Types of Finishes for Wood

Nov 3, 2023

Welcome to Artsy Home, your ultimate guide to all things related to wood finishes. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the various types of finishes for wood, their unique benefits, and how to choose the perfect one for your specific needs.

Understanding Wood Finishes

Wood finishes are applied to protect, enhance, and beautify wooden surfaces. They can bring out the natural grain patterns, protect against moisture and UV damage, and provide a durable and long-lasting surface. When choosing a wood finish, it's important to consider factors such as the type of wood, desired appearance, and the level of protection required.

The Different Types of Wood Finishes

1. Varnish

Varnish is a popular choice for enhancing the beauty and durability of wooden furniture, flooring, and other surfaces. It provides a glossy, clear finish that highlights the natural colors and grain patterns of the wood. Varnish is resistant to scratches, water, and UV damage, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.

2. Oil-based finishes

Oil-based finishes, such as tung oil and linseed oil, penetrate deep into the wood to nourish and protect it from within. They offer a warm, natural look and feel, enhancing the wood's natural beauty while providing a protective barrier against moisture. These finishes require regular maintenance but are relatively easy to apply.

3. Water-based finishes

Water-based finishes have gained popularity in recent years due to their low VOC (volatile organic compounds) content and ease of application. They provide a clear, non-yellowing finish that dries quickly and is environmentally friendly. Water-based finishes are ideal for projects that require a fast turnaround time.

4. Lacquer

Lacquer is a durable and quick-drying finish that offers a high-gloss appearance. It provides excellent protection against scratches, stains, and moisture. Lacquer can be sprayed or brushed on and is commonly used on furniture, cabinets, and musical instruments.

5. Shellac

Shellac is a natural resin extracted from the secretions of lac bugs. It is known for its warm, amber tones and superb adhesion properties. Shellac dries quickly and forms a hard, protective layer on the wood surface. It is often used as a sealer or primer before applying other finishes.

6. Wax

Wax finishes offer a low sheen or matte appearance and a soft, smooth touch. They are easy to apply and give the wood a natural, rustic look. Wax provides moderate protection against moisture and can be reapplied as needed. It is commonly used on antique furniture and decorative wooden items.

Choosing the Right Wood Finish

When selecting a wood finish, consider the following factors:

1. Wood Type

Each type of wood has unique characteristics, including its grain pattern, hardness, and color. Some finishes, like varnish and lacquer, enhance the grain and color of the wood, while others, like water-based finishes, maintain a more natural appearance. Consider the type of wood you are working with to ensure the finish complements its natural attributes.

2. Desired Look and Feel

Think about the final appearance you wish to achieve. Do you want a glossy, reflective finish or a more subdued matte look? Different finishes offer varying levels of sheen, texture, and transparency. Consider your personal taste and the overall aesthetic you want to create.

3. Application Method

Some finishes, like wax, are easy to apply with a cloth or brush, while others, like lacquer, require specialized equipment such as spray guns. Consider the application method required for each finish and choose one that aligns with your skills and resources.

4. Durability and Protection

Consider the level of protection needed for your wooden surface. If the wood will be exposed to heavy use, moisture, or UV rays, opt for a finish with increased durability and resistance against these elements. Varnish and lacquer are excellent choices for high-traffic areas.


With so many types of finishes for wood available, choosing the right one can seem overwhelming. However, by considering factors such as wood type, desired appearance, and level of protection, you can confidently select a finish that will enhance the beauty and longevity of your wooden projects.

At Artsy Home, we understand the importance of quality wood finishes and offer a wide range of products and resources to help you achieve stunning results. Explore our collection and unleash your creativity by selecting the perfect finish for your next woodworking project.

Toby Schindelbeck
Very informative! 🌳🔨👍
Nov 9, 2023
Carter Roberts
Great guide! 👍 I learned a lot about different finishes for wood. 🌳🔨
Nov 7, 2023