Coloring concrete can be accomplished using acid stain, polymer stain, water-based stain, tint, dry shake, dye or a colored coating product such as paint. The products and methods used will depend primarily on the decorative results desired, whether the concrete is new or existing, and if existing, what condition it is in. Colored concrete finishing can produce subtle or dramatic results, depending upon the coloring method, application technique and product or system used. Results are limited only by the imagination.
Acid based stains react chemically with lime in cured concrete and are applied by brush or spray to produce multi-hued color variations. Because the stain is produced from minerals, colors are limited to organic hues.
Polymer stains produce bold and lively colors that can be incorporated into creative designs, logos and message displays. Faux finishes are also available for mottling, aging and graining effects. Textures can be added for slip resistance.
Less toxic than acid based stains, water-based stains do not react chemically with concrete but are instead absorbed into its surface pores. They work best under alkaline conditions, but offer a greater color range than acid based stains. With concrete tints, the pigment is added before the concrete pour. Tints are typically offered in pastels and earth tones only.
Dry shake color hardeners are available in a variety of bright colors and are suitable for both interior and exterior horizontal surface applications. Normally provided in powder form, they are added to freshly poured concrete, then hand worked or troweled in. Because the color is concentrated at the surface, tones can appear more intense than in an application using integral color pigment.
Although dyes are translucent, they can produce vibrant colors in concrete, and are often used over color stain to achieve a layered effect or to enhance the existing color. They are versatile and available in a wide variety of colors. Applied by spray, brush or roller, dyes are available in water-based, solvent-based and urethane-based formulations. Remarkably, dry time can be less than one minute.
Colored coatings, such as epoxy paints, are available in a variety of different colors. They are durable and resistant to chemical spills, making them well suited for industrial floors, garage floors and similar applications.