Many years ago, staining and varnishing wood was extremely difficult because of inconsistencies in colors. Today, most stains are premixed and come in a wide range of tones and colors. Making the decision about what color to use is really the hardest challenge for most do-it-yourselfers.
The two most common types of stains found in home centers, such as City Mill. are penetrating stains and pigmented stains.
Penetrating stains, because of less pigment and a slight difference in make-up, penetrate into the wood with very little pigment residue. In general, a pigmented stain will tend to hide any grain or imperfections in the wood, while the penetrating stain will tend to highlight the wood's grain and character.
If the piece you are staining has excellent graining, and is an expensive wood, such as cherry or walnut, the best choice would be a penetrating stain.
Regardless of the type of stain you select, the procedures for preparing the project are basically the same.