Home » How To Dye Wood (5 Popular Ways!)

How To Dye Wood (5 Popular Ways!)

This post may contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

To achieve a unique look, woodworkers cover their projects with the wood finish of their choice. Coatings like wood stains and paint are more popular as most people opt to use them on wood; however, dyeing wood is a process hardly known by many. Nevertheless, finished projects and lumbers can benefit from wood dye against other wood coatings.

While most other coatings form a layer on top of the wood, wood dyes penetrate the wood to produce a different result. Wood dyes give the wood an attractive look as its molecules are smaller, making it possible to penetrate the wood grains without blocking their grains. As a result, the color does not stop the grain’s visibility and aesthetics. Wood dyes do not protect the wood later but are great for aesthetics. You can apply a sealant or a wood stain after the paint to add a protective layer.

Now to the thought that must have been on your mind since you discovered how effective wood dyes could be; how to dye wood. Since wood dyeing is not widespread, correct information on staining wood may be difficult. This is why we’ve put together this piece describing how you can dye wood. Some methods use traditional materials you’ll find in your homes, so you may not even need to purchase any material.

5 Ways to Dye Wood

There are several ways to dye wood, but in this section, we’ll only consider some of the most popular methods. The process involves all the materials you’ll need and a step-by-step guide to completing your first wood dyeing project.

1. Using Food Coloring

Using Food Coloring

Food coloring may have been made for food, but it can dye your wood, also. In this method, we’ll see how to use regular food coloring on your kitchen shelf to stain wood.


  • Food coloring
  • Warm water
  • Plastic bags (optional)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sandpaper
  • Bowl
  • Foam brush

Step 1. Prepare the Wood and Workspace

Before applying the Dye, ensure the wood is clean and smooth. Use fine-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface of the wood before wiping it with a clean rag to remove any debris. Preparing the workspace involves placing the workpiece on paper or any material that can absorb skilled Dye.

Step 2. Prepare the Dye

Prepare Pour warm water into the bowl and add the food coloring of your choice. You can mix more than one color to achieve a blend; however, remember that the more food coloring you add, the more concentrated it’ll be, and vice versa. Mix thoroughly, as food coloring takes to take a while to dissolve entirely in the water.

Step 3. Apply the Dye

If the Dye is ready for your wood, but the application style you choose may vary. You can immerse the whole wood in a plastic ziplock bag filled with the Dye and allow it to soak in for some minutes. You can also utilize a foam brush for larger wood surfaces by dapping the foam into the Dye and rubbing it onto the wood surface as it seeps into the pores. Apply a few coats to get a cleaner, more concentrated look.

Step 4. Leave to Dry

Wood dyes are water-based, so they only need a few minutes to dry. However, you may leave it for a few hours to get the complete look and color since the Dye tends to lighten as it dries.

2. Using Powder Dye

Using Powder Dye

Powder dye usually comes in plastic containers and is typically used to improve the color of faded clothes, shoes, and fabrics. The Dye may come in a single container or have other parts to mix. You can use this powder dye on wood to the best effect.


  • Powder dye
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint rush
  • Hot water
  • Polyurethane (optional)
  • Ceramic or glass bowl
  • Rubber gloves

Step 1. Prepare the Wood and the Area

Sand the wood with fine sandpaper to remove rough spots and ensure the Dye absorbs evenly. After sanding, wipe with a soft cloth to remove dust from the surface before placing the wood on a material to prevent spillage from staining the surrounding area.

Step 2. Mix the Dye

Dye containers typically carry instructions that you can follow to prepare the Dye for application. Usually, the ratio will be one box of powder dye to two cups of hot water. Hot water is essential here as it is harder for powder dye to dissolve than liquid Dye. Pour the suitable Dye and water proportions into a ceramic or glass bowl and mix thoroughly.

Step 3. Apply by Immersion or Using a Paintbrush

You can immerse small wooden projects into the bowl of Dye as long as it is completely covered. You can also use a paintbrush to manually apply the Dye to the wood surface by dipping the brush in the Dye and stroking the wood in the direction of the grain. Test the color on a piece of scrap wood, ideally one from the same material you’ll use. This will give you a more accurate result.

Step 4. Let it Dry

Leave the wood on a surface with the newspaper where it won’t stick and dry overnight for best results. You should get an even, clean look by the morning.

Step 5. Spray With Polyurethane

Since wood dyes do not protect the wood and can quickly fade, using polyurethane on the Dye will prolong the Dye and protect the wooden surface. Spray the polyurethane onto the surface to create a shiny look that is effective in preventing fading.

Bonus Read: How To Fix And Secure Polyurethane Mistakes? (14 Foolproof Ways)

3. Using Coffee

Using Coffee

The coffee you drink has some dye properties that make it suitable for dyeing wood. However, this is not a vital dye and may take several more layers to get a darker color.


  • Coffee
  • Coffee pot
  • Paintbrush
  • Rag

Step 1. Prepare Wood and Work Area

Clean the wood and sand using sandpaper or a sanding machine for larger projects. Dust off the particles from the surface to leave a smooth and clean area ready to receive the Dye.

Step 2. Prepare the Coffee

Use a coffee pot to brew a strong coffee to get a dark hue. Darker coffee will reduce the number of layers you need to get a good dye color. The larger the surface you need to cover, the more coffee you have to brew. While coffee grounds are not helpful when making coffee to drink, you’ll need them when using wood. Add the dirt into the coffee pot as part of the Dye.

Step 3. Apply the Coffee Dye

Before applying the coffee to the wood, remove the heat and wait for it to cool. However, ensure the coffee is still warm when you start the application. Apply by dipping the paintbrush into the coffee and wiping the wood surface deeply in the direction of the grain. This will help push the particles into the grain and allow the wood to absorb as much coffee as required to dye the wood.

Step 4. Leave to Dry

Arrange the wood on a material that can absorb dripping coffee and not leave any mark on the wood. Leave it to dry for a few hours before checking to see if you’ve gotten the right hue. You can darken the look by applying more coffee-dye layers to the wood.

Also Read: 8 of The Best Wood Fillers to Buy (Complete Buyers Guide)

4. Using Water-Based Wood Dyes

Water-Based Wood Dyes

Water-based wood dyes are popular dyes that tend to raise the wood grain, which may make it look rough. Nevertheless, you can overcome this using a process to increase the grain beforehand.


  • Water-based wood dye
  • Rubber gloves
  • Clean, dry rag
  • Water
  • Paintbrush

Step 1. Damp the Surface

To pre-raise the grains and prevent the wood dye from creating a fuzzy surface, damp a piece of rag with water and wipe the wood with it.

Step 2. Sand With 220-Grit Sandpaper

Use fine sandpaper to smoothen the surface and prevent the Dye from raising the grain.

Step 3. Apply Dye

Apply the Dye by dipping the paintbrush into the Dye and wiping the wood, ensuring no streaks or lap marks are formed. You can also apply by wiping with a rag or even spraying directly on the wood, especially for projects with corners that’ll be difficult to reach with a brush.

Step 4. Allow to Dry

First, wipe off excess Dye using a dry rag and leave the wood to dry for 30 minutes to reveal the true hue; you can decide to adjust the shade to a darker color by applying another layer.

Step 5. Apply a Top Coat to Seal the Dye

Use a topcoat of your choosing to cover the Dye and keep its vibrant color from fading. Luckily, water-based wood dyes are compatible with most top coatings.

5. Using Liquid Watercolor

Liquid Watercolor

Artists use liquid watercolors to paint, while calligraphers use them to do excellent writing. Since liquid watercolors contain more Dye than pigment, they are also great for dyeing wood. This method is fast; no mixing or heating is required since they’re already in liquid form and ready to go.


  • Liquid watercolor
  • Bowl or ice tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Wax paper

Step 1. Prepare the Surface and Wood

Sand the wood with fine girl sandpaper-like 220-grit to get a smooth surface. Place the wood on a nylon that can prevent the watercolor from staining the ground.

Step 2. Pour Watercolor Into a Bowl or ice Tray

You can use a bowl or ice tray for this method, as bowls provide more surface area for paint brushes or when dipping more extensive materials. In contrast, an ice tray allows you to pour several colors into different trays.

Step 3. Apply on to the Wood

You can apply directly by dipping a paintbrush into the watercolor and brushing it on the wood or dipping it into the watercolor bowl, allowing for about 3 minutes. Using a paintbrush will enable you to control the concentration and color better with more coats to get a darker look.

Step 4. Allow to Dry

leave the wood on a paper towel for hours, ideally overnight. And access the final color to see if it’s your desired hue.

Also Read:- How to Apply Stain to Wood (Step-by-Step Beginners Guide)


Wood dyes may not be as popular as other wood finishing materials. Still, they are just as important in creating an attractive look, especially when dyeing attractive colors. With the variety of methods available, you can choose the most suitable for you, including ways that use materials from your home.