May 192011

This beautiful custom vanity was finished with a custom charcoal color stain made from a oil-base stain.

This beautiful custom vanity was finished with a custom charcoal color stain made from a oil base stain. For many years I have had great success making my own stains to fit the current project.

So why make your own stains?

First – have you ever wondered when you see a piece of furniture that had a bold color stain applied to it where that stain come from?
So here is some old world advice! When I was a kid, before there was so many ready made stains in a can, we made are own stain
out of a oil-based paint. Even today in most cases you can only find stains that are close to what you are trying to match and mostly wood tones. So any other stains in color would have to be made as a custom stain and cost you much more money.

To read the rest of this article, please support us by making a quick purchase via PayPal below.  You’ll then be able to download the article instantly.

  35 Responses to “How to Make Custom Wood Stains of Any Color!”

  1. I like what you say about mixing your own stain. I have tried unsuccessfully to stain white pine to be the color of mesquite.
    What would use to stain white pine to look like mesquite?


    • Hi Denna, can you give me a little more information on the color for the mesquite you are trying to get. I will than tried to come up with the family of colors to try. Remember sometimes when you match a solid color of paint to what you are trying to stain I sometimes pick the next color darker so when you thin the paint it comes very close to your color. That sometimes helps when you are stainning light woods like white pine.


  2. What finish of oil-based paint (flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, gloss) should I buy to mix with spirits to use as a custom stain? Thanks for your advice!

    • Hi, sorry for the delayed response. I like a eggshell or satin sheen to make my stain out of. However any sheen will work, my least favorite would be a gloss sheen.


  3. Thank you so much for the wonderful advice. I needed to make purple stain. Voila!

  4. Thanks for your advice, this has really helped me out. I build drums, and I’ve been looking for a way to make my own stains in odd colors like seafoam green and blue-gray. Do you recommend any certain brands of oil-based paint to use?


    • Thanks Chris for the comment, I’m glad this tip can help you. Any good quality paint company should have a good low luster oil base paint. I use Benjiman Moores satin Impervo. I’m sure paint companies like Sherwin Willams, Prat and Lambert and just any paint company in your area will have a quart of oil base paint they could tint to the color you want. Also probaly Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware stores like that could help you out as will.

      Good Luck!
      This Old Painter

  5. I like the whole idea of matching your own stains. I have to say I was a little taken back when you mention using oil based paints. I’m not sure I fully understand how that actually works going from paint to stain. I recently installed a new laminate hard work floor. The issue is the steps and stair risers. I have a red oak tred and riser and I’like to match the steps to the floor. My problem is slecting a piant to start the process. I’m not sure what to look for. When selecting a paint to work with, what do I look for? do I take a peice of the floor and try to get a paint that is close in color or darker and thry to lighten it?

    Any seggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks you

    • Hello Joe, making stains out of a paint base allows you to make any color you want without having a custom stain made. When you thin the paint starting with a 50/50 mix paint and thinner it makes this product like a stain base, except that a stain usally starts with a clear base and using paint for stain you have more of a solid base. When staining woods like oak you have open grain and hard areas with the paint stain the hard ares will retain more color when you wipe the paint stain off, and with the actual stain the hard ares do not retain the color very will after you wipe off the stain. So as far as color if you have a peace of the finished floor you are trying to match take it to you local paint store and maybe have the people there help you pick out a color that matches will. With some wood tone colors I do sometimes pick the next color darker on the paint chip as long as it is not to far off from the color that matches. The reason for that is when you thin the paint it will lighten some, now keep in mind the 50/50 mix is a place to start if the color you choose is slightly darker or lighter after you mix the paint you can adjust by the paint and thinner mixture. I would suggest that you start with the color that matches your wood sample. I hope this helps you, Reards Tracy

  6. I’m so glad to have found this article on stain… I have just come into possession of a beautiful walnut Buffet and Hutch with convex glass doors. It was originally stained in a yellow which my mother inlaw started stripping ten years ago, she only got as far as the buffet and the Hutch remains the same except for the doors with the glass, they’re stripped them as well. The Hutch has been in storage and I’ve been using the stripped Buffet but just obtained the Hutch, which I love the original color and it goes very well with my home. I would like to ‘restain’ it back to the original color… I found the color (so very close if not exact) in the Benjamin Moore Historical color book and am wondering if I used your formula if this would work in matching the Hutch with the Buffet… or do I have to stript the Hutch as well and start from scratch. It was a lot of work to strip the buffet and I would rather not have to go through that with the Hutch. I’d like to send you a picture of them together so you could see what I mean. I look forward to your feedback.


    • Hi Nancy, Benjamin Moore Historical colors is the color line that I love to use for everything. I have no doubt that you can find a color close to you hutch, this color line lends very will with old historic colors and aged wood. I would love to see a picture of what you are trying to match however I won’t be able to tell with a picture if you are right on. So my suggesetion would be if the color you found is right on and it seems to blend will with the hew of the hutch than that is what I would go with. Making the stain out of the historical paint will allow it to maintain more of a aged look. So I would buy that color in Benjamin Moores satin impervo if where you live they allow you to use oil base paints if not it can be done in waterbase paint but a bit harder to use. Follow the mixing instruction on my blog and try a area and see if it looks right, one helpful hint would be you can adjust the stain slightly to, by a less or more mixture of the paint ratio. I look forward to seeing you picture.


  7. What a great tip!

    I’ve recently started turning hardwood pens on my lathe, and I wanted to experiment with staining the woods different colors. Your method of making oil-based stains will save me a lot of money over buying color after color of Minwax to experiment with.

    I do have a question, though. Will any oil-based paint work? For pens, I need only a very small amount of stain, and I’m wondering if an assortment of artist’s oil paints would make a suitable stain. This will save me from having to buy a pint or quart of every color that I want to try.

    Thanks for any help you can provide, and thanks again for the great tip!

    • Hi David, I’m very happy you found my tip on how to make custom stains helpful. It makes me very happy that people will take the time to try something from the old world. Isn’t it great that you now have the knowledge to make any color of stain you choose instead of relying on what some stain company wants to put in a can, not to mention the money you save on having a custom color made, and thats to say if they even get it right. Mimwax is my least favorit stain there is, you can’t see the true color until you apply it and blotches terrible. Anyway I would think that artist oil paints would work as will and yes you can use just about any oilbase paint that is out there as long as you can find the color your looking for or have the color mixed in a oilbase paint. Try to stay with a low luster sheen if possible, but higher sheens will work as will.

      Kind Regards,

  8. I recently bought dark cherry stain I believe it oil based from the hardware store to stain a crib and dresser but when I wipe off its not as dark as I want it to be. I tried leaving it for 8-10 mins before wiping but it’s still not dark enough. I like the color it starts getting once I’ve left it on for 8 mins but it looks uneven and lighter in some places and darker in another, so I guess I can’t leave the stain without wiping. I really want a dark cherry finish is there a way I can achieve that? With stain, paint or whatever necessary? Please help I would appreciate it sooo much!


    • Hi Jessica, without a dought you have run up against a common but difficult problem. First of all stains in most cases wipe off lighter than what you see on a can. And it can vary on the type of wood you are trying to stain, the harder the wood like oak will not take stain very dark. So many of the the dark finishes you see are sprayed on with what they call a shading lacqure of varnish. So if you pick out a dark cherry color paint and make the stain like I said on my blog you will have a darker color base to start with let dry for at least 24 hours. Than to make it go dark like you would want, use a oilbase varnish or polyurethane and what you need to do is add some of the dark cherry paint you used to make the stain to the varnish to make a colored cherry finish this will take what you already stained much darker. The trick is how much paint to add to the oilbase finish you don’t want to over color it either. I would start with say 4 ounces of oilbase finish and 1 ounce of the dark cherry color paint that is if you are intendind to brush a finish over your stained would. I would recommend using a oilbase varnish with a satin finish. Remember in most case you usally will apply two coats of finish each time you add another coat of colored finish it goes darker, besure to lightly sand between coats with a 220 grit sandpaper. Also if the first coat is dark enough than you can lighten the second coat, you may have to adjust the mixture to what will work best for your stain and finish project. I know this sounds complicated but once you work with it you can work it out, I hope this help Jessica.


  9. I am refinishing an oak dresser and will try out your make your own stain suggestions. However, I would like to know how to sand and prepare the wood. Should I sand to 220 grit or is it better to sand at say 100 so the pores are more open?

    • Hi Lynda, I like to hand sand wood like oak with a 120 grit sandpaper before staining this leaves the pores open to except the stain, besure to always sand with the grain.


  10. I am building a deck so I looked up your link Sorry I don’t have a credit card . Just wanted to say — you have the Best – Most interesting site I think I’ve come along. It was a joy reading all the responses. Thank You

    • Thank you very much for the kind words. Sorry for the small fee to enter the blog site on custom stains. I’m not trying to make money on my knowledge just looking for away to help fund my website so I can continue to share more imformation that might help people like yourself.


      • Hello Cynde,
        First of all the wood has 50 years of grease and grim pushed into it. Even if you sand it, it most likely has the grease deep into the poors. I would for sure scrub it with lacquer thinner to get as much as possible of the grease out of it. Remember to wear a respirator and gloves. The finish is becomming very difficult anymore because of the changes. If you use a acrylic finish and the wood still has a lot of grease in it you might have problems with it. I like the matte finish to but its hard to find one that is durable. I think you might have to settle for a oil base satin finish. There is a product I like called Dethanne satin finish. So after you stain the wood and let dry I would take a oil base varnish/varathane
        thin it 40% to 50% with paint thinner and use it as a hand rubbed finish. Do about three to four coats sand between coats. This makes maintnence easy to recoat later after wear and tear. As far the stain is concerned if you pay the $5 to enter the blog you well find the answers that well help with the problem you are having The $5 simply helps me pay for web hosting and continue to post more information. I have been paying for it myself up to now and I’m not trying to make money on this but if people don’t help me fund this than I will be forced to pull the website.


  11. Hi Jessica,
    We found some reclaimed heart pine on a work bench that we are trying to finish for an industrial table. We have sanded it and then stained it- turns out too red. We have tried several stains. I talked to a couple of woodworkers today and they suggested a black stain as it has a green base to counteract the red. We have stained many things and never had this problem. Love the matte finishes and rich look of old wood but this is a hard one. My husband sanded off the stain we had applied so we’re starting from square one. I actually kind of like just the look of the wood as it is after sanding but know that won’t work!! Had to sand it as it had oil and grime and grease of 50 years on it. We will also use it to serve off of on occasion so had to make it more sanitary. Can you also recommend what to put on it as a “finish “. I love the old wax look, but with three grandchildren ages three and under, know that won’t do the job. I am happy to send a pic if that will help. The heart pine is approximately 1.5 in. thick. Thank you, Cynde

  12. I’m trying to purchase your article about turning paint into stain but I’m getting an error stating that I am not permitted to view the checkout page. Please advise.

    • Hello Dominic,
      I’m not sure what the problem is but I have been having some problems with people purchasing the article. I well look in to it and get back to you.


  13. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was totally right. This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

    • I’m very glad you where able to use the information and it helped you. Please don’t hesitate if have any questions.


  14. I purchased this download yesterday and still do not have it any suggestions?

    • Hi Charlene, I sent it to you last night to your e-mail address in a easy to open pdf file. Please check your e-mail and also check your spam mail to make sure it didn’t go there. I send it again to you. Sorry for the problem!


  15. I have built a casket for my deceased wife with Red Cedar and her favorite color was purple and so I want to stain it that color. I am having great difficulty in finding a purple stain to finish it with so I am very interested in your information.

  16. I got confirmation of order but no link to get article just a pass word.


    • Hello Steve, sorry for the problem with the download. I sent it to you yesterday in a pdf please check for that and also check your spam folder to make sure it didn’t go there. I will send it again.



 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>