While Gel Stain can be applied over an existing finish, it was originally engineered for raw wood surfaces. We prefer applying the Gel Stain over a slip coat of mineral spirits instead of topcoat as shown in this video, "How to Apply Gel Stain to Raw Wood"
The slip coat will reduce the drag and help the stain "glide on" easier. The other important technique shown in this video is to apply the stain liberally in sections and remove the excess quickly. Gel Stain is so pigment rich you will get an uneven application if you try to dab it on with a dry rag.
Applying over a layer of top coat is acceptable, but there are two big benefits of applying the stain directly to the wood or over a slip coat.
- The beauty of the grain is highlighted. This effect will be greatly diminished if the stain is applied over an existing finish.
- Less coats are required to obtain a dark color.
Preparation and application techniques along with dry time between coats are all different when applying Gel Stain over raw wood vs. an existing finish.