Staining wood black gives you a unique look but it can be hard to get right. A lot of products struggle to give you the rich color you need, especially when applied incorrectly. This guide will take you through the different types of black wood stain, with some of my recommendations for the best products.
What are the Different Types of Black Wood Stains?
Regular Oil-Based Wood Stain
Oil-based wood stain has been used for years to color and protect wood. Although modern stains have their benefits, oil-based wood stain is still a great option. As you’d expect, the bulk of the stain is made from oils like linseed oil. This soaks into the wood and protects it from moisture. Pigments and binders are then mixed into the oil to color the wood. There are also solvents that act as a carrier for the rest of the ingredients and evaporate quickly.
Oil-based stains are effective because they soak right into the wood rather than sitting on the surface. You get good coverage and you can apply another protective finish over the top if you like. However, they do contain more harsh solvents than other types of stain and they take longer to dry.
Regular Water-Based Wood Stain
Water-based stains are more modern and they have taken over oil-based stains for a lot of applications. Instead of oil, these finishes use water as the main carrier. Pigments and bonding agents are added to the water, which evaporates and leaves the color behind. There are also additives that protect the wood against moisture.
Water-based stains dry much faster than oil-based and they’re more environmentally friendly. However, some of the cheaper options won’t protect as well as oil-based stains so you need to do your research and find quality products.
Gel stain is relatively new and it’s designed to make application much easier. The carrier and binding agent is a thick gel substance that doesn’t drip or run when applied. It’s great for hiding blemishes in the wood and you don’t need as much preparation before applying. However, because the gel is so thick, it doesn’t penetrate the wood quite as well as oil-based and water-based stains and needs reapplying more often.
2-in-1 Stain and Polyurethane
Putting a polyurethane topcoat over wood stain gives you added protection from moisture and UV damage. You can use a separate product, but you can also get a 2-in-1 stain and polyurethane product. These are great for saving time because you apply stain as you normally would and get the polyurethane protection built in without the need for additional coats. In fact, most of these 2-in-1 products only need a single coat.
However, polyurethane doesn’t soak into the wood like oil or water-based stains. So, the pigment sits in the polyurethane on the surface of the wood instead. That doesn’t make a huge difference but some products don’t look quite as good as a separate stain and polyurethane coating.
Water Soluble Dyes
Water soluble dye comes as a powder that you mix with water before applying. This is a transparent finish that won’t completely mask the wood underneath. They’re ideal if you want to darken the wood but still show the grain. You can also mix water soluble dyes with stains to change the color. Adding a bit of black is a great way to darken an existing stain a bit.
If you are looking for superior protection, water soluble dyes aren’t the best choice because they are not UV resistant and they don’t give protection against moisture. However, if you use a topcoat after the dye to protect the wood afterwards, they’re good for coloring it.
10 Best Black Wood Stains
1. Minwax Wood Finish (True Black)
Some black stains don’t give you excellent coverage and you have to put lots of coats on to get a deep black color. You won’t have that problem with Minwax Wood Finish (True Black). It is an oil-based stain that penetrates deep into the wood to protect it, and gives you a nice dark black color in a single coat. But the grain of the wood still shows through so you get a nice natural feel that is more interesting than a simple black paint.
This is much faster drying than most oil-based stains and it should be touch dry in a few hours. You also have a lot of control over how dark the color is. If you wipe off the excess after 5 minutes, you’ll get a lighter color but you can leave it longer to make it darker.
Minwax Wood Finish is one of the best quality black wood stains on the market right now and if you protect it with a topcoat, it will last a long while before you need to recoat.
2. General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain (Black)
General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain (Black) gives a much better color than many other water-based products because it has a high concentration of solids. This does make it thicker than other similar products, so it’s slightly less forgiving to use. That said, if you stir it properly and take care with the application, it’s still easy to use and you’ll get a nice deep black.
If you are looking for a low VOC alternative to oil-based stains but you still want the same great coverage, this is a great option. You can also mix this stain with any General Finishes water-based topcoats to create your own 2-in-1 stain and protection products. If you are going to do this, test the finished product on a piece of scrap wood first to ensure that the mix is right and it dries nicely.
3. Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain (Burnt Hickory)
Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain makes staining wood projects black so simple. It’s a 2-in-1 product that combines an oil-based stain with a sealer. It’s ready to go straight out of the can and goes on nicely, without any streaks or runs. You can apply it with a brush or roller but it also works well in a sprayer if you are covering a large area like a deck or a fence.
It takes a few weeks for the full color to come through and it isn’t as dark as some other stains on this list. However, if you’re new to wood stain and you want an easy option that is very forgiving, this is the one to go for.
4. General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain (Black)
If you don’t want to show too much of the grain and get a very solid color, gel stains are a great choice. But some of them can be difficult to work with, so you need to find the right gel stain. General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain (Black) is excellent, as long as you use it properly. It won’t go on properly if you paint it on with a brush, so apply thin layers with a cloth and wipe off excess. You shouldn’t need more than one or two coats to get an excellent covering and a rich color as long as you take care with the application.
Like their other stains, this is heavily pigmented so you need to give it a thorough stir before you apply it. Failing to stir it properly will result in a patchy, uneven finish.
5. Minwax PolyShades Wood Stain + Polyurethane Finish (Classic Black)
Minwax PolyShades Wood Stain and Polyurethane Finish is another excellent 2-in-1 finish. It’s a high-quality oil stain with polyurethane mixed in. This works brilliantly when applied to bare wood but, unlike other products, it can also be used on top of existing finishes, including polyurethane. This saves you a huge amount of time when refinishing projects because you just need to give the surface a light sand and then apply the new stain.
This is a great stain because it’s so forgiving. You can wipe or brush it on without taking too much care and it will soak in nicely and give you an even coverage. It is quite a thick product though, so a sponge brush doesn’t work too well.
6. Black TransTint® Dye
Concentrated dye products are great if you want more control over the color because you can mix them up yourself. This Black TransTint® Dye can be mixed with water or alcohol or lacquer thinner to create a simple stain. It can also be added to any water-based finishes, so it’s ideal for mixing with topcoats to create a protective finish that colors black at the same time. You can even use this to tint glue, so if you need to make repairs to stained wood, you can hide it easily. Just keep in mind that this is not for exterior use and won’t stand up to the rain without a protective finish of some kind.
You may need to apply multiple coats if you want a matte black color, but it darkens the wood very easily if you create a less diluted mixture. Whenever you are mixing with this dye, it’s best to go a drop at a time because it is quite concentrated.
7. SamaN Interior Water Based Wood Stain (Black)
The SamaN Interior Water Based Wood Stain is ideal for any indoor woodworking projects like furniture, kitchen cabinets, or wooden trim. It is not suitable for exterior projects but it will give you an excellent finish on anything else. It works on all types of wood and you should only need one coat to get the color right. This is a water-based product so you don’t need to worry too much about fumes when working indoors.
This stain has a more natural look than a lot of other water-based products and it goes on well without any lapping or dripping. If you aren’t that experienced, you should still be able to get a good result with this.
8. Varathane Premium Gel Stain (Black)
Varathane Premium Gel Stain is designed to give excellent coverage and it’s perfect for using on vertical surfaces because it’s nice and thick. It’s also touch dry in an hour and ready to recoat in 2, so if you want a quick and easy job, it’s brilliant. It can be topcoated with a clear coat after it has dried to protect it. It does require more preparation than some other stains that go straight onto old wood, but it’s worth sanding the surface back because you get an excellent smooth finish.
The stain fills the pores well before covering the surface, so you get a great matte black finish without any light areas.
9. Furniture Clinic Wood Stain (Ebony Black)
Furniture Clinic Wood Stain (Ebony Black) is a brilliant all-purpose wood stain that works great on all types of wood, interior and exterior. It isn’t well-suited to large areas like decking or floors, but it’s good for things like furniture and window frames. This is a traditional thin water-based stain, so don’t expect it to go on heavy like a gel stain. You may need multiple coats as the first few will soak into the wood a lot.
This is the best choice if you want a typical water-based stain for interior projects. Even though it is suitable for exterior wood, you’ll need a topcoat to protect it from UV damage, moisture, and mildew growth.
10. Dixie Belle Voodoo Water-Based Gel Stain (Black Magic)
Oil-based gel stains can be messy to use and clean up, but this Dixie Bell Voodoo Water-Based Gel Stain is a lot easier. It has a high pigment content, so you should be able to get the color you want with a single coat. If you do need a second coat, you only need to wait around half an hour for it to dry, so you can finish the job quickly. This gel stain can be mixed into wax or paint too if you want to darken it.
This product is more aimed at craft projects but it’s good for smaller pieces of furniture too. But if you are staining a door or a floor, you’ll need a different product.
Staining wood black gives it a great modern feel and it’s a great way to cover any blemishes. However, if you use cheap products, you’ll end up recoating over and over to get the color dark enough. Any of the products on this list will help you get the desired results without as much hard work.
If you want to know how to stain furniture black you must read my article Can You Stain Wood Black? (Step-by-Step Guide) to learn all you need to know!