Procedures for Tinting Shellac

By Christien Aguinaldo

People working with wood often use shellac to give the finished product an exquisite finish. Shellac can be applied in numerous thin coats. This helps to enhance the beauty of the wood without causing any harm to the grain of the wood. As a result, the wooden surface comes across as clean and crisp. Also, shellac has the wonderful property of adhering to the previous coat making it the ideal material to repair superficial blemishes and scratches on the wooden surface. Shellac is available in different colors, such as clear, amber and garnet. These can be mixed in various proportions to impart a tint to the shellac mix.

Use shellac to give a dark or light tint to your furniture.

Clear and Amber Shellac

If the wooden furniture already has a coating of shellac and you would like to touch up the finishing, mix clear and amber shellac to get a color that closely matches the shellacked finish. Usually, this technique of tinting shellac is used when new flooring is installed in a home that already has shellacked flooring. To lighten the amber shellac, mix clear shellac to it. To darken the clear shellac, mix the amber shellac to it. Make sure that you stir the mixture thoroughly to dissolve the shellac. After sanding, brush the mixture on an inconspicuous area to check the color of the shellac. If there is a variation between the old and new shellac coating, then add some more clear or amber shellac to get the desired color.

Stains and Dyes

Shellac can also be tinted using aniline dye or alcohol-based stain. If you want to impart an intense, vibrant color to the shellac, use a stain or dye. If you want a dark green/blue color, then add some black stain to amber shellac. Often you can get color charts to show the color that the result alcohol-based stain or dye will impart to the shellac. These charts are available at specialty paint stores. Make sure to add just a small quantity of the stain or dye as they are highly concentrated. Stir the shellac thoroughly and continue adding the stain or dye until you get the desired color. Let the shellac stand for around 30 minutes to ensure that all the dye or stain gets dissolved. Mix once more to remove air bubbles and then begin to use the tinted shellac.

Universal Colorants

If you want to impart a dark tint to the shellac, use universal colorant. For each gallon of shellac, add up to 6 oz of universal colorant. Mix the shellac thoroughly to dissolve the colorant. It is advisable to use a mechanical shaker to ensure proper mixing. Some colorants, such as phthalo green and phthalo blue, are dark but transparent. If you want to cover scratches and blemishes with the shellac, substitute quarter of the colorant with black dye.

In order to get pastel colors, use around 2 oz of universal colorant for each gallon of shellac. Alter the gloss level by adding clear shellac to the primer. Based on the amount added, the gloss can be a satin sheen or a semi-gloss.

Applying Shellac

You can use a roller to get a smooth finish. Alternatively, you can use a sprayer to spray on shellac. Just strain the shellac with a strainer while putting into the sprayer. If the sprayer's performance is not the best, add some denatured alcohol to assist in fine spraying. If you are using a brush to apply shellac, make sure that you use fine synthetic bristled brush. Apply the coat quickly, but do not attempt to re-brush before the coat gets completely dry. If you do this, you will end up with brush marks. Wait a day to apply a fresh coat. However, use a 220-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the shellac before applying a new coat. This provide a smooth finish to the wood surface.