your drawers and cabinets back in place. Set a gorgeous potted orchid on top, or a lovely Japanese vase, and stand back to admire a job well done.

Faux Lacquer Video


Chen (author) on July 19, 2013:

Thanks Becky, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Appreciate your comment.

Becky from Oklahoma on July 17, 2013:

good information and tips. Thanks for sharing.

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