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How to Mix Stains to Get a Custom Color - Wood You Build That

Can’t Find the Right Stain Color? Mix Your Own

Sometimes, choosing a stain color is an easy task. Just stroll down the paint aisle at your favorite store and pick one of the many color options available. But, what if none of the colors will work for your project? What if you are trying to color match an existing stain? Then it is time to mix your own stain.

Where to Begin

First, find a stain color that is the closest to your desired finish. This particular project called for a weathered look with a little bit of warmth. So, that is where we will start. The main color needs to be gray for this project. I used Minwax Wood Finish stains and chose Classic Gray as the base. To add some warmth, I chose Special Walnut for the mixing stain.

Supplies Needed

  • Plastic container to mix the stains in
  • Small water cups to dip into the stain and pour into the mixing bowls
  • Latex/Nylon gloves to keep your hands looking so fresh and so clean, clean
  • Stirring stick
  • Scrap wood from project

Mixing the Stains

Now that you have the base stains to mix, let’s get to it. The first thing to do is establish what the base colors look like. It’s important to use scrap wood that matches the same kind of wood you are using for your project. I always save some drop pieces from the projects I build just so I can test stain, regardless of whether I am mixing stains or not.

I apply both stains separately on the scrap wood so I can see how they react with the wood. That allows me to make a determination of where to start.

Using some of those disposable water cups, like Dixie cups, and a plastic mixing container; I begin the mixing process. Make sure to wear some gloves unless you want your hands to match the color of your stains.

Fill up a cup with the base stain and pour it into the mixing container. Using a different cup, take a small amount of the other color and pour it into the mixing container. Start small and increase as you go. I typically use a quarter of the cup or 25%.

Mix them together thoroughly and apply to your scrap board using a brush or rag. Wipe away the stain. Is it the desired color? If not, keep adding the other color in small increments until you get the right ratio.

Make sure to keep track of how much you are pouring in there. I suggest a quarter of a cup each time. The ratio would be 4:1 after one full cup of the base stain and a quarter cup of the mixing stain. Then 4:2, 4:3, 4:4 and so on.

For this particular project, it ended up being a 4:4 ratio or basically, half and half or %50 each stain.

Trial and Error

There is no science to this unless you are some sort of Chemist. Then I’m sure you could whip up some sort of concoction on the very first attempt and call it day. So, take your time and just experiment until you get the desired result. Then, you can apply the perfect stain to compliment your projects and your palette of colors increases tremendously.

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