5 Wood Stain Colors For Beautiful Furniture Finishes

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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To highlight the natural beauty of wood, there are many different wood stains you can use. Generally, wood stains emulate the colors of mahogany, pine, oak, dark walnut, and many other shades. Wood stains protect the interior and exterior of your wood-sided home or furniture. In addition, they give a beautiful semi-transparent wood finish and provide years of protection from UV exposure and water damage. This article will talk about oil-based and water-based stains and what stain colors are best suited for your needs.

What Is A Wood Stain?

A wood stain color contains pigments and dyes which are mixed into a solvent. Depending on your desired coloring effect, wood colors contain binders that help adhere to the wood color. Wood staining color is generally applied to wood during the finishing process, and carpenters should carefully consider if the wood they want to stain will react well with wood stain.

Sometimes with stains, it can be difficult to achieve a smooth finish. Wood coloring is pigmented to change the color of the wood and bring out the natural characteristics of the wood you want to enhance. In addition, staining brings out the grain pattern of the wood.

Types Of Wood Stains And Their Uses

1) Varnish Wood Stain

A varnish wood stain includes color to alter or enhance the wood shade. Because varnish wood stains are made with polyurethane, they offer resistance to heat, water, and acid spills. This stain is suitable for small woodwork projects like bedside cabinets or worn-out wood surfaces. In addition, this wood color will harden and form a protective coating over the wood.

You should know that you should apply a thick enough coat to create a strong barrier when you paint your wooden surface. These types of varnish also eliminate the need for a two-step process, which includes applying a wood stain early on and then layering over it with a clear or glossy varnish. In addition, this wood stain dries hard, which is handy if you are in a rush.

On the upside, this varnish leaves your wood surface with a classic natural finish and added protection from dirt and water. Each wood stain will stain different types of wood with a different finish. If the wood naturally has a dark and rich brown pattern, then the pigmented wood stain will make it look darker. When using a varnish wood color stain, you should look out for the yellow cast it leaves after some time.

2) Lacquer Wood Stain

Lacquer wood stain is fast drying and needs only 15 minutes to completely dry. In addition, lacquer wood stains are thinner and hence easily penetrate the wood. You do not need more than two coatings of lacquer wood color stain. You can always add lacquer thinner to counter the air bubbles trapped as the wood stain dries.

Other tips advise you to control the room temperature to avoid trapping air bubbles on the wood. It is hard to work with lacquers because of how fast it dries. However, if you are up for the challenge, then why not. You should also know that lacquer can be used on almost all woods except rosewood and mahogany.

When you shop for supplies for your project, ensure you are sure about using a lacquer wood finish. It cannot be used over oil-based stains, and it has a strong odor. You have to use this wood color stain in a well-ventilated area. The wood you have to stain has to be well made, sanded, and prepped. Because of its nature, only experienced carpenters use it.

3) Water-Based Stain

Instead of chemical thinners, water-based stains use pure water to dissolve. They are also environmentally friendly because they contain fewer pollutants. It is also recommended for use on bare and interior wood surfaces. This stain is typically fast-drying, but it enhances the stain on the wood and is difficult to use.

Apply it evenly on a vertical or horizontal surface, section the weathered item, and apply it in sections. If you are applying to an interior wood surface, you can mix it with a slow evaporating solvent. However, using a solvent will dilute the wood color stain colors and give you a lighter red, brown, or sand finish on your furniture.

In addition, water stains are semi-transparent wood stain colors. They can also easily wash away with soap and water and are not resistant to UV. They are best to use when you want high-quality dark and rich wood finish tones. It is also excellent to use on solid color furniture as well as aged furniture. The stain color may vary with the wood.

4) Gel stain

Gel stains are a wood stain that you apply to a wood finish. It is in the form of thick jelly-like pigments. Because of its high viscosity, it can be built up like paint. But unlike paint, you can still feel the texture of the wood. Also, because of their thickness, they can be applied to vertical areas without dripping or running.

However, they take a while to dry, and you need to thoroughly prep the wood. They are also semi-transparent and build up as you add more layers. One of the most common gel stains is the Minwax gel stain which is perfect for all woods. On the downside, however, gel stains do not bring out the wood stain colors you would hope to see in your furniture.

So woods that absorb well, such as oak and dark walnut, pine, and other finishes, might not benefit from this stain. In addition, because of how thick it is, it is not suitable for furniture with many corners. However, they can plug porous areas for a smooth finishing and do not require special equipment to apply. You can also apply it with a clean cloth in circular motions.

5) Oil-Based Wood Stain Colors

This is the most popular wood color stain. It is also the best stain for large furniture because it penetrates wood deeper. Oil stains are most preferred because they leave a rich coat stain color. A quality oil-based wood finish will weather against all elements. It's the best option because it provides a strong protective layer.

Before trying out different oil stains to see what works best for you, you can always collect free samples from the nearest store. Liquid oil stains give a natural color to your project and are perfect for interior and exterior wood. For any customer searching for awesome tones of classic wood stain colors, then oil stains are the way to go.

Different ingredients in different oil stains have different compatibility with various types of wood. Therefore, it is essential you thoroughly review your oil stains ingredients and assess their compatibility with the wood you want to treat. In addition, because oil stains penetrate too deeply, they are treated with binders to slow down their penetration into the wood.

Wood Stain Colors

According to color experts, wood color stains have different hues to use on different furniture. Here are some of the interior and exterior wood color stain colors.

1) Interior

a) Wood Stain Tint: Black

One of the most simple ways to achieve a contemporary look and is back on trend is solid black. Black interiors with nudes have always been a breathtaking sight. Apart from black kitchen cabinets, you can always have black floors. Black floors are chic, and the stain color is durable due to everyday wear and tear.

b) Wood Stain Tint: Blue

The blue interior wood color stain color is excellent for tinting interior wood trims, steps and stairs, and big cabinets. Blue stains have ultra-fine pigment and provide clarity. Blue is meant to make your space look sophisticated. Because blue is a cool undertone, it goes well with any other color, including solid colors like gray and brown.

c) Wood Stain Tint: White

White will never go out of fashion. For interiors, it is great when used on doors, floors, stairs, and furniture. In addition, white will always look sophisticated and gorgeous on your next DIY project or aged furniture. Its advanced color penetration is sure to give you a beautiful exterior and visible grain. White tones are also great on hardwoods such as mahogany, oak, and pine.

2) Exterior

a) Wood Stain Tint: Gray

Gray wood stains are getting more hype of late because of their ability to give wood a weathered look. Mostly, the gray stain is used on front and back porches, as well as front decks. It also gives old decks a hint of a more modern look. In addition, gray stains are also semi-transparent and let the natural grain shine through

b) Wood Stain Tint: Red

Because it's suitable on all types of wood, red stain looks gorgeous on a gazebo, deck, and pergola. Of course, this classic and bold red color is always ready to use. It also looks amazing on other outdoor wood projects. For example, you can paint the children's swing red and have some quality family time while at it. It is also semi-transparent hence brings out the wood grain in a beautiful red finish.

How To Properly Stain Wood

Staining is a permanent process. Once you start staining, you cannot go back or stop. Therefore, when working with stains, you should be careful not only in terms of safety but also in your furniture. Application techniques also come in handy. First, however, we are going to share a few tips on how to stain your own furniture properly.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should always do a test run on a small piece of wood before staining your furniture. Here are some tips:

  • Apply conditioner before staining to prevent blotches on the wood.
  • Stir the stain well and work in a well-ventilated and lit area.
  • Depending on your preference, use a brush or cloth and start the application.
  • Apply a liberal coat of wood color stain.
  • Wipe off the excess or dripping wood tint.
  • After the stain is dry, apply a finish for long-lasting results.

What To Consider When Buying A Wood Tint

Different stains react differently to different woods. This guide will help you through some of the things to look out for when buying stains.

i) Good For The Environment

Most stains made today have a lower concentration of organic compounds. Some of the compounds used to make stains and paints have an odor and a strong smell. When directly inhaled, they can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. That's why it's advisable to wear protective clothing when you handle stains and paints.

ii) What You Want To Stain

As we have mentioned above, there are stains for interior and exterior woodwork. There are also different woods that have different reactions to stains. Before you purchase your wood tint, ensure it is a color that complements your house. You want a stain that is not too shocking or too light. Decks should be a different color from your kitchen cabinets.

iii) Aftercare

Whatever wood stain you end up choosing, there will always be aftercare. Some wood stains meant for indoors are not UV or water-resistant. Same as the newly stained picket fence on your front yard. Some wood stain finishes require more aftercare than others.

Wood stains require you to re-paint them with varnish for a long-lasting effect. Otherwise, they fade over time, and if they had penetrated the wood deeply, your furniture might be ruined.

Bottom Line

Different wood stains are preferable under different circumstances. A transparent stain will accentuate the wood and bring out the natural nature of the wood. Wood stains exist in a variety of colors and tones. They are also fast drying. Before you pick out a stain color, there are free samples you can take home with you that will help you make a decision.

Always remember to wear gloves, closed shoes, a mask, and an apron or overalls before embarking on your outdoor furniture project.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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