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Hi, I realize this is a couple months old and you've probably already done your project. But for the future, or anyone who stumbles across this asking the same question, I have a trick I've been using.
I'm currently unemployed and my mother is trying to sell her house so she can move into something smaller, so I've been working on her place. It's a very old house and the wood everywhere (stairs, baseboards, banisters, doors, etc) has dings, cracks or chips missing. I'm a little OCD so I have various stains along with the wood putty.
I started by mixing X amount of stain to X amount of putting for each stain and let them set to gauge the dried/set result. Then I can adjust for darker or lighter as needed. Yes it uses a bit of stain and a small amount of putty, but I've found it helps immensely.
For larger areas (or those like me with OCD) I got some Q-tips and small (artistic style) paintbrushes. You can then add a bit of stain as it's drying to create a grain or pattern so it matches more closely to the rest of the wood. I hated the look of that patch of uniform color of the patch.