If you’re into woodworking, you’re probably aware of how often there may be flaws that need correction. Fortunately, you have plenty of wood fillers that can patch up any hole or crack very well. However, if you need the filler to be the same color as the rest of your woodworking piece, you might face some challenges.

Most wood fillers can be stained relatively easily, but they won’t be able to look exactly like the wood around them. Fillers can’t absorb paint the same way wood does because of their different texture. To stain wood filler, make sure you got a suitable material and do a test before staining.

Read below if you want to know more about wood fillers! I will explain in detail how to attempt staining wood fillers and why fillers don’t stain the same as wood. Additionally, I will give you some extra tips on wood staining.

Staining Wood Filler: Step-by-Step

Generally, manufacturers that make wood fillers take staining into consideration, so most wood fillers that you’ll find are stainable, so you don’t need to worry about whether they can handle it. The problem is whether they can look exactly the same as the wood around them.

If you want to know if it works, you can try staining wood filler and see how it handles the staining. The process itself is relatively easy and only includes a few simple steps:

1. Choose Stainable Filler

The first step you need to take before even thinking about the actual staining is to choose a stainable wood filler. As I mentioned, plenty of wood fillers are stainable, but you must ensure you haven’t picked one that isn’t.

To make sure you get the right wood filler, keep in mind that oil-based fillers are not easily stainable, while water-based fillers are more suitable for this purpose. When you’re buying the wood filler, ask for the latter.

See also: Best Wood Fillers for Large Holes

2. Apply Wood Filler

Once you’ve chosen the suitable wood filler, you need to use it as you wish. Make sure you follow all the necessary steps to apply the wood filler correctly to create a suitable canvas for staining. Once you’ve applied the filler, you can move on to the next step.

3. Gather Your Tools

When you’re done applying the wood filler, it’s time to prepare for the actual staining. First, you need to make sure you have everything you need at hand. You need a few essential items:

  • A sander (sandpaper or palm sander, depending on the surface area)
  • A stain (preferably as close as possible to the original wood)
  • A brush (a paintbrush as well if you’re staining a small or intricate area)
  • A cloth or rag
  • Water
  • Stain stripper

4. Sand the Part With the Wood Filler

Before staining, you need to ensure the filler and the wood around it are level and as close as possible in texture so the stain can set evenly. Therefore, you need to sand the area where the wood filler is. This is also one of the steps included when applying wood filler, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.

If the wood filler area is small, use sandpaper with your hands to sand the area; otherwise, use a palm sander. Sand in the direction of the grain. Make sure to use the right grit so that you create a smooth surface that will stain well. Experts recommend using 220 grit for a better result, like the Fandeli 36027 220 Grit Sandpaper Sheets.

After you’re done sanding, wipe the surface with a cloth to get rid of sawdust. First, use a wet cloth to ensure you get all the dust, and then wipe again with a dry cloth to remove the moisture. Let the wood dry completely.

5. Test the Stain

Before applying the stainer, test it to make sure you’ll get the desired color and that the filler will stain well.

  1. Get a spare piece of wood and apply filler to it, like you did to the actual piece you’re working with.
  2. Once you’ve used the filler and sanded the area, take a brush and apply the stain.
  3. Wait for the stain to dry completely before deciding if it’s the right stain.

If the test shows that the stain is too dark for the filler, you can thin the stain out with water. Pour some of the paint into a container or a bowl, and then add only a few drops of water. It’s important to add the water carefully because you don’t know exactly how thin the stain will get.

Test the thinned-out stain again on a piece of wood and wait for it to dry. Once it’s completely dry, see if the results are better. If not, try to thin out the stain again or choose a different stain color.

6. Stain the Desired Area

If you’re satisfied with how the stain looks on the test piece of wood, apply the stain to the actual piece of woodwork.

  1. Use a brush or a smaller paintbrush to stain the wood filler area; try to stain the surface evenly and not get too much stain on the surface.
  2. Once the layer looks the way you want it to, wait for a few minutes and then wipe the excess stain with a dry cloth (check if the stain box has any instructions about the waiting time)
  3. After waiting for the instructed amount of time, check the surface; if the filler looks lighter than you expected, you can apply a second layer of stain.

The process is exactly the same, and you can repeat it as many times as you want to achieve the same color as the wood.

7. Make Corrections

Sometimes, even if the test on the spare piece of wood looks good, the result on the actual filler on the woodwork you want to stain may appear differently. If you find that the stain looks too dark on the filler compared to the rest of the wood after the paint has completely dried out, you can remove the layer.

To remove the stain layer:

  1. Sand the surface carefully until the thin layer is gone.
  2. If you’re unable to sand the stain off, you can apply a stain stripper; the method of using a stain stripper depends on the type and brand you’re using, so read the instructions and apply the stain stripper for the recommended amount of time.
  3. After the time has passed, wipe the stain with a dry cloth.
  4. Apply the stain again to the filler, making sure it’s not as dark as before (for this purpose, you can thin out the paint as I explained in step 5)
  5. After applying the stain, wait for it to dry, and you’re done!

Extra Tips for Staining Wood Filler

Here are some additional tips that can help you ensure that staining wood filler will be a success:

Use Wood Conditioner

Wood conditioners are beneficial when dealing with softwood such as pine or fir. They create a barrier that prevents materials from being absorbed into the wood.

Putting conditioner on the wood before applying the filler ensures that some of the filler won’t be absorbed into the wood around it, which could cause discoloration. You could also put conditioner on the part with the filler to stop the filler from absorbing more stain than the rest of the wood, which filler tends to do.

Stain the Wood Filler Separately

If you want to ensure that the wood filler matches the wood surrounding it, you can try staining it in advance. This way, you won’t have to apply the filler if you’re not satisfied with the results.

First, stain the piece of woodwork and then mix the filler with just a bit of the stain. Mix it well and see if the colors are the same. If they are, apply the filler to the surface as usual. If you can, test this method on a piece of wood first to make sure it will work as you expect it to.

Get Colored Filler

You don’t even have to stain the filler if you buy some with a similar color to your woodwork. There are plenty of fillers out there with colors that are similar to different types of wood.

If you buy colored filler, you can just apply the filler as usual without staining it. The only thing you need to do is make sure you got the right color.

Why Wood Fillers Stain Differently

Wood filler is a material made of wood dust and a binder, like a varnish or glue. The most important quality of this material is that it binds with wood fibers, which makes it ideal for concealing flaws in the woodwork.

Although wood fillers are made of wood fibers to some degree, they don’t have the same ability to absorb stain or paint as wood. As a result, they can’t blend with the wood to show any signs of patching.

Some wood fillers can’t be stained at all; oil-based fillers aren’t able to absorb any sort of paint. On the other hand, water-based fillers can absorb stains or paint to a greater extent. However, there’s still a difference between stain on wood and stain on wood filler.

See also: Can You Screw Into a Wood Filler?


Wood filler can be very helpful for correcting flaws in a piece of woodwork, but it can be hard to stain. The reason why it can’t be stained like wood is that wood filler doesn’t absorb stains the same way.

To stain wood filler, you need to pick a stainable filler, apply it, and sand the area. Do a test on a spare piece of wood with filler and then proceed with the actual woodwork if the test is successful. If you want, you can use colored filler or color it yourself separately.

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