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10 Favorite Wood Stain Colors

When it comes to picking out what stain color to use for a project, there are many different wood stain colors to choose from!

It can be overwhelming to choose from all the stains available on the market and know what the stain color will actually look like on your wood project.

I thought it would be helpful to round up 10 favorite wood stain colors and show samples of what they actually look like on wood.

These are all classic, brown color stains, you can check out 5 gray wood stain options here if you are interested in gray colors and white wood stain options for white stains.

10 Favorite Wood stain colors infographic

I picked these colors based on my tried and true favorites, readers favorites (based on an Instagram poll), and what seems to be popularly used. These stain colors are all easy to find at your local home improvement store or online.

Also, they are all oil-based stains since oil-based stain is very common, affordable, and easy to find and purchase.

The stain color samples below were tested out on pine wood since it’s very commonly used. Do keep in mind that stain colors can look different on different species and types of wood.

So, it’s best to always test your stain out in a small area on your project first to see how it looks on your piece of wood before applying it to the whole project!

Also, if you need tips on staining, see my how to stain wood tutorial and the best way to apply wood stain. And  if you are staining birch plywood, check out my how to stain birch plywood tutorial for specific steps about staining birch!

Note, this post contains some affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you shop those links (at no cost to you). Thank you for supporting my small business. For more info see my disclosures here.



10 Favorite Wood Stain Colors:

1. Dark Walnut by Minwax

Minwax dark walnut stain on pine wood

Minwax Dark Walnut (also available here!) was the first stain color that I fell in love with when I first started woodworking. It’s the perfect, medium-dark wood stain with golden highlights that show through the wood grain.

It think it looks even better when it’s finished with an oil based polyurethane which really enhances the dark walnut color and the grain of the wood.

Here is a photo of my first DIY farm table where I used Dark Walnut.

DIY Farm table with Minwax dark walnut stain

It is also the wood stain base color I use as part of my DIY gray wash wood tutorial!


2. Ebony by Minwax

Minwax Ebony on pine wood

If you want a bit of a black and brown stain color, Minwax Ebony is a good choice. This was my first time using it and it was a reader favorite. It reminds me of a tree bark color with the dark tones and it’s definitely one of the darkest stain color favorites.

3. Provincial by Minwax

Minwax Provincial Stain on Pine wood

One of my top favorite stain colors is Minwax Provincial, I’ve used it a lot! I think it’s the perfect classic wood stain! Not too light or dark, it has a golden honey hue to it that is beautiful. It’s always my go to color when I need a wood tone color that will go with almost any design plan.

Here is a photo of my DIY floating table and my DIY floating shelf, where I used Provincial for both.

DIY floating table with Minwax provincial stain
Easy DIY floating shelf with minwax provincial stain

4. Jacobean by Minwax

Minwax Jacobean stain on pine

Minwax Jacobean (also available here!) is a rich, dark brown color. It’s similar to Dark Walnut, but a bit darker and the golden grain hues are more subtle and bit more light brown toned. Jacobean is a beautiful, rustic color that reminds of cabin colors!

5. Early American by Minwax

Minwax early american stain on pine

One of the lighter brown wood stain colors is Minwax Early American (also available here!). Early American has a more faded sun look to it which gives it a light, weathered vibe. It has a hint of red in the color. Another classic brown you can’t go wrong with!

I used Minwax Early American on our DIY bathroom vanity and loved how it turned out:

DIY bathroom vanity with minwax early american stain

6. Special Walnut by Minwax

Minwax Special Walnut on pine

Special Walnut by Minwax (also available here!) is a lighter, brown walnut color. I found it to be similar to Early American but with more muted brown tones and no red tones. I’ve seen it used on flooring and it’s another very versatile stain color.

7. English Chestnut by Minwax

Minwax english chestnut stain on pine

If there’s one stain color that truly sounds like the name of it, I think it’s Minwax English Chestnut (also available here!). It really looks like a chestnut color to me! It’s another one of my favorite stain colors and I love using it on cedar wood. It enhances the cedar wood grain dramatically! It looks a bit darker on pine, but still very pretty!

Here is a photo of Minwax English Chestnut on our DIY vertical planter stand, which was made with cedar wood.

DIY Vertical Planter Stand with minwax english chestnut stain on cedar wood

8. Briarsmoke by Varathane 

Varathane Briarsmoke on pine

One of the most popular wood stain colors I found was Varathane’s Briarsmoke. And I can see why, it’s a nice mix of rustic browns and hints of smoky gray, with a few light highlights peeking through. I’m already thinking of my next project that I could use it on!

9. Kona by Varathane

Varathane kona stain on pine wood

This was my first time using Varathane’s Kona stain and I really like the color! It’s a very subdued, earthy brown tone with less golden highlights than some of the similar Minwax colors.

It’s nice that you only need one coat with this Varathane stain, but I actually added a second light coat on this sample to get a better sense of the color. And make sure to stir it really well before using since it’s a thicker stain and all the color is at the bottom!

10. Honey Maple by Varathane

Varathane Honey Maple on pine wood

Varathane’s Honey Maple stain is the lightest stain color in this round up! I actually used two coats on this sample as well even though it’s advertised as a one coat stain. It’s a nice natural wood looking stain that deepens the natural, grain colors of the wood. It does kind of look like a coat of light honey was applied to it!

Well I hope this round up of wood stain colors has been helpful for you and makes the stain color picking process a little easier!

After you pick your stain color, make sure to sand the wood well when preparing your project for stain! It really helps with the staining process.

And if you need tips for creating a beautiful, stained finish, check out how to stain wood. And if you are staining birch plywood, see how to stain birch plywood!

Again if you are interested in a gray stain, see 5 gray stain options and for white stain, white wood stain options.

Or if you want a more weathered finish, see how to create a weathered wood gray finish, as well as my Weathered Wood Recipes eBook. Finally, another option for wood finishing is to distress wood with paint!

So, which stain color is your favorite? Or is there a classic, wood stain color that you love that I haven’t included here?! I’d love to hear, feel free to share in the comments!

And here’s another photo summary of the 10 colors if you want to pin it and save for later!

10 Wood Stain Colors Favorites

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most popular stain color?

The colors above are all popular options but it really depends on the person and the project so there is no perfect color or perfect stain color for everything. One person might prefer darker stains while another prefers lighter stains!

For natural wood tones and flooring a lighter stain like Provincial or medium stain like special walnut will help accentuate the natural wood grain and natural color of the wood.

Another popular look is having white painted walls and then using a darker stained piece of wood furniture or mantle piece to accent the entire room.

Out of my favorite colors, I would have to say that my most popular wood stain color is Provincial by Minwax.

Can you match a stain color?

Being able to match an exact stain color can be difficult to do if you do not already know what type of stain has been applied and depending on the type of wood it is being applied too.

For best results there is going to be some trial and error to get a more accurate stain color representation. Look for a similar color and test that out in a hidden area on your project. Apply a second coat of stain to get it darker.

Another option is to try using two different stain colors. Apply the first stain color and let it dry. Then, apply a second coat using another color. Based on these tests, you can determine what is the best match!

Is interior stain different than exterior stain?

Yes, interior wood stains are formulated to only be applied to interior wood surfaces. The main factor being the exposure to the elements. Interior stain does not need to hold up like exterior wood stain does.

Exterior wood stain typically comes in larger sizes due to the nature of the outdoor projects like decks, and fencing. Another difference between interior and exterior stain is that there are not as many color options for exterior as there are interior.

Also, with exterior stains you want to pay attention to the transparency of the stain. Semi-transparent stains are nice because you see the wood grain still but solid stains provide more protection from the elements.


Finally, if you are interested in learning more about topcoats for stains, check out how to apply polyurethane to wood! I discuss how a top coat like polyurethane can change the final look of your stained wood, as well as the difference between an oil-based topcoat vs water-based top coats.

Follow along on Instagram and Pinterest for my latest projects, fun updates, and sneak peeks!

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Laura Ferguson

Tuesday 10th of October 2023

I’m building a modern farmhouse with a -mahogany front door -Pine bead board ceilings and -cedar pillar/posts. How can I figure out which stain(s) will look good on all three types of wood? I am actually hoping for medium shade for the door, a darker shade for the pillars and a lighter shade for the ceiling. Is this too much?

Angela Marie Made

Wednesday 11th of October 2023

I think the only way is to test it out. If there isn't a way to test on the wood you're going to be using yourself, I would get a scrap piece of cedar, pine, and mahogany and experiment with different stain colors!


Friday 25th of August 2023

Hi Angela! I just discovered your site, today. I was looking for stain colors. I’ve been doing woodworking, for quite some time now. However, my biggest job yet. A 12’x20’ shed. Yikes! It’s Hemlock board & bats. I love the Early American for it. However, I’m struggling to find a perfect red shade, for the cedar shakes, that will adorn the gable ends. Please Help! Any ideas, or pointers, would be great! Tank you.


Friday 25th of August 2023

We used 2 parts provincial 1 part dark walnut on our wood floors. They’re red oak. Turned out perfect. We need to also stain our dining room table. It’s old with an inlay. I can’t decide! Any recommendations for a dining room table? I have a white oak island that looks natural… just a clear coat. So I’ll have another wood color in the room too.


Sunday 11th of June 2023

Thank you for laying the Minwax oil stains for pine! Did you use a pre conditioner before applying the oil stains, specifically for the Jacobean stain?

Angela Marie Made

Tuesday 13th of June 2023

Yes, I used pre conditioner on all of them!


Sunday 21st of August 2022

These are so helpful and all beautiful. Thank you. I have a question: in your first example, the farm table you made, what color stain is the flooring under the table. It's very beautiful also! Is the flooring hickory?

Angela Marie Made

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

I am not sure, it was a rental and that's the floors that came with the place!