Can You Tint Polyurethane? (Here’s How To Do It)

Polyurethane is a clear sealant that protects the material underneath from scratches, moisture, and water. But, since polyurethane has no color, can you tint it?

You can tint polyurethane using a color pigment. Once polyurethane mixes with paint, the polyurethane finish will have a color.

However, the amount of paint you use to mix with polyurethane depends on your needs. So it’s more of a guessing game. If you want a lighter shade of color, you add a small amount of paint to polyurethane. If you want a deeper color shade, you add more paint.

There’s more to know about tinting polyurethane with paint, and this post explains everything. 

Changing The Color of Polyurethane

You can change the color of polyurethane by using urethane pigments. Using urethane pigments is the best way to color the change of polyurethane. The most common pigments are available in white, black, and blue. 

You can mix polyurethane with one of these paint pigments. Or, you can mix it with all three and get a unique shade for your finish. 

The urethane pigments come in 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 polyurethane, mix it, then add a catalyst. 

Oil-based Polyurethane

You can tint oil-based polyurethane. However, you must use paint pigments (or paints) that are compatible with oil-based polyurethane.

For instance, you can’t tint oil-based polyurethane with latex paint because they have a different solvent. To tint oil-based polyurethane, use oil-based paint such as enamel or universal paint pigments. 

Tining oil-based polyurethane is recommended. That’s because oil-based polyurethane turns yellow after a while. So, tinting oil-based polyurethane will prevent it from turning yellow. 

If you tint oil-based polyurethane, you will have a colorful, thick, glossy finish that protects the wood underneath from weather elements and water.

Water-based Polyurethane

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

Acrylic and latex paint are water-based paints that use water as their solvent. Since water-based polyurethane uses the same solvent (water), you can mix it with latex paints. 

However, to get a more colorful finish, mix water-based polyurethane with acrylic paint. That’s because acrylic paints have more paint pigments than latex paint. Also, the paint is more flexible and compatible with polyurethane. 

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

If you mix water-based polyurethane with latex paint, the latex paint won’t get sticky or peel off in humid conditions. 

How To Tint Polyurethane?

Tinting polyurethane is a great way to create a semi-transparent finish for your material. In addition, you will have a colorful topcoat that protects the material from UV, moisture, and water.

As explained before, there’s no exact formula for adding tint to polyurethane. It’s more guesswork; try the mixture on a small surface, and add more paint pigments as you go. 

However, here’s a method to follow: 

1. Stir The Polyurethane

First, stir polyurethane. To sir polyurethane, use a turning stick or paint mixer. Stir for about 5 minutes. 

However, don’t stir too hard, because while stirring, air can trap inside the polyurethane and cause paint bubbles once dry.

2. Add Paint Pigments. 

You must do a test batch first. Try to mix a small amount of polyurethane and see the results. 

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 polyurethane, try tinting three ounces (1/10) first and see the results. Once the polyurethane is in a container, add drops of paint pigments. Count the number of drops you add. 

After adding paint pigments to polyurethane, stir the mixture. To stir, use a turning stir or paint mixer. 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 polyurethane, wait for it to dry, and check the color shade of the polyurethane. 

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

But, if you like the polyurethane tint, mix more polyurethane with the same formula. For instance, if you mixed 3 ounces of polyurethane and added 3 drops of paint pigments, now you must add 30 drops of paint pigments for 1 quarter of polyurethane.

How To Darken Polyurethane?

You can darken polyurethane by mixing it with a dark color. Add a few drops of paint pigments and mix the polyurethane to get a dark finish.

However, un-tinted polyurethane doesn’t get darker if you add more layers. That’s because polyurethane is a clear coat that doesn’t have paint pigments. So, if you add multiple coats of polyurethane, the finish will get blurry but not darker. 

Here’s how to darken an existing polyurethane finish:

  1. Sand the polyurethane. Sanding removes the glossy layer of polyurethane and allows the new coat to stick better. 
  2. Clean the sanded polyurethane. 
  3. Mix polyurethane with dark paint pigments. Test the tinted polyurethane to see if you like the color shade. 
  4. Apply 2-3 coats of the tinted polyurethane. Let each coat dry before adding the next one.
  5. Now, you have a darker polyurethane finish that is UV, moisture, and water resistant. 

But, don’t apply more than 3 coats of tinted polyurethane because the finish will get blurry. 

Final Words

You can tint polyurethane with any color by using paint pigments (or paints). Adding color to polyurethane is a great way to create a durable colorful finish. However, you must choose the right type of paint pigments before tinting. For oil-based polyurethane, use oil-based paint or universal paint pigments. For water-based polyurethane, use latex or acrylic paints. 

You must stir the tinted polyurethane properly before you apply it. Also, let the polyurethane dry to know if you have the right color shade.

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