Selecting a wood stain colors for a project can be tricky because there are so many options. The color of the stain rarely seems to match the color on the can either.
If you purchased a stain that didn’t turn out how you expected, there are a couple of tricks to adjust the color and even make a custom stain colors for wood.
My Favorite Wood Stain Colors
Most wood colors do not look exactly like the picture on the can of stain, so I am going to show you my favorite wood stain colors.
Hopefully you will find this helpful, so you can easily select a wood stain color for your project.
Lighter Wood Stain Colors
White wash stain and Weather Oaked are lighter stains that look great with only a single coat.
These stains can be used as a stand alone color or underneath of a dark stain color.
Read below to learn how to make your own white wash stain and how to make a 2 part stain for a custom color.
Darker Wood Stain Colors
I have used the wood stain color, Kona by Varathane throughout my home. Depending on the type of wood that is being stain, the color can appear deeper in color.
To get a better idea of what these stain colors look like, I am sharing pictures throughout my home.
Darker Wood Stain Color Ideas
Here are pictures from my home DIY projects that I have stained with darker wood stain colors.
Sometimes it is hard to get a real feel for the color of a stain or paint color from a small swatch.
Below is a picture of our home bar stain in the wood stain color, Kona. I have used this stain on several projects because this is a classic dark stain color.
This stain color will always be in style and it contrasts nicely with lighter colors.
Dark Walnut Stain
I stained my DIY kitchen table in the wood stain color, Dark Walnut by Varathane.
This stain is a deep stain color that can pull orange tones depending on how many coats are applied.
A wood stain color will appear a different on each type of wood. Sometimes the stain will look more orange, darker, or lighter than you expected.
So, keep in mind that it might take an extra coat or a 2 part stain to get the color right.
To be honest, when I stained this kitchen table I had no idea what I was doing.
I applied the stain too thick and brushed on a ton of clear coat thinking it would provide extra protection.
The kitchen table dried with a sticky plastic feel that did not hold up against daily usage.
Read on to see how I gave this kitchen table a makeover.
I made this small DIY coffee table from scrap wood and stained the table in American Walnut.
The wood stain color American Walnut isn’t as dark as the color Kona, but it does pull more oranges tones.
I applied a thick coat of stain to this coffee table, so the stain won’t appear as orange as this coffee table.
This was one of my first DIY projects, so I wasn’t that great with working with stain at this point.
Here is another shade of walnut on a DIY bar project. This was built using red oak boards and plywood then stain in Varathane Fast Dry Dark Walnut.
You can find more pictures of this bar and other basement bar ideas here!
Weathered Wood Planks
A reader of our used the stains below to give their basement bar a weathered wood look. Various sizes of pine wood planks were used on the front of this bar to give it texture.
Below is the list of colors used to give the wood planks a weathered wood look.
Weather Wood Stains
Aged Wood Accelerator by Varathane
Charred Wood Accelerator by Varathane
Weathered Wood Accelerator by Varathane
Top Coat – Vararthane Water Based Polyurethane
How to Make Your Own White Wash Stain
You can find stain at your local home improvement store labeled as White Wash Stain.
Instead of spending money on another can of stain, simply grab any scrap white paint that you have on hand.
To make your own white wash stain, pour white paint into a disposable cup or tray.
Then slowly add water to the white paint until the mixture has a milky consistency.
If you add too much water then you can add a little more paint into the cup to thicken the white wash stain.
You really can’t mess this up, so don’t be afraid to give it a try on a scrap piece of wood.
How to White Wash Wood
Now that you mixed up your own white wash stain, you can start to brush or wipe it onto wood.
White wash stain can be applied with light brush strokes or wiped on with a piece of scrap cloth.
Working in sections, lightly coat the wood with the white wash stain then immediately wipe the white wash from the wood.
The wood will be left with a transparent white stain on the wood after wiping off.
Continue to follow these steps until the wood is completely cover in the white wash stain.
Typically only 1 coat of white wash stain is needed to cover the wood.
2 Part Wood Stain Colors
Sometimes I have a vision for the color of the wood stain for my project, but I can’t find the right stain.
So, I use 2 wood stain to achieve the color that I am looking for.
My favorite stain is the color Kona by Varathane because this stain goes with any style.
Depending on how many coats of this wood stain color are used, you can go from a light rustic wood tone or a dark rich stain.
I also, love the stain color Weathered Oak because this stain contains a little bit of gray.
This stain turns out as a grey wood stain that is still warm and blends nicely with any decor style.
Custom Wood Stain Color
If you are using a lighter and a darker stain color then it is always best to first use the light stain.
Since the wood stain color, Weather Oak is lighter I start by applying a single layer of this stain.
Then I let the stain dry for a few hours or overnight before applying a second coat of stain.
If I am satisfied with the first coat of stain, then l start applying the darker stain directly over the lighter stain.
Making sure to apply a thin coat of stain or the final color will end up too dark.
Then let the stain dry for a few hours and see how it looks, if needed apply more coats of stain.
Stain colors can appear slightly different on various types of wood due to the undertones in the wood.
Some wood can pull more orange or red tones, so it is best to use stains that will cool that down rather than enhance those tones.
Always remember to test a few wood stain colors on a piece of the scrap wood from your project before committing to a color.
I’ve made the mistake for just going for it without testing then a year later I end up sanding and changing the stain.