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How to Tint Polyurethane and Add Color to a Top Coat like Polycrylic

Learn how to tint polyurethane and add color to a top coat like polycrylic to create a tinted sealer.

Can you add color to a top coat like polyurethane for a tinted sealer? With so many paint, stain and sealer products on the market today you are probably wondering why anyone would want to create their own tinted top coat? There are times when you might want to create a custom sealer color. I’m sharing all the basics of how to create a colored sealer or tinted polyurethane product and how I added dye to Polycrylic to change the color of my dining room table.

how to mix polycrylic and dye for a tinted top coat

This post idea all started with a reader question. Some of my best blog posts stem from questions from y’all. I figured if one person is asking, there are others that want to know the answer too! That question also sparked an idea for a project that was long overdue.

Disclosure; this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This disclosure statement refers to the rest of the Amazon links in this post. See more on my disclosure page.

Want to know what the question was?

Can you add chalk paint to Polyurethane to create a tinted top coat?

No, you cannot add chalk paint or chalky style paint to Polyurethane as it will not blend correctly. Chalk paint was not intended to be mixed into a sealer product.

While I’m on the subject of DIY sealer colors, I figured I would answer a few more questions.

Can you mix latex paint with Polyurethane to create a tinted sealer?

This is a question that doesn’t seem to have a direct answer. This is the best answer I could find from the Thousand Dollar Shop. “Polyurethane can be mixed with latex paint for a tough, durable finish that won’t go gummy and sticky in humid summer weather like plain latex paint does. The finish will be the same color as the latex paint.”

That being said, it seems like this technique would create more of a “durable paint” rather than a tinted sealer.

Can you mix stain with Polyurethane for a colored top coat?

Yes! One important thing to consider; If you are using a water based stain, make sure to use a water based varnish and vise versa.

If you don’t recall anything from this post just remember this;

Tint Polyurethane with like products that are compatible. Like they say, oil and water don’t mix.

I go into more detail on how to mix oil with water based products in my post on how to choose the best paint for any project here. If you have more questions about product compatibility, check out that post.

What can you mix with a sealer or top coat to create a custom color?

Other than stains and certain paints (that were intended to blend with a sealer), dye is the product of choice to mix with a top coat because it is intended to be mixed into a medium like a sealer.

Once again, be careful to note what the directions say as far as what TYPE of sealer to mix with it. The particular dye I’m using (TransTint) says only to mix with water based mediums, or in my case a sealer. This technique can also be known as creating a finish toner or finishing toner.

General Finishes has a great tutorial on how to create a custom oil based tinted toner with oil based top coat.

Speaking of creating a “finishing toner,” this is essentially what I’m going to be creating with this dining room project.

Why Tint Polyurethane or Polycrylic?

We all know that there are loads of stain products on the market, so why tint your own sealer or top coat? Sometimes you might need to create your own custom color. Speaking of creating your own custom color, here is a full tutorial on how I mixed paint, tint and sealer to color match an existing bed frame with my dresser and side tables.

dresser makeover with tinted polyurethane top to match bed
mixing polyurethane with wood dye

Let’s get back to the current project.

We’ve had this lovely dining room table for about a year now. I loved the style, the size of it and the vintage vibe. We didn’t love the yellow undertones. My husband reminded me constantly about how it didn’t “match” the rest of the house.

table before DIY tinted top coat
dining room table before the tinted top coat

You can see the veneer around the table is more yellow than the rest of it. That’s one thing that drove me crazy.

Before I began tinting my own sealer, I sanded the table lightly first.

sanding the table

Since this table is not solid wood, I made sure not to sand too heavily.

Products used:

Dark Walnut TransTint® Dye

Minwax Polycrylic

How to mix Polycrylic with Dye to Tint Polyurethane or a similar top coat

  1. Apply gloves (the dye is very messy and hard to clean up!)
  2. Add one drop of dye at a time to the polycrylic while stirring
  3. Continue to add drops of dye until you get the desired color
  4. Make sure to mix the tinted polycrylic really well before applying it
Dye and polycrylic to mix for tinted top coat
mixing the dye with polycrylic

How to apply tinted polycrylic

  1. Make sure the tinted medium is blended really well
  2. Dip a brush or lint free cloth in the solution and apply it to the surface
  3. Use a clean lint free cloth or paper towel to wipe away the excess
  4. Re apply the tinted sealer and repeat steps 2-3 until you get the desired finish
  5. Follow the instructions on the sealer for dry time
applying tinted polycrylic to table
wiping excess tinted poly
applying tinted polycrylic

You can see where I’ve applied the tinted top coat on the left side of the table.

applying tinted sealer to table

Almost done! This technique would be great if you are wanting to darken kitchen cabinets or change the undertones just a bit.

how to tint sealer

Darkening the undertones of the table didn’t change the look, but it helped my dining room table blend better with the rest of our decor. And no more yellow tones!

DIY tinted sealer to our dining room table
dining room with tinted sealer
Table with tinted polyurethane product

I have to say I think it looks a little more like real wood table now rather than particle board with veneer!

how to tint polycrylic with dye
Tint polyurethane

Have I given you some ideas for future projects? My mind is already swirling with other projects I can use a tinted Polyurethane product on!

Until next time…


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  1. Susan Kelly says:

    I really liked reading this article. I recently purchased and had “professionally” finished with Weathered Oak Bher stain and then a water based Bher polyurethane satin finish. The “professional” only put one coat of the polyurethane, so the cabinets look unfinished and are rough to the touch. He is no longer in the picgure. I really don’t like the color, and was wondering how it could be darkened, but was informed by another “Pro” that once the stain was on the wood, it was impossible to darken without stripping the cabinets, which is simply not an option for me. I had initially thought to lightly sand the doors and apply another coat of satin Bher polyurethane, but am intrigued by this possibility. Both products used were water based, so hopefully will be low VOC as the cabinets can no longer be finished and dried outside as they were initially. I would appreciate any guidance or thoughts that you might have on this idea.

  2. janet says:

    Where do you get this dye?

  3. Diane says:

    I did a couple coats of tinted polyurethane and the color is improving. When I wiped the table with a dry paper towel after it dried, there was stain on it. The table doesn’t feel smooth either. Can I sand it and add another coat?

  4. Christie says:

    If you’re going to seal a black or white chalk painted piece with a poly topcoat and don’t want a foggy look over black or are worried about it yellowing over white, you can add a small amount of the chalk paint you used to your sealer. This tinted sealant will protect your surface while preventing those pesky problems I mentioned. I also know of a few people who have used chalk paint added to poly to make a glaze like you’ve done with your dining room table. As long as the chalk paint has been well stirred, it will mix well with the poly. Both are water-based and are compatable.