Coloring Wood Black?

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Forum topic by SuperCubber posted 01-30-2014 11:54 PM 959 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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360 posts in 1030 days

01-30-2014 11:54 PM

I’m building an aquarium stand for my sister, and she wants it to be black.

I’d rather not try shooting oil-based black paint from my low-powered HVLP gun, so I’m leaning toward dye (though, I’m open to any suggestions). My major concern/question is whether or not black dye gets black enough. Would I just need to apply several coats?

I’ve also seen a very dark color using the vinegar/steel wool method. Does anyone have experience with these?


23 replies so far

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1037 posts in 681 days

#1 posted 01-30-2014 11:56 PM

Look up aniline dye. I have never used it nor do I know what it is, but I think that is what a lot of guys use.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View JAAune's profile


965 posts in 1063 days

#2 posted 01-31-2014 12:14 AM

One good method is to purchase alcohol soluble dyes then flood the solution on the wood until it stops soaking in. Afterwards, use a black pigment such as General Finishes Pitch Black Glaze over the surface.

The dye will go a little further into the wood than a pigment and reduce the chance of light spots showing when the wood is scuffed. The pigment will minimize the fading effect of UV light on the color. Some black dyes will start to look blue, green or purple depending upon the brand used. Pigments tend not to fade as much.

Steel wool and vinegar will work with high tannin woods. You can also add tannin to the wood by making some black tea and brushing it on the wood before applying the steel wool solution. It probably won’t get as black as a board treated with the first method I mentioned but it does have a nice effect.

-- See my work at and

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1479 posts in 1107 days

#3 posted 01-31-2014 12:26 AM

Use a black japan color or flat black acrylic wall paint, topped with clear waterborne poly or rattlecan lacquer.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Finisherman's profile


210 posts in 595 days

#4 posted 01-31-2014 01:00 AM

Try some India ink, either alone or in combination with a dye stain. Works great. Charles Neil has a video on this, too. Use lacquer or a waterborne finish as your topcoat. The steel wool and vinegar trick works best on woods which are high in tannic acid like oak and hickory.

View gfadvm's profile


11497 posts in 1436 days

#5 posted 01-31-2014 01:54 AM

I have used Rustoleum gloss black paint on oak and was surprised at how well it worked: wood was really black but the grain still showed. I brushed mine on. The finish turned out between a semi-gloss and satin using the gloss paint.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View SuperCubber's profile


360 posts in 1030 days

#6 posted 01-31-2014 02:12 AM

Thank you all, for the replies.

Finisherman, I have also considered India Ink, but I was always under the impression that it was usually used for small projects. This item will be rather large, about 48×24x14, with shelves and such. Is the India Ink practical for this type of job?

If prefer to stay away from paint, but the top coated acrylic and the Rust-Oleum sound tempting. I’ll have to think about them.

Maybe I should give the folks over at Transtint a call about their black dye.

View Finisherman's profile


210 posts in 595 days

#7 posted 01-31-2014 03:38 AM

I don’t think that the size of the project should matter too much, as long as you work quickly enough to avoid lap marks. Apply the India ink as you would a water based dye. In fact, according to Charles Neil, you can add a small amount of India ink to your black dye to intensify the colour. In any case, I’d suggest that you practice your technique on a large piece of scrap plywood to get a feel for the product before applying it to your project.

View oldnovice's profile


3865 posts in 2114 days

#8 posted 01-31-2014 05:01 AM

I use India ink but that’s a lot of ink!
I have used it on small projects, a little goes a long way, and it works very good!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 474 days

#9 posted 01-31-2014 05:18 AM

I agree with the flat black (goes on easy enough that you can use rattle cans) and topping of your choice.

View SuperCubber's profile


360 posts in 1030 days

#10 posted 01-31-2014 01:25 PM

Okay, one more question about the India ink. The biggest bottle I can find is 16 oz. Do you think that’s enough to cover this size project? That’ll probably be my decision maker.

View CrazeeTxn's profile


150 posts in 696 days

#11 posted 01-31-2014 01:49 PM

The BORGs I believe have clear based stains that they can add pigments too to give you a color. Shouldn’t be too hard to get black mixed up.

View Tedstor's profile


1505 posts in 1379 days

#12 posted 01-31-2014 02:01 PM

I brushed some some thinned-out, black Rustoleum on a project not too long ago. Acted a lot like a stain/dye. Then sprayed-on a rattle can clear coat. Viola’. Looked pretty good.

View CharlesNeil's profile (online now)


1170 posts in 2617 days

#13 posted 01-31-2014 02:11 PM

There is alot of good suggestions.. I would not use a latex paint , not for black, my experience has shown it to have a purple cast to it , but the India ink will also “blacken it up ” . The suggestion to use a spray can with flat black, and then a top coat is good, it works well.

The india ink is also excellent, You can buy a powdered black dye from someone like W. D. Lockwood , and then add about 2 oz of the india ink per qt , your good to go. Just remember to wear gloves ,India Ink takes black very serious , its all but impossibe to get off your skin …

You could also use Trans Tint, or Homestead dyes.. basically any black dye, then use the ink to reinforce it and give it that really strong black.

View SuperCubber's profile


360 posts in 1030 days

#14 posted 01-31-2014 02:23 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions guys!

Charles, I think I’ll go with the dye/ink combination. That seems to be a good way to go to get a deep black. Thanks!

Thanks again, guys!


View Jacob's profile


15 posts in 406 days

#15 posted 01-31-2014 02:39 PM

I´ve used the “vinegar and rusty old nails”-system af few times, it looks great!
I´ve only tried on oak thoug, oak reacts, we all know, fairly well to metal ;-)

-- Jacob

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