How to Use General Finishes RTM Stains

What is the RTM Stain System?

The RTM water-based stain system from General Finishes is a product line designed for professional finishers, cabinet builders and furniture makers, and it has three great features which can improve your finishing jobs.

  1. The biggest benefit is the custom matching system General Finishes has developed. RTM stands for “Ready To Mix,” and the system is made up of twelve ready-to-use stains colors that can be used on their own or mixed together to create almost any color. What makes custom matching really easy is the chip box that they’ve developed for this system. There are 96 sample colors shown on both maple and red oak. On the chip they list the formula to create that color. This is really great for taking to job-sites, designer meetings and for in the shop.
  2. Another benefit to the system is that this is a water-based system. This means low odor, so it can be used in customer’s homes if needed. Being water-based it is exempt from a lot of the safety regulations needed for solvent based finishing such as costly fire suppression systems and explosion proof fixtures. (Be sure to check all local codes & regulations).
  3. The RTM stain system is a part of a larger complete finishing system called ENDURO. This includes the stains, a sanding sealer, and several topcoat options.

How to Use the RTM Stain System

To demonstrate, we’ll walk you through an example project. You can also watch the video walk-through here.

Today we’re finishing a built-in work surface made from red oak. Start by choosing the stain chip closest to the color we’re matching. 

Next, mix up a small batch of the formula on the chip. Use this as a test, then modify it if needed until it’s a perfect match.

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to sand the surface down to 220 grit. Just like any stain, if you go too fine with the sanding it will close the grain and effect the color richness. Now that you have the correct color, spray the stain on the piece. A 4 stage HVLP spray system with a medium tip is a good choice, and because RTM stains have a relatively thin viscosity, a medium pressure setting on the gun works well. However, these stains are relatively forgiving when it comes to gun settings.

These stains can be used either as a spray no-wipe and as a spray and wipe stain. In this case, we sprayed the stain on and let it absorb for a moment before it a light wipe.

Next, spray a coat of the General Finishes water-based sanding sealer in order to raise the grain and then scuff sand it with 320 grit. Finally, spray with the General Finishes Enduro Pre-Cat Water Based Lacquer. This will give it a beautiful and durable finish, and because these are fast-drying, water-based products, you can do a project like this in well under one day without any of the fumes and hazards of solvent-based systems.

Want to try something like this yourself? Check out General Finishes stains and paint sprayers at