Choosing a concrete dye over a concrete stain

Choosing a concrete dye over a concrete stain

Are you planning on doing decoration on your concrete floor, but don’t know what to use for the colors? Or maybe you are pondering between these two choices, but can’t decide?

To help with these two questions, we have to go into detail about what the products are and how do they work. A different product might be better in one place than another, but in other situations, it might underperform.

Now I have to warn you that we have already picked a side in here as acid stains have been around for a long time. Acid and other stains are a good product as well, but one thing they cannot do is creating many different colors as it’s a chemical reaction. It needs help from other staining materials to provide more colors.

Mixing and testing different colors can be great fun, it’s almost like being a kid again and playing scientist with your favorite colors. You take two colors or more and try to make them something amazing hopefully without ending up with a dark brownish mix.

Trying out different things with concrete dyes allows you to combine the skills of that little scientist with the techniques of a professional bartender. When you use the eye of an accomplished artist as a last touch, you can create the exact look you are going for in your newly poured concrete patio.

How concrete stains and dyes work

While stains undergo a chemical reaction when they mix with the calcium hydroxide in concrete to produce different colors, concrete dyes remain neutral and do not react to the concrete. They work by penetrating through the porous surface of the concrete and filling the space with color.

The small particles that comprise dyes can get between the cracks and microscopic spaces in concrete far more effectively than the relatively large particles that make up chemical or acrylic stains.

Penetrating stains work a little bit in the same fashion as dyes do. Acid stains react with the minerals in the concrete surface to create the colors you see. For that reason to see how concrete acid stain is on your floor, you have to make a test sample before you make the whole floor.

Otherwise there might be disappointments.

Pros of concrete dyes

Concrete dye colors, unlike stains, allow the person working with the dyes complete flexibility into the blending of colors and achieving interesting patinas on concrete surfaces. They can be used on both flat concrete surfaces as well as on stamped or etched concrete.

While dyes used to be generally produced in only about a dozen basic colors, these days there are a good amount of ready mixes. For those who want to DIY, armed with a good knowledge of the color wheel, an artistically gifted person can create every color they can imagine. You only need to blend the colors with the help of the color wheel.

Concrete dyes react in much the same way one would expect when mixing oil paints or watercolors. Computer matching systems can replicate any color of paint one might want to match. The secret to mixing concrete dyes is to know what combination of colors will produce a new color and how intense that color will be.

Concrete dyes are easy to work with and very little cleanup is required after the job has been completed. They are either water-based or come in a solvent-based formulation. Water-based dyes tend to produce more interesting patterns, striations, and a marbling effect, while stains are more typically used to produce a single, solid color.

The advantage of a concrete dye is that it can be mixed on-site and matched exactly to the surface that it is intended to enhance. If one is looking to create an authentic grey fieldstone look on their stamped concrete patio, a good dye would be a superior choice as compared to a stain.

The last good thing about dyes is that if you use water-based dyes, you can dye and use sealant on the same day. This will shorten the time you need to take to give your concrete floor a new look.

DIY concrete dye can be anything

Cons of concrete dyes

There are some negative aspects to using dyes instead of stains. First, dyes do not hold up well to ultra-violet light and therefore should be limited to indoor use or areas that are not very exposed to direct sunlight. One way to fight this would be the use of sealants outdoors, and why not indoors as well.

Another thing are the dyes that use acetone as a solvent, it can be a fire risk and it isn’t anything good to breathe either. If you use it, you need to take measures against it.

Concrete dyes also do not hide blemishes or cracks. If your concrete is cracked and you apply a dye, you will simply get a different colored crack. If you have cracks on your floor, I have another article about fixing them here.

Finally, dyes are transparent, once they are applied and allowed to dry, they are hard to change. Some staining and other things can be done to them after, but that would be a whole new thing to consider. So it’s always important to test the product before you apply it to the whole surface.

That being said, it is very important to be accurate in blending the right proportions of each color. While many artists can mix dyes by sight and make adjustments as they go along, others rely on exact formulas. The most creative people tend to be able to combine the colors by sight and achieve fantastic results.


For those that know how to mix colors and have confidence that they can select the proper color for the particular application, dyes work fine. They dry fast and allow work time to be cut by as much as 50% over stains or other concrete treatments.

Like I wrote before, when you mix up a concrete dye, you test it on a small, inconspicuous area of concrete. If it looks good, go ahead and apply your creativity to the rest of the project.

When working with paints, stains, dyes, etc., it’s always good to prepare the place first. Make sure it’s clean and there are no distracting things like furniture present. After the place is clean and ready, it’s still good to apply protective covers to anything we don’t want to dye.

After these things are taken care off, you’re ready to continue with the job.

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