Wood stains do have a way of protecting and enhancing the natural color of wood. Have you had half-empty bottles of wood stains lying around your home?

Or better still, do you wish to stain your wood a particular color but cannot find it in a hardware store? Whatever the case, you might have considered mixing two or more stains so as not to waste them or even get your preferred choice of color.

So, can you mix wood stains? Read on to find out if it is safe and how you can carry it out.

Can You Mix Wood Stains?

Yes, you can mix wood stains of varying colors to get the type of finish you want. It would help if you mixed stains with similar undertones but do not mix stains that are different in composition, as they would not blend well with each other.

What You Should Know About Stain Colors

Wood stains as a type of wood finish come in a diverse range of colors, so many are available for sale in stores. An example is light blue wood stain.

However, you can create your custom wood stain color according to your personal preference, but this requires good knowledge of stains undertones that go together.

So if you are looking to purchase for mixing, you want to go for a base stain color similar to the finish you want and another stain that will perfectly layer the first one.

Also, it is imperative to use stains that are similar in composition so they can mix well.

Here are the different varieties of wood stains available.

Factors to Consider Before Mixing Stains

Wood stains undertone

Just as you probably use your skin’s undertone to pick out matching cosmetic shades and accessories, so do the undertones of wood go a long way in dictating what color of stain, paint or finish you would use on it.

So before you pick out a stain to use on the piece of your wood, you want to figure out what the undertone, that is, the underlying color of the wood, is, so it matches with the color of finish you are applying on it.

Wood undertones vary from yellow to orange to red to green, but it gets confusing, which is why you might ask a professional what the undertone of a particular wood you want to stain is before proceeding.

Type of wood grain to be stained

When mixing wood stains of similar undertones, it is crucial to ensure only one has a strong grain. If they both have dominant grains, it would be difficult to mix the stain to sit nicely on the surface of the wood.

So check to see the stain can match fine grains on the wood. Also, if the piece you want to apply finish to already has existing wood stains, it determines what kind of stain you would be applying.

For more in-depth information concerning wood stain health hazards, delve into the detailed content available here.

Samples of wood stain colors

Before you finally decide to go with any color of stain, you should do well to request samples of the stain on pieces of wood you are not working with.

These are called test swatches, where you place your woodwork beside the color sample and see if they match.

You can get multiple samples and test them during various times of the day under different lighting so you can compare and choose colors that go well with each other. You do not want to begin to test stain colors on your furniture.

Read Also: Staining Wood Green

Different Kinds of Wood, their Undertones, and Commonly Used Wood Stain Colors

Different species of hardwoods used today have varying undertones. As discussed earlier, these undertones go a long way in dictating what color of stain best suits them.

Here are a few examples and the color of stains commonly used on them:


Maple has different kinds, from blonde-maple to medium maple. Hence it has varying undertones ranging from yellow to orange to slightly pink undertones. Smooth, cherry or reddish-black stains are suitable options for maple wood staining.


This wood has white and red oak variants, which have different undertones. The white kind has a slightly pink undertone, while the red has red undertones. The kind of stain that works best with oak is the type that is more on the neutral side.


Cherry wood also has variants which could be black or pink. It has a subtle pink undertone. For this kind of wood, it is best to mix the cherry wood stain with warm undertones. White, cream, warm grey, or a bit of red are great color options for staining this wood.

How to Mix Wood Stains

Now you know you can mix wood stains, you might wonder how to go about it. It is not as tasking as you might think once you put the necessary factors into play. The entire process and the materials you would need to carry it out are described below.

Tools and materials needed

  • Plastic cups
  • Plastic mixing container
  • Hand gloves
  • Stirring stick
  • Scrap woods
  • Stains to be mixed
  • Paintbrush

Steps Involved

Step 1: Select wood stains to be mixed

Before you begin anything, you should put on protective gloves. Based on the undertones of the wood and the stains you want to mix, you can select the different colors of wood stains you want to work with.

Remember to select stains that belong to the same color family with little undertone differences. Also, you can use test swatches to pick them.

Step 2: Test each stain on scrap woods

Pick pieces of scrap wood and test the different stains on them to see the resulting color. This will help you see how well the stain blends out on the wood and if it is best suited for the finish you want.

Most importantly, you want to ensure the scrap wood is the same as the main wood you will be working on so you get a good picture of how it will turn out. This step is vital so you can see how the exact color you want will appear on the wood.

Step 3: Mix different ratios of both stains and test

There is no particular mixing ratio to work with or proportion dictating the quantity of stains to be mixed.

Hence, it is up to you to choose what ratio works best for you by mixing different amounts of the stains involved and testing each on the piece of scrap wood.

You can do this by using a plastic cup to take a particular amount of stain and pour it into a plastic container. Then, another cup takes a different amount of the other stain into the same container.

Thoroughly mix the different proportions in the various containers and test each on different pieces of scrap wood until you find the perfect ratio you can work with.

Step 4: Mix the stains

The quantity of stains you would need would depend on how large the wood surface area you want to work with is. Once you know the appropriate ratio of stains you want to work with, you can mix the stains in a plastic container.

So, use a stirring rod to mix well, so there is no difference in color from the tested samples.

Also Read: Wood Dyes Vs Wood Stains

Step 5: Apply the mixture to the wood

Once you have your desired mixture of stains you want to use, you can make use of a paintbrush to apply it to the wood. This would follow the same steps as you would when staining wood usually.

Step 6: Leave the stained wood to dry

After staining, allow the stained wood to dry. It usually takes between 2 and 24 hours for the stain to dry properly. Once the stain is completely dry, you can proceed with applying polyurethane after stain.

Avoid These Mistakes While Mixing Stain Colors

So now you know how to mix stain colors; there are certain mistakes you want to avoid, so you do not ruin your work. Some of them include:

Using the wrong sample colors

This is probably the most committed mistake because most people are not patient enough to ensure the selected stain color they purchase perfectly matches the wood.

At times this could be an error on the manufacturer’s part as samples may not depict the actual color of the stain, which is why you must be careful. To be safer, go for darker colors to stain the wood.

Mixing under poor lighting

You do not want to mix your stains where the lighting situation is poor. This will not give you the exact picture of the color you will work with.

Hence there is a tendency to either use more colors than necessary or not enough. This could make the wood look darker or lighter than your preference.

Mixing two wood stains with strong grains

Wood grain refers to the arrangement of wood fibers in a particular piece of wood. Some stains are formulated for strong grains, while some are not.

Hence, you should avoid mixing two wood stains used on wood variants with strong grains. Also, you want to be sure the wood needs staining as some have a good natural outlook and do not need stains to look better.

Read Also: Does Wood Stain Stain Concrete?

Can Oil-based Stain be Mixed with Water-based Stain?

The simple answer to this is no. Remember, stains come in different types, such as water-based and oil-based stains. This makes them unsuitable for mixing as oil and water usually do not go well together.

So if you mix a stain based on water in its composition with that which has oil instead, they would not blend well. However, some brands have adjusted their formulas so you can mix any kind with any other.

Others add chemicals such as paint thinners to the solution, so the two kinds of stains mix well. Still, it is best advised to stick to mixing water-based stains with water-based stains and oil-based stains with oil-based stains.

Read Also: Complete Hemlock Stain Application


Can I mix stain colors?

Yes, you can mix stain colors as long as they have similar undertones. Mixing stain colors can help you get your preferred choice of color, but you want to ensure you mix in the right portion suited for the size of work you are dealing with. Here are some red stain colors to try.

Can I mix grey and brown stains?

Yes, you can mix gray stain and brown stain. This is because grey and brown as colors have similar undertones, which makes them a match possible to get a new shade of stain.

Can two different brands of wood stain be mixed?

Yes, you can mix two different brands of wood stain as long as they have similar undertones. The brand of stain does not deter you from getting your desired stain and how well your stained wood turns out. Ensure that neither is contaminated with a substance that could affect the mixing process.

How can I mix wood stains to get the color I want?

You can mix wood stains to get your preferred custom color in these easy steps. Get the tools and materials you need, after which you test each stain separately before testing both stains in different ratios on scrap wood. Then you mix the stains based on the amount you need for your woodwork.

Can I layer two different colors of stain?

Yes, you can layer two different stain colors by applying one color as the base coat and the other as a top coat. However, keeping the primary wood stain as a clear finish without color is advised before adding a colored stain. In the end, the wood will take on the color of the last stain applied.

Can you mix wood stains with shellac?

No, you should not mix wood stains with shellac. Wood stains are designed to be applied directly to the wood surface, while shellac is a clear finish. Mixing them can lead to unpredictable results and may affect the performance and appearance of both products.

See also: How to remove shellac from wood.

How do I blend stains?

You can blend stains by properly mixing them in appropriate proportions before applying them to a surface. If applied on a surface directly, you want to ensure the first coat dries to an extent before a second coat is applied so the colors can even out.

Can you mix gel stain and regular stain?

Yes, you can mix gel and regular stains as long as they are similar in a brand. This can be done in any ratio, depending on what shade of color you want to achieve. It will give a mixture of colors from both kinds of stains.

Can you mix stain and polyurethane?

Yes, you can mix stain and polyurethane in a ratio of 1:1 to create a finish that is more durable than either product used separately. Polyurethane can also be added to stain to create a variety of different effects, including a high-gloss finish.

Related read: Can you put stain over polyurethane?


So , can you mix wood stains? Yes you can stain your wood to your preferred choice of color even if it is not readily available for purchase.

All you have to do is mix stain colors to create custom colors. To be on the safer side, remember to work with stains with the same base and similar undertones so they can combine well.

Follow the steps described above using the required tools and materials, and you will give your wood project the perfect finish you want in no time.

Leave a Comment