How to Stain Wood with Paint

Staining wood with paint is similar to using regular oil stain.  The difference is clean up is a breeze and you can incorporate colors that inspire any project.

Let’s begin!


Choosing Wood

Every great staining project begins with a piece of clean wood.

I have a tendency to use leftovers from house projects but if choosing new, I adore pine and cedar because both are easy to use and have a simple grain.

Pine is fantastic for this paint stain technique especially if you’re making signs.

You can also salvage for reclaimed wood if desired and many times you can find nice boards in the scrap bin at any home improvement stores at a discount.


Sanding Comes First

Before choosing our paint color we must first sand the wood.  Staining with paint works best on smooth surfaces because our goal is to enjoy color without losing the grain of the wood.

For light staining use medium grade sand paper and prep the surface by hand.

Wood that needs additional help or even ink removed I use my electric sander.  Remember with both applications always sand with the grain of the wood.


Types of Paint

The types of paint I use are normally leftovers from previous projects which is what led me to discovering this technique. I was cleaning out paint and wanted color on a project so it just kind of made sense to use paint like a stain.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Fusion Mineral Paint or Dixie Belle Paint.
  • Apple Barrel Craft Acrylic Paint – Inexpensive and easy to use – purchase at craft stores or online.
  • Chalk paint  – No specific brand it’s a breeze and I love it, purchase at craft store or online.
  • Behr – Purchase at Home Depot in test containers great for interior and outdoor projects.

If you already have paint at home and you’re curious about this technique then look for small pieces of wood and do a test to see if you like it.


Getting the Paint Applied

Apply the paint using a clean cotton rag.  In this project I’m using a piece of an old bath towel.

When finished I’ll toss it because there won’t be much left of it.  Make sure your rag is cotton as it absorbs the paint making application a breeze.

Always begin on the back side first so you can get the feel and apply by rubbing in towards the grain of the wood.  Take your time and enjoy the process.

To achieve your finish you may have to rub the paint in a little harder so use those muscles.

I used this technique on a regular basis at many of my Make and Take Workshops.  It was easy to learn and everybody loved it.



This piece was stained using Fusion Fork York Red.  

This color is spectacular in person and look at the grain appearing through.  Together they both complement like it was meant to be.


More Colors using Chalk an Behr Paint

With these test boards I applied the colors the same as the red and green examples.

The white was from Behr and the application was smooth and simple.  The brown was Waverly chalk paint and it really brought out the wood.


I really like the white and it’s given me some neat ideas for a future project.  Staining with paint will be a new staple for future ideas so stay tuned for more.

Use up bits of paint to stain wood. It's pretty sweet when you can give a piece of natural wood a little color and still see the grain shine through. #StainWood, #PaintStain




  1. Patti says:

    Love this idea. Gets the job done without all of the smell. I just stained a piece of wood for my dining holiday table and I’m now thinking about adding a little paint. Thanks!

    1. Carole says:

      Yes I’m loving this one too. I almost always for get to wear gloves when I begin staining so for me it’s the clean up in addition to smell that drives me crazy about stain. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

  2. Jemma says:

    Good Morning Carole,

    Fabulous! Look at those rich colors and I agree stain is so nasty smelling so this is an excellent alternative.
    You are always coming up with the most creative and inspiring techniques and projects!

    Looking forward to January when things settle down and we can get together.

    1. Carole says:

      This is a fun one you’ll have to give it a try after the holidays. Just a good way to use up paint too.
      Yes January sounds great!!

  3. Cheryl says:

    Wonderful ideas, Carole! Thank you ever so much for participating in the interview and for sharing about it here. So thankful to share your amazing story! I’m glad your husband told you that you should! Have a very Merry Christmas!

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks Cheryl, I should be thanking you for the opportunity to share. Enjoyed opening up and wish you and your family a Merry Christmas too!

  4. Jane says:

    Hi Carole, I love this idea! It looks like you could skip the distressing step with the red pictured above. Love how you can still see the grain of the wood. I’ll be trying this…thank you!

    1. Carole says:

      You’re welcome and I love it because yes you can skip the distressing and it dries fast so you can complete a project really quick. Wednesday I’ll be sharing what I did with this board.

  5. gail says:

    Great tip! I love how the grain of the wood shows through the paint!

    thanks for sharing at Talk of the Town,


  6. Melissa Zieleniewski says:

    Wow! I never thought about staining wood as, the process. I always thought staining was all about the product used. I mean, that’s the way it’s sold in stores. There is paint and there is stain. You always have the neatest information on your blog. 🙂

    I’m so glad I read this post. We had a huge bookcase built in our living room and I have been trying to decide what I should do with it. I love all of the wood but was dreading working with all of the fumes and the clean up. Now I have a whole new option! Yayee!

    1. Carole says:

      That bookcase sounds like a neat project. Glad you found this helpful, I like to mess around with different concepts especially when I’m trying to clean things out around here. Got think outside the box I guess. Thanks for stopping by was nice to hear from you Melissa.

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