Toner Mix Proportion Guidelines

Recipes for toner formulas vary depending on the the dyes or pigments and solvents used, and the intended purpose of the mixture. May 21, 2009

What ratios are the rest of you using when making a toner? For example, 20% stain, 10% conversion varnish, and 70% thinner.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
There are no set rules for making a toner. The strength of color will depend on whether you're using a dye concentrate, a ready to use dye, a wiping stain, or straight pigments. If you're using a wiping stain or dye, you have to watch out for the toner masking the grain of the wood and looking more like paint than a finish. If I'm using a ready to use dye, I'll generally add between 1/2 to 1 1/2 ounces of the dye to a quart of thinned finish.

Obviously, the more dye you add the darker the color and the more easily you can create stripes when you spray. When using a wiping stain, I'll use the same ratio as the ready to use dye. When using pigments, one ounce per gallon is as much as I typically use. Dye concentrates require testing. I'm currently using a dye toner on a job and the dye I'm using is a concentrate. The ratio for that dye toner is 150 ounces of thinner to one ounce of dye. If the color you're adding to the finish is directly compatible (e.g., a solvent reduced dye in a solvent based finish) you can add the color to your topcoat(s).

If you're using an oil-base wiping stain with a solvent base finish like lacquer or conversion varnish, it's a good idea to mix the stain with the thinner and then add some finish to act as a binder. I'll usually go with a ratio of no more than 25% finish and 75% thinner/stain mix. I often use even less finish in the ratio. If you try to add the oil-base stain directly to the finish, it will probably "curdle" and not blend in since the solvents in the stain are not directly compatible with the solvents in the finish. Thinning the stain with the thinner for the solvent finish eliminates the problem.

Another reason to thin your toner way down is so you can apply your clear coat(s) over it. That way each coat of toner is very thin and you don't exceed the maximum dry film thickness. Some finishers prefer to spray a number of lightly colored toner coats to build the color. It's one way to avoid spraying stripes but if you have a lot to spray, it's a lot of extra work. Not to mention a little trickier to maintain consistent color over a number of pieces.

From contributor G:
I typically use a 50-50 mixture of thinner and finish and whatever it takes to get my color with the dye. I will usually make it so I need to put two coats of toner on. That way you have more control on color variation.

From contributor F:
Be careful when using wiping stain as a toner. Some you can get away with but others contain too much oily aliphatic solvents to be compatible with lacquer. I much prefer dyes or straight 866 or 844 pigments.

From contributor J:
When toning do you guys use vinyl sealer to keep the color from running or hit light with top coat mix?

From contributor G:
Mix it in with a dilute sealer or finish mixture and it will fix the color. But you can't wipe it off if you goof.

From contributor J:
I have read here that the vinyl will stretch the color as the top coat will puddle the color if laid on heavy. I have not tried it with vinyl yet but I understand what happens with Magnamax.