How do you sample stains? – Sawyer Custom Crafts

How do you sample stains?

Sampling stains is an essential process when it comes to choosing the right stain for your project. Whether you're working on a woodworking project or staining your deck, sampling stains allows you to see how different stains will look on your chosen surface. In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of sampling stains, helping you make an informed decision.

Stain Sample set 30 colors on real wood


Why is Sampling Stains Important?

Sampling stains is crucial because it gives you a preview of how the stain will appear on your project. Different wood types and surfaces can react differently to stains, so it's essential to test them beforehand. By sampling stains, you can avoid any unpleasant surprises and ensure that the final result meets your expectations.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Before you start sampling stains, gather the necessary materials. You will need:

  • Wood samples or a small piece of the surface you plan to stain. Remember different woods will stain differently. For example, Poplar wood has a green undertone, Pine can have a yellow undertone, while Alder and Maple present a smoother overall color. So be sure to match your wood if you're trying to color match. 
  • Various stain options. Brands can be important. Minwax and Varathane Brands both offer many of the same color names, such as Rustic Beige, but the colors are not identical. Stain is either Interior or Exterior. Be sure to pick the right option for your project. 
  • Paintbrushes or foam brushes
  • Painter's tape
  • Disposable gloves. Nitrate gloves work best. 
  • Old rags or paper towels
  • Protective goggles and a mask (if working with chemicals)

Step 2: Prepare the Surface

Clean the surface you plan to stain to ensure it's free from dust, dirt, and any previous finishes. Sand the surface if needed to create a smooth and even base for the stain. 

Step 3: Apply the Stains

Now it's time to apply the stains to your samples. Follow these steps:

  1. Label each sample with the stain's name or number for easy identification.
  2. Using a paintbrush or foam brush, apply a thin and even coat of the first stain to a sample. Wipe off excess stains with a lint-free cloth or rag after the time specified on the Stain can. 
  3. Repeat the process for each stain color sample, ensuring you apply them to separate samples.
  4. Let the samples dry according to the stain manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Apply a second or even third coat to deepen the color. 

Step 4: Evaluate the Results

Color sample comparison for color match

Once the samples are dry, evaluate the results. Consider the following factors:

  • Color: Does the stain color match your desired outcome?
  • Opacity: Is the stain transparent or opaque? Add more coats to deepen.
  • Grain Enhancement: Does the stain enhance the natural grain of the wood?
  • Overall Appearance: How does the stain look on the surface?

Step 5: Make Your Decision

Based on your evaluation and your desired outcome, choose the stain that best meets your requirements. Consider factors such as color, opacity, and overall appearance. Remember, it's essential to select a stain that complements your project and achieves the desired look. 

Bonus tip:

Pre-made stain samples can help as well if you are not a DIY-er. Color charts are available in local hardware stores, or you can get Real wood samples on your choice of wood from Sawyer Custom Crafts. Find them on, Amazon, and Etsy.  

By following these steps and sampling stains, you can confidently proceed with your staining project, knowing that you have chosen the perfect stain for your needs. Happy staining!


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