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Show Off Figure with Dye

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Fine-tune the result
Enlarge Image
Guarantee an even distribution
of dye by wiping off the excess.
If you apply the dye with a sponge,
wring it out and use it for this step.
Enlarge Image
A moist cloth lightens the color
even after the dye has dried,
but you get quicker results if
you act while it's still wet.

Fine-tune the result

If the tone looks darker than you planned, it's best to lighten it immediately. See the basic technique in the photo right.

In extreme cases, when the result is far from what you expected, it's possible to return to the starting point. Lighten the dye with water, and then remove the rest of it from the wood with common household bleach containing chlorine.

If you want to darken the result of your initial dye application, do so with another coat of the same mixture or make a stronger batch and apply that.

Once you become familiar with dyes and the colors they produce, experiment with color adjustment. After dyeing a surface, add a different-color dye to produce a combination of the two. For example, apply red to warm up a cool wood-tone color or add blue to cool down a warm tone.

When the color looks perfect, let the dye dry completely. Drying dulls the appearance of a dyed surface; a clear topcoat restores the color and shine that you saw in the wet dye. Use any topcoat over dye, but be careful if you choose a water-based finish. Brushing water-base over water-soluble dye tends to redissolve the dye and pull it up into the finish, creating a muddy look. Spraying eliminates this problem.

Change tactics for alcohol-soluble dyes

If you decide to try alcohol-soluble dyes, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Mix them in denatured alcohol -- not rubbing, or isopropyl, alcohol -- available at hardware stores and home centers. DO NOT heat this flammable solvent.
  • Spray alcohol-soluble dyes to avoid streaking caused by the solvent quickly flashing off. Use a spray gun powered by compressed air or handle small jobs with a unit such as the Preval spray system. Available at home centers, it consists of a 6"-long pressurized sprayer and a detachable glass jar. Order it online by going to
  • To color pine, a notoriously blotchy wood, Steve Mickley recommends mixing alcohol-soluble dye with shellac and spraying this toner mixture on the surface. The tinted shellac forms a film on the wood instead of soaking in.

Continued on page 5:  When to choose dye


Comments (5)
moonlightcreati wrote:

I use dyes on everything I spray. I put the liquid Transtint the dye in the gallon of mixed lacquer.

11/24/2013 07:46:12 PM Report Abuse
3-j wrote:

Raising grain is anti-intuitive and plainly does nothing but waste time and wood. Any time moisture is applied to wood, grain will be raised. What to do?? Simply dye the wood and add your first finish coat. Then you can sand smooth the surface for the last finish coats.

9/17/2010 10:32:59 AM Report Abuse
wneild wrote:

I have used the liquid Transtint dyes on several QSWO projects followed with 2-3 coats of a wipe on finish. The results are stunning.

9/16/2010 01:18:29 PM Report Abuse
bobgusty365771 wrote:

I recently finished a cabinet using dye on hickory face and door frames for a customer. A couple comments: 1. Using dye does increase finishing time quite a bit, 2. Even applying water to raise grain did not eliminate the raised grain from applying the water soluble dye, 3. applying water based final finish helped level out traces of laps or uneven application of the dye.

7/2/2010 09:30:45 AM Report Abuse
rxeagle wrote:

Very informative. Wish that I had seen this before I started using dye. The info on grain raise was very interesting. I have used bright colors and they worked very well.

7/1/2010 11:29:08 AM Report Abuse

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