Concrete Coloring Techniques for Man-Made Stone, Tile, Pavers and Bricks

Concrete Colorants:
Our concrete colors are synthetic iron oxides made by Davis Colors and Rockwood Pigments. We have been using their colorants since 1992 when we first started in this business. The batch formulas that we give you below have gray and/or white concrete or cement as a base. They are mixed in a certain ratio to achieve a base color to which are added the oxides. The basic colorants will allow you to formulate virtually unlimited colors in addition to the color formulas we have formulated as examples. It is good to experiment with the colors in small batches to get a "feel" for color blending. This will aid you when formulating your custom colors.

We stress, that these are synthetic iron oxides. You can use natural oxides; available from a ceramic supplier. In some cases they might even be cheaper, but they may not be consistent. The cost, let's say for a deep blue concrete powdered color, could be as much as $50.00 a pound from our supplier. It may be half that cost from a ceramic supply house. Sometimes, you can buy a ceramic stain that's available in several shades of blue from a ceramic supply house. Depending on the color “blue” you want to get… another option is to use a dark, or Navy Blue latex paint in your mix to color it a blue color. Just be sure that it is a water-based paint, and measure it carefully so you can duplicate it, should you need to make more batches. This is not a procedure we normally recommend, but we've seen it work for many customers that have tried it.

Base Concrete Color Formulas:
Our base concrete color formulas can be accessed by clicking here:

Making Custom Concrete Colors:
Regarding custom colors… Color is subjective...
As such, what I may refer to as “RED”… You may consider “LIGHT RED”, or “MEDIUM RED”, or “TERRA-COTTA”, “ORANGE”, etc. You need to experiment with very small batches of mix until you attain the color that you are looking for, and are happy with. We can only try to get you started on the right track by providing some base color charts, and existing color example formulas.

Small Batch Color Matching:
A few of you have asked if there is an easier way to formulate custom colors... other than mixing 1/2 batches and going by your "gut feel". While this will eventually get easier... and it will come to you...ALMOST automatically after a while... in the meantime, use these base measurements and formulas so you don't waste a lot of material. Once you have what you feel is the right weight of color added to the dry mix, add an appropriate amount of water, mix and pour into a small mold. Let dry as you normally would, or in this case you can accelerate the drying since curing is not necessary. De-mold and check your color when dry and sealed. Use the type of sealer for your project, so the color will be reflective of that sealer. Remember that without a sealer, the color will normally be lighter when it is dry than it looks as a wet mix.

1% Batch Mix:
Weigh out 15 ounces of cement and 30 ounces of sand. Mix them together "dry". This will give you a 1% ratio for test color mixes. If the color gram weight gets too small to measure properly, move up to a 5% ratio.

5% Batch Mix:
Weigh out 75 oz. of cement and 150 oz. of sand. When you achieve the color you want, just multiply the color weight by 20, (5X20=100%). That will give you the proper color weight for a full batch mix.

Let's say you are looking for a "gray" between Light Gray and Dark Gray. In this case, it's simple... add the two weights of black color together and divide by two. (80+470=550 divided by 2 = 275). Now divide that by 100... = 2.75 grams of black for your test batch.

Can't weigh out 2.75 grams of color? Then divide the 275 total by 20. You now have a 5% mix ratio... or 13.75 grams of color. In this case, round it out to 14 grams of Black and you should get a Medium Gray color right between the Light Gray and the Dark Gray. If this is to your liking… multiply it back up for a full-batch.

Concrete Stains:
We also now offer a water-based concrete stain by Smith Paints. With it, you can get the blues and greens that would otherwise be very costly to duplicate with integral concrete colorants. The concrete stain is applied after the product is produced, as apposed to being a part of the mix formula. The water-based formula can be diluted with water to attain different shading. It is also much safer and environmentally friendly than the acid stains being offered elsewhere. It can be shipped without the extra shipping fees associated with a Hazardous Materials labeled product.

Staining and Antiquing Techniques:
There are several staining and antiquing techniques that can be used on stone and tile. One is a "rubbed stain" technique. You apply powdered colorant to the heel of your hand and rub over all of the high areas of the stone or tile, (providing there is a texture). On Olde Country Tiles, and similar smooth surface stone and tile, you can create somewhat of a pattern by applying color with the heel of your palm and using a twisting motion. Let you imagination run a little wild with this technique. You will need to use a topical sealer to lock in the effect.

Then there is the "resist" technique, where you actually use the sealer as a wax resistant. This is used on some of the raised sculptural tile. Using a rubber sponge, brush or cloth, wipe a topical sealer on all of the top, or high edges of the stone or tile, trying not to get it down into the recesses. When this is dry, you can add a contrasting wash into the background, or lower parts of the tile.

You can also do a staining technique while actually producing tile on top of the vibrating table. What you do is mix equal parts of oxide color and cement. Put it inside a sock or tee shirt material and hit it in your hand over the greased mold so it dusts and slowly floats in. You can use this for making white wash effects or for making dark stained effects. You then take the scooper can of mix and pour it directly on top of the "dust". When it vibrates down, the stain is held in place by the mold release and you get a staining effect.

Marbleizing Technique:
This is an easy technique that offers some really interesting results. Lightly sprinkle colorant on the surface of your mix while it's in the wheelbarrow, bucket, mixing vessel, etc. You may use one or more colors. Now scoop up your mixed concrete as you normally would, but skim the top layer a bit more so you are getting some of the sprinkled colorant. Then dump the mixture into your molds. The effect on the face of the tile or stone when removed will be “marbled”. This works especially well when you are making a smoother stone or tile. You can also experiment by using a stick once the concrete is in the mold, and swirl it through the mix down to the bottom (or face) of the mold, as you would when you make a marble cake! This should give you an even more pronounced marble effect. J

Color Wash Effect:
Color can also be mixed with white water-based paint, which has been diluted with water. This "color-wash" effect can be applied between sealer coats to give a “washed” appearance. Designs can be introduced into the face of the tile in this manner as well. Tile must be sealed first with at least one coat of a topical sealer so you can control the coloring easier. This method is often used on brick to give an antique or used brick look.

Other Surface or Topical Customizing Effects:
Other methods that can be used successfully to customize your stone or tile are stenciling, sponging, hand painting on the surface, and decoupage. Make sure you put sufficient coats of top sealer over the tile or stone after using any of these techniques so you don't wear them off during everyday use. I recommend a minimum of 4-5 coats of sealer just to be safe. Advise the customer to keep an eye out for wear patterns.

White-Washing Techniques:
The following are other examples of staining alternatives. When “white-washing” a tile such as Mexican Saltillo, one of the techniques that are used is to first “wash” in one direction, and let dry. Then “wash” in the opposite direction and let dry. Then apply your sealer coats.

Take a white latex paint and water it down about one part latex paint to twenty parts water. You may also use a water-based sealer instead of water. This will allow you to complete two operations at the same time… white washing and sealing in one application! Additional coats of sealer will be necessary though. Apply this color mixture to the face of your tile with a brush or sponge after your tile is dry. To get a uniform whitewash effect, I suggest using a sponge and applying two coats. Apply your second coat in the opposite direction of the first.

The brushed on whitewash effect that is added afterward can wear off eventually. This is a problem throughout the industry, even with commercially sold products that are already available to do this technique. Numerous coats of sealer should be applied over the whitewash. A heavy sealer coat must be maintained once the tile is installed in order to keep the original whitewash look uniform. Keep in mind that brush lines are preferred in some of the white washing looks, as on the Mexican type pavers.

For a true, permanent whitewashing, the in-mold technique is the preferred method. It is more homogenous in the mix due to having cement in it. The color is chemically "locked in", not to mention being under all of the sealer coats that will be applied after installation.

Splash Effect:
There is also a technique called the “Splash” effect. This method was used to get our “Susan's Splash” color of tile. You simply take a cup or can, punch a few holes in it, or better yet, use a flour sifter, put the “splash” color (usually black or brown) in it, and after putting mold release in your molds, drop particles of the color directly into your molds. Go lightly until you've tried it a few times and gotten the “look” that you want. Then just fill and vibrate the molds with your concrete. The dry colorant gives a “splash” effect on the face of the tile. Again, don't over-do the dry colorant that you put into the molds. And never put it in so heavily as to have a “clump” of colorant. This could leave a void in the face of the tile, and will not look very good. It will displace the concrete mix leaving a weak spot in the face of your stone or tile. Though it does not matter quite as much if you are producing a highly textured stone design.

Edge Spray Misting:
The “Misting” technique gives a very unique effect on tile. Basically, after the tile has cured, just before you are going to seal it, you lightly “mist” the edges with either black or white spray paint. Hold the can about a foot away, on a forty-five degree angle. Quickly sweep across the edges just letting enough paint to be applied to show a “mist” of the color. Start very lightly, then add more layers until you get the effect that you want. I've done a number of rust and terra-cotta colored tiles in this manner, and they come out really beautiful. Over any of our red bricks, the black misting gives a burnt-edge look.

Remember… This is a hand-made, custom product. It is desirable to have a certain amount of what some might consider “defects”. These add character to your stone, bricks, pavers, or tile. Just be sure that the “character” you are getting, is within your guidelines. Don't be too anal. Look at other hand-made products… the unique nature of the individual pieces is what makes the product unique!

Should you need molds or moulds, colorant, concrete sealer, stains, or other concrete, cement, or plaster supplies for your handyman or home improvement project, please visit our catalogue website at or our shopping cart website at  to get ideas.  If you are interested in starting a concrete stone and veneer, or concrete and cement paver, brick or tile business, visit our Olde World Stone & Tile Business Opportunity website at for full details, instructions and various stone making and other concrete product making packages.  We also offer D-I-Y Packages in our catalogue and on our shopping cart websites.


Five Base concrete colors used to make stone, tile, pavers.
Photo of our Concrete Stain color chart
The 5 Basic Colors
Stain Color Chart