Pine is a softwood which means that it absorbs stain unevenly as compared to hardwoods like oak or walnut. Therefore, it is very important to condition your pine to that the stain be spread out evenly and give a uniform color. Once you have done this, you can get a variety of effects from stains that range from classic to avant-guarde.
Antiquing and Darkening
Pine naturally darkens as it ages, and you can achieve an antique look on new wood by using a darker stain color. Some manufacturers make stains that are intended for antiquing and which are designed specifically for use on pine. An alternative is to use a stain that produces the color of another wood, such as cherry or walnut. This will not give the pine an authentic antique appearance, but may help it blend with the room decor. An antique appearance can also be achieved by dissolving a little natural stain color in your finish coat, so that the finish acts as a stain.
Whitewash contains pigments that sit on the surface of the wood to give it a frosty appearance. Because they do not penetrate, they are easily removed, so it is essential that the pine be finished with a clear finish after the stain has dried. Whitewashed pine goes well in lighter rooms, or those with maple floors.
There is a range of colored stains to give pine a bluish, greenish, reddish or yellowish hue. These are commonly used on southwest pine furniture and the effect they produce is often referred to as Santa-Fe style. Like whitewash, these stains are highly pigmented and need to be clear-coated to make them last. Interesting effects can be produced by dissolving a little of the stain color in the finish coat and applying it as a glazing.
Natural Wood Tones
Pine wood has many natural color variations, and any one of these can be accentuated by using natural wood tones. The four traditional wood coloring tones are burnt and raw umber and burnt and raw sienna. These are available in tubes at paint stores. Dissolve one of these, or a combination, in mineral spirits to make your own penetrating stain. For a fun approach to wood finishing, use paint colors in the clear finish to make a colored glaze to spread over these earth tones.