What do you mean when you use the terms shading and toning? I have Bob Flexner's book and use the terms the way he describes. I've been told I'm incorrect and want to know what they mean to other people.
From WOODWEB's Finishing Forum
From contributor W:
If you're using Bob's definitions, then you're using the terms in the same way that all the professional finishers I know use them. I'd suggest you show his illustrated definitions to whoever told you that you're incorrect; it seems they're the ones using the terms incorrectly.
Toning is putting colorant, either dye or pigment (I prefer dye), into a film coat and then spraying the toned film over an entire piece in order to subtly adjust the color. Toners are sometimes used in lieu of stains; for example, we use them to "clear coat" cherry doors when there are minor variations in substrate color.
Shading is spraying a toned film coat (or a stain, for that matter) over discrete areas of a piece, such as around the edges of a guitar face or a casket top, to provide contrast and drama.
A toner can be made up from either dyes or from pigmented colorants, or a combination. A dye toner is used for color and transparency. A dye stain can also be a toner. Pigmented toners are the most commonly used toners because there are no white dyes to lighten the wood color. Pigmented toners are used because they have a better selection of colors, and can be made translucent, or as an opaque toner. Most toners are use to completely change the color, shift the color, or blend the colors in the woods. Toners may be transparent, translucent, or opaque. They may be made up using a combination of both types of colorant. Once the woods are toned, they then can be stained, paste wood filled, glazed, and a shading stain can be used to add more color to the finish.
A shading stain can be made up with dyes or pigmented colorants, or they can be combined. A shading stain is a color added to a clear coat. It is used to add color and coating in each application, until the desired color is achieved, and then the clear coatings take over until the finish is completed. This is commonly called a shading stain finish. Shading stains are also used at the end of a finish to add more color, to kick the color over, or to blend and uniform the color of a finish.
Stains are liquid colorants that may be made up of dyes, pigmented colorants, or a combination of both of these colorants, added into the proper solvents to make up a stain. Shading stains are colorants that are added to a coating.
Learning to tone and shade with transparent and translucent colorants is an art that is only mastered by trial and error, practice, and precisely measuring your colorants, binders, and solvents.
I really get turned off when I hear the word paint connected to pigmented colorants, because when they are used right, pigmented toners, stains, glazes, and shading stains produce excellent finishes. It's too bad they have been put down for so long.
You need to make up a pigmented toner that is lighter in color than the woods, if you want to hide the multi-colors of the wood. (I prefer using pigments because there are no white dyes.)
I would start with a white lacquer, add a little burnt sienna paste colorant, and mix it up. I would want a flesh colored toner. Then thin this out with thinners. You want this toner to be translucent. You only want to add enough of the flesh colored toner to uniform the wood's color, you do not want to hide the woods - you want a uniform lighter color. As you know, making it darker is no problem.
You should practice this technique on some cardboard or newspapers, then on a piece of wood until you have the right color toner that is translucent.
Once you have toned the woods, you can apply a seal coat, then go on to your stain, seal, glaze if need be, seal, use a shade stain if needed, then go on to your clear coats.
If you're dealing with minor variations in heartwood color, I'd say don't worry about it. As the wood ages, the variations will be less pronounced. If you're dealing with sapwood, use a sap stain to get a more even color tone.
I think some really do not know what a true toner is, and why it is used for factory finishes. Some finishers use the term "tone" or "toning" instead of "blend" or "blending." Also, the word "shade" is used when you are really "blending" or "uniforming."
According to this author, toners can be used to lighten or darken the color of the wood and dyes or pigments can be used.
Personally, I don't care what you call the technique you use as long as you can describe it so I can understand what you're talking about. If someone tried to make a "finisher's dictionary," I figure 50% of the finishers would throw it in the trash because "it's wrong."
In finishing, one size does not fit all. What may work on one job will not work on another. As you know, woods are erratic both in color and appearance. A stain, be it a dye or pigment, is not always the answer to match customers' samples. In some shops they use stock colors for all their finishing; in fine custom shops the customers supply you with the samples, and you need to match their colors and their finishes. This becomes a whole new ball game, and now you need to use both the dyes and pigmented colorants. This is where I believe that toners start to shine. This is how the furniture manufacturers produce most of their factory finishes. Not every finishing shop uses or needs toners - like everything in finishing, there is a time and place for them, and that is when they are really needed.
Comment from contributor A:
The finishing trade is mired in more of a linguistic quagmire than any other I know. To a woodworker a dado is clearly a dado, and there's an end to it. Even though dado does have several completely different meanings, the meanings are crisply defined and not really up to interpretation; discussions deal more with derivation than meaning. For finishers, however, communicating with precision about subjects like toning and shading is an almost hopeless challenge.
In reading through the various comments above, some seem TO ME to be right on the money, others way off. I have some thirty years experience in this field, have taught related subject matter at a technical college, have continuously studied and scoured technical literature to bolster my knowledge. Still, my understanding of words like 'toning' and 'shading,' and other technical lingo, I learned initially from another person. I received the information as a link in an oral tradition stretching back in time. If that person was misinformed or even just described things badly--either at the bench or in his writing--I grew to understand the words wrong as well. Despite all the care I have taken to be accurate, I know at times I have passed erroneous information along to my students.
With a structured tradition of apprenticeship as in ages past, trade jargon would almost certainly be more uniform. But lacking that, most of us learned on our own, picking up information here and there from teachers who did exactly the same. For example, I learned in art classes--and it's mentioned in Webster--that a shade of a color contains a touch of black, and that shading is applying a darker gradient of a color. So, in reading the comments above, I immediately understand the person who speaks of shading used for a dramatic effect on a guitar or another who means overall darkening of a finish, whereas some other uses of the word shading sound like gibberish to me. I know it isn't gibberish; I know that the writers are skilled craftsmen and that they are completely earnest in their contribution, but I simply don't understand the usage as they do. In a sense, we are writing in different languages without a good dictionary. It's not as simple as what one person calls 'shading,' the other calls 'toning.' To each person there are subtle degrees of overlap, gradation, and even convolution in the meaning of the words based on their life experience. I would almost certainly understand the word shading differently if I hadn't had the art classes.
So, who's right? Ultimately, it's the usage that survives over time and distance, but that's not much help to us right now. Although each contributor to this discussion is trying to offer a definition of terms in a forthright, reasonable, and systematic fashion, each respondent sees the subject through their own framework of experience. Shoulder to shoulder in the shop, the explanations might make perfect sense and the differences in the understanding of terminology become insignificant, but in cryptic online notes without a controlling reference which limits the meaning of our language, we're floundering.
A journal like Professional Finishing could provide a great service to the trade by synthesizing data to develop a standard lexicon for finishers based (1) on information in their articles over the years, (2) on their editor's experience, (3) on technical literature, (4) on information from other contributors like suppliers of finishing products, (5) and on their reader's vast experience. The best dictionaries are always the product of collaboration of experts over time. Although individuals can certainly make important contributions, ultimately a consensus on meaning based on sifting of the data by many minds is most reliable and useful. Who's right doesn't matter. What matters is developing a standardized vocabulary so we stop talking at cross purposes. Language changes for us all; there would probably be little resistance to adopting wholly new definitions of terms if we knew they were standardized and accepted industry wide.
If you apply a color that is lighter, you are toning in; if the color is darker, you are shading it in. Except when you are doing a "shading stain finish," which is done with paste pigments or dye colors added to your coatings.