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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 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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Jeffrey Ackroyd

Monday 14th of September 2020

I am going to be staining a stool w/ 2 different stains.1 stain for a section and the other for another section of the stool.Do you feel that dark walnut and early american stain is a good combination?

Angela Marie Made

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

Yes!! I think that is a good combination of a light and dark stain.


Thursday 10th of September 2020

Hi Angela,

It's my first time making wood signs and I purchased Provincial by Minwax. Would you say the prestain changes the tone of the color? Or it only makes it more even less blotchy? When I stained my Pine wood, it seemed darker than what you had in your pictures, not like a rich brown more of a darker grey brown. Any tips? Appreciate it !

Angela Marie Made

Friday 11th of September 2020

In my experience the pre conditioner does not change the color, and prevents dark blotching. Not all wood will take stain the same way, even the same species of wood, so that could be causing the difference. Make sure the wood is well sanded and don't apply the stain too heavy to avoid it coming out darker.

Leslie Laws

Friday 4th of September 2020

Hello! I am building a new home and my vaulted ceiling in my great room will be tongue and groove pine + decorative beams (built out of pine also). I would like the tongue and groove to be a bit lighter (not not so light it looks like natural) and the beams to be a bit darker. Which two stain colors do you think complement each other? Thank you!!!

Angela Marie Made

Saturday 5th of September 2020

That is so exciting!! For the darker stains I really like Jacobean or Dark Walnut. For a lighter option a good compliment to those darker stains would be honey maple or if that is too light the special walnut. I would definitely test these out and play around with different samples since it is such a big space. Thank you.


Thursday 13th of August 2020

Hi there, I am deciding between two colors of minwax oil base solid stain for a 100 year old house. It was previously stained red oak which was a little too light and showed imperfections in the wood. I am deciding between the red mahogany and the Jacobean. I believe the banister is the red mahogany. On a sample stick they almost look the same --with the Jacobean a tiny drop deeper. Also, do you recommend a satin sheen to go over it? The shine looks richer to me but I think with kids the satin may look better on an everyday basis. We are trying to sell the house but if it doesn't sell we want to do the right thing for our sale as well as ourselves. Thanks very much.

Angela Marie Made

Friday 14th of August 2020

I have not used red mahogany but Jacobean is great for a darker stain color. It will also depend on the type of wood that you are staining so I would definitely try to compare the two on the actual would in addition to the sample stick. As far as a clear coat or satin sheen like a polyurethene, to go on top it may be good as a protection factor as well especially with kids, and it will give it a brighter look that accentuates the stain.


Wednesday 10th of June 2020

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!

Angela Marie Made

Thursday 11th of June 2020

Great! Yes a 1/2 pint will be enough for a coffee table!