You might want to darken your wooden frames around doorways or brighten up old patio furniture with a light maple color – getting these colors accurate will always require some guesswork.
But worry no more because there are tintable wood stains available that will help bring out those desired hues without too much hassle (and mess) involved either way.
While finding the ideal wood stain color can be many times tricky, you can get a clear or pre-tinted light-colored stain base to add the pigment-based tint color until it’s just the right shade you want.
If you are looking for more information on tinting and using these tintable wood stains, check them out before narrowing down what type suits you best.
What is a Pre-tinted Stain?
Pre-tinted stains are those that have color added to the base already. These tend to be more expensive than neutral/clear, transparent, or semi-transparent wood stains, but the color will be more consistent throughout since it was pre-dispersed in the can.
Pigment-based tints, on the other hand, are usually added to a clear base stain and will provide more color options since there are infinite hues that can be mixed.
You can find these tints at any home improvement store in the paint aisle, and they will be clearly labeled as “pigment-based.”
The main purpose of adding tint to the wood stain is to help preserve the wood by absorbing UV rays and reducing oxidation, thereby avoiding turning the wood gray when exposed outdoors.
Tintable wood stains are essential when using timber outdoors, like for your decking. The UV-induced drying out of the deck stains will be compensated by their natural and/or synthetic oils. In other words, if you want your wood to retain its natural color, this is critical.
Tinting Wood Stain – The Process
Tinting the wood stain in your desired hue isn’t very tough if you have your neutral tint base ready.
Here is a step-by-step method for how you can do this…
Step 1- Choose the right wood stain base
When choosing the wood stain, keep in mind your purpose – whether it’s indoor or outdoor. Outdoor stains often give a matte finish, but indoor stains tend to be slightly glossier.
When picking, you can check the label that mentions the words “tintable,” “outdoor use,” etc. For outdoors, pick the stain that can protect the wood from harsh weather conditions.
Also, if you want a light-colored wood stain, look for either a clear base or one pre-tinted in a light color of a similar hue. For achieving a dark-colored wood stain, use a base that is pre-tinted in a somewhat darker color.
Step 2- Pick the right type of stain for tinting
You will often find stains in three different varieties, i.e., gel, water-based, and oil-based.
Gel wood stains are best for wood veneers. Water-based wood stains are good for finished, well-conditioned wood. Oil-based wood stains are perfect for dry or unfinished wood.
Depending on the variety you need, you can check for the famous brands (like Behr, Cabot, Minwax, Valspar, and Varathane) that have them available in their kitty.
Step 3- Add the pigment-base tint to the stain base
Now that you have chosen your base, it’s time to add pigment-base tints such as dark red, orange, blue, green, etc. You can get this from any hardware store or home improvement center.
Mix it thoroughly in the stain base by stirring gently so that the color is evenly distributed and gets deepened according to your liking.
It’s good to use a disposable container for mixing and tinting the stain, as it can be tough to clean the container later if you plan to use it in the future.
Step 4- Try the tinted stain out on a spare piece of wood
To see what the wood will look like, apply the newly tinted wood stain on a spare piece of wood. Let it dry, and check if you’re happy with the result.
Keep in mind that pigment-based tints are difficult to repair, so it’s crucial to test the stain in an inconspicuous location before applying it to the entire surface.
Unlike wood stains, pigment-based tints will also not penetrate the wood deeply. The colorants will rest on top of the wood and will require more maintenance in the long term.
Step 5- Apply the tinted wood stain to your project
Once you’re happy with the result, apply the stain to the final surface of your project using a stain applicator like a brush, roller, or cloth.
Start from the edges and work your way in, wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth, and let it dry completely before applying a second coat if needed.
Once the entire surface is coated, allow the stain to dry and cure for the recommended time.
Are Dye-Based Tints Good for Wood Stains?
Dye-based tints are a great way to achieve a consistent, even color on your wood project.
Because they are available in powder form (that gets dissolved in water), they mix easily and evenly into water-based stains, making them ideal for large projects where you want to avoid any streaking or blotching.
And since dye-based tints penetrate the wood deeply, it’s not crucial to sand the surface first. After application, if the color of the water-soluble dye is too dark, wipe the surface with water to fix it. If the color is too light, add more powder to the dye solution.
Dye-based tints can also be used to tint oil-based stains, but you will need to purchase specifically oil-soluble tints. These tints are less common but will produce the same consistent results as water-based tints.
Oil-soluble dyes are also long-lasting, so they will not fade over time on surfaces. The main downside, however, is that oil-soluble dye-based tints can be more difficult to remove from surfaces than pigmented stains.
If you make a mistake while staining, you may need to sand the area down and start over again. Unlike water-soluble dyes, you cannot wash them away to get them corrected.
The bottom line
So, you see how easy it is to tint wood stain. In case you cannot find your exact shade, try it out the next time you’re staining a piece of furniture or your decking.
With a little practice, you’ll be able to achieve any color you want. And at a much lower cost compared to pre-tinted stains.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.