Rodney, The stains I use are from Mohawk. I think they're alcohol base. Sand out to 220 grit, dampen,let dry and a quick 200 just to knock the fuzz off. I use the yellow with some amber tint from stew-mac. yellow the surface you want to start with. Next, I take my middle color and stain around the outside edge and come in just shy of the size you want the lightest part. Then with a clean rag, dampened with yellow stain, I blend the leading edge of the darker color into the amber mix. Most people use a reducer to blend, I prefer to use yellow stain. Then I stain around the outside again with a darker color, coming in about half as far as I did with the middle color. This time i blend the middle and dark colors using a rag with the middle color. Then again blending all these into the amber color using yellow. Then with a barely yellow dampened rag. in circlular motion, drag the dark all the way into the light and back out again. It sounds harder than it is. But definately practice on some scraps first.
Like so many other techniques, it's all a matter of practice. Some get great results spraying transparent colored lacquer, others spray stains right on the wood. In fact, some of the most spectacular sunburst finishing was done by Gibson in the period 1910-1925, when it was all done by wiping stains on the bare wood before clear coating with varnish or shellac: