How to Make Your Own Stains




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Mixing your own stains for woodworking is really easy and practical, and it can save you money too. Sometimes when working on different projects we might want a specific look and color to our wood, and for some projects it's cool to use multiple stains (in order to create the illusion of separate boards on plywood for example). But instead of stocking your shop with every single stain on the market, you can simple work with one, and alter it with oil paints or pigments to achieve the color you're looking for.

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Step 1: Mixing Stains

There are a couple of concepts to keep in mind when mixing your own stains. When using oil based stains, make sure you stay within the oil family and only add oil, mineral spirits and oil paints or pigments to alter the look and color.

In order to dilute a stain and making it less potent and strong, you can dilute it with mineral spirits and / or boiled linseed oil.

Step 2: How To

How to alter the color:

Start with an existing stain. I'm using a red mahogany stain, but you can use anything you have on hand. Next, it's time to add some oil paint or pigment.

For about 2 fl oz of stain (or stain & mineral spirit and/or oil combined), I like to add about 2 tsps of oil paint (or pigment) in total. Of course, here's where you can totally experiment and add more or less to fit what you're looking for.

The funny thing about adding color, is that you can add almost any color to your stain. A little bit of paint goes a long way, and it doesn't color the stain to the point where the stain looks red, or yellow or blue. The paint simply helps bring out some of the various hues in the stain. So for example if you add some red, then your stain will take on a more reddish tone. Combinations work great like adding a bit of yellow and red. If you want a darker stain, try adding some black, and for a more grayish / lighter look, try adding some white.

Step 3: Adding Color

Also, don't be afraid of adding some blue or green, which will soften the reddish tones a bit. You really can't go wrong here, and if you need multiple stains for one project, then you can always make one stain, use it and then build on that stain to make the next one.

Natural pigments are also cool to use, and if you go with that, then you can experiment with adding pigments directly to oil and mineral spirits and forgo an existing stain all together for a lighter stain. You do tend to use quite a bit of pigment however, so if you're making quite a bit of stain, it's cheaper to add oil paints instead, or just modify an existing stain.

Overall this is a really cool way to alter an existing stain and giving you a lot more flexibility when it comes to color for your various projects.

Step 4: Conclusion - Watch the Video

Make sure to check out the video for a better understanding.

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    6 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    What make and type is that large tin of stain that you are using? All the stains that I can find are spirit based and very expensive for even just a small tin.


    4 years ago on Step 4

    I like the idea. However the grain direction goes against what you are trying to do. I do like the idea of the coloured stains though.

    Uncle Kudzu

    4 years ago

    Wow, why didn't I think of this? Certain oil colors (like the pthalos and the quinacridones) would probably stretch a long way with your method and would be relatively cheap to buy and use.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!


    4 years ago



    4 years ago on Introduction

    I would have never thought to mix my own colors! This is awesome!


    One of the original stains on oak for mission style furniture was
    asphaltum (roofing tar) thinned with mineral spirits. It does a good
    job but is basically impossible to reverse so you must do a scrap wood sample first to determine acceptability. It needs to be sealed with shellac to
    prevent bleeding through any other finish, but is as inexpensive a homemade stain as you ever hope to make.