ShareThis Page

PolyShades® Color Transformation Guide

Minwax® PolyShades®

Introduction

Minwax® PolyShades® is an easy way to change the color of your currently stained or polyurethane finished wood. There's no stripping or heavy sanding necessary to remove the old finish! Simply give it a light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper, remove sanding dust, and brush on a coat of PolyShades® (see step-by-step instructions provided in this Guide).

Why change the color? There could be various reasons. You may want to match a particular furniture item to your décor, update a tired room, or re-style an older piece. Whatever your specific reasons, this Guide will help you figure out which PolyShades® color you need to transform your existing finish into your desired color.

Example:

+ =
Wood Finish™ Provincial   PolyShades® Natural Cherry   New Color

Will PolyShades® Work for Me?

Before you start, there are a few things you need to do to ensure success of your project:

  1. Always test color on a small hidden area first to verify results. This can't be stressed enough, as every piece of wood will accept color differently. Color testing is especially important when using PolyShades® over an existing finish, because the result will be a combination of the old and new colors.
  2. Determine if you want to lighten or darken your piece. If a darker color is what you want, you are in the right place. Even if you simply want to change the tone of your color (e.g. make it more red or brown) without darkening it, PolyShades® can help. However, if you wish to lighten the color, it is not as simple as applying a light color of PolyShades® over it — you will need to strip the existing finish first.
  3. If the wood you are refinishing already has a clear protective finish, you need to test for adhesion before applying PolyShades®. A few simple rules to keep in mind:
    • PolyShades® will work over stained wood (no topcoat) or wood topcoated with a polyurethane-based finish. Proper surface preparation is necessary to ensure adhesion, so make sure you follow preparation tips provided in this Guide.
    • Many of the older finishes are not polyurethane based, so testing is a must!
    • PolyShades® is not recommended for use over lacquer.
  4. Read and follow all label instructions and warnings carefully. This will save you time down the road and help make your project shine!

Not sure what type of finish is on your wood?

Take the Cotton Ball Test to find out. Touch the finish in an inconspicuous place with a cotton ball dampened with acetone nail polish remover. If the cotton ball sticks or the finish softens, it's varnish, lacquer or shellac. If there is no effect, it is paint or polyurethane.

What color is your existing finish?

Changing the Color of a Light Finish

Natural Golden Oak Ipswich Pine Puritan Pine Golden Pecan
Fruitwood Driftwood Early American Cherry Pickled Oak

If your existing finish is one of the lighter Minwax® Wood Finish™ colors, such as Natural, Golden Oak, Ipswich Pine, Puritan Pine, Golden Pecan, Fruitwood, Driftwood, Early American, Cherry or Pickled Oak, changing color with PolyShades® is quite easy.

Just keep in mind that whichever PolyShades® color you choose to apply will take over the existing light finish, so the result will look a lot like the PolyShades® color. For example, PolyShades® Natural Cherry over Wood Finish™ Golden Oak will look very much like PolyShades® Natural Cherry. To find the color that best suits your décor, simply look through the PolyShades® Color Chart and pick a color closest to your desired result. Make sure to go to your local home improvement center or hardware store to check out the color on real wood samples.

Example:

+ =
Wood Finish™ Golden Oak   PolyShades® Natural Cherry   New Color

What color is your existing finish?

Changing the Color of a Medium Finish

Colonial Maple Gunstock Provincial Special Walnut

If your existing finish is a medium Minwax® Wood Finish™ color, such as Colonial Maple, Gunstock, Provincial or Special Walnut, follow these tips.

  • To darken your color to medium/dark brown, use PolyShades® American Chestnut or Mission Oak.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Colonial Maple   PolyShades® Mission Oak   New Color

  • To darken the color and add or intensify red tones, opt for PolyShades® Natural Cherry.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Provincial   PolyShades® Natural Cherry   New Color

  • PolyShades® Olde Maple and Pecan will intensify red tones without any significant darkening of the color.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Special Walnut   PolyShades® Pecan   New Color

  • PolyShades® Honey Pine and Classic Oak will not have a lot of impact on the existing color, but will help cover up imperfections in an old, worn finish, while providing a layer of protection.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Colonial Maple   PolyShades® Classic Oak   New Color

  • PolyShades® Bombay Mahogany and Classic Black will transform the existing finish into their respective colors.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Provincial   PolyShades® Bombay Mahogany   New Color

What color is your existing finish?

Changing the Color of a Dark Finish

If your existing finish is one of the darker Minwax® Wood Finish™ colors, such as Sedona Red, Red Oak, Red Mahogany, Red Chestnut, English Chestnut, Dark Walnut, Jacobean or Ebony, follow these tips.

  • Light PolyShades® colors, such as Honey Pine, Classic Oak, and Pecan will have very little impact on the existing color. If you wish to turn your dark color into a lighter one, you will have to strip it first.
  • PolyShades® Bombay Mahogany and Classic Black will turn the existing finish into their respective colors.
  Bombay Mahogany Classic Black

Other PolyShades® colors will produce various combinations when applied over the existing finish. Use the tips below to guide your color selection.

Choose the color of your existing darker finish to see your options:

Sedona Red Red Oak Red Chestnut Red Mahogany English Chestnut
   
Dark Walnut Jacobean Ebony    

  • If your finish is Sedona Red, Red Oak or Red Chestnut, use PolyShades® Antique Walnut to tone down the red and bring out more amber tones. Use PolyShades® Mission Oak to add more brown.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Sedona Red   PolyShades® Antique Walnut   New Color
+ =
Wood Finish™ Red Oak   PolyShades® Mission Oak   New Color

  • If your finish is Red Mahogany, use PolyShades® Natural Cherry to intensify the red tones. Use PolyShades® Mission Oak to turn the color brown.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Red Mahogany   PolyShades® Natural Cherry   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® Mission Oak   New Color

  • If your finish is English Chestnut, use PolyShades® Olde Maple to add more amber tones, PolyShades® Natural Cherry to add red, or PolyShades® Mission Oak to add brown.
+ =
Wood Finish™ English Chestnut   PolyShades® Olde Maple   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® Natural Cherry   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® Mission Oak   New Color

  • If your Finish is Dark Walnut, use PolyShades® Olde Maple or Natural Cherry to make it more red. PolyShades® Antique Walnut will add both yellow and red tones. PolyShades® Mission Oak will turn the color more brown, and PolyShades® American Chestnut will produce a reddish brown hue.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Dark Walnut   PolyShades® Natural Cherry   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® Antique Walnut   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® Mission Oak   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® American Chestnut   New Color

  • If your finish is Jacobean, PolyShades® Natural Cherry and American Chestnut will add red tones, while Olde Maple and Antique Walnut will add both red and yellow.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Jacobean   PolyShades® American Chestnut   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® Olde Maple   New Color

  • If your finish is Ebony, use PolyShades® Olde Maple, Natural Cherry or American Chestnut to add red tones. For a darker, richer color without red, opt for PolyShades® Mission Oak.
+ =
Wood Finish™ Ebony   PolyShades® Olde Maple   New Color
+ =
    PolyShades® Mission Oak   New Color

Step-by-Step Project Tips

Preparation

For wood previously stained with Minwax® Wood Finish™, but not yet finished:

  • If the wood is dirty, first make sure it's carefully cleaned with Minwax® Wood Cleaner and a soft cloth.
  • If the wood has been recently stained, it should NOT be cleaned with Minwax® Wood Cleaner, as the cleaner may remove or dilute the colorants.
  • If the wood has been stained but not finished, DO NOT scuff or sand. Doing so will remove the color from the edges, leaving the project looking uneven.
  • Next step — apply PolyShades®!
Minwax® Wood Cleaner

For wood previously coated with a clear finish:

  • Clean the existing finish with Minwax® Wood Cleaner to remove dirt and grime.
  • Lightly scuff the clean, dried existing finish with a synthetic sanding pad or #220-grit sandpaper.
  • Use a bristle attachment on a vacuum to remove all of the dust.
  • Proceed with the application of PolyShades®!

Step-by-Step Project Tips

Application

After the wood has been prepared according to the preparation tips above, it's time to transform your wood with PolyShades®. For the best results, follow these helpful tips and techniques:

  • Stir the PolyShades® thoroughly, using a clean stirring stick. Gently repeat the stirring every 10 minutes to assure that the color remains evenly distributed throughout the polyurethane.
  • Using a high-quality, tapered bristle brush, dip only ½ to ¾ of an inch of the bristles into the PolyShades®.
  • On a scrap piece of wood, practice brushing out a few strokes of PolyShades® to get a feel for how the PolyShades® flows onto the wood. Take care to apply an even coat of the product and remember: thin coats are easier to control than thick ones.
  • Work quickly as you apply PolyShades® the length of each board in smooth, even strokes. Use the tip of your brush to gently smooth out the finish. Always apply PolyShades® moving your brush back and forth in the direction of the wood grain.
  • As you return to the board with a freshly dipped brush, start brushing a few inches beyond where you left off, and then carefully blend the new PolyShades® back into the PolyShades® you previously applied. Doing so will help eliminate "lap marks."
  • Once you have achieved an even layer of PolyShades®, leave it alone. "Dabbing" will leave deposits of color in each spot touched by your brush. "Over-brushing" will drag the color with your bristles, resulting in an uneven application.

Back to top