Benvenuti & Stein uses transparent dyes with its custom cabinet line to create unique finishes that differentiate the Evanston, Ill., remodeling company from its competitors. According to Vetto Sanchez, manager of the customfinishing department, the dye sits on the surface of the wood so it provides a consistent coat of color that highlights the wood grain. This is different from a stain, which penetrates the substrate and darkens the grain.

He uses the dye to enhance the grain of exotic woods for a contemporary look. He combines the dye with a stain when clients want an antique look. He treats the wood with a stain, and then tops it with dye. "It gives it athree-dimensional look," Sanchez explains.

The dye can also be mixed with a clear coating to slightly darken a piece of wood to match it to an existing wood finish. Sanchez has used dyes in all shades, from blue and green to natural tones and black. Because the dye canbe diluted, it can be used to create a wide range of colors.

The lighter section of this hickory sample is stain only. The darker section has the same stain as a color coat and then an overspray of dye.Courtesy Benvenuti & Stein Sanchez first began using dyes in the mid-1980s on bird's-eye maple. "With that species, stain muddies the look and texture," Sanchez says. "Dye makes it look alive," he says. He now uses dyes, mostly mixed with stain, on 75% of the cabinetry the company makes. Sanchez educates clients about the cabinet finishes and creates samples to help them find the exact look they want for their remodeling project.