An effective way to choose a stain color is to apply the desired stain to a 1-foot section of the wood in an inconspicuous area. Allow the stain to dry to determine whether the color is right for the wood. To hide the color or grain of the wood, choose a solid colored stain, or use a transparent stain to allow the color and grain of the wood to show.
When applying stain to decks, consider the color of the home's siding and other large features of the property, and choose a color that complements those features. Better Homes and Gardens recommends gray or other neutral colors when staining large areas, red stain to accent a brick home, or sage green stain to accent gardens, trees and other natural features.
Another option is to choose stain that matches the color of the wood. For instance, green-tinted stain matches untreated pine. When staining tannin-rich wood, such as cedar, use a recommended primer before applying solid stain.
Transparent stains are suitable for unblemished wood, semi-transparent stains hide minor imperfections, and solid stains are recommended for stained or damaged wood. Refer to the opacity key on the stain packaging when choosing the stain color.