Use sample colors to help you choose a wood stain by carefully examining the shade of each color and matching it to the type of wood in your home or office. Many paint and stain providers offer online resources, including detailed simulations, as well as in-store samples that can help you judge how the final product may look after application.
Whenever possible, check to see how the wood stain looks on larger surfaces. Small samples on wood chips or other demonstration materials may appear lighter than the finished product. Carefully consider how the darkness of the stain affects the natural look of the wood grain, if any is exposed, as stains may either mask or help grain stand out after application. If possible, look at the stained samples in a variety of different lighting environments or try to examine the sample in the setting that uses the same type of light as your home or office.
Pay close attention to how the shade of the stain looks on wooden surfaces instead of on the side of stain cans or in example images, which may have alterations or printing variations that do not accurately relate the color. Consider whether you plan to use the stain on porous materials, as porous woods often absorb more stain than harder woods, delivering a much different look than hardwood counterparts even with the same stain as more substrate remains visible.