Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to determine the impacts of impregnation with Imersol Aqua to red colour tone (RCT) of some softwood materials and varnishes. Design/methodology/approach - For this purpose, test samples prepared from Scots pine (ITPinus sylvestris/IT Lipsky), Oriental spruce (ITPicea orientalis/IT Link) and Uludag fir (ITAbies Bornmlleriana/IT Mattf.), which met the requirements of ASTM D 358, were impregnated with Imersol Aqua by short-term, medium-term and long-term immersion techniques in accordance with ASTM D 1413 and producer's definition. After impregnation, surfaces were coated by synthetic, acrylic, water-based and polyurathane varnishes in accordance with ASTM D 3023 standards. RCT values of samples after varnishing process were determined in accordance with ASTM D 2244. Findings - It was found that RCT was the highest in Scots pine, long-term dipping and synthetic varnish, and the lowest in Uludag fir, short-term dipping and water-borne varnish. Considering the interaction of wood type, period of impregnation and type of varnish, RCT was the highest in pine, short term of dipping and acrylic varnish and the lowest in Oriental spruce, short term of dipping and synthetic varnish. So, impregnation process, impregnation period and varnishes applied during tests showed increasing impact for RCT value of Scots pine, Oriental spruce and Uludag fir woods. This result must be taken into care in manufacture of wooden furniture and construction elements where RCT is important. Research limitations/implications - The endurance of the protective coating (such as varnish) to external effects is limited and the lifetime of the coating is determined by the type and the severity of the effects to which it is exposed. Practical implications - The impact of varnish type, wood material type and impregnation chemical on RCT can determine the usefulness of the massive wood materials where RCT values are important. Originality/value - It is conjectured that especially for the manufacturers and consumers in the furniture, construction and decoration sector, the data obtained in this study will contribute to the making up of the deficiencies in the understanding of the subject. © 2011 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.