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I prefer to let sunlight color the wood with age. I do use a clear sealer .
I normally think it's the work of the devil but that's because I'm not skilled with it. There is one exception, I've used it to jet black to look like ebony to contrast with a very pale wood like maple and the effect is stunning!
I prefer spray enamel but occasionally use stain and stain in combination with paint. But stain can be such a hassle especially since I build with cheap pine and it can be a surprise what come out in the end. I tried "wood conditioner" with very mixed results and turned to cleaning after each sanding with mineral spirits and now get better results on a more consistent basis.
I use it to make poplar look like, well, almost anything.
I do it to match a decor for a client.