Can You Mix Wood Stains? — Matching Stain Colors

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If you’re a woodworking enthusiast, you may wonder if mixing different wood stains is possible. While mixing stains can be a helpful technique, it’s essential to understand how to do it properly to avoid any potential problems with the final result.

Here, I will share if you can mix wood stains and provide some tips and guidelines to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Is it Recommended to Combine Different Stains?

While it’s tempting to mix stains to get that perfect shade, I suggest exercising a fair amount of caution. Sure, blending multiple wood stain colors can yield fantastic results, but mixing different types of stains? Not recommended. You should think about a few other factors that should be considered to ensure a high-quality and eye-catching wood finish.

Combining different stains can be recommended in certain situations, but it should be approached cautiously and adequately.

Can You Mix Different Brands of Stain?

If you’re contemplating mixing wood stains from different brands, I recommend ensuring the undertones belong to the same color family. I’ve found that you can successfully combine various wood stains to get just the shade you’re after, without compromising the integrity of your furniture or woodworking project.

combining different stains on wood

Due to the varying levels of quality among commercially available brands, you should first try combining wood stains from several brands on a small sample of wood.

As long as there are no contaminations or quality difficulties, it is not essential whose manufacturer made the wood stain you use.

Top Considerations When Mixing

Wood Stain Undertones Must Be the Same

There are two primary families of wood stain undertones, cool and warm. Ensure both wood stains you’re combining are in the same color family.

If you use multiple stains on the same piece of wood, you risk having the colors bleed into one another.

If the wood stains are all in the same undertone family, you can use two, three, or even more of them together. It’s best if the undertone family of wood stains is consistent across wood species.

different stain colors on wood

Consider the Wood Grain

Blending wood stains to achieve a unique, pleasing hue requires careful attention to the wood’s grain pattern.

Make sure that small wood grains are placed next to one other while large grains are placed next to each other.

Ask for Samples of Wood Stains and Mix

Let me share a little pro tip: always test your stains first. Seriously, grab samples of the wood stains you’re interested in and give them a whirl on a scrap piece of wood.

If they are compatible, your woodwork or furnishings could be protected.

Choose a piece of wood that is the same species as the wood you intend to stain. Then you’ll know if the wood stains you’re considering will blend to create the precise shade you’re after, even if they all come from different base color families.

It’s all up to individual choice when choosing the best stains to achieve the desired custom hue. Verify the result’s hue with lighting fixtures in your home. The result may look white in the store but have unexpected grey, green, or yellow overtones under your lighting.

understanding different stains for wood

Understand the Primary and Accent Stain Colors

In the field of woodworking, primary stain colors are utilized to add color to the wood, serving as the initial layer that is applied to the surface of the wood.

Primary stain colors vary widely, from light colors like natural wood to dark shades like ebony or espresso. They are typically chosen based on the project’s desired aesthetic or design theme.

Accent stain colors, on the other hand, are secondary colors applied over the primary stain to add depth and dimension to the wood. Accent stains are typically darker than the primary stain color and are used selectively to enhance the wood’s natural grain and texture.

Try to Match the Resulting Color with Your Furniture, Floor, and Wall Colors

When staining wood, matching the resulting color with other elements, such as furniture, floors, and walls, is often desirable. This can create a cohesive and harmonious look throughout the space.

However, it is essential to remember that wood is a natural material, and the color and grain patterns can vary widely, even within the same piece of wood.

combining colors stain for wood

Matching the color of the stain with other elements in the room can be challenging and may require some experimentation to achieve the desired result.

Don’t fret, though. There’s a way around this. Before going all-in, test your stain on a hidden corner to see how it dries and interacts with the other elements in your room. And don’t forget about the lighting. I’ve seen colors transform completely under different lighting conditions, so make sure you’re checking how your stain looks.

Combining Wood Stains in 6 Steps

Supplies Needed

Step #1: Get All the Materials Ready

How you mix your wood stains depends on the hues you utilize. You should use a mixed balance and practice mixing on a scrap board. When transferring the design to the discarded board, ensure you’re satisfied with the outcome.

Selecting a primary wood stain that comes as near as possible to the final color you want is essential.

preparing all the materials for mixing stain

To achieve the desired hue, choose a secondary wood stain that can be mixed with the first. In my experience, the secondary stain often acts like a reactor to the primary color. It modifies it, brings out certain undertones; it’s pretty fascinating, actually.

If you’re not sure about your choices, don’t hesitate to chat with a salesperson. These folks often have a ton of experience and can point you in the right direction.

Step #2: Test Each Wood Stain Separately

Before you dive in, you’re going to want to test out each of your stains separately. This isn’t just me being overly cautious; it’s a step that can save you a lot of regret later on. If you’ve got scrap wood left from your project, even better. Use pieces that are similar in type and color to your final project. I always keep a stash of project offcuts for this very purpose.

Experiment with using each stain on its piece of scrap wood. You’ll be able to observe how well the stains complement the wood.

wood stains and wooden blocks

Step #3: Try Different Mix Ratios of Both Stains

You should determine the appropriate mix ratio between the two stains before using the entire quantity.

Combine the two stains in low doses, then apply them to wood offcuts. Record the proportions you use to apply the ratios to a larger size.

Start by pouring your base stain into a plastic container. I like to have a bunch of disposable cups handy for this. Then add a dash of your secondary stain. Mix them well and test it on your scrap piece. Wipe it off and see how it looks. Repeat this process with the other dye until the desired mixture is achieved.

This is a process, and it’s better to get it right on a small scale first before going big.

mixing different stains for wood

Step #4: Mix the Wood Stains

Apply the optimal mix ratio to the maximum quantity of stain required for the project. You might want to use a stain calculator to figure out how much you’ll need. My advice? Mix it all in one go. This way, you won’t have to worry about the color being off. That’s possible if you use the same ratio every time you mix stains.

Step #5: Apply the Mixed Stain

Once you have the proper mixture, you may use a brush or rag to spread it to the wood. It usually takes two to twenty-four hours for a stain to dry, but check the can to be sure.

Step #6: Let the Wood Dry Completely

It can take the wood about 24 hours to dry completely after applying the stain.

You can avoid several common wood staining problems and blunders by allowing proper drying time before proceeding.

completely drying the wood stain

Is it Advisable to Mix Oil and Water Based Stains?

No, it is not advisable to mix oil-based and water-based stains because they have different chemical properties and do not mix well.

Oil-based stains contain solvents such as mineral spirits or turpentine [1], which evaporate slowly, allowing the pigments to penetrate the wood’s pores deeply.

In contrast, water-based stains contain water as the primary solvent and penetrate the wood more superficially.

To ensure the best results when staining wood, I highly recommend choosing a stain that matches the wood’s characteristics and using a compatible topcoat or sealer.

If a combination of oil and water-based products is necessary, applying them separately is recommended, allowing adequate drying time between coats.

gray and brown stain combination

How About Mixing Grey and Brown Stains?

Mixing grey and brown wood stains can result in various colors and tones, and it can be a great way to achieve a unique and custom look for your woodworking project. I’ve tried this a few times, and it can give your project a unique twist, moving beyond the usual color palette.

However, it’s essential to remember that the outcome may only sometimes be predictable, and it’s recommended to do a sample test on a small piece of wood before applying the mixed stain to the entire project.

The outcome of mixing grey and brown stains will depend on several factors, including the color and type of wood being stained, the ratio of the two stains, and the application method.

Generally, mixing a small amount of grey stain with a more significant amount of brown stain will result in a warm, muted grey-brown color, while incorporating a more substantial amount of grey stain with a smaller amount of brown stain will result in a cooler, more subtle grey-brown color.

How About Mixing Gel Stain With Regular Stain?

Mixing gel stain with regular wood stain can be done, but it may not always be the best choice.

applying gel stain

The reason is that gel and standard wood stains are formulated differently and have different consistencies. They may not blend properly, resulting in an uneven or blotchy finish.

If you do decide to mix gel stain with regular wood stain, always test the mixture on a small, inconspicuous area of your project first to see how it looks and how it applies.

More articles for you:


What two wood stains go together?

The two wood stains that go together have the same undertone color scheme. No specific combination of two wood stains will always work well together.

It’s essential to consider the compatibility of the colors and the type of stains and test the mixture before applying it to your project.


So, can you mix wood stains? Yes, mixing stains can be a helpful technique to achieve a custom color or shade for your woodworking project.

However, it’s essential to consider the compatibility of the colors and the type of stains being used. You can achieve beautiful and unique results when blending various colors.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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