Color Saturated: How To Make a Wood Stain from Regular Paint

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We have been building a rammed earth garden shed for over a year now, squeezed in between work schedules, parenting, and keeping up with the general (less exciting) projects of homeownership. Last weekend we finally put a door on it, which was made by my husband of salvaged cedar. We wanted something green, but didn't want to give up the natural woodgrain of the salvaged boards:

So, we headed to the local paint store to research our options. There were exterior wood stains in a small selection of colors. But they didn't come in anything smaller than a gallon (way more than we need) and cost something like $50 a bucket. Not to mention, there was no color that even came close to our desired super-saturated-emerald-with-the-slightest-hint-of-blue.

We left the paint store a bit perplexed, but with one perfect little color sample in hand: Benjamin Moore's Juniper 2048-20. After some reassurance from online anecdotal advice about making translucent finishes by adding water to latex paints, we decided to give our dream green a try as a watered-down, DIY stain. 

After much experimentation and testing, we mixed the paint (exterior MoorGlo in a soft gloss finish) in the ratio of one part paint, one part water. Applied with a brush, it soaked into the cedar, and the grain showed through. We will have to see how the door stands up to the test of time, but aesthetically, this is just what we were going for (and it cost us about $10). 

We are contemplating putting a clear polyurethane over the "stained" door to preserve the translucent color but make the surface more washable and water-resistant. It isn't a huge factor, though, as the shed has large overhangs, the door faces a narrow and protected alley, and the cedar is naturally-weather-resistant anyway.

As the shed project wraps up (along with lots of other semi-related outdoor projects), I look forward to sharing it with you. But at the pace we are working, that's likely to be sometime this fall. In the meantime, I thought this little tip on making your own colorful stains could come in handy!

(Image: Regina Yunghans)