How To Tint Polyurethane? (3 Steps)

Polyurethane is a clear sealer that protects the material underneath from scratches, moisture, and water.

To tint polyurethane, stir the polyurethane, add paint pigments, and test the tinted color.

The pigments amount you use depends on your needs. Use more pigments if you want a more colorful finish, or use less pigments if you want a semi-transparent or a lighter shade finish.

Note: You can tint oil-based polyurethane only with oil-based paints, such as enamel. You can tint water-based polyurethane only with water-based paints, such as latex. Mixing the solvent (or base) will ruin the finish.

Can You Change The Color Of Polyurethane?

You can change the color of polyurethane by using urethane pigments. Urethane pigments are colorants designed for urethane-based coating to change their finish color. They are available in a wide range of colors, but the most common colors are white, black, and blue.

Mix polyurethane with urethane pigments before applying it, and the sealer will produce a colorful finish. You can mix different pigments together to get a unique color shade.

Urethane pigments come in an opaque color as a paste, and these pigments will deliver an opaque finish. You can add 2-4% (based on weight) of urethane pigments to the sealer, mix it, and then add a catalyst.

Can You Tint Oil-based Polyurethane?

You can tint oil-based polyurethane but you must use pigments (or paints) that are compatible with it. For instance, you can’t tint it with latex paint because they have a different solvent.

To tint oil-based polyurethane, use oil-based paint such as enamel or universal pigments.

Oil-based polyurethane tends to yellow over time, so tinting it is recommended as it will prevent it from turning yellow. If you tint it you will have a colorful, thick, glossy finish that protects the wood underneath from weather elements and water.

Can You Tint Water-based Polyurethane?

You can tint water-based polyurethane, but you must use water-based paint or compatible pigments, such as acrylic or latex paints.

Acrylic and latex paint are water-based and use water as their solvent. Since water-based polyurethane uses the same solvent (water), they are compatible.

Use acrylic paint to get a more colorful finish as it has more pigments than most paints and is flexible and compatible with polyurethane.

Since acrylic paint is used for artwork, it comes in different colors that you can choose from. This gives you more options in choosing a good color.

How To Tint Polyurethane?

To tint polyurethane, do the following things.

  1. Stir the Polyurethane.
  2. Add Paint Pigments.
  3. Test the Tinted Color.

Tinting polyurethane will create a semi-transparent finish that protects the material from UV, moisture, and water.

1. Stir the Polyurethane

First, stir polyurethane using a turning stick or paint mixer. Stir for about 5 minutes. Don’t stir too hard, because while stirring, air can trap inside the coating and cause bubbles once dry.

2. Add Paint Pigments

You must do a test batch first. Try to add a small amount of pigments and see the result.

Pour a small amount of polyurethane into a container; use a measuring cup for accurate calculation. You must write down the exact number of measuring cups you use. This helps you to create a formula to use the next time. For instance, if you want to tint a quarter of it, try tinting three ounces (1/10) first and see the results.

Once the polyurethane is in a container, add drops of pigments (count the drops) and stir the mixture using a turning stick. Stir until the mixture has a consistent color.

3. Test the Tinted Color

Test the tinted polyurethane into a dispensable material. Apply 1 coat of it, wait for it to dry, and check its color shade.

If you want a lighter shade, add more polyurethane to the mixture. If you want a deeper shade, add more pigments to the formula (and mix again).

How To Darken Polyurethane?

To darken polyurethane, mix it with dark paint or pigments. Un-tinted polyurethane doesn’t get darker if you add more coats because it’s a clear coat that doesn’t have pigments. So, if you add multiple coats, the finish will get blurry but not darker.

To darken polyurethane do the following things.

  1. Sand the finish. Sanding removes its glossy layer and allows the new coat to stick better.
  2. Clean the sanded finish.
  3. Mix polyurethane with dark pigments. Test the mixture first to see if you like the color shade.
  4. Apply 2-3 coats of it over the surface. Let each coat dry before adding the next one.

But, don’t apply more than 3 coats as the finish can get blurry.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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