Gel Stain Over White Paint

Refinishing furniture and decor is a great way to add style and personality to any room in your home. It’s an easy, affordable way to update the look of any space without having to break the bank or commit yourself long-term. But if you want something that looks a bit more like stained wood, then gel stain over white paint is a great option if you don’t want to remove an old painted finish from the furniture or decor.

With this technique, you can create a faux stained wood effect with just one coat of gel stain! Plus, it’s easy enough for even novice DIYers to master.

removing excess gel stain with clean rag with text overlay

Refinishing with gel stain over white paint is a great option if you don’t want to remove an existing painted finish. With this technique, you can create a faux stained wood effect in just one coat!

Click here for the stain removal guide and checklist

Gel stain is a thick stain that is applied to the surface of the wood, and doesn’t need to soak into paint like regular wood stain does. It gives the wood a stained look and is great for refreshing old stained furniture or covering up blemishes.

photo of gel stain in a can and white basket to  stain.

White paint, on the other hand, provides a crisp, clean finish to furniture and décor. It can make an older piece of furniture look brand new again and is perfect for giving a room an updated look.

So why would someone want to put gel stain over white paint? Well, it’s an easy and affordable way to give a piece of furniture or décor the look of stained wood without having to strip off an existing painted finish.

Supplies for Applying Gel Stain Over White Paint

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Painting Furniture White

First, you need a white painted surface. Paint like chalk paint is very absorbent and will give you better results with this technique than a glossy white paint.

If you need to paint your surface white, make sure the surface you are painting is clean. Spray some Krud Kutter on it and then wipe it all down with a damp cloth to remove any grease, dirt, or grime on the surface.

cleaning with krud kutter to remove any dirt and oils

If you are new to DIY projects and don’t know how to clean furniture, you can check out our blog post about cleaning furniture before painting.

For best results, lightly sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper to help your paint stick. Lightly rub some sandpaper over all of the surface even if you use chalk paint! Here is how to sand before painting furniture.

Check out my guide on how to sand wood by hand here.

I promise, chalk paint doesn’t stick as well as you might have heard that it does. (Speaking of, learn about the 5 chalk paint problems and how to fix them here.)

For very slick surfaces use a primer like BIN shellac based primer to help your paint stick. Here is our list of the best primers for painting furniture if you aren’t sure if BIN shellac primer is the best for your project.

Then you can paint your surface white. You can brush, roll or spray the paint on. Here is our list of the best brushes for painting furniture, the best rollers for painting furniture, and the best sprayers for painting furniture.

If you need more information about painting your furniture white, here is a whole post on how to chalk paint furniture white that will take you step by step through the process.

I’ve also listed the best white paint for furniture here for more options.

Make sure your paint dries completely, and for at least 24 hours before moving onto the next step.

If your surface is already white, make sure you at least clean it off before gel staining.

Applying Gel Stain Over White Paint

Using a cheap chip brush or a lint free rag, apply the gel stain onto the white painted surface. Brush in long brush strokes that all go the same direction to mimic the look of real wood grain.

Applying gel stain onto basket with a high quality paint brush

Here’s our list of the best brushes for staining wood to know the different types of brushes available so you can find one that fits your needs perfectly.

Then use a lint free rag to wipe off the excess gel stain. The longer you let it sit on the white paint without wiping it off, the darker the final color will be.

Use a dark gel stain to make the finish darker, and use a lighter gel stain to make a lighter finish.

This is what a dark gel stain like Java gel stain looks like over white paint, with the excess gel stain wiped away after only a few seconds.

Learn more about how to stain wood with a rag here.

photo of board after gel stain

To make the finish darker, leave the gel stain on and don’t remove the excess gel stain.

Beware though, if you brush on too thick of a coat, the gel stain may never completely dry to a hard durable finish.

To prevent this from happening, you can instead use a brown paint color like chocolate from General Finishes milk paint as the base.

Check out my General Finishes Milk Paint Review here.

Let it dry completely, and then apply gel stain over the brown paint, and then remove the excess to create a dark finish that looks more like a very dark stained wood finish.

Here is what my white basket looks like with a coat of Java gel stain brushed onto it. I did not remove any excess gel stain and it was dry within 48 hours. For best results, apply 2 thin coats to get full coverage.

Using gel stain over your furniture’s old finish is one way how to change wood color without sanding, so you can save time.

photo of basket after gel stain

Topcoat the Gel Stain

Once you’re happy with the look of the gel stain, and it is completely dry, it’s time to add a topcoat. For maximum durability on surfaces like kitchen tables, tops of dressers, and highly used items, apply an oil based polyurethane.

The topcoat will help protect the surface from scratches and dings, and it will make it easier to keep it looking clean.

Here is a list of the best polyurethane for furniture.

If you are just staining decor, you don’t need to worry about topcoating the gel stain because decor usually doesn’t get handled much.

And that’s all there is to it. Without much work, and a day or 2 of dry time, you can completely update your furniture or decor with gel stain over white paint. Have fun!!

Gel Stain Over White Paint

removing excess gel stain with clean rag with text overlay FI

If you want an easy, affordable way to update your furniture and decor without removing the old paint, here's our guide to gel stain over white paint that will create a wood stained look.


  1. Clean the surface by spraying some Krud Kutter and wiping it with a damp cloth.
  2. Lightly sand the surface with a 220 grit sandpaper if you use chalk paint. Then use BIN Shellac based primer.
  3. Brush, roll, or spray the white paint on the surface. Wait for 24 hours for the paint to completely dry.
  4. Apply gel stain to the white painted surface using a chip brush or lint-free rag, mimicking the wood grain appearance. Wipe the excess gel stain off with a lint free rag.
  5. To make the finish darker leave the gel stain on without wiping the excess away. Use a brown paint color like chocolate from General Finishes Milk Paint as the base to have a more successful dark stained finish.
  6. Apply a topcoat to the dry gel stain using oil-based polyurethane for maximum durability.

Recommended Products

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More Furniture Staining tips

Click here for the paint removal checklist and guide

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