Concrete Colorant Guide: Dyes, Stains, & Pigments
You can use concrete dyes, stains, and pigments to refresh the color of your concrete. Although these three products serve the same purpose, there are some key differences among them. Knowing these differences will help you select the best product for your project, ensuring higher quality and longer-lasting results.
Although “dye” and “pigment” are often used interchangeably, they’re two different products. Concrete dyes are very fine powders that are available in many color choices, are easy to work with, and dry quickly.
There are two primary categories of dyes: water-based and solvent-based. Water-based dyes create soft, subtle finishes, while solvent-based produce deep, bold colors. Water-based dyes also contain fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than solvent-based dyes, making them a more environmentally friendly option. Working with solvent-based dyes is often more dangerous as they contain hazardous chemicals, are highly flammable, and produce nauseous fumes.
Concrete dyes produce vivid, lush results while being easy to work with. Most DIYers can successfully create dramatic effects, whether working on an entirely new design, freshening an existing layout, or adding color for the first time to bland concrete.
Dyes for concrete formations are available in an extensive palette, and the vibrancy of the results they create can be even stronger than chemical-based stains.
- Bold & Beautiful Results
- Easy to Work With
Because the colorizing particles in concrete dyes are so tiny, they penetrate deeply into the concrete, creating much richer, bolder colors than stains. This boldness can also make imperfections stand out. Additionally, concrete dyes are not UV stable, which makes them ill-suited for outdoor applications.
- Can Emphasize Surface Imperfections
- Susceptible to UV Damage
When to Use
Concrete dyes are best suited for indoor applications that require bold and bright results. They’re primarily used to create concrete graphics, logos, and stenciled patterns.
tains for concrete impart hues by chemically reacting with the calcium hydroxide and other minerals present in the mix. They are available in numerous colors, shades, and textures.
Stains used on concrete structures and pads are available in three basic types: acid, film-forming, and penetrating. Acid stains react with raw elements in the concrete mix, etching the surface to create an appearance that mimics natural stone. Film-forming stains are the most common type; they are applied to concrete, similar to paint, and form a durable film. Penetrating stains are water-based and feature bonded polymers that allow them to deeply “penetrate” the concrete’s tiny pores.
Advantages will vary based on the type of stain used. Overall, acid stains contain larger colorizing particles than dyes and are better at covering up surface imperfections. They’re also UV-stable, so the color is less likely to fade over time.
- Covers Up Surface Imperfections
- Better UV Resistance
Stains produce lighter-colored results than dyes, and there aren’t as many options. Additionally, the precise shades and effects of using stains will vary based on certain factors, including the concrete’s age, mix design, and the slab’s previous exposure to cleaning chemicals, making it difficult to predict what the final results will look like.
- Lighter Colors
- Not As Many Stain Options
- Unpredictable Results
When to Use
Most stains are best suited for outdoor applications or environments where UV exposure is a risk. It’s important to note that film-forming stains are more likely to flake, peel, or fade in areas that are highly exposed to chemicals, weather, and foot traffic.
Pigments are powdered mixtures that, when infused with concrete, create a deep, enduring color. They’re popularly added to wet concrete to replicate the variegated look of natural stone on concrete walls, floors, countertops, and outdoor flatwork.
Integral concrete pigments are perfect for achieving solid, uniform colors without variation or for creating a solid-colored base that other colors will build on. They infuse color throughout the entire concrete formation, and their hue cannot be abraded. Pigmented concrete is also UV-stable and won’t fade over time due to inclement weather.
- Better Uniformity
- Can Be Mixed With Other Colors
- Can Be Used in Outdoor & Indoor Applications
The downside of pigments is that you must be very thorough during the blending and mixing process. You have to ensure that the color is completely infused throughout the concrete mix, so it produces consistent colorizing. Plus, because you have to add color integrally, it will most likely be more expensive than surface-only-treated concrete, like stains and dyes.
- Harder to Work With
- Requires Professional Assistance or Some Prior Experience
- More Expensive
When to Use
Pigments are ideal for any indoor or outdoor application requiring exceptional resistance to weather and UV damage or projects when the budget is not a primary concern.
Improve Your Concrete With Help From Stamped Concrete!
Starting a concrete project is no easy task—if you have questions, please contact our professionals at Stamped Concrete. We offer a wide range of high-quality concrete dyes, stains, pigments, and other decorative products and can help you select the best option for your project. We have the knowledge and experience you need to make your next project a success!