How to Stain With an Acrylic Paint Wash

Written by megan shoop
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How to Stain With an Acrylic Paint Wash
Acrylic paint washes bring out wood grains without stain. (wood image by Marvin Gerste from

While wood grain gives your home a cosy, rustic feel, dark stains can make a room feel dark and closed, while lighter stains may look dated. A third option involves painting the wood with a coloured paint wash. Acrylic paint washes give your wood a chic, colourful touch without covering up the wood grain. You may use pastels to give your home a French country feel or change up colours for a more modern look.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Acrylic paint
  • Warm water
  • 2 gallon plastic bucket
  • Stir sticks
  • Paintbrush
  • Unfinished wood
  • Water-based varnish
  • Sandpaper
  • Tack cloth

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  1. 1

    Fill a 2 gallon bucket about halfway full of your chosen acrylic colour. Add about a pint of warm water and stir. Add another cup of warm water and stir some more. Continue this way until your paint is the consistency of coffee creamer.

  2. 2

    Paint your wood in even, vertical strokes. Try to overlap your strokes as little as possible to avoid brush marks. If you see brush marks, lightly brush the tip of your paintbrush over them until they blend into the rest of your work.

  3. 3

    Apply only one coat to your wood. More could cover up the grain. Allow the paint to dry overnight. As the paint dries, some of the water will soak into the wood, taking the colour with it. The grain should reveal itself as different shades of your chosen colour.

  4. 4

    Apply a coat of varnish to your work. Allow the varnish to dry for two or three hours. Sand the wood lightly; the varnish will soak into the wood and make it a bit rough. Wipe the piece down with tack cloth to remove sawdust.

  5. 5

    Apply a second coat of varnish. This should make your piece smooth. Allow the wood to dry for about 24 hours.

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