Lightening a Too-Dark Spray Stain

After listening to advice, a finisher has good luck using thinner to wipe off some excess stain. October 26, 2007

I have just finished spraying a whole set of kitchen cabinets with a RKR Coatings spray stain (not waterborne). I find that the color is a couple of shades darker than wanted. Would it be safe to spray a yellow alcohol dye over this to lighten it up? Any other suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
Wiping them down with acetone or lacquer should lighten the color if you only have stain on. Also some colors will look darker until you put a finish over them. Using the yellow would probably not help the problem.

From contributor G:
I'm pretty sure contributor S meant lacquer *thinner*.

I would try everything available to lighten them without washing the color off. Try the yellow with some lacquer on it - what have you got to lose? If you wind up washing it off, the color will be pushed into the grain of the wood. If the stain formulation has several colors, it could deconstruct and the darker colors may go deep into the grain. You will lose the effect you are using the spray stain for. You will likely have to do a lot of sanding, too.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice. According to the color wheel principle, yellow should lighten it, so I may try spraying a scrap of the same maple and then test the yellow theory on that first. I'll see what the outcome is anyway. I have used spray stains on numerous projects before and have never had this happen. The funny thing is, the color that it dried to is actually another one of the colors available. It almost seems like there was a mistake in the label on the batch that I purchased.

From contributor G:
It is entirely possible for a stain supplier to make a mistake. I've seen it many times and that's why I check the color of new gallons of stain before using them. Depending on your total business with the distributor (if you get all your clears from them, for instance), they may cover some of the costs of fixing the problem.

From contributor B:
I would think white would be a better choice than yellow and would steer the color more into a shade of the color that is already there as a tint. Especially since yellow would make things look more, well, yellow. If it's already a brownish or earth tone, yellow will probably push it towards orange. White may push towards flesh or tan. The white pigment would be more opaque than a yellow dye, though. That said, I've always heard/believed that you can't lighten a finish by adding something. I'd be interested in hearing how it turns out, though.

From the original questioner:
I thought I would test the lacquer thinner tip on a small open shelf just to see what would happen and low and behold, it wiped it off just enough to bring the color a couple of shades lighter and now it matches the sample exactly. Thank goodness that was a simple fix. I usually cut the spray stain and build in several layers, but the technician suggested just going full strength. Next time I will definitely be cutting the first couple of passes to be on the safe side. Thanks for the advice.