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A Step-by-Step Guide on Staining Balsa Wood

Staining any type of wood is no piece of cake. And it gets even more complex when it comes to Balsa.

People quit any hope of staining it before even trying.

We have brought this comprehensive guide on staining balsa wood. 

Staining balsa wood is a bit tricky. As you can not directly stain it. You have to perform some additional tasks before you can start staining. Such as, sealing, priming and then staining. Doing these helps in preparing the wood surface for staining. So, the stain sits well and gives a nice finish.

Not sure yet? Well, no need to worry! Because, in this article, we explain every step in detail.

You can easily stain your balsa wood following the clear steps.

Just keep scrolling to find out!

How to Stain Balsa Wood

Balsa wood is a bit tricky to stain. It is because the wood is very soft and porous. 

This suggests that it will absorb the stain. And it will eventually lead to an uneven finish. 

But you do not need to worry though. Because there are definitely ways which you can adopt to stain balsa. 

You actually have to perform sealing and priming balsa before you move to the staining process.

It may take some additional steps. But the entire process is worth it!  

We have provided everything in detail. So, you can successfully complete staining salsa wood!

Let us jump right in!


This is the first task you need to do. Sealing balsa wood is not that complex of a process. But that is only if you follow the instructions carefully.

There’s a few steps given below that you have to follow!

Make sure you are following all of them accordingly.

Step 1: Arrange A Workbench

First, you need to arrange a drop cloth or a workbench to work over. Because, the process of sanding balsa and sealing it will create a mess. 

So, working on them will ensure that they are easy to clean. Also, you will be able to pick up leftover sealer and sawdust much easier.

Step 2: Sand The Balsa

Now, you have to sand your balsa using a 220-grit sandpaper. Apply a smooth motion back and forth so the wood surface is roughened up. 

As you can see, it is quite similar to sanding plywood.

Make sure to sand every part you’ll be staining. This way your primer and stain would stick better. 

Put light pressure so no holes or uneven smudges are caused on the wood. Might be a bizarre finish.

And then you have to start cleaning unfinished wood.

Step 3: Apply The Filler

Now you need to brush on a layer of wood filler. This is to seal the balsa wood surface. Plunge a regular paintbrush inside the wood filler bottle. 

After that, swab a thick layer of filler over the whole balsa surface. Do this until no wood grain is visible underneath. 

Make sure you do not miss any areas otherwise the paint would be uneven.

Step 4: Let It Dry

Leave the wood filler to dry for approximately 2 to 8 hours. Keep the balsa wood in a spot where it will not be touched. Wait until it is dry before moving on.

The dry time of wood filler may vary. It is approximately 2 hours. Thicker kinds may take up to eight hours. 

Step 5: Sand It Again

Now, you have to sand the balsa again using the 220-grit sandpaper. Use the same sandpaper you used for sanding the first time. 

Proceed with sanding till you notice the wood grain through wood filler. Doing this actually gives you a good and smooth surface for the stain to stick to.


The next thing in how to stain balsa is priming the wood. It will prepare the wood surface for a better finish. Plus, the stain will sit very nicely and evenly.

Here are the steps.

Step 1: Choose A Well Ventilated Area

Firstly, keep in mind that you need to work outside or a place that’s well-ventilated. 

Both primer and spray paint are the best for balsa wood. However, it produces a lot of fumes. 

That’s why make sure you work outdoors.

Step 2: Spray A Layer of Primer

Now, just spray a layer of primer on the balsa. It has to be a sandable primer. Before applying, shake the can well. Then hold it about 6 to12 inches from the wood. 

Spray using sweeping motion till the entire surface is covered. Keep the primer going. This way it will not pool or drip.

Step 3: Sand Using 400 Grit Sandpaper

You have to wait until the primer is dry and then sand it using 400-grit sandpaper. After that, again use the fine-grit sandpaper to give the balsa a light sanding.

Step 4: Complete The Coating

After you are done with all that, apply two more layers of primer. First, spray a coat of primer using the same process and dry it. 

After it dries, sand it again for a final coat. It will provide you an even finish when staining.

If you’re looking for primer then have a look at the products:

Product 1
Product 2


Now, the final task before we are done with the entire process. This is the most important part as well.

Up until now you have prepared the surface for this step. Now make sure you are following the steps properly.

Here are all the steps for staining balsa.

Step 1: Tape off The Balsa

Firstly, Tape off the sections which would be a different color. It will give nice and even lines for the stain. 

Use the painter’s tape for that. With that, cover all the areas which you want to be a different color. Or there would be the hassle of removing the latex stain from wood.

Make sure you do not use tapes which are sticky. For example, packing or duct tape. This can leave behind residue over the wood and damage the finish.

Step 2: Spray A Thin Coat

In this step you need to spray a thin coat of enamel on the wood. Or you can try applying latex paint as well. Then let it dry. These are known as the most preferable types of stains for balsa.

To apply, shake the can very well. Then hold the can about 12 inches away from the wood. This will make the finish even. 

Spray in a sweeping motion to cover the balsa. Just apply a thin coat first so the paint won’t run.

Step 3: Apply More Coating

Now you have to keep spraying the stain after the earlier coat dries. Continue till you get an even finish. 

Allow the first coat to dry out fully. Once it has dried, spray another light coat. Again, leave it to dry. 

Continue doing this till you get an even and nice finish. And it does not show the wood grains underneath the balsa.

You may need to apply even 3 to 4 coats to attain an even finish.

Step 4: Complete The Process

Now, you need to stain the remaining sections, if any, that were enclosed with a tape. 

In case you taped off any of the sections of balda, peel it off. Do it only when the first stain is fully dry. 

Then cover that dry section using tape and spray the remaining parts to stain.

And, in case you have only used one color stain, there is no need to tape. You do not have to paint anymore either.

Now, let the stain cure completely for 2 to 3 days. The stain should take somewhere between 36 to 72 hours to fully cure.

Leave the balsa alone during the time. It’s because the stain can be treated properly. After that, you may move it to the place you want it.

And that is it! You are successfully done with staining your balsa!


How do you color balsa?

You have to prepare the wood surface first before you proceed with coloring. You need to seal the wood surface first. Then you have to perform priming so the wood is set for a good finish. Then you can color balsa by simply spraying the paint.

Can balsa wood be varnished?

Yes, you can varnish balsa. But, anytime you varnish, it would fuzz up. Then dry to a harsh and hairy finish. Then it would need sanding for smoothing it. Also, to prepare it for further coats. 

What kind of paint do you use on balsa wood?

You can use enamel paint on the balsa wood. Or you can try applying latex paint as well. Both work well. And both of these are known as the most preferable types of stains for balsa. 

Can you stain basswood?

Yes, basswood is sustainable. To stain it you have to sand it first. Do it in several stages till you attain a smooth surface. Now you can paint the carving. You can use water or oil-based paint. Both will produce good results for basswood.

Wrapping Up

Hope we have resolved all your queries on staining balsa wood.

Now you know all about this tricky process. Read the entire guide again if necessary just to be totally sure. Then proceed with the staining process. Make sure that you have access to every tool needed in the method. This way there will be less chance of messing up.

That is all for now. Have an amazing day!