How to Color Stain Wood for Crafts
Color Stain Your Wood Crafts With Paint
The grain of a piece of wood is often what makes it so attractive: We enjoy the natural color and flow. But I am going to show you how to push the grain of wood beyond its raw, natural state and enhance it by adding colors. This is not actually painting—rather, it's staining the wood.
This technique can be used when crafting many different projects. It's easy to learn and can add another visual dimension. It holds the natural beauty of the wood grain yet gives flair to the finished product. The color stain technique can be used in very small amounts for craft projects, or it can be used to finish large pieces of wood like furniture and even walls and floors. Let's take a closer look at what's involved in creating an interesting colored grain for all sorts of creative wood projects.
What You Need to Get Started
The basic tools and materials for most projects are going to be the same. That does not mean that other supplies are not needed for specific projects—after all, this is just a basic starter guide. Keep in mind that this is meant to be adapted to the project you are working on, and some additional things might be needed for your exact situation.
Basic Tools and Materials
- Acrylic paint
- Brushes (sized according to your project)
- Container for water
- Paint tray (this is a great chance to use recycled items such as the lid to a plastic container, as seen in the photos)
- Your wood project
- Blotting cloth
How to Practice Color Staining Wood
If you have never used paint on raw wood before, it is very wise to do a bit of practice before you jump in and start on your finished, ready-to-stain project. There are a few things to learn about how the stain will react as it is applied to the wood.
A Note About Raw Wood
The most important thing to note is how the raw wood will absorb the color. The wood will act as a wick and draw the stain into the porous wood surface. This can create a problem if the color bleeds out too much or runs to an area you DO NOT want to be colored. Practice! Get to know the feel of how the wood will react.
What to Do If You Make a Mistake
Another thing I want to mention is that if a mistake occurs and the color does wind up in a place where you would rather not have it, this can be remedied to some extent by a fast reaction on your part.
- The color can be removed to a certain extent with a blotting cloth.
- You can also remove color in very small areas with a dry paint brush. Dabbing the unwanted color while it is still wet will help to clean it off.
- More color can be removed by adding additional water to the mistaken area and dabbing it again after blotting the majority of the stain. The idea is to rinse and dry, rinse and dry.
It would be a good idea to practice removing some stains as well as applying them. Better to be prepared in advance!
How to Make Acrylic Color Stains
The example here (and in the photos) is for a craft project that will not require large volumes of stain. The suggested methods are for smaller brush-load amounts of stain (the term "brush load" refers to the amount that is held in the wet brush you are using). Large projects like a piece of furniture, a wall, or a floor require mixing very large batches. This can be done, but I do suggest much practice before taking that route.
Start With Water
- In your paint tray, add enough water to more than cover the area you wish to stain. I started with a couple of brush loads of water.
- Off to the side of the water, drop a small dab of acrylic paint.
- Next, mix just enough of the paint to color the water. See the photos for better understanding. Do not add too much.
It is better to add more water and less paint. If the finished color does not come out as dark as you would like, you can always add a second coat to darken the color when the first coat dries. Remember, if the color is too dark or goes where you do not want it to go, use your blotter as I suggested above. The idea is to stain the wood with color but allow the grain of the wood to show through the stain.
How to Mix Color Stains
All basic color mixing can be done in the paint tray or on the actual piece of wood.
Mixing in the Tray
Mixing colors directly in the paint tray is a good way to conserve paint—if you understand color mixing and the basics of a color wheel. For example, yellow and red make orange, as shown in the photo.
Mixing on the Wood
The same color can also be achieved by first applying a wash of yellow and then adding a wash of red across the top of the yellow. You can see an example in the photo.
Wet Stains Will Bleed
Look very closely at the photos and take note: All of the colors were added around the same time. This means all of the colors were wet or at least damp. See how the colors bleed into each other when they are wet? This will not happen if the stain is completely dry before adding a second color.
Now it might be that you want the colors to bleed, and that is fine. It is up to your discretion. It might be that you prefer to have control and want to place colors in exact locations on your project. If that is the case, make sure the stain is dry.
The drying time will vary depending on the humidity and the temperature. You can always speed drying time by using a hair dryer to blow dry the area in question gently.
A Word of Caution
The air from the blow dryer can move the stain if it has not completely absorbed into the wood. Make sure there are no puddles on your work before you start blowing on it with a hair dryer.
Practice Your Technique
You can add wonderful flair with this basic technique. With a bit of practice, you can blend and mix colors on wood and allow the wood grain to show through with great satisfaction for the end result. Different woods have different grains, though: Some wood is harder to stain than others. This is where practice makes perfect for your next project. Experiment and have fun crafting.