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 infographicI 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.

Note, this post contains some affiliate links. 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 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


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 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. 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 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. 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.

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.

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!

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

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

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18 thoughts on “10 Favorite Wood Stain Colors

  1. Thank you. I am working on refinishing my kitchen cabinets. They are mid-90s orangish oak. Yuck!. Don’t mind oak, hate the orange. It has been quite a task stripping and sanding. I have been testing stains, and many of them come out very orange still. I am looking at the Varathane brand ( a few people told me to avoid Minwax). I might go Special Walnut. Can’t go too dark, as it is a small kithcen and we are already going to do a smokey hickory vinyl on floors.

    1. You’re welcome Cheryl! That’s so exciting you are refinishing your kitchen cabinets! And that’s great you are testing stains, it’s definitely the best way to determine which color will look best on your own wood pieces.

    2. I am having a pine wood console table made-having the top stained in dark walnut-would gray go with that? I do like it with the white base and legs but we have no white at all in our house. Our furniture is all gray.

  2. This was really helpful! Thank you. I need to pick a wood stain for the floors of my new house but I’m supposed to choose from the Varathane colors (which have the same names as the Minwax). Is it safe to assume that the Provincial from Varathane looks like the description you gave of the Minwax? Your description makes it sound perfect, but the stain color from Varathane looks much darker brown than honey. I want a nice medium honeyed brown that isn’t too red and isn’t too dark. My contracter/floor finisher is only giving me two colors to test, so would appreciate any insights.

    1. You’re welcome Idana! I’m glad to hear it was helpful! Although the names of some of the Varathane and Minwax colors are the same, the colors may be similar but they won’t be the same since they are different formulas. To be safe I would test out an actual sample from the Varathane to be sure.

    1. It was the flooring in our old apartment that we were renting so unfortunately I don’t know which flooring it was…it was a laminate wood floor though, not real hardwoods.

    2. Love this article! Thank you! I just bought a coffee table that’s gray on top, white at the bottom. Love how it looks just want to change the top to Dark Walnut. Do I have to sand or can I just add the stain?

  3. Can you help me with a brand and color for cedar posts and pine ceiling on our white farmhouse? I picked a really too dark stain for inside so I am scared to pick for outside. We want it a little more darker than the natural cedar. It is too light for me. Maybe a golden color. Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Can you tell me what kind of stain is best for outside? Does Minwax work outside?

    1. I’m not sure which stain will produce a slightly darker color than natural cedar, but if you just do a coat of polyurethane or another sealant, that will enhance the natural grain and cause it to darken some. Where are the cedar posts being used outside? My favorite stain for cedar is English Chestnut by Minwax as shown in the post. You can use Minwax stain outside. There is also stain specifically made for the outdoors but it depends what you are using it for. Cedar is naturally weather resistant so it doesn’t always need an exterior stain. No matter what stain or sealant you are considering, I would recommend definitely testing them out first in some scrap cedar to make sure you like it!

  4. After one coat of Jacobean stain on red oak floors, I’m worried color is dull or has too much black/gray. Wishing I had mixed it. Can I adjust color slightly with second coat to give it a richer brown color?

    1. I’m not sure since all types of wood take stain differently. I would test it out in a small area first to see and then you can just sand that test spot down if you don’t like it.

  5. Thanks fo much for this detailed post! I’m brand new to staining, so this is just what I need. About how much stain will I need for staining the top of a coffee table? Will a 1/2 pint be enough or should I go with more like a quart?
    Thanks again!

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