Can You Mix Wood Stains?

Mix wood stains

Stain creates a beautiful wood finish, adding color to the surface while retaining the appearance of the natural grain. There are different types of stain available on the market with a broad range of colors and hues. Nevertheless, you might find yourself in a situation where you can’t find the exact color that you need for your project. You might then wonder whether it is possible to mix different stains. The short answer is:

Yes, you can basically mix wood stains of different colors easily and efficiently to achieve the hue you’re looking for. However, you shouldn’t mix different types of stains and there are also a few other things that you’ll need to keep in mind to ensure that you receive a quality and impressive wood finish.

Read on for more details and tips and tricks for your staining project.

Mixing Different Stains

Many times, you find it hard to choose the right color for your projects, especially if you are a woodworking expert or an enthusiast. But why worry about it when you can practically blend your wood stains?

You can visit the nearby store or check online shops such as Amazon to pick one or several of your favorite color choices and get started.

At times, you may find a vast collection of colors, but none works for the project at hand. Then, it is the right time to mix your stains or learn how to do so competently.

Things to Consider

To get started, bear in mind that mixing one color into another makes it easy to come up with complex color variations and designs. Find a color that is close to your desired finish. For instance, you can opt for a weathered design that is bold and vibrant or adds some warmth to the entire project.

Before you start working on a different project, consider that if you want a specific look and color it on your wood, it’s great to use multiple stains. For example, you can use different colors, even more than 2, and pick classic gray for the base.

Example of 2 color stains that can be mixed.

Getting the Right Color

Determine the desired color or hue and shop with your samples in hand (f available) to find and pick the right colors and ratio that you wish to mix.

If you are not sure on which hues will blend well, go for stains that share the same color undertones (source).

Wood stains with warm undertones include orange, yellow, or red. The best calm wood stains look gray and will change the aesthetic value of your final product. If your wood stain is beige, then it will have a neutral undertone.

The good thing with neutral undertones is that they are versatile, and you can blend them with calm or warm wood stains.

Significantly, the undertone you choose will affect the choice of your wood stains, paint color, and furnishings. Compare different woods and find out more about their undertones. If stuck, ask a professional and gather crucial details on the underlying hue in your wood stain.

Bring a sample or take photos of your existing wood finish to get a general idea about your existing wood finish.

Can You Mix Oil-Based and Water-Based Stains?

There are different types of stains with oil-based and water-based (= acrylic) stains as the most generic options. Both types come with their respective advantages and disadvantages (read more in this article) and provide a broad choice of different colors. You might be wondering if it’s possible to mix both types together.

In general, you should try to avoid mixing oil-based and water-based finishes as they don’t bind well. It’s like pouring oil into the water – you’ll see an oil film on the surface that won’t bind with the water. Having said this, it is not always impossible to mix modern oil-based stains with water-based ones. Some manufacturers adjust their formula to allow mixing both types, and some DIYers are also experimenting with paint thinner and chemicals to make water- and oil-based finishes bind (source).

Nevertheless, you’re always on the safer side if you stick to one type of stain. In other words, it’s better if you mixing water-based stains with water-based stains and oil-based stains with oil-based stains rather than oil-based with water-based products.

How to Mix Wood Stains (5-Step Guide)

Follow these 5 steps to mix stains with different colors together. Before you get started, you will need the right tools and supplies for your project to create a pleasing blend of wood stains.

Supplies Needed for the DIY Project

Some of the vital tools and supplies you require will include:

  • plastic container to mix your stains in,
  • water cups to dip into the stain and pour into the mixing container,
  • nylon or latex gloves to keep your hands clean,
  • stirring stick,
  • scarp wood for your project, and
  • the stains.

1) Getting Your Materials Ready

Blending your wood stains will depend on the colors you use. You need to have a mix balance, and you have to test the mixing process on your scrap board. You have to be happy with the results before you apply it to the scrap board for the project.

For instance, you can choose to mix different wood stains as long as they share similar undertones. You can blend between yellow-toned woods, orange-toned woods, red-toned woods, purple or pink-toned woods, and walnut wood stains. Go on with the mixing process, and follow the next few steps.

2) Test each Stain separately

Establish what your wood base stains should look like. Use the scrap wood that matches well with the same scrap board you are finishing in your project. Keep as many drop pieces from the project to experiment with different stains.

Try and apply both stains separately on the scrap wood. You will see how the stains blend with the wood.

3) Test Different Mix Ratios of Both Stains

Before you mix the full supply of both stains, you should figure out which mix ratio is needed to achieve the desired color.

Mix small amounts of both stains together and apply them on the scrap wood. Make sure you keep track of the mix ratio which you will need to scale this to the whole project.

To mix them, fill up your cup with base stain and pour it to the plastic mixing container. Primarily, ensure you have enough cups. Using a different cup, take a small amount of the other color and put it into the mixing container.

Mix the blend thoroughly and apply it to your scrap board using a different rag. Wipe away the stain from the board. Keep on adding the other stain in small amounts until you get the right ratio.

Start small and keep increasing the quantity as you go.

4) Mixing the Stains

Once you have determined the perfect mix ratio, apply it to the total amount of stain that you need for your project. You can use this stain calculator to find out how much stain you’ll need.

Make sure that you mix everything in one go. Thus, you’ll avoid taking the risk of deviations in the color. That could happen if you repeat mixing stains even if you adhere to the same ratio.

5) Apply the Stain Blend and Let It Dry

Once you have produced the right mix, you can apply it to the wood using a rag or a brush. Watch this short video for more tips on how to apply stain the right way.

Let the stain dry according to the instructions on the can – it’s usually between 2 hours and 24 hours.

Refer to this article for details on the drying time of different types of stain.


If you can’t find a wood stain in the right color you can easily mix stains to achieve the finish you’re looking for. As long as you stick to one type of stain and follow the steps set out in this article, you’ll achieve an appealing finish.

Before working with stain, make sure that you understand the differences between water-based, oil-based and gel stains. Use this free stain calculator to determine the amount of stain that you will need for your project.

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