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Concrete Stain, Dye & Pigments


There are three basic types of colorants to color a concrete surface — stains, dyes and pigments.


Concrete dyes are a great way to color existing slabs of concrete and offer a wide range of color options. Colors can be used to cover previous dyes or concrete stains, or to create something entirely new. Concrete dyes can be used to apply solid colors to concrete surfaces.

The raw form of the dye is a super fine powder that is dispersed in a solvent such as acetone or water. Learn more about how to prepare and apply concrete dyes in our guide.

Direct Colors concrete dyes come in vibrant colors and are UV stable, meaning the colors won’t fade under direct sunlight.


Concrete stains are classified into three types: film-forming, penetrating and acid stains. All three types of stains come in a variety of colors, tints, shades and textures.

Film-forming stains simply coat or lay on top of a cement based surface to add color to a concrete floor or countertop. Unlike other concrete stains and dyes, there is no need to seal film-forming concrete stains. The stain sits on top of the existing concrete, and includes the sealer in the solution. However, as a result, film-forming concrete stains are less permanent than other concrete colorants. As you would reapply a concrete sealer every 3-5 years, you may need to reapply film-forming stains depending on foot traffic.

Direct Colors’ Tinted Concrete Sealers is our all-in-one product.

A more permanent alternative to film-forming stains are penetrating stains, which literally penetrate deep into the pores of concrete and bond to the concrete itself. As penetrating stains fill the pores of the concrete rather than sit on top, these stains offer a much more permanent solution for high traffic and outdoor applications.

Direct Colors’ Outdoor Concrete Stain is our recommended product for outdoor projects.

Direct Colors’ ColorWave™ is our Eco-friendly water-based concrete stain.

While both film-forming and penetrating stains rely on pigments to alter the color of concrete, acid stains chemically react with the minerals in concrete to create a natural marbling appearance by etching the surface. Acid staining requires more safety precautions and experience to apply than the film-forming and penetrating stains. However, the products are relatively simple to prepare and apply, and the resulting patterns are vibrant and unique to your indoor or outdoor space.

For these projects, we recommend Direct Colors’ Concrete Acid Stain. Penetrating stains – When applying penetrating stains, the concrete surface must be void of any paint, stain, coatings or sealers and be thoroughly cleaned. Before applying the stain, prepare the surface with a cleaner, degreaser, and etcher. The etcher is used to ensure that the concrete surface is clean and porous enough to accept the penetrating stain. If the surface is too smooth or is covered by residue or paint, the stain cannot penetrate, and the color will not take.

An easy test to determine if the concrete will accept penetrating stain is to pour a small amount of water on the surface. If it absorbs the water, it will accept the stain. If not, it’s being prevented by paint, stain, coating or sealer, which must be removed.

Like film-forming stains, rinse the cleaned surface and allow it to dry before applying the penetrating stain with a plastic sprayer, roller or brush, following the same technique and taking the same precautions for best results.

Acid stains — Cleaning a surface before applying acid stain is very important, but it should be done without the use of chemicals that could prematurely trigger a reaction with minerals in the concrete.
If that happens, the acid stains won’t etch the concrete or create the visual appearance expected when it’s applied to the surface.
Sealer must be applied on acid stained concrete surfaces to fully develop the desired marbling effect.

For more information, read our guide on “How to Apply Concrete Stain.”


Pigments can be applied either integrally or topically. Integrally colored concrete means that whether you are pouring new concrete or applying an overlay system, pigments are added to the cement mix for a full depth of color. This method ensures that scratching and wear will not remove or damage the pigment. Direct Colors’ Concrete Pigments are perfect for these types of projects. Topical applications of concrete pigments are achieved by mixing the pigment with an epoxy sealer. This application is more commonly used in countertops, using a metallic pigment to create a shimmering, smooth finish for your countertop. We recommend Direct Colors’ Metallic Epoxy Application Kit for projects like these.