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Exploring the Differences Between Concrete Stains, Dyes and Pigments

Exploring the Differences Between Concrete Stains, Dyes and Pigments

10th Jul 2023

What Is the Difference Between Concrete Stain and Concrete Dye?

A few different products help turn your concrete surface from a plain slab into a piece of art – these include dyes, stains, and pigments. Understanding the difference between colored concrete options is critical to ensure the result is the finished look you/your customer desires. Although concrete stains and dyes seem to accomplish the same goal of changing the color of a concrete floor, they are very different in practice. When it comes to creating beautiful flooring, the location, condition, and intended use of the area the floor will be in are all important factors when it comes to choosing stains or dyes.

Concrete stains are typically penetrating stains that change the color of the concrete substrate by penetrating the surface. They can be either acid-based or water-based, with both types offering UV stability, making them suitable for outdoor applications exposed to sunlight. Concrete stains are known for their durability and are often chosen as an alternative to other floor coatings like epoxy.

The color options for concrete stains can vary depending on the type of stain used. Acid-based stains chemically react with the concrete's limestone, creating unique and rustic finishes, including decorative marbling effects. These stains are well-suited for achieving neutral tones or shades of blue and green. On the other hand, water-based stains contain color pigments that penetrate the concrete, allowing for a wider range of colors. This versatility enables customization to match the desired aesthetic for the property. 

Diama-TLC Select is a quick turn-around, breathable system to impart a solid, uniform color prior to the application of a topical protective layer. It cures to an extremely hard, near-surface semi-film that is UV stable. This VOC-compliant colorant comes in a variety of standard colors with the ability to produce custom colors. It’s a great selection for a wide range of applications from grocery stores to airplane hangars!

Concrete dyes are a coloring material or matter for imparting a particular hue to a surface. Dyes are a great way to color existing concrete slabs and offer a wide range of color options that will dry very quickly. The color of the dye seeps into the pores of the concrete and is almost as long-lasting as a concrete stain. One of the downsides of using concrete dye is that there is little room for error because the dye is absorbed so quickly. Concrete dyes don’t react chemically to concrete. Because dyes don’t bond to concrete, the color that comes out of the container is more or less the color you will get.

Concrete dyes are either water or solvent-based, and they’re typically available as a powder, in solution, or as a liquid concentrate. Their color range is virtually limitless—but mixing and arriving at the proper hue is up to you. The most common method of applying dye is to disperse the dye powder in acetone and spray a fine mist over the concrete surface using an acetone sprayer.

Unlike concrete stains, dyes don’t hold up well under ultraviolet light, so they’re either best kept for interior projects or used with a UV sealer. Diama-Color interior micro-dye has been infused with UV buffers to retain true and bright buffers, but it can also be sealed with UV-HS Plus or induced into Diama-Hard to densify, harden and color all in one step!

Concrete Pigments impart black, white, or a color to other materials. Pigments can be applied either integrally or topically to achieve a uniform look. Typically, pigments are available as a powdered substance mixed with a liquid that is relatively insoluble and used to impart color to coating materials (such as paints) inks, plastics, and rubber. As it relates to coloring concrete, the main type of pigment used in coloring concrete is Synthetic Iron Oxide. In manufacturing these minerals different colors are produced. They can either be left in their original powder form or dispersed into a liquid to create liquid pigments.


  • You’re working on an exterior surface.
  • You want to create a marbled or other decorative finish.
  • You want an earthy tone.
  • You need long-lasting color.


  • You want a less-expensive color solution.
  • You need an easy-to-apply or DIY concrete color.
  • The floor design calls for a multi-colored effect.
  • Your customer wants a floor with bold hues.
  • You’re working on a tight timeline.

Understanding the differences between these concrete stains, dyes, and pigments will allow you to offer a variety of options to meet your customers’ expectations. If you are having trouble choosing a colorant for your concrete floor, give Niagara Machine a call for support - we are always here to help!