Basic steps to make a traditional Vietnamese lacquer painting

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Basic steps by photos






Process & technique of Lacquer Painting (tranh son mài)

Painting with lacquer is a long and complex process requiring great skill and patience. It is complicated from beginning step of prepare wooden board to application lacquer layers on it and very last step of polishing the painting. Each main period includes various tactics, time as well, in order to achieve artist’s intention.

In order to providing a deep understanding about the process and technique, there are several terms should be explained beforehand.


There are two types of lacquer: pure and processed lacquer.

Pure lacquer is produced mainly from Rhus succedanea or Wax tree which will be destroyed after 5 years of harvest. It is only harvestable after 3 years of growing. Workers can start collecting it early in the morning, before the sunrise. The quality of lacquer is very poor if it is collected under the sunshine. Depends on the purpose, lacquer is classified into different grades. Vietnamese style has three grades: raw, good and best quality. Workers pour all lacquer to a big pool mixed with water. Then they stir it for several days. When they see a layer of lacquer floating then it is ready. The floating layer is the best lacquer with 80% of lacquer.