How to Make Coloured Concrete

by TRP Ready Mix on February 8, 2021

4 Ways to Colour a Concrete Surface

When you hear the word “concrete,” the image that pops in your head is probably gray. It’s obvious that concrete is most often gray, and this neutral shade can look great on driveways, garage floors, patios, athletic surfaces, and so much more.

However, you don’t have to settle for a gray surface if you’d prefer something more eye-catching. Brick red, moss green, and sandy taupe are all examples of popular concrete colour options.

There are plenty of straightforward ways to achieve a colourful concrete surface. Some methods involve applying a colouring product to a finished concrete surface, while some involve adding colour during the early stages of the project.

When colouring concrete, it’s important to consider particular traits of the cement being used, as well as how you are applying colour. If performed incorrectly, you may end up with an uneven appearance in your final product.

READ MORE: Concrete Setting 101: What You Should Know Before Starting Your Project

Why the Water-Cement Ratio is Important

Water and cement are two essential ingredients used to make concrete. It’s always important to consider the ratio of these two ingredients. With too much water, concrete will be soggy and weak, but without enough water, concrete will be stiff and difficult to work with. Most types of concrete call for a ratio of 2:1 (cement to water), or close to it.

If you are colouring your concrete, it is vital to carefully control this ratio. This is the most critical factor to determine how your concrete’s colour will turn out. Since water interacts with whatever product is used to colour concrete, the ratio must be kept consistent throughout the entire process. Otherwise, the concrete will end up looking blotchy or inconsistent. Successfully controlling the ratio will produce a consistent colour.

Why Gray Cement Matters During the Colouring Process

No matter what approach you take to colouring your concrete, the shade of gray found in your cement is important. Why? The colour found in your concrete is the result of the reaction between the gray cement and the colouring product. It is hard for the colour to overpower the gray entirely, especially due to the high iron found in it. As a result, you will likely end up with earthy tones. If you want brighter colours, you will need white cement.

It is also important to consider consistency. If your cement varies by the shades of gray found in it, your concrete will end up with an inconsistent mix of colours.

READ MORE: Factors To Consider Before Starting A Concrete Project

Methods of Concrete Dye

There are a handful of ways to colour concrete. Each method differs in price, time, and the visible effect that is created. These methods include:

  • Colouring the concrete’s surface
  • Dying the concrete during the initial mixing stage
  • Staining the concrete
  • Using a coloured sealer

It is not recommended that you add paint, food colouring, or similar general-use products to your cement to create coloured concrete. These products are not designed for concrete projects, and they will affect the water-cement ratio (read more about this above).

Learn about the most common concrete colouring methods below, and consider which option seems most appropriate for your project.

Surface Colouring

You may choose to paint the surface of your concrete. Do not use regular paint for this – there are special concrete floor paints on the market that are designed specifically for these projects. You will need to consider the porousness of the concrete to ensure that the paint soaks in properly. This approach also requires plenty of time and manual labour, so most builders only use this method for small slabs of concrete.

Integral Dye

With this option, an iron oxide pigment or liquid is added to the concrete during the mixing process. This way, the colour is infused through the entire batch of concrete. If the finished concrete faces chips or cracks over time, the concrete will still reveal colour underneath.


There are two types of concrete staining products: acid-based and water-based. Acid stains typically offer more durability, while water stains offer a wider variety of colours.

Acid-based staining formulas have a chemical reaction with the porous concrete. As a result, a permanent chemical bond is created, producing long-lasting colour with a transparent finish.

Water-based staining products do not impart a chemical reaction. Instead, they fill the concrete’s pores and produce a coloured coating.

Tinted Sealers

Sealer is a protective layer placed on concrete to protect it from weather damage, staining, abrasion, and other kinds of damage. Sealer is not permanent; it can be removed and replaced by rolling or spraying on a new layer and giving it time to dry.

Whether you want gray or colourful concrete, you should always seal it. However, you can incorporate colour in this process. You can do this by using a tinted sealer. This option will allow you to slightly enhance your concrete’s appearance.

Since sealing is already an important step to complete, many consider using tinted sealers an inexpensive and easy way to add colour to concrete.

READ MORE: Why Sealing & Finishing Concrete Is So Important

The Takeaway

There are plenty of ways to add colour to concrete surfaces. Specifically, you can add pigment directly to the concrete’s mix, stain it, colour the concrete’s surface upon completion, or use a tinted sealer. When colouring concrete, it is important to consider the shade of gray found in its cement, as well as the concrete’s water-to-cement ratio.

If incorporated correctly, colour can add the perfect accent to your concrete surface and add a brilliant twist to your living space.