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Wood color sample swatches sitting on top of each other.

How to make wood stain samples

How to make wood stain samples


Today we are going to discuss making wood stain samples using Oil Plus 2C sample bottles.

Great color samples are immensely important to the customer. If the color sample is not representative of the final color, it often leads to frustration and ultimately, unnecessary work.

It does not matter if you are dealing with a wood floor or a wood table; the approach will be similar.

Selecting wood for a color sample

The wood selected for a wood color-sample needs to represent the wood that is sourced for the actual project. The best way to do this is to use wood from the same batch(es) you will be using for the final project, but if this is not possible, use wood that closely resembles that of the project.

Wood is a naturally growing material, and variations in color within one species are typical and to be expected. Variation in wood color will determine how the final color will be when a colored oil is applied. This must always be explained to a prospective customer!

For example, if there is no or minimal sapwood present in a wood floor and the color sample is performed on a primarily sapwood board, you will more than likely not get the project to match with the approved color sample satisfactorily.

Check out the below image where a light color White Oak and a darker White Oak board are sampled with Oil Plus 2C colors Smoke 5% and Smoke.

Rubio Monocoat Smoke shown on varying colors of white oak wood.

Oil Plus 2C "Smoke" & "Smoke 5%" shown on different White Oak boards

In my experience, any wood species used in a project may exhibit up to 3 color variations within that species.

Unless the project is completed with selected wood close in color, try to have at least 2-3 color variations in the wood chosen for the color sample board.

Preparing the sample surface


When preparing wood for color samples, it is essential to mimic the sanding process that will be performed on the actual project, regardless if it is a wood floor or a wood table.

Sanding affects how open the grain of the wood is, and as a result, differences in sanding will allow for more or less product penetration. If using a pigmented color, more product penetration results in more pigment, which in turn affects the final color.

The recommended final sanding grit for Oil Plus 2C is 120.

Typically, sanding a wood floor is done with a big aggressive belt sander (using 2-3 different abrasive grits, starting coarse and using progressively finer grits) followed by a finish sanding procedure whereas a tabletop may get sanded with only random orbit sanders.

Again, when making color samples, it is critical to mimic the exact sanding process that will be done when sanding the finish surface.

Sample preservation

Many hardwood flooring contractors sand the floor and do their color samples directly on the floor. While this is a very good option, the approved color sample will get sanded away. Now that proof is gone forever, and it cannot be used as a reference against the final finish color.

Occasionally the perception of the color will change once the final finish is applied. This could have to do with a different color light source, or the walls may have been repainted in a different color. In those cases, the customer may have a completely different color experience, even when the final project color is an excellent match. When the approved color sample is still present, it is useful for comparing the final color in such cases.

Again, don’t forget that slight color variations are normal and to be expected.

Applying the sample color

When applying a Rubio Monocoat oil like Oil Plus 2C on a color sample board, it is essential to mimic the actual oil application process. This is more important when dealing with wood flooring vs. dealing with furniture.


In the case of hardwood floors, it is typical to use equipment like a heavy electric floor buffer to work the oil into the wood surface and follow with that same tool to towel-buff off the excess oil from the surface. This mechanical application process is not easily replicated by just applying the oil by hand wiping. So, mimic the actual floor application process with a simulated process when creating color samples. The use of an electric sander or small automotive buffer outfitted with red/white pads and rags may be more effective than just wiping the oil by hand when creating a color sample panel.


With wood furniture, you often don't use such heavy and powerful floor finishing equipment. Instead, oiling and buffing is completed mostly by hand. In that situation, hand finishing is just fine for creating a color sample.