Wood Dye vs. Wood Stain; How and When to Use Each

I bet most of you reading this haven’t heard of wood dye. Why would anyone use wood dye (also known as wood tint)? We hear about wood stain every day but until last year I hadn’t heard of wood dye. When I first heard of it I had so many questions. What was it made from? Was it water based or oil based or both? I was curious to try this new wood finish. I’m going to share all about the pros and cons of wood dye vs. wood stain and why you would use each.

Wood dye vs. wood stain

Before we dive into why you would use each, I want to talk about what they are first.

What is wood stain?

Wood stains are primarily used to color wood while they sometimes provide a protection to the top layer of the wood. There are two main types of stains; oil based and water based.

Wood stains can even be created from household items like coffee and tea!

Pros of Oil based wood stain:

  • Requires longer dry time which allows for a more even finish
  • More durable
  • Less maintenance
  • Most common type of stain

Pros of water based wood stain:

  • Dries quickly
  • No harsh fumes
  • Easy cleanup
  • penetrates the wood deeper

What is wood dye or wood tint?

Wood dye (also known as wood tint) is comprised of a colorant and a solvent (like alcohol or water). Unlike wood stain, which sits on the top of the wood surface, wood dye penetrates the wood and colors the wood from within. The color is more translucent than the color from a wood stain.

WHY you would use wood dye vs. wood stain?

Wood stains are used to not only color the wood, but often times they are used to add a layer of protection to it.

Wood dyes, on the other hand, penetrate the wood and do not give a protective layer like most wood stains do.

Like I said earlier, wood dyes are more translucent. This is helpful when you want the wood grain to show. The dyes are made of much smaller molecules than wood stains, so light can pass through them easier.

This is good in one sense, like if you want wood grain to show, but not good if you want to protect the surface of the wood. You always need to add a top coat or sealer to a surface that you’ve applied wood dye to.

Wood stains are similar to paint in that they both are primarily surface coatings. Dye’s, on the other hand, penetrate deep because the molecules are smaller.

Also, wood dye’s can be mixed into solvents like Shellac, lacquers or water based finishes.

If you want to achieve a rich color, you can use both together! Apply the wood dye first so it penetrates the wood and then add the stain over it.

I’ve shared a fun project where I applied wood stain over wood stain and it turned out beautifully.

wood stain vs. wood dye and how to use each

Disclosure: the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase from one of these links I will receive a small commission, but rest assured you won’t pay anymore for the product. Thank you for supporting my blog.

Pros of Wood Dye:

  • Translucent
  • No harmful odors
  • Comes in an array of colors
  • Easy clean up
  • Can be mixed with other solvents and sealers

Pros of Wood Stain:

  • Very Durable
  • Easier to apply because they don’t dry as quick as wood dye’s
  • Works better with outdoor wood
  • Comes in either oil or water based

Where do you buy wood tint? I purchased my wood tint on Amazon. You can see a few products below.

This particular product comes in an array of colors. See below.

Wood Dye

You can see another product below that comes in a “dye kit.”

Video about Wood Dye vs. Wood Stain and how to use each;

WOOD DYE vs. WOOD STAIN and what are the differences

I hope this post has helped you better understand how to use wood stain vs. how to use wood dye.

Thanks for stopping by!


If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy a few more like it:

Staining Wood with household products

4 thoughts on “Wood Dye vs. Wood Stain; How and When to Use Each

  1. Great post!
    I have some vintage flicks reed bamboo furniture that needs updated, I was hoping to darken the color it’s very very light.
    What do you think would work better to achieve this stain or dye (tint).

    1. Thank you Linda!
      As far as which type? If you want a more translucent finish (like you can see the under tones of the original finish) I would go with the wood tint. If you are wanting to “cover” the finish, I would go with a wood dye. I hope this helps and good luck!

  2. You said in the text that wood dye and wood tint are the same thing, but later on you advise using “tint” for translucent and “dye” for opaque finishes. That was confusing, and I think you must have meant to use “stain” for the opaque finish? Am I right?

    The content was good; but the number of ads flashing and using up screen space made it unpleasant to read.

    Your content was good, but the

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