Taking the Red Out of Mahogany

Changing the Color Of Wood From Red to Brown

Changing the Color Of Wood From Red to Brown Taking the Red Out of Mahogany

Taking the Red Out

My Client likes the grain of mahogany a lot and wants to use it for their new cabinetry, but they want the color to match their floors and mahogany is just a little too red. They want the wood to be less red, but they don’t want it darker.

The solution goes back to something we learn about in art class, and mostly never see again.
The Color Wheel.
Colors on opposite sides of the wheel cancel each other out.
Across the wheel from Red is Green.
And sure enough, if a little green dye is put into the lacquer used to finish the mahogany, it reduces the red, and creates a more neutral brown.

color wheel
Lacquer with the addition of green dye will shift the color of the wood away from red.

Lacquer with the addition of green dye will shift the color of the wood away from red.

Taking the Red Out of Mahogany

Here is a piece of Sepele Mahogany that shows the effect of shifting the color away from red by the the process of toning.
The section on the left is raw wood, it has no finish at all.
The middle section has only clear lacquer and it shows the true color of the wood.
The section on the right was toned with colored lacquer.

The trick is not to over do it. If too much dye is used the wood starts to look blotchy, or can even start to look green. A small amount of color is used, and is built up gently with several coats of lacquer.

See more about the Different Colors of Woods 

2 thoughts on “Changing the Color Of Wood From Red to Brown

  1. Cheryl Glaze

    Can you share the green dye that you used and how much? What color lacquer did you use? I am staining a door and would love to get it right!

  2. tom Post author

    Hi Cheryl,
    I work with lacquer, which must be sprayed, and I use alcohol based dyes for color because they work well with lacquer, and do not raise the grain like a water based dye would do.
    I typically use a pre catalyzed dull lacquer. It is clear, but not water white, which means it has a very slight amber tint.

    Also, I use an alcohol based dye called trans tint from Homestead finishing . Search for it on on Ebay.
    This dye is made to be added to alcohol to make a stain, the stain can be applied directly to wood to color it. But in my post I am changing the color of wood that is already finished, a process called toning, so the dye is added to the finish that will be used. If you are starting with unfinished wood you can still tone the wood by adding the dye to your finish. But if you plan to stain the wood you will add green dye to whatever stain you plan to use.

    How much to use?
    That is hard to say. It depends on how red a color you are starting with. Always test.
    As a rule, too little is better than too much.
    Green knocks out the red, it will make the brown more neutral, and also a little darker. If the wood starts to look green, us less.
    Good Luck!


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