matching stain color?

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Forum topic by emmaf posted 04-07-2013 06:07 PM 1303 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 1300 days

04-07-2013 06:07 PM

hi all. i’m refinishing just the top of a dresser, and i was wondering what the best way was to find a color match for the original stain (that’s still on the rest of the dresser).

5 replies so far

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 2706 days

#1 posted 04-07-2013 06:36 PM


Probably the best thing to do would be to pick up a sample brochure of stain samples from different manufacturer’s, either from your local big box stores or a good paint store like Sherwin Williams.

No one stain will probably be a perfect match so you may have to end up mixing a couple colors together to come up with a close match.

Once you pick a stain or a couple different ones (purchase the smallest amount possible) In a paint store, you may have to buy it by the quart, but usually your big box stores will have it in pints and sometimes even in 1/2 pints.

You may have to play a little by mixing the colors and It’s hard to tell what the final look will be untill a clear finish is put over the stain when dry, but you can get a pretty good feel for the correct color when the stain is wet. Once it dries, it will be very dull and a lot of times look totally different.

I would suggest getting a spray can of clear finish ( like Shellac or Deft lacquer). Spray a very light coat on once the stain is dry and see how the color is.

Even if the color is off a little when you put your first coat of clear finish on, you can go back with another coat of stain to either change the color a little or darken the color a bit.

It’s just a matter of playing with color a little. It really won’t do any good to practice on some scrap wood because that will stain totally different then the top of your dresser. If you can find an area inside the frame of the dresser that doesn’t have any finish and made out of the same wood, then you may be able to practice a little there, but usually even that wood will be different then the actual top of the dresser.

The good thing about doing just the top of a dresser is the color does not have to be a perfect match, since that surface will reflect light differently then all the vertical surfaces of the rest of the dresser. You can usually be a little off and it won’t be noticable.

Once you get the color where you’re satisfied, you can spray a few more light coats of clear finish to achieve the final look you want.

Since most furniture is finished in a satin finish, that is the type clear finish I would look for to spray the top, Stay away from gloss.

Good luck and have fun.

-- John @

View SamuraiSaw's profile


513 posts in 1385 days

#2 posted 04-07-2013 06:48 PM

huff has some great advice. Matching stain colors is an art, and takes time to learn. As he pointed out, a top can have some shade variation since it is a seperate part and will actually be in a different light than the rest of the piece.

If you think this is something you might like to do more of, consider investing in one the THESE . This wheel refers more to basic colors than the pre-mixed stains you’ll typically find, but is a great tool for matching finishes.

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2234 days

#3 posted 04-07-2013 07:04 PM

I usually use stain sample boards to get close. Remember to topcoat the sample boards, as that changes the appearance too. Then I spray tinted lacquer if needed for a perfect match. Lacquer can be tinted with universal colorants from any paint store. However, tinting is only recommended for spray finish application.
If you can get a dead ringer with a sample board, you might not need to tint.
Try different brands of stain. I have had success with Rodda and Varathane brands. No luck at all with Old Masters and Minwax (which are very thin-bodied stains).

Good luck!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Henry6's profile


36 posts in 1447 days

#4 posted 11-18-2013 10:02 AM

I would experiment with wood stain
colors on an area that is not seen, like the back of the dresser. This way you are able to find the best match to the already existing color to prevent blotchy and uneven coloring of the piece of furniture.

View SamuraiSaw's profile


513 posts in 1385 days

#5 posted 11-19-2013 12:28 AM

Not sure why somebody would want to use exterior stain on a project like that, especially since this was originally posted about 7 months ago.

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

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