Can Polyurethane Paint Be Tinted? (How-To)

Polyurethane is a type of plastic sealant that can be tinted using color pigment. This allows for the creation of custom colors. It also means you don’t need to purchase an entire gallon or quart for just one color.

You can tint polyurethane paint with the use of a color pigment but one drop at a time. Stains are also available in the market for tinting clear coats. But, you need specially made tints, not stains.

You can also use paint to get your desired tint which you are looking for. But, never try changing the tint using latex paints; always use oil-based paints for it.

However, changing tint with paints is possible, but there are no exact steps of how much color one should add to get the choice results. So, it is a hit-and-trial method, and you can try adding colors in polyurethane and see if it turns out to be the same as you expected.

You should try it on a small quantity of polyurethane and apply it to a testing area for initial checking. You should also wait till the testing portion dries completely to see if it gets darker upon drying or not. If it gets darkened, you will know what modifications you need to do while adding color into polyurethane to tint it.

Can You Change The Color Of Polyurethane?

Yes, you can change the color of polyurethane easily. This can be achieved by using urethane pigments which are available in markets all over the world.

Urethane pigments are the most cost-effective way to add the color of your choice to polyurethane. The most common colors in which the pigments are available are white, black, and blue.

You can use any of them to blend with your polyurethane. Or, you can also choose to experiment with mixing all three of them to create a new shade of your choice.

These pigments come in an opaque color as a paste as they are meant to deliver an opaque finish. These pigments can be added to polyurethane at about two to four percent by weight and mixed before adding a catalyst.

Related Read: Can You Use Polyurethane on Concrete?

How To Add Tint To Polyurethane?

You may not have tried tinting polyurethane before. But, it’s an excellent method to create a semitransparent topcoat for furniture, woodwork, and flooring. It’s a beneficial method for adding UV protection to external woodwork without having to paint it.

There is not any derived formula or method for adding tint to polyurethane. As mentioned above, it is more of guesswork; try it on a small quantity and prepare a testing area for it first. Afterward, follow these steps to tint polyurethane.

Stir The Polyurethane

Stir the polyurethane perfectly first. It doesn’t matter oil-based or water-based, you have to stir it thoroughly first. You can tint both types using the universal color pigments.

Do a Batch Test First

Never tint the whole amount of polyurethane at once. Try to prepare a test batch always, as it will help you in determining whether the tint came out perfectly or not.

Pour a small amount of polyurethane into a container, use a measuring cup for accurate calculations. Suppose you want to tint a quarter of polyurethane; try adding around three ounces first, which is one-tenth of a quarter.

The most important thing in the entire process is to finalize the pigment color, which you will use to tint polyurethane. So choose wisely, based on the final finish that you desire to attain.

Add Drops of Pigment to Polyurethane

Now, add drops of the pigment into the test batch of polyurethane. Count the drops as you add. Also, use a stir stick and thoroughly mix the pigment until it is evenly dispersed. In this manner, combine as many colors as desired, considering how many drops of each color you use.

Related Read: Should You Tint Chalk Paint?

Test The Tinted Color

Now, take a piece of wood and test painting the tinted polyurethane over it. If needed, add more color to the polyurethane mix well and apply again. But, if the color gets too dark, then toss out the whole test batch and prepare a fresh batch again.

Tint The Polyurethane Color

If you got the desired shade of tint, it’s time to convert it into the quantity you want. You must remember the drops you added for the desired shade and then multiply the number of drops by the appropriate factor.

Let us suppose the same quantity as mentioned above, the one-tenth of a quarter. In that case, nin-tenth will be the remaining part in the container.

Hence, you need to multiply the number of drops by nine to get the same color as the testing batch’s color.

The final step is to perform the same procedure to prepare the actual quantity. Add the proper amount of pigment, and stir it thoroughly until it gets mixed evenly.

Related Read: How To Use Polyurethane on Metal?

Can You Darken Polyurethane?

It is not sure that you can darken polyurethane by repeatedly applying a polyurethane coat over an older coat. But it is possible if you add a tinted polyurethane coat over a transparent layer.

If you want to get a dark finish of polyurethane, then follow these simple steps

  • Sand the coat of transparent polyurethane after it gets dry. Sanding off between layers helps the next layer to stick perfectly as well as if there is any debris caught in the first layer, it will be removed.
  • After sanding off, make sure to remove all the dust and debris from the surface to avoid any dust getting caught in the layer again.
  • Then apply two to three coats of tinted polyurethane over it, make sure you let each layer dry before applying the next.
  • Do not apply more than three coats as it may result in a dull finish.

Related Read: Can Polyurethane Paint Catch Fire?

Can You Tint Oil-based Polyurethane?

The oil-based polyurethane coatings are really good for providing excellent scratch resistance. It also adds abrasion to woods and other materials like cabinets and railing. The oil-based polyurethane can be tinted and offer more strength to the coating after it is applied and cured completely.

Most professionals believe that using oil-based polyurethane can provide a better finish to your surface compared to water-based. It gives better depth in color and shine, so tinting oil-based color is a good idea.

The water-based polyurethane is mostly duller in color and finish. So, adding tint to water-based polyurethane is not considered by most professionals.

Moreover, oil-based polyurethane usually gets yellow after a while, especially on the lighter colors. So, adding tint to oil-based polyurethane will prevent it from getting a yellow or amber hue after a longer duration.

Related Read: Does Polyurethane Paint Expire?

Can You Tint Polyurethane With Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is a version of polyurethane without oil. That means that tinting oil-based polyurethane using acrylic paint might not work. If you use water-based polyurethane, it can be tinted as the structure of both the compounds will be the same.

So, if you are planning to tint polyurethane, you must first check the type of polyurethane you are using. If it is oil-based, then tinting it using acrylic paint will not work. You can use universal color pigments which are oil-based.

Moreover, if you use water-based polyurethane, it is possible to tint it with acrylic paint. You need to be careful before tinting the whole quantity.

Try using it on a smaller amount of polyurethane and see the results. If it serves the purpose and gives the desired shade, you can carry on tinting the whole volume of polyurethane.

Related Read: Should You Sand Between Coats of Polyurethane?


Tinting polyurethane is a process that requires careful consideration. It’s important to test the color on a smaller quantity of material first before proceeding with large tinting quantities. This will help you avoid wasting time and money on materials or creating a product that doesn’t match what you wanted in the end.

Related Read: Can You Apply Polyurethane Over Chalk Paint?

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