Correcting a Too-Red Stain

Green moves red in the direction of brown. Here are tips on careful application of that color correction. January 9, 2007

I just stained all the interior trim (pine) on a project with Sherwin Williams stain and the color came out more red than the client liked. Is there a way to neutralize the red tint and make it more brown/golden? If neutralizing the red isn't possible, what about bleaching?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Toning with a green tint will turn it more brown. Be careful not to use too much.

From contributor J:
Run a sample. Take a piece and seal it with just enough sealer to get it wet. While it is still wet, using a cup gun full of thinner and a tablespoon of green dye, fog it - the red will go brown, but be careful, because it can go green if you lay too much on. If you do go too green, you can fix it by doing the same thing with red. Seal after shading right away. Do not let it dry completely before sealing over the green shade. Wet - meaning still soft - within 5 minutes. Sand and top coat. Run a sample!

From contributor L:
Why shouldn't you let the green dry before sealing?

From contributor J:
I would only let it dry if I wanted to take some or all of it back off. If using a CV, you don't want it to be too dry before recoating over with sealer to lock in the color. Remember, the color carrier in my formula is lacquer thinner.

From contributor O:
Is there a chance you could mix some green right into the topcoating that you used and then just shoot another coat on the trim? If you haven't put any type of coating on at all, mix a little thalo green, or even some raw umber, in some thinners and stain right over the existing stain. Make up some samples and get a signature on the back of the one the client likes. For now, I would stay away from any kind of bleach.

From contributor G:
Is there any lacquer on the too-red stain?

From the original questioner:
No. There is no lacquer on the stain at all. Just one coat of stain. It seems that green (or raw umber) is the consensus and kind of what I was leaning towards. I am going to try several of the methods on some samples and see what I can do. I am assuming another coat is going to make the trim fairly dark. Is there a good way to keep the stain from darkening as much as possible? Thanks for all the help.

From contributor G:
Try making a sample and put some amber shellac on it. Pine has quite a lot of yellow in it and it will show up when you put a coating on.

From contributor A:
If you tone (dye in finish) with green, you should be able to kill the red without making the finish noticeably darker. The other posters' suggestions about making samples is a good idea. Go easy on the green, and shoot it in a thinned finish. You can always shoot another coat of toner, but too much and it'll go green - and then you have to shoot red to kill the green... and... I'd shoot a pure green and not a greenish brown. It's always a good idea to keep some red, yellow, blue (blue+yellow = green), and black dye around for shifting colors.

From contributor F:
TouchUp Depot carries canned aerosol toners called "Block It" which are green, blue, orange, and yellow in a lacquer carrier. These are great for adjustments on smaller areas. I keep a can of each in the shop at all times.

From contributor M:
If the stain is not sealed with a coating, I would wash it down or off. It would be much easier for you to get a better color. Try a 50/50 mixture of lacquer thinners and Den Alco. Be sure you make up a complete start-to-finish sample.

From contributor W:
You could also try a small amount of 844 industrial colorants. Like the previous note said, green, and a very small amount.