japanning (jəpăn´ing), method of varnishing a surface, such as wood, metal, or glass, to obtain a durable, lustrous finish. The term is derived from a process popular in England, France, the Netherlands, and Spain in the 17th cent. that imitated the East Asian lacquerwork known as Japan ware. Japanning varnishes usually have a resin base and are colored by mineral and other pigments. Several coats of varnish are applied to the desired surface, the successive layers being heat-dried. Luster and hardness are attained by polishing each coat. Japanning has been applied to furniture, screens, and such small objects as trays and snuff-boxes.