Matching Wood Stain Colors

**Though I was compensated for this post in product and/or monetarily, all opinions, ideas and comments are 100% my own. Please note: this post may also contain affiliate links.**

I’ve been asked hundreds of times over the years how to match a stain to the current finish on a piece of furniture or trim/flooring in a home.  If you’re not familiar with doing this, many times people resort to stripping an entire piece of furniture for a simple repair.  With the right tools and a little patience, it’s not difficult to match a current stain or an expensive name brand.  Using Unicorn SPiT you can match any color imaginable. Unicorn SPiT is a water based stain/glaze with a very vibrant based color that doesn’t lose it’s pigment when diluted. It is also non-toxic and VOC free. Being able to mix and match your own wood stains with safer products not only saves money and time, but also allows you the freedom to use them indoors or with your kids help.

wood finishers color wheel how to match wood stain
The Wood Finishers Color Wheel

Tools Needed:

– Wood Finishers Color Wheel

– Universal Color Wheel

– Unit based measuring container

– Squeeze Bottles with tops

– Unicorn Spit colored gel stains in Lemon Kiss, Rustic Reality, Weathered Daydream, Midnight’s Blackness, Squirrel, White Ning and Molly’s Red Pepper

First, whether you’re matching an existing stain color on a table or out of the can you need to be able to determine the base and the added toner/tint.  This is where a Finisher’s Color Wheel will come in hand.  By spinning the inside wheel and laying the color wheel next to what you’re matching, you will be able to get a rough match with the color matching closest in the inner circles.  The outer circles of the wheel represent base colors of wood stains and universal tints.  Once you have found your closest match, look in the color ratio section of the wheel for your beginning mix.

In the photo above you’ll notice I’m using the Finisher’s Color Wheel to first match the stain on a dresser drawer.  Dialing the color wheel in, I can see the mix ratio to start with is 3 parts Cordovan (Substitute Molly Red Pepper) to 1 part Black (Substitute Midnight’s Blackness).

Hair Color Measuring Cup

I found these measuring cups a few years ago at my local beauty supply store.  They’re used to measure hair color in salons, but they work perfect for mixing stains or paints. You’ll notice down the side of the cup are the lines marked out for units.

unicorn spit custom blend

Start with the recommended ratios off the color wheel and using a test board, adjust if you need to. Keep in mind that when you’re matching the stain on an existing piece of wood, do some prep first.  Find out what type of wood you’re working with.  Some woods will need to be toned before staining to avoid your stain looking too red or too green.  Use your Universal Color Wheel to determine what complementary color to use on woods to tone down reds or greens.

For matching oil based stains, it’s always best to have a sample to compare to.  If you don’t, no worries I’ve done some of the most popular for you.

I’ve matched the colors for all the stains pictured as well as a few others.

Varathane Carbon Grey

-Varathane Weathered Grey

-Rustoleum/Varathane Kona

-Rustoleum/Varathane Expresso

-General Finishes Nutmeg, Antique Walnut, 

Brown Mahogany, Java

-Minwax – Dark Walnut

You can see I started by doing swatches for each color on the test board above.

Then testing and adjusting each color as I matched them.

I tested each color until I thought my eyes would cross.  Finally I had color matches and ratios for each.  Since Unicorn SPiT is a water based product it has a flat/matte sheen until it is sealed as you can see in the finished color match board below.

Here are the color ratios using Unicorn SPiT to match each of these colors:

Carbon Grey– 3p Weathered Daydream, 1p Midnight’s Blackness

Weathered Grey– 3p Weathered Daydream, 1p White Ning

Nutmeg– 6p Squirrel, 1p Lemon Kiss

Dark Walnut– 7p Rustic Reality, 1p Squirrel, 2p Midnight’s Blackness, 1p Lemon Kiss

Antique Walnut– 7p Rustic Reality, 1p Squirrel, 1p Midnight’s Blackness, 1p Lemon Kiss

Kona– 5p Rustic Reality, 3p Midnight’s Blackness

Expresso– 50/50 Rustic Reality and Midnight’s Blackness

Brown Mahogany– 6p Squirrel, 1p Midnight’s Blackness

Java–  5p Rustic Reality, 1p Molly Red Pepper, 1p Midnight’s Blackness and just a touch/squirt of Purple Hill Majesty

Here are a few examples of pieces finished with these mixes of Unicorn SPiT.

Unicorn SPiT Mix for Nutmeg
Unicorn SPiT Mix for AntiqueWalnut
Unicorn SPiT Mix for Java

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