How to Mix Oil Based Gel Stain Colors Using Layers

Pictured: General Finishes gel stain in java

Oil-based gel stains are great for achieving beautiful hand-rubbed finishes, and their thickness keeps them from dripping, running, or spilling. They might come in a bunch of beautiful colors, but what if you’re still feeling limited? All you have to do is choose any two colors you want, then layer them to create your own custom look! Here’s how to finish a piece of furniture by layering different colors of General Finishes gel stains.

#1 Choose your colors

Combining colors gives you tons of new possibilities! Java stain over nutmeg stain, or java over candlelight are a couple of great options, but any combination you want to try will work!

nutmeg and java gel stain
General Finishes gel stains used in example: java over nutmeg

#2 prep sand the wood

Prepare the furniture piece for staining by sanding it down and making sure any previous finishes applied will not contaminate the gel stain. For more information, check out the General Finishes gel stain features and FAQs here. If you’re working with raw wood (has never been finished before), you don’t need to worry about this.

#3 Apply first coat of stain

Thoroughly stir your stain, and then apply it very liberally to the wood. Cover one section of the furniture at a time, then thoroughly wipe off all excess stain with a clean cloth or paper towel before moving on to the next section. If any stain gets on an area adjacent to the one you’re working on, be sure to wipe it off as you go.

apply gel stain liberally
Pictured: General Finishes gel stain in nutmeg

#4 Double check for excess stain

When you’re finished, check every section and make sure you’ve removed all excess stain. A bristle brush can come in handy for removing stain from corners and tight places.

#5 Use liquid oil based stain to fill in crevices or tight corners

Because these gel stains are so thick, you may have difficulty getting it into tight spots. Be sure to cover each of those areas with a liquid oil based stain before continuing.

fill gaps with liquid oil-based paint

#6 Let the first coat dry for 24 hours, then sand

After letting the stain dry completely, lightly sand the furniture with an ultra-fine sanding pad before applying the second coat of stain.

#7 Apply second coat of gel stain

Apply the second coat of stain and wipe off all excess just like you did with the first coat (refer to steps #3 and #4). Let it dry for 24 more hours.

Apply 2nd coat of stain
Pictured: General Finishes gel stain in java

#8 Apply top coat

Sand lightly if needed, then apply 2-3 coats of gel stain topcoat. Sand very lightly with an ultra-fine sanding pad in between each coat.


That’s all you need to do to create your own beautiful custom color using General Finishes Gel Stains! What combinations will you come up with?