How to Apply Littlefair’s Water Based Wood Dye for a Beautiful Finish

Dyeing and staining wood is not just a task - it’s an art form that, when done correctly, can transform an ordinary piece of wood into a masterpiece. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional woodworker, the proper application of a wood or stain is crucial for achieving the desired level of depth and richness in your projects.

This article will guide you through the nuances of wood staining, helping you to avoid common pitfalls and master the techniques that will give your woodwork a professional, even finish.

Understanding Types of Wood Dyes and Stains

Before you embark on your journey, it's essential to understand the different types of wood dyes and stains available on the market. Whether they are water based, oil based, gel based, or varnish based – each have their own set of characteristics. Littlefair’s offer a wide range of Interior and Exterior Water Based Wood Dyes, which offer easier clean-up and shorter drying times as a huge benefit. In addition, our dyes offer long-lasting durability often accredited to oil and varnish based dyes and stains but with the added environmental benefits without the use of harmful chemicals and solvents.

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Preparing Your Wood

Careful, thorough preparation will result in a far superior finish.

Ensure your wood is as clean as possible and free from previous finishes. Do not apply the dye to wet surfaces. Well sanded wood will be far more receptive to dye, and this will form the basis for a good quality finish. Avoid cleaning the wood with white spirit! 

For a comprehensive guide on preparing wood for a flawless finish using Littlefair's products, dive into our blog titled "How to Prepare Wood for a Perfect Finish with Littlefair's: A Step-by-Step Guide."

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The Process

Choosing Your Dye

Selecting the right wood dye is a balance between the desired finish and the type of wood you're working with. Consider the wood's natural colour and grain pattern, as these can significantly influence the final result.

Applying the Dye

Upturn and shake well for a few moments prior to use, ensuring any sediment is well mixed and the colour of the liquid is consistent throughout the entire bottle. Repeat prior to each use of the dye.

Apply the dye liberally along the grain with a good quality brush, alternatively the dye can be sprayed. We recommend using protective gloves and splash goggles during use and simply wash out your brush with cold water afterwards.

Adding Additional Coats

Each dye may require a different number of coats depending on the shade you desire. If you are looking for a darker shade, wait for the first coat to dry completely before adding additional layers – each further coat will deepen the shade if required.

Tips for an Even Application

Achieving an even application of wood dye is paramount for a beautiful finish. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Test First: It’s important to note that the final appearance will be a combination of the natural colour of your wood, the effect of the dye and the finishing product if used. With this in mind - always produce a test piece so you can properly judge the result. 
  • Consistent Motion: Apply the stain with consistent, smooth motions to avoid overlaps and drips.
  • Keep it Thin: It's better to work with thin coats, as they are easier to control and less likely to result in a blotchy finish.
  • Consider using a Dye Pre-Conditioner: Especially for softwoods, Littlefair’s Wood Dye Pre-Conditioner can help in achieving a more uniform finish.

Remember, patience is a virtue in dyeing and staining wood - rushing the process can result in a finish that is less desirable.

Addressing Common Challenges


Blotching happens when the dye absorbs unevenly. To counter this, you can apply a Wood Dye Pre-Conditioner, particularly on softwoods. It helps to even out the rate of absorption, minimising blotchy areas.

Uneven Penetration

Uneven penetration can occur if the dye is applied inconsistently, or the wood wasn't sanded evenly. To avoid this, sand meticulously and use equal pressure when applying the dye.

The Role of Weather in Exterior projects

The weather can significantly affect your wood finishing process. High humidity can prolong drying times, while direct sunlight can cause the dye to dry too quickly, leading to an uneven finish. Always prepare your project in a controlled environment when possible, or choose a day with moderate weather conditions for best results.

Completing Your Project

Once dry, the dyed wood can be finished with a variety of finishing products depending on the desired result.

Littlefair’s Extra Strong Varnishes or Superior Worktop and Danish Oils will provide greater protection. Once the varnish or oil is completely dry, you can apply wax polish to create a durable yet softer, silky feel. Our Extra Strong Varnishes are quick drying and non-yellowing - ideal for producing a tough furniture finish on most wooden items.

The oils will be more suitable in damp conditions however to achieve a tough waterproof coating, Littlefair’s Titan Topcoat can be used for superior robust protection.

Choosing a Finish

To reduce the amount of general wear and tear on your project, you'll need to protect the wood with a finishing product. Littlefair’s offers a range of varnishes, oils, wax polishes and the increasingly popular Titan Topcoat. Choose based on the project's intended use, the level of protection needed, and the desired aesthetic.

Project aftercare

Maintaining dyed or stained wood is relatively straightforward. Dust it regularly, when needed, and clean it with a mild detergent. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasives that can damage the finish.



Applying wood finishing products is an accessible task for anyone willing to take the time to understand the process, and approach the project with patience. The key to a beautiful finish is in the preparation of the wood, the application of the dye, and the protection of the dyed or stained wood with a proper finish. By following these steps and tips, you're well on your way to mastering the art of wood finishing.



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long should I let the Water Based Wood Dye dry before applying a finish?

The drying time can vary based on a number of factors such as the properties of the dye itself, the weather, and the wood's porosity. Generally, it's best to wait at least 24 hours before applying a finish.

Can I mix different dyes to get a custom colour?

Yes. All of Littlefair’s Water Based Wood Dyes can be mixed to achieve a customer colour. However always produce a test piece of every batch to make sure you are getting consistent results.

Do I have to sand between coats?

Sanding between coats of dye is not typically necessary. When dealing with multiple coats of a finishing product, it is often advisable to gently sand between coats, using a fine grit abrasive, to achieve a smooth finish.

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