Poplar is usually considered a “paint-grade” lumber, thanks to its unappealing green and white coloration. One wood that poplar will never be mistaken for is cherry–at least when it’s unfinished. Applying a coat of gel stain, though (“Georgian Cherry” in this case), can transform the look of poplar.
Gel stain is great for poplar, maple, and pine, as these woods tend to blotch when you use liquid stain. Gel stain doesn’t penetrate as deeply, so it helps prevent these problems. After applying the stain to the surface with a foam brush, use a rag to wipe it off and buff the surface to an even, consistent color. Let the stain dry overnight, and then follow up with a polyurethane topcoat.