Solid Stain vs Paint: Which One Should You Choose?

Many think deciding on solid stain vs paint isn’t such a pivotal decision. However, you may not realize this choice will affect the essence of your living space.

As subjective as it sounds, the decision depends on your desired result. A solid stain might be the way to go if you prefer a smooth, flat finish. But if you want to try out different textures, we suggest that you use paint.

This article will help you figure out the main differences between solid stains and paint. It will talk about things like how they are made, how they are used, and how they look. Let’s go!

What Is a Solid Stain? 

Solid stains have more pigment than paints and can cover well enough that you don’t need a top coat or primer. You are probably most familiar with the concept of a “transparent stain.”

This kind of stain is a treatment that the wood absorbs, altering the color of the finished product. After you’ve applied the stain, the object has to be covered while it dries. 

What Is Paint?

Paint is a colored liquid or a solid mixture that can be made into a liquid. When a thin layer of paint is put on a surface, it dries and hardens. It is usually kept, sold, and used as a liquid, but most types dry out into solids. 

It comes in different kinds and colors, and most people use it to protect, add color, or change the feel of something. Paints are typically oil- or water-based, each of which has unique properties. Clean-up solvents for water-based paint also vary from those for oil-based paint. 

Interestingly, many towns make it unlawful to pour oil-based paint down domestic drains or sewers because the paint may clog the drains.

The final looks of water- and oil-based paints may differ depending on the painted surface’s outside temperature (such as a house). Generally, the painted surface must be above 10 °C (50 °F).

However, some manufacturers of external paints and primers claim they can be applied at temperatures as low as 2 °C (35 °F).

What Are the Key Differences of Solid Stain vs Paint?

Paint requires more time and money to apply to a surface, making it a more costly option. You must prepare the surface before painting to get the greatest possible effect. Paints have the potential to give color consistency, especially if professionals apply them, and they also come in a variety of sheen levels. Paints offer a wider variety of color options, too.

Solid stains, on the other hand, are simple to apply and touch up as needed. They enable moisture to pass through the wood while remaining flexible, whereas painting may serve as a more effective barrier.

When using a solid stain, you barely need to prepare the surface, and primers are not usually necessary. As a result, applying a solid stain to a surface takes much less time than applying a liquid stain. 

Solid stains can resist cracking, peeling, and blistering if applied per the manufacturer’s instructions. The solid stain will fade with age instead of flaking as paint would, making it more durable over time.

Because of this, they can be more cost-effective than paint, requiring very little upkeep. 


The most notable distinction is that solid stains do not require priming, unlike paint. Therefore, they can save you time and money. However, solid stains can’t be applied over previously painted surfaces. 


A paint sprayer, such as the Wagner FLEXiO 5000, is the best method for evenly spraying the solid stain or paint. We set the airflow to 9 and the paint flow to 6, respectively, to spray the thick paint. For the thinner stain, we found that setting both to 2 worked best.

For many solid stains, the manufacturer’s instructions say that only one coat is needed. However, we recommend using two coats to make sure the stain is even and complete.


Looking at paint and solid stain side by side once they have dried, you likely won’t be able to tell which is which. The only potential difference is that stain absorbs into the wood for a matte finish, while paint may take on a range of sheens.

A solid stain shows all the natural beauty of the wood since it soaks in and dries at the surface level. Conversely, paint can better conceal flaws such as grain and blemishes. 

Does Paint Have a Longer Lifespan Than Stain?

There is a common misunderstanding that stain requires no maintenance whatsoever. However, this is not the case. Stained surfaces need to be painted over quite often, just like any other surface in your home. 

That said, a stain has a more natural appearance than paint, as it does not peel or chip as often as paint does. This is the primary benefit of stains over paint. It is optional to prime the surface before applying stain, and one application is often sufficient unless the surface you’re working with is absorbent. However, you cannot stain painted surfaces since stains only come in a matte finish.

As opposed to a solid stain, paint comes in a wider variety of color options and sheens, and you can apply it to wood and many other surfaces, such as plastic and plaster. 

Paint will have a longer lifespan than stain if it is done correctly and according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Furthermore, solid colors protect the wood surface while allowing moisture to evaporate.

Key Takeaways

Under a microscope, you can’t see many differences between paint vs solid stain. Both are made of pigments, and both are used to give a surface color and protection.

Looking closely, you’ll find that solid stains and paint are very different inside. As a result of its watery consistency, stain tends to absorb material. On the other hand, paint remains intact and forms a coating on top of the surface. Stain is the best option if you want the look of painted furniture but like the feel of wood. Use paint if you’d like a more polished look.

Now that you have all the facts, you can easily decide which product will give you the result you have imagined.

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