Painting Furniture: Black Stain vs Black Paint

Remember my client’s house that I have been working on?  The one with the blue trimmed windows?  Well, I have been busy helping make it over step by step.  This week I updated two pine tables the homeowner had. When I was assessing what to keep – these two tables made the cut. They are clean lined and classic.  The natural pine finish just had to be changed to be updated to  look  more modern.


Two pine tables with a clear polyurethane finish.

Furniture Before staining with Classic Black Satin Minwax PolyShades Stain

I knew I wanted them to be black, but I wasn’t too hip on painting them black.   I wanted a sleeker look and knew I could achieve that with stain. Yes, stain. Not wood toned stain, but color stain. I particularly like Minwax PolyShades and have been using it for many years.

Black stain vs black paint on furniture -what I like about it:

1. It is thin and sort of sheer looking. It won’t look thick or heavy on your furniture the way paint sometimes does.

2. It is color and polyurethane applied in 1 step – which gives you a truly durable finish.  It does take time to cure  – a few days to a week before the finish is super durable.

3.  It can be applied right over any existing finish.  I usually just take a piece of fine grit sandpaper over the surface quickly to roughen up the surface.

4.  I love the results – smooth and factory finish-like!

The only thing I don’t like is the fact that it is oil based. Needs clean-up with paint thinner.  I don’t let this bother me too much though, because the finish comes out perfect – it is worth having to clean up or just throw out a brush.

If you don’t want to clean up a brush, you can buy a high quality foam brush.  I used one made by Wooster. It is a little more expensive, but you will get a nice even finish with it. I have also used this stain successfully with a Wooster bristle brush made specifically for staining.

Minwax PolyShades Stain and Polyurethane in 1 Step

1. Rub a piece of fine to medium grit sandpaper over the surface of  your piece. All it needs is a quick roughing up.  Clean off debris with a tack cloth.

2.. Make sure you stir the stain well before applying.  Dip tip of brush into can and start from the center of your piece out to the edges using long light strokes. You don’t want to apply it too heavily. 2 or 3 light coats are much better than a heavy coat.  Continue staining until the piece is covered.  Let dry.

How to stain furniture black instead of painting

2.  Since these tables already had a finish on them, you may get this spotting.  If that happens – don’t worry – you haven’t failed.  Let it dry and go over with the fine grit sandpaper again.  Clean the surface with a tack cloth to remove the sanding debris.  Apply another light coat of stain. Let dry.  It will be gone.  Apply another light coat of PolyShades if needed, making sure to use long light strokes.



DIY Decorating TipWhen staining or painting any piece of furniture black or a very dark color make sure you have a few good light sources directed on every side of the piece.  This way you can see if you are covering the surface completely and catch any drips before they dry.


Modern black tables.

How to stain furniture instead of painting it

The long table is going in the dining room.   I will show you the room when it is completed – this is just a sneak peek.

How to stain furniture with Minwax PolyShades in Classic Black Satin

I love the way it looks against the white board and batten walls.

How to stain a table black


Remember the blue trim on the living room windows and the 80’s country look?

Before Decorating Makeover


It is GONE!  The trim and walls have been painted, new wood blinds, furniture, and lamps added.  The black stained side table and rug are the only elements that were existing.

Minwax How to use stain over an old finish on furniture

The decorating transformation is almost complete – now it’s time to add the homeowner’s personality to the rooms. I will show you the “After” when it is completed.

Living Room Makeover

To see more about this house and the before photos click here-  A Client’s House:  Makeover


  1. Tara Taylor says

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. Have been thinking of trying this but was unsure of whether to go with paint or stain. Very helpful!

  2. Joyce Paarman says

    Thank you for your great instruction! Question: I would like to change the color of my currently white latex painted bedroom doors to black. I was going to paint them but am not crazy about adding yet another layer (or probably more!!) of paint on top of what already exists on these 1950’s era hollow wood doors. Do you think it is possible to apply this black stain over the white paint on theses doors? I am assuming several layers of black stain would be necessary to cover the white paint. I am also concerned that recent 2014 responders on this site seem to be having problems with the product, where you did not seem to encounter any problems in your application. Have you tried he product recently?? Thanks again for any advice on application over white paint.

    • says

      Hi Joyce – I have used the stain over a white painted chair. At first I did not think it was going to adhere and I put the chair in my basement and forgot about it. About a month later I did a scratch test on it and I could not scratch it off. It just needed curing. It works if you have the time to let it cure over paint. Product formulas do change. I did this a few years ago and the formula may be different than what I used. I also know that when you stain, you need to apply with steady fluid strokes. Since your doors are large flat expanses, you may see streaks if the application is not smooth and fluid.

      If you decide to paint, I would use Glidden Gripper primer in grey first – one light coat. Then black paint. The grey primer helps so you only have to paint one or two coats of a dark color over it to get full coverage. Use light coats and sand with 160 grit sandpaper in between coats to lessen the build up.

  3. Cheri says

    i love the look and i have been trying so hard to get into the diy stuff and failing every time. i bought the same stuff, or so i thought before i read your blog (Minwax Polyshades 1-Quart Classic Black Oil Wood Stain) and tested it on another surface that wasn’t a huge deal if it didn’t work out. but it looks nothing like yours. yours looks like a paint, mine looks like a stain and it’s ugly at this point (i’m only one coat in). my can looks different than yours though, it’s a little hard to tell from your picture. any help or suggestions would be appreciated. also, the project i originally got this for is to redo a coffee table. how are yours holding up? i’ve got kids and dogs that knock stuff around all the time, so i’m worried about the paint chipping or scratching off. thanks!!

  4. Lashell says

    I love the way your tables turned out. Just what I’ve been looking for. I have dining table and six chairs and a hutch with drawers that I want to stain/paint a very dark brown close to black (espresso). I like the idea of the stain. Paint does always look too thick. Do you think I could mix this stain to get the color I’m wanting? And also do you think this technique is going to be durable enough for a dining table with small kids? I am willing to let it cure a few weeks if I need too! I’ll do whatever it takes to get the best result for durability.


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