Skip to Content

The Best Wood Stains for Poplar

I have tested 18 different wood stains and am here today to share with you the best wood stains for poplar!

Poplar is a gorgeous species of wood. It’s probably up there as one of my favorites to work with. I used poplar on my herringbone headboard for my master bedroom and it’s just gorgeous.

Poplar comes in many different variations of color which is why it is so unique. If you take a look at my headboard you will see that even though it is stained each board has its own character to it.

Poplar is a lighter color wood that is very similar to white oak but it is much easier to find and a ton cheaper. You can typically find poplar at most big box stores.

While I am sharing all the colors with you today and my favorites at the end you do not have to stain poplar at all. It is a gorgeous color wood and it really doesn’t need any color added.

Each photo you will see has not been altered in any way except for me to add text so you know which color is which. I took the photos in the sunshine on a white background so nothing would alter the undertones in the wood stain.

Five of the best stains for poplar with text overlay.

*This post contains affiliate links. For more details see my full disclosure.

The Best Gray Wood Stains for Poplar

Here are all the colors I used that have a gray color. I really like a couple of them but if you liked the look of my herringbone headboard then that color was called Color Wash. It’s different than regular stain and you can purchase it from Walmart or order online from the manufacturer.

Five of the best gray stains for poplar with text overlay.

Neither of the Classic Gray colors really did it for me. The one from Varathane barely did anything and the one from Minwax showed up almost black in color.

Slate, Gray Stone, and Smoke Gray were three that I really liked. Personally Slate and Gray Stone are my favorites if you want to go with a gray color on poplar.

Best Black Stains for Poplar

Since poplar is a lighter wood the black stains didn’t really come out totally black however they did have much more pigment than they did on the stain examples from Pine.

three of the best black stains for poplar with text overlay.

If you want more of the black look then the obvious choice here would be Varathane Classic Black. I have to say the Ebony colors are really pretty on poplar. But if you want black they aren’t dark enough.

Best White Stains for Poplar

Unless you go with a white wash I think using white stain on poplar is redundant because the wood itself is such a light almost white color wood. But I wanted to give you all the facts so here are the results.

two of the best white stains for poplar with texxt overlay.

Best Light Stains for Poplar

If you want your poplar to be light but the color of the wood is too light for you then one of these stains might be what you are looking for.

Three pieces of poplar stained light wood with text overlay.

Weathered Oak is the lightest but Provincial is a really pretty color on poplar. One might say it’s more of a medium-toned color rather than light.

Best Mid-Dark Stains for Poplar

Here is where things got interesting! I was so shocked at how dark poplar got with some of these colors.

Five of the best medium to dark stains for poplar with text overlay.

As you can see some of these colors got a little splotchy so I definitely recommend adding a wood conditioner before applying stain to your final project.

I really like the Red Mahogany on poplar but Early American blew me away!

The Best Wood Stains for Poplar

Here you have it! My favorite wood stains for poplar all in one place.

Five of the best stains for poplar with text overlay.

From dark to light these are my favorite color wood stains for poplar. I will say though, I think if I wanted dark wood I probably would go with oak or pine instead of poplar.

I choose poplar for its color and wood grain and believe it’s so beautiful on its own.

Frequently Asked Questions about Poplar:

What stains better poplar or pine?

Both will stain very nicely however poplar doesn’t have knots in it as pine does. It’s because of this that most manufacturers use poplar for cabinetry projects.

Does poplar take stain well?

Yes, poplar does take stain really well but I definitely recommend starting off with a wood conditioner.

The wood conditioner will open the pores of the wood and prepare it for stain so it has a more smooth finish and not splotchy like you see in some of the photos above.

What is the best way to finish poplar?

There are many types of finish products on the market. I like to use polyurethane for projects with darker stain colors and polyacrylic for projects with lighter stain colors.

Polyurethane has a great hard finish but with lighter colors, it can yellow the color a bit. That’s why for those I go with polycrylic.

How do you prepare poplar for stain?

I always sand my wood down to a very smooth finish then remove all the dust. Apply wood conditioner and following the manufacturer’s instructions for the dry time I then apply stain.

Other Stain Posts You Might Like:

As a licensed Real Estate Agent and an avid home decorator, I strive to give my clients the very best I can when it comes to staging, selling, and decorating their homes. I have lots of experience with paint color choices and love to DIY my home so I can have everything just the way I want it. I share my ideas and projects with the world in the hopes that I can help others have their homes just the way they want as well.

Sharing is caring!

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Monday 1st of January 2024

Do you have any pictures of a wall or your headboard that shows the finished poplar stained on a larger scale? We are looking at putting a shiplap poplar on a ceiling and I'm unsure how it will look. It's a very large ceiling.

Thanks for your help

Wendy Duffy

Tuesday 2nd of January 2024

Hi Bryce. I have a post on my headboard here I actually used a product called weatherwash on the poplar. I hope that helps.


Sunday 22nd of January 2023

Hi, Thank you for the great insights on stains for poplar wood. We are building our new home with contemporary look. Our flooring is Abode shortbread and wall paint is Sherwin Williams Greek Villa. Could you pls suggest what stains would look good on our poplar doors? Thanks in advance!


Thursday 2nd of February 2023

Hi Ash. The answer to that question is a little tricky. If you want a lighter color, which would be more modern then I would probably leave them their natural color or maybe Varathane Provincial. If you want a darker color then I would check out Minwax Early American. I would compare them more with the floors than the wall color. Good luck!


Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Thank you for your comprehensive take on stained poplar. This is exactly what I've been looking for. Question for you: we are building our home and staining our poplar doors and trim. Our home is "transitional" in style and we're using black hardware. We've decided to go with Sherwood Rustic Pine for our flooring. We're trying to choose a stain color that would compliment the flooring. Any suggestions?


Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Hi Carmen! That flooring color is really nice. I think there are a few stain color that would look nice depending on how light or dark you want to go. Take a look at Varathane Gray Stone, Varathane Ebony, Minwax Special Walnut, and Varathane Dark Walnut. I think all of them would look amazing! Good luck!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.