This is going to be fun. Get ready. Have some boring wood lying around your place? Sure its grain is beautiful, but its color is so blah! In this instructable I'll show you how you can stain wood an array of colors with something you probably already have in your pantry. Food coloring!
Let's get started!
Step 1: Prepping Wood
Unfortunately the only wood I had lying around was a solid 2x8 and since painting it wouldn't be all that fun, I decided to make kids' wooden toy blocks. This way, I could play around with a lot of different colors
I used a table saw to hack down my huge piece of wood into more manageable strips. Then with some measuring and the help of a chop saw, I cut up 3 different sizes: 3 inches, 5 inches and 7 inches, for a total of 9 blocks. After sanding all the edges and sides, these guys were ready to get painted!
Step 2: Materials
With my wood thoroughly prepared (stripped of any hardware, and finishes- if you're working with a preexisting piece) I gathered the rest of my materials:
Scrap wood- for testing my stain on. If you don't have any available, first test the stain on an inconspicuous area to see how it sits on your wood type.
Disposable cups for mixing the food coloring with the alcohol
Food coloring. I used regular food coloring that can be found in the baking aisle at a supermarket. Luckily, I also found a neon version, which would give me a lot more hues to play around with.
Depending upon how big a surface you have to stain, for every 1 tablespoon of alcohol, you want to use 10 drops of food coloring. For my small blocks, I only needed 1 tablespoon of alcohol.
Step 3: Mixing & Testing
Using one of the disposable cups, I measured out 1 tablespoon of alcohol with 10 drops of food coloring. Feel free to mix up the colors to create new colors. Its fine if you use more than 10 drops:1 tbsp. This is just the minimum amount of coloring you'll want to achieve a good hue.
I tested how the coloring and alcohol would settle on a piece of scrap wood. As you can tell from the picture, and as is usually common among all stains, the more layers you apply, the more saturated the color.
The wonderful thing about this stain is that the alcohol evaporates quickly. Crazy quick. You can apply a second coat within 20 minutes. However, I found that I needed quite a few coats to achieve a healthy color, and so after the last layer, I let the blocks sit overnight to completely absorb the color and become "hard dry."
Step 4: Painting Tips
The alcohol and food coloring mix will be very watery in texture, so drips are very likely. Use a drop cloth to protect any surfaces from getting stained.
With painting or staining any type of wood, you want to go in the direction of the grain, that is, to align your strokes with the darker lines on the wood. This will ensure that the color spreads evenly along the surface.
As you can see from the pictures, the stain becomes much more saturated after just 1 application. However, when the stain dries completely, it will lighten a bit, so keep that in mind when deciding a shade.
The end grain, or the sides of tables, and for my blocks: the bottoms and tops, will "drink" up the stain differently than other parts of the wood. For my blocks, that meant applying more stain to the end grain, but this could be different for different types of wood. Some end grain may soak up stain stronger and appear darker than other parts.
Step 5: Allow to Dry Then Enjoy!
Depending on how dry or humid your climate is, along with how many coats of stain you used, your wood should be completely dry in about 3 hours.
Enjoy your new life hack and colorful wood!