Dye Stain Versus Pigment Stain

Here is a quick compare between dye stain and pigment stain.

Dye Stain

A dye stain consists of a colorant mixed in with a carrier which can be either alcohol, an oil such as mineral spirits, or water. Dye stains provide greater transparency and deeper color than pigment stains because the dye particles are quite small, allowing them to penetrate deeply and color wood from within. They are best for coloring dense, tight-grained woods without obscuring the grain or figure. Woodworkers often choose dye stains to create custom colors and to even out color variations in wood. Because dyes do not require a binder, they do not form a surface film and hence there are no compatibility issues with other finishes applied on top.

Pigment Stain

A pigment stain is essentially a very thin paint comprised of a pigment (finely ground natural and synthetic minerals), an oil or water-based carrier, and a binder to hold the the pigment onto the wood. Pigment particles are larger than dye particles and when applied to wood, they tend to remain on the surface or lodge in the pores. This allows a pigment stain to highlight grain patterns in large pored woods such as oak. However, a pigment stain doesn't color wood as evenly as a dye stain and it may obscure the wood figure on tight-grained woods such as maple. On the plus side, pigment stains are generally easier to apply and less likely to fade over time compared to dyes.