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Creating a tinted top coat using polyurethane might seem unusual with all the paint, stain, and sealer options available. But sometimes, you need a custom color for your project. Whether it’s to match existing decors or add a unique touch, tinting polyurethane can be a practical solution. Polyurethane acts as a clear protective layer, shielding surfaces from scratches and moisture. By adding paint pigments to polyurethane, you can create a personalized tinted sealer. 

To make polyurethane, first, you mix it thoroughly, then add pigments, and keep testing until you get the color you want. Keep in mind to use oil-based paints for oil-based polyurethane and water-based paints for water-based polyurethane to avoid ruining the finish.

If you share my passion for discovering innovative methods to attain a flawless shine, you’ve likely pondered the idea of tinting polyurethane. So let’s start how to tint polyurethane?

Can I add tint to polyurethane?

how to add tint to polyurethane

Yes, you can definitely add tint to polyurethane to change its color. You can use special colorants made for polyurethane or universal tints for this. However, keep in mind that adding tint might affect how the polyurethane behaves, like how long it takes to dry or how clear it stays.

If you’re using water-based polyurethane, you have the option to mix water-based colorants into it. But if you want the polyurethane to be opaque, you’ll need an opaque colorant.

There’s no set rule for how much tint to add, so it might take some trial and error to get the color you want just right. Tinted polyurethane can also provide extra protection against sunlight for wooden surfaces, which is a bonus. Learn more about spraying polyurethane on wood in detail.

Can You Change The Color Of Polyurethane?

Yes, you have the option to alter the color of polyurethane by adding tint or pigment into it. This enables you to personalize the color of your polyurethane finish according to your preferences or the aesthetic of your project. 

Regardless of whether you’re working with water-based or oil-based polyurethane, you’ll find specialized colorants designed for tinting polyurethane. It’s worth mentioning that altering the color may affect how transparent or opaque the polyurethane appears.

Poly color dyes are specifically made for coloring polyurethane plastics and rubbers. These dyes come in various colors such as red, black, brown, green, yellow, blue, and white. When adding the dye to your polyurethane mixture, you can include it in an amount of up to 3.0% of the combined weight of both Part A and Part B components.

This guideline helps ensure that you achieve the desired color intensity without negatively impacting the properties of the polyurethane material. Therefore, it’s advisable to conduct a test application of the tinted polyurethane on a small area to ensure it aligns with your expectations before applying it extensively.

How to Add Tint to Polyurethane?

Tinting polyurethane is easy. Here’s how to do it:

  • Get clear polyurethane and make sure it’s mixed well.
  • To begin, pour a small quantity of polyurethane into a measuring cup, making sure it’s a manageable fraction of what you’ll use overall. Then, transfer this sample to a different container for tinting purposes,  such as roughly 3 ounces for a quart.
  • Choose the color you want for your polyurethane. You can use special colorants made for polyurethane,  both for oil and water-based polyurethane products.
  • I recommend slowly mixing in the colorant, stirring as you go. Add a bit at a time until you get the shade you like. 
  • Before putting it on your main project, try it on a small spot to see if you like the color. 
  • If the color appears too dark or the tint isn’t right, dispose of the test sample and begin again with a new sample of polyurethane. However, if you’re happy with the color, apply it to your DIY project with a roller, sprayer or brush.
  • Follow the instructions on the polyurethane for drying times. You might need to sand between coats for a smooth finish.


For a smooth finish, apply polyurethane in the same direction as the wood grain, whether on natural wood or painted surfaces. Use a fine-bristled brush, or foam brush.

Can You Tint Oil-based Polyurethane?


After experimenting, I’ve learned that oil-based polyurethane can indeed be tinted using compatible pigments or oil-based paints, like enamel or universal pigments. This tinting not only adds color but also helps prevent the yellowing that can occur over time with untreated polyurethane. However, it’s crucial to allow ample drying time between coats, typically at least 12 hours, which can extend the overall project duration. While oil-based polyurethane offers durability and scratch resistance, it’s important to note its extended curing time and the ongoing off-gassing of VOCs even after the finish appears dry. 

Should You Tint Water-Based Poly?

I’ve found that water-based polyurethane can indeed be tinted using water-based paint or compatible pigments like acrylic or latex paints. These paints are compatible because they share the same solvent, water. Opting for acrylic paint offers a broader range of colors and flexibility, ideal for achieving vibrant finishes. Additionally, tinted water-based polyurethane dries faster with less odor compared to its oil-based counterpart, though multiple coats are typically required for optimal coverage. 

Further I noticed that tinting polyurethane with water-based latex paint is effective. It’s crucial to remember to mix water-based products with water-based ones and oil-based products with oil-based ones for compatibility. This method produces a durable finish, ideal for surfaces. For best results, sand the surface before applying oil-based polyurethane and use an oil-based primer. This ensures a non-greasy finish, particularly in humid conditions.

How do you make polyurethane darker?

When it comes to making a polymer darker, I’ve explored a few methods that can do the trick:

  • First off, adding pigments or dyes directly into the polymer mix is a straightforward way to darken its color. These pigments or dyes mix in with the polymer, changing its hue to a darker shade.
  • Another method I’ve looked into involves increasing the concentration of the polymer itself. It’s like adding more of the polymer material into the mix, which tends to absorb more light, resulting in a darker appearance overall.
  • Then there’s the option of applying coatings or surface treatments that are darker in color. While this doesn’t alter the polymer itself, it can effectively darken its appearance, giving it the desired look.
  • I’ve also considered thermal treatment, where subjecting the polymer to heat can sometimes darken it. However, this method can also affect other properties of the polymer, so it’s something to approach cautiously.
  • Lastly, I’ve explored chemical modification as a means to darken the polymer. This involves tweaking the chemical structure through specific reactions or treatments, which can sometimes lead to a darker color. But it’s essential to keep in mind that this approach may also impact other properties of the polymer.


Tinting polyurethane with paint is possible, but it’s important to use the right type of paint and follow proper mixing ratios. While adding paint can alter the color of polyurethane, it may also affect its consistency and drying time. Additionally, some paints may not be compatible with polyurethane, so it’s crucial to ensure compatibility for the best results. 

I hope your query ‘Can you tint polyurethane with paint?’ is now cleared as we discussed it in detail.

FAQS On Can You Tint Polyurethane?

Can you tint polyurethane with stain?

Yes, it is possible to use wood stain to tinted polyurethane. However, it’s best to apply the stain to the wood first and then coat it with polyurethane for protection. Mixing stain directly into polyurethane may not yield the desired color and could affect the finish quality. 

Can You Dye Polyurethane?

Yes, you can dye polyurethane. There are dyes specifically designed for various tinted polyurethane colors such as black, brown, blue, green, red, yellow, and white. These dyes can be added to polyurethane to achieve the desired color. You can incorporate dyes into the mixture up to a maximum of 3.0% of the combined weight of both Part A and Part B. However, it’s essential to note that dyeing polyurethane may affect its transparency or opacity, so it’s advisable to test the dye on a small area before applying it to your project.

What happens if you paint over polyurethane?

When painting over surfaces with varnish, polyurethanes, or other sealants, it’s crucial to sand them beforehand. Without this step, the paint won’t adhere properly, leading to issues like bubbling, peeling, cracking, or overall poor adhesion. Sanding creates a rough texture on the surface, allowing the paint to grip onto it effectively. This preparation step ensures that the newly painted surface will have a durable and long-lasting finish.

Can you put clear coat over polyurethane?

Yes, I’ve found that applying a clear coat over polyurethane can enhance its protection and durability. It’s crucial to ensure compatibility between the two finishes and to properly prepare the surface by cleaning and lightly sanding the polyurethane. I recommend applying thin, even coats and allowing ample drying time between layers for a smooth and professional result.

Martina Hitchcock-Holapaints writer

Martina Hitchcock

Martina Hitchcock is a versatile author with expertise in different fields. As a paint sprayer expert, she has in-depth knowledge of paint spraying techniques, tools, and equipment. Martina is also an experienced home remodeler who has worked on various projects, including kitchen and bathroom renovations, flooring installations, and room additions. Her knowledge of home improvement and remodeling is extensive, and she enjoys sharing her insights and tips with readers. You can follow her on Facebook.

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