Aniline dye vs. Japan color


Grumbler in Training
Apr 18, 2006
Hi everyone,
do you have a perference of using one over the other specially when its used under/over Tung oil or Watco clear varnish. Thanks for your replies.
Both have their place. Japan is less fugitive and doesn't oxidize.But Aniline can get you brighter color.
Not sure what you are doing, but the main difference is that Japan colors are opaque, with a heavy concentration of pigment, and cover well. Dyes are transparent, and for example, are useful when you want the wood grain to show. Aniline dyes are not only fugitive, but a health hazard, so you should wear a mask when handling the powder. You might also want to check on Transtint dyes available from

FWI, I use dyes for tinting over gold leaf surfaces.

Originally posted by Keaton:
specially when its used under/over Tung oil or Watco
Unless you want to hide the wood (which you certainly may want to do) stain first, then top coat. I don't even know what would happen if you were to try and stain over Watco/tung oil, but I don't think it would be pretty....

If you're looking for a great source of analine dyes, try W D Lockwood in NYC. They've been making them for over a hundred years.
Analine dyes are a chemical based stain, Japan colors are pigment based stain/paint.

Analine dyes can have different reactions to different woods. When using analine dyes on white oak you have to be careful about attempting to rub them into the grain, especially the reds, they can turn black on you. Actually, I have gotten some pretty interesting finishes by controlling the amount of rubbing in white oak.

Your outcome is more controllable with pigment based stains, however, your final finish can look artificial.

I prefer analine.

Thanks for your suggestions. David, the under/over was a error on my part while typing the note. I tried tung oil about 6 months back on frames made of Maple, Oak and Ash. The Ash frames have yellowed considerably over this time period, a dirty yellow. i love to see the grain showing through the finish and so will try giving a coat of the aniline dye ( ebony for this job) and then add the dye to subsequent coats of tung oil. i am considering DIPPING the frame in tung oil for a even finish and hope it turns out fine
If I remember right, I think you can use Transtint dyes in Tung oil for tinting the oil.

I don't have any personal use for Tung as I find it to be nasty oily stuff that takes forever to dry.

"Once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, once a year for a life time."

Paaaleeeeze! Shoot five coats of shellac in a day, sand in the morning and wipe two more coats. Wax the next day and deliver.
Originally posted by Keaton:
i am considering DIPPING the frame in tung oil
We dip our moulding in Watco (thinned slightly with mineral spirits), but wipe on tung oil. I'd be afraid that the tung oil would dry too fast and cause the equivilent of lap marks. But you're more than welcome to try - let us know how it goes if you do.