Can You Add Stain To Polyurethane- A Guide to Coating Combinations

People frequently add polyurethane and stain and end up with poor results. Exactly why is this happening? Do they not mix well?

Can you add stain to polyurethane? Yes, it is possible to add stain to polyurethane. Adding stain to polyurethane can be an excellent way to personalize the appearance of your wood projects. By combining the two finishes, you can create a one-of-a-kind color that is both durable and beautiful. 

However, the desired outcome is mostly determined by the mixing process and the ratio that you use for each of them. And a proper mixing guide with an ideal ratio idea is provided for your understanding here. 

Can You Add Stain to Polyurethane?

Yes, you can combine stain and polyurethane to create a finish for your woodworking projects. This method is also referred to as “stain and poly blend” or “stain and polyurethane in one.” (Note: However, this is not recommended for everyone.)

Can You Add Stain to Polyurethane
  • The combination of stain and polyurethane can give color and protection in one application. 
  • Make sure the oil-based stain and polyurethane products you use are compatible. You can change the color intensity by varying the stain-to-polyurethane ratio; add more stain for a darker shade or less for a lighter one. 
  • To ensure compatibility and the desired results, it is essential to test the mixture on a small, discrete area before using it on your entire project. 

Remember that it might take several coats to get the desired color and protection. Testing is crucial to determining compatibility and final appearance because the results may vary depending on the specific products used.

What Ratio Of Stain To Polyurethane Should You Use?

The ratio to use when combining stain and polyurethane will depend on the level of color intensity desired and individual taste. Several ratios are frequently used by people, including:

  1. 50:50 Ratio: This is a well-liked option where stain and polyurethane are combined in equal parts. It offers a carefully considered balance between color and defense.
  2. 25:75 Ratio: When a lighter color is desired, use 25% stain and 75% polyurethane. This ratio lets the wood’s inherent beauty shine. It does, however, continue to offer some color enhancement and protection. 
  3. Custom Ratios: You can experiment with various ratios to get the desired color, depending on the particular project and desired results. Many people choose a stain color with a strong stain percentage, while others choose a delicate shade with a lower stain percentage.

Note: Keep in mind that before using the mixture on the entire project, it is crucial to test it on a small, discrete area or a sample board. By doing so, you can evaluate the color and make any necessary modifications to get the desired outcome.

How to Mix Stain With Polyurethane? (For 50:50 Ratio)

How to Mix Stain With Polyurethane

Before learning how to mix, let us be aware of the main tools we will need. Tools required to combine stain and polyurethane are listed below:

  • Stirring tool or a paint stirrer
  • A measuring cup or container
  • A clean bucket or mixing vessel

To combine stain and polyurethane in a 50:50 ratio, follow these four steps:

Step 1: Choose Your Products 

Pick a polyurethane and stain that work well together based on oils. Make sure that both products are appropriate for the project at hand and the desired result.

Step 2: Get the Stain Ready 

To distribute the pigments evenly, thoroughly stir the stain using a stirring stick or paint stirrer. This makes sure that the mixture has a consistent color.

Step 3: Combine the polyurethane and stain

Pour an equal amount of stain and polyurethane into a clean container. You can measure by volume or use visual estimation to get equal parts of each for a 50:50 ratio. 

Step 4: Mix the mixture

Use a stir stick or paint stirrer to mix the stain and polyurethane thoroughly. Stir gently, being careful not to create too many bubbles. Continue mixing until the components are well combined and the color is consistent.

Furthermore, before applying the mixture to your entire project, it is always recommended to perform a small test on a sample or inconspicuous area. This ensures the desired color and compatibility. 

However, if something goes wrong, you can fix it at this stage.

Is There Any Risk If Adding Stain To Polyurethane? 

There is a slight chance of color inconsistency or uneven stain pigment distribution when staining polyurethane. This may occur if the stain and polyurethane do not blend together perfectly, resulting in slight color variations on the finished surface.

Overall, staining with polyurethane is a common and successful technique. With just one application, it provides the convenience of both color and protection, saving time and effort. You can reduce the risk and ensure a desirable result by using proper mixing methods. 

Additionally, test the mixture beforehand in a tiny, discrete area to reduce risks.

Is There Any Risk If Adding Stain To Polyurethane
If you’re considering adding stain to polyurethane to achieve a customized finish, our article on can you put polyurethane over tung oil considerations might provide insights that could help guide your decision. Additionally, if you’re wondering about applying polyurethane with a roller for efficient and even coverage, our guide on can you apply polyurethane with a roller is here to offer guidance. We understand the importance of achieving the best finishes and addressing specific application techniques, and our comprehensive resources are designed to help you navigate and make informed choices for your woodworking projects.


Here are some answers to common questions regarding stain and polyurethane mixing. Hope this gives you more insights.

Q: Can I mix the stain with water-based polyurethane?

Yes, you can combine water-based polyurethane with water-based stain. Make sure they are identical-manufacturer products that are compatible. The stain should be mixed gently while being combined in a clean container. Before applying to the entire project, test on a small area.

Q: Will staining polyurethane affect its drying time?

Yes, staining polyurethane has the potential to affect drying time. When compared to using polyurethane alone, the addition of stain may lengthen the overall drying time. For the specific product you are using, it is crucial to follow the drying instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Q: How many coats should I apply to the stain-polyurethane mixture?

The desired color intensity and level of protection will determine how many coats are required. A consistent and even finish is typically achieved by applying two or more coats. Before applying the subsequent coat, let the previous coat dry as directed by the manufacturer.

Final Words

So the answer is yes if you ask “Can you add stain to polyurethane or not”.  A few considerations must be made before applying the stain to polyurethane. The first rule is that water and oil-based products complement each other. Never attempt to combine water- and oil-based substances; it will end in disaster. 

If you want the best results, try to use products from the same manufacturer. There is a slight possibility that the outcome will differ slightly from your expectations if the stain and polyurethane are made by different manufacturers. Finally, in order to achieve the desired color, follow the right mixing techniques and ratios.