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The Best Wood Stains on Pine

Trying to decide what color to wood stain your pine wood project? Check out the ten best wood stains on pine – and beginner-friendly tips for staining pine!

Pine is one of the cheapest woods to work with, so it’s super popular for beginner woodworking projects.

However, sometimes pine wood can look… cheap!

rack of plywood at lowes

Adding the right stain can transform the look of your pine wood into something much more high end or stylish.

We work with a lot of pine and so we decided to test out ten different wood stains to show you what our favorites are for pine!

applying pre stain wood conditioner to pine board

If you are looking for what stain to use on pine wood, there is no wrong answer. Hopefully seeing these examples will help you to decide.

Be sure to check out my tops tips on how to stain pine wood!

wood conditioner on pine

Characteristics of Pine Wood

When choosing a stain for pine wood, it’s important to remember the characteristics of pine wood.

  • Light in color
  • Soft in texture (easy to dent/scratch)
  • Dark colored knots, often with a smooth texture or cracks around it
  • Grain raises (gets bumpy to the touch) when wet
  • Fairly straight grain pattern
  • May have rings

Do you want to highlight the grain and knots/rings in the pine or disguise them?

Soft wood will also absorb stain much more than harder woods – soaking up more color and often getting darker compared to harder woods.

Wood stain safety precautions

It’s important to follow safety precautions when using wood stains, such as wearing gloves, protective eyewear, and a mask when applying stains. Also, don’t wear any clothes you would mind being ruined by a splash or spill!

Best dust mask for woodworking - Charleston Crafted

Frequently asked questions about staining pine wood

What stain looks best on pine?

The best stain on pine depends on the look that you are going for. My favorites are Early American (dark brown), White Wash (white), and Sun Bleached (very light gray).

Is it better to paint or stain pine wood?

Pine can be painted or stain, and this choice totally depends on the look that you are going for. However, it can be pretty hard to paint over the knots in pine wood. Often it’s better to embrace the knots and grain and go with a stain instead!

How do you prepare pine for staining?

Using a wood conditioner pre-stain to prepare pine before staining can help even out the dryness of the pine board and allows it to absorb stain more evenly.

Can I stain pine to look like oak?

You can stain pine to have the color of natural oak! Golden Oak or Weathered Oak are both good stain color options for this look.

Can I stain pine to look like walnut?

Yes – you can stain pine to have the color of walnut! Minwax Dark Walnut is my favorite stain for this!

Why is my wood stain blotchy?

Wood boards dry out unevenly, causing blotchy stain finish. The drier spots absorb more stain than the less dry bits (kind of like a dry sponge can absorb more water than a damp sponge). These spots then appear darker than the neighboring areas. Apply a wood conditioner pre-stain to even out the dryness of the wood and reduce blotchiness.

What happens if you put too much stain on wood?

Applying too much stain will dry goopy, sticky, and drippy. Have no fear – while the stain is wet, use a cloth or even paper towel to wipe off any excess. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain for best results!

How long should stain sit before wiping off?

Five or ten minutes is all the time that wood stain needs to soak in. I usually just wait until I am done staining the whole piece and then go back and wipe it down from where I started staining.

Should I use a pre-stain conditioner on pine wood before staining?

Soft woods like pine tend to absorb stains – especially dark colors – in a blotchy way. Applying a pre-stain conditioner helps the stain to absorb more evenly!

How do I maintain the color of pine wood stain over time?

Applying a clear topcoat will help to protect your wood project from fading and damage over time!

The best stain colors for pine

10 colors of wood stain on pine

Here are the ten wood stains that we tested on this type of wood:

  1. Early American by Varathane
  2. Dark Walnut by Minwax
  3. Briarsmoke by Varathane
  4. Puritan Pine by Minwax
  5. Classic Gray by Minwax
  6. White Wash by Varathane
  7. Walrus Oil cutting board oil
  8. Weathered Oak by Minwax
  9. Weathered Wood Accelerator by Varathane
  10. Sun Bleached by Varathane

Each was applied to clean, sanded pine. This is one coat of stain, fully dried, with no top coat.

The best light stain for pine

varathane white wash wood stain on white wood, poplar, pine, oak, plywood

For a light stain, I love the look of White Wash by Varathane. It really lightens the wood tone, but has a transparent finish so it doesn’t look too white.

We have tried a few white wash stains and this is by far our favorite! It has a nice medium amount of coverage and creamy white color that works really well on pine.

Read my full White Wash review!

The best gray stain for pine

varathane sun bleached wood stain on white wood, poplar, pine, oak, plywood

My favorite gray stain on pine wood is Sun Bleached by Varathane.

This is a very warm toned gray stain color, almost a greige.

It reminds me a lot of our wall paint color – Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray – but in a transparent form.

This shade adds a really nice rustic or beachy look to basic pine wood. It’s perfect for furniture that you want to feel light and breezy, with a bit more color compared to a whitewash.

Read my full Sun Bleached review!

The best dark stain for pine

varathane early american wood stain

Early American by Varathane is our favorite dark wood stain on pine wood. It has a rich, dark brown stain color that still lets the grain of the wood shine through.

The color is super warm, inviting, and just pleasant on the eyes. This is a very warm toned brown stain and perfect for staining floors or furniture!

I love this as an option if you want to cover darker knots in pine. It really makes them blend and disappear – which could possibly have the effect of making the wood look more expensive than it is.

Read my full Early American review!

Spraying stain on deck

Tips for staining pine

Pine is a light, soft wood that tends to have a lot of dark knots.

Applying a wood conditioner is important for getting even stain absorption.

If there is variation in the dryness of your board, the dry areas will absorb more stain and therefore get darker in color.

Wood conditioner will help to prevent this!

In general, take your time staining pine. It can be unforgiving. If you aren’t happy with the finish, check out our tips on how to fix blotchy wood stain – there are things you can do to help make it look better!

applying wood conditioner to plywood

Most projects only require one coat of stain. Apply wood stain with a lint-free cloth or foam paint brush and then use a cloth to wipe off any excess.

wipe excess wood stain

Examples of stained pine

Here are some of our projects with stained pine wood!

the best wood stains for pine

Before you go…

Now that you’ve picked the perfect stain for your pine project, don’t miss our tips for how to stain pine wood for the best possible results!

What’s your favorite pine wood stain?

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