Feature Image for the article on Fence Stain Colors that features a brown cedar fence with Wood Defender stain.

Your Guide to Fence Stain Colors

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Matt Stone

There has been an explosion of fence stain colors available today. Gone are the days when you have to choose between a half dozen shades of brown or red. With this bounty of choices comes the challenge of narrowing it down to just one. 

If you are looking for inspiration for your next fence staining project we have included lots of pictures of the most popular colors on the market. If you are having trouble choosing the perfect shade to coordinate with your home we will include tips for choosing the best fence stain color.

Choosing a great fence stain color will elevate your outdoor areas and make them even more enjoyable than before.

Consider these fence stain colors for your home.

Traditional Fence Stain Colors

These colors fit with a traditional architectural style. If you like a classic or timeless look these colors might be for you. They tend to favor more natural wooden fence stain colors.

Light Oak

ready seal light oak fence stain on a cedar fence
Photo Credit: Ready Seal

This soft brown color from the folks at Ready Seal is a very traditional fence stain color. Its neutral qualities make it a very versatile color.


redwood fence stain color on a cedar fence

If you want a fence stain color that is bright and stunning, redwood is the way to go. With its warm red undertones, this color will stand out in your backyard. Many manufacturers have their version of this color.


a wooden fence with brown stain on it


a traditional looking backyard with a warm brown fence stain
Photo Credit: Ready Seal

Pecan is a very popular color from Ready Seal. It is a medium, warm brown that is not too dark and not too light.

Rustic Fence Stain Colors

These colors are great if you love a rustic or ranch vibe. Whether you actually live in the country or just want to bring a little of that feel to your backyard space, these colors will be a great addition to your backyard.

Sable Brown

Brown fence stain on a split rail fence

Sable Brown is one of Wood Defender’s most popular semi-transparent colors. It is a medium brown that is very versatile. It can fit many different home styles.


leatherwood fence stain color on a cedar fence

Leatherwood is quickly becoming a close second to Cedar Tone for the most popular transparent color. This rich warm brown looks great in a rustic ranch or in an upscale modern backyard.


a wood fence with a light redish fence stain

This color is a very lightly tinted stain. It will add a little bit of warmth to your fence while highlighting its natural beauty. It is a great color to pair with cedar.

Cedar Tone

A cedar fence with cedar tone fence stain

Cedar Tone is also a great natural looking color for cedar fences. It highlights the warm red tones in a natural cedar fence.

Modern Fence Stain Colors

Modern fence stains are not limited to the traditional brown and red tones of the past. There are options for using black, and gray as well. This category has the biggest range of color options available. Everything from a completely natural looking clear stain to the darkest black will compliment a modern style home nicely.


this black fence is an example of a modern fence stain color
Photo Credit: Expert Stain and Seal

Black fence stains are becoming more and more popular. This trend definitely has a modern feel to it and pairs well with contrasting white exteriors.

Cape Cod Gray

a wooden gate with cape cod gray fence stain on it
This is a great warm gray fence stain color by Wood Defender.

Cape Cod Gray is a warm gray fence stain color from Wood Defender. Using a medium gray color is a great way to add a contemporary vibe to your outdoor space.

Clear Glow

a wooden fence with clear glow natural fence stain on it.
The natural wood look is a great fit for a modern-style garden.

A clear penetrating sealer gives this fence a natural look. The clear glow formula from Wood Defender has been recently updated to give it even more longevity. This removes one of the biggest drawbacks to using a clear sealer because it no longer has to be applied every year.

Slate Gray

a modern style fence with slate gray fence stain color on it.
Photo Credit: Expert Stain and Seal

Gray fence stain colors are a very popular modern style stain. This color from Expert Stain and Seal is a great cool tone gray. This type of gray can be hard to find in a wood stain.

Elegant Fence Stain Colors

These colors give your outdoor space a classy feel. They are a great choice if you want to upscale the look of your outdoor space. If you tend to go for a high-end look, these colors can elevate your backyard.

Oxford Brown

horizontal fence with oxford gray fence stain

Oxford Brown by Wood Defender is a darker transparent stain color. It looks elegant in this horizontal fence with metal decorative poles.

Dark Walnut

a nice backyard with a pool and a fence with the dark walnut fence stain color

Dark Walnut from Ready Seal elevates the look of this high-end backyard.

Coffee Brown

a shadowbox fence with coffee colored fence stain.

Coffee Brown is a rich semi-transparent color that will give a chocolatey look to a new fence. It is also great for older fences because the strong pigments will cover up imperfections in the wood.


a tall fence with mahogany fence stain from Sherwin Williams

This is the mahogany color from Sherwin Williams. It is a rich warm red with brown tones.

Tips For Picking the Best Fence Stain Color

While your best fence stain color is based on your taste and preferences, here are some guidelines that can help you narrow it down to the best option.

the front of a house with dark brown stained accents
  1. Match the Architecture of Your Home
    If you already have stained elements on your home like cedar accents or posts, consider staining your fence with a matching or similar color. Also, try picking a color that will coordinate with your exterior paint scheme. You can hold up samples next to your house to see how the fence stain color looks next to it. 
  2. Consider Your Personal Style
    As mentioned above, different fence stain colors will tend toward one design style or another. Choosing a color that fits with the design style you prefer for the rest of your home will help it look like it belongs. 
  3. Remember that Dark Colors Recede
    Do you want your fence to be a featured element in your yard or a supporting, background element? Lighter brighter colors will have a tendency to stand out. This can make your fence the statement piece for your yard. Darker colors, on the other hand, will recede and be less noticeable. This is great if you want your fence to be a backdrop for your landscaping or other decor.

Choosing Your Transparency

Fence stains can range from transparent to solid. This refers to the amount of wood grain you can still see once it is applied. A solid stain will cover the wood completely, similar to paint.

a chart showing the different levels of fence stain transparency.

Clear Fence Stain

Clear stain does not have any pigment in it. It will still protect the wood from moisture but does not provide any protection from UV rays. The wood will likely still turn gray, but the clear stain will slow this process down. Clear sealers often need to be applied every year.

Transparent Fence Stain

A transparent fence stain has pigment in it but still allows most of the wood grain to show through. This stain is a great option for new cedar because it highlights the beauty of the boards. It is not the best option if you are wanting a stain that will cover the wood.

Semi-Transparent Fence Stain

A Semi-Transparent stain will have more or stronger pigments while still allowing some of the wood to show. These stains are great for pine fences because transparent fence stains often look uneven on pine. It is also great for older fences that might have imperfections you want to cover.

Solid Color

A solid fence stain will completely cover the wood grain like paint does. These stains can be the longest lasting but also have the tendency to peel off. This makes them harder to maintain in the long run. Solid fence stains will also give you the most color options. I recommend using solid stain over paint for a fence.

a fence and pergola with a nice solid stain job.
Solid Stain
a cedar fence that has been stained with transparent wood stain
Transparent Stain

Colors by Manufacturer

Below are some links to the fence stain color options available from major stain companies.

Take the Next Step

Now that you have selected the perfect color for your fence, read our guide to staining a fence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to paint or stain a fence?

I recommend using a quality oil-based fence stain to preserve your wooden fence. This type of treatment will protect your fence from the elements and be easier to maintain over time. To learn more read stain vs paint.

What is the most popular wood stain color?

Among the most popular colors in my experience have been Cedar Tone, Leatherwood and Coffee Brown.

All of the colors listed above were selected because they have been the most popular over the last few years.

What is the most popular fence stain?

One of the most popular fence stains has consistently been Ready Seal. For a very similar alternative you may also consider Wood Defender.

Photo of author
Author: Matt Stone
Matt has worked as a professional painter for over 10 years. This includes much experience with all types of wood stains. He loves to write about wood stains to help others make good choices to protect their homes and make them beautiful.

2 thoughts on “Your Guide to Fence Stain Colors”

    • Hey Kathy, Most stains can be applied in multiple coats so if you stain with one color and decide you want a different one you can stain with a second color on top. Some stains like Sherwin Williams Superdeck specify only one coat. Because of the nature of stains it is always easier to go darker. If you try to put a lighter stain on top of another stain it probably won’t be true to the second stain’s color.


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