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Dark Wax Tutorial

I know waxing for some may seem intimidating, especially dark waxing – but honestly its one of the easiest things to do and can make a huge impact.  Im a HUGE fan of dark wax, i would say that about 90% of the pieces that i finish are dark waxed.  The wax brings out all those incredible details, highlights the highs and lows in a piece of furniture, adds an amazing aged patina and picks up on all those little imperfections for a huge effect in the finished product.  Almost every piece i paint, i dont just imagine it in the color that ive picked out for it, i imagine what the dark wax is going to do to that color that i chose.  I get most excited when im about to apply that dark wax :)

In the pic below – both pieces are painted in a white.  The top piece is just distressed with some clear wax and the bottom is painted the same color and then dark waxed.  I applied the wax full strength and you can see how it dramatically changes the color, especially on whites/creams.  I will show you how to control that a bit and what you can do to tone it down.  But beware – dark waxing does affect the color that you have just painted your piece so you may want to test in a small area 1st to make sure your ok with the color.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - dark wax tutorial

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1st thing you will want to do is gather up your supplies for waxing.  You will need BOTH clear and dark wax, wax brush(es), and some lint free cloths.

Obviously dark wax is needed, but its VERY important that you clear wax 1st.  The dark wax is very intense and you will make a mess of your project if you skip the clear wax.  You need that barrier with the clear wax so that the dark wax will go on smoothly and not blotchy and streaky.   The clear wax, in my opinion, is what provides the protection.  The dark wax just adds the aged patina.  You can read my tutorial on clear waxing here.

Some people dont think its necessary to use the wax brushes.  When i waxed my 1st few pieces i didnt use them either, i just applied it with a cloth.  But as soon as you use one, you will never go without one again, i promise.   They make the process fast, you will be able to apply less wax and most importantly you will get into all the nooks and crannies of a piece – this is especially important when dark waxing.  Quality wax brushes are pricey, but well worth the investment and they will last you forever.  I use one for clear and one for dark, but you can definitely just use one and clean in between.

Lastly, the lint free cloths are what you will use to wipe off the excess wax and buff your piece.  Its important that they are lint free so that you dont get little fibers in your finished piece.

I will put in links at the bottom of this post for all the products that ive talked about and what i use.  All of these can be found in my online shop – i tested tons and tons of waxes and other products before choosing what to carry along with our milk paint line.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - dark wax tutorial

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We are going to start with this cute little antique washstand that was just given a fresh coat of milk paint.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - dark wax tutorial

After giving the milk paint a final sand, i applied clear wax.  You can read my clear wax tutorial here.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - dark wax tutorial

I am going to let you in on a little secret that will change your life.  Especially life changing if you have tried dark waxing and gave up because it looked like crap, was a mess and way to hard to get even.  Mineral Spirits.  Mineral Spirits added to dark wax will make this process fool proof and i promise you will never hate dark waxing again.

Normally i scoop out a chunk of wax and put it into a separate container for mixing up.  I wouldnt want to add mineral spirits to my whole can of dark wax because i may want to use it at full strength for something.  Mineral spirits also evaporates over time, so its best just to mix what you are going to use.

I dont measure, im just a guesstimator, but i would say that i normally start with about 1/3 to half a cup of dark wax at a time – depending on the size of my project and how intense i want my dark wax to be.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

After putting my dark wax in a cup, i add my mineral spirits.  You really dont need very much at all to get this life changing effect.  I would guess for about 1/2 cup of dark wax, about a tsp or two of mineral spirits will be good.  If you want a more toned down effect, then add more.  If you want the dark wax look to be heavier, add less.  This really is a time when you will need to do a bit of experimenting and see what works best for you.  I tend to do it different for each project im working on and the look that im going for, sometimes i want it heavier and sometimes i want just a light look.

If you add too much mineral spirits and the dark wax look isnt strong enough for you, then just add more dark wax to your cup.  If you havent added enough and are still struggling getting the wax even, add more mineral spirits.  Easy as that.

You can kinda see in this pic below that i added a lot of mineral spirits compared to my wax – thats totally fine, just do some experimenting and see what works for you.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Then, just give it a good stir and this is about the consistency which i normally mix up.  You can see how much different it looks from the picture up above when it was coming straight from the can.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Now comes the fun part – putting wax on that freshly painted piece to bring it alive!!

Normally, if you were using the wax full strength, i would suggest only applying the wax in small sections, removing it and then go to the next section.  But, when you add mineral spirits, you have given yourself a lot more “open time” in which you have to work with the wax and make it perfect.

Because i have more open time, i can just apply my wax to one full section at a time.    I normally work in sections such as the side of a dresser, front of a dresser, one drawer at a time, bottom of chair – etc.   Depending on the temps in your work space and how much mineral spirits you added is how fast the wax will dry.  I find that i have plenty of time to get the wax evened up and looking good when i work in sections such as these.  If your wax is drying too fast, you can work in smaller sections or add more mineral spirits.

You can see in this pic – that it doesnt matter how you apply the dark wax.  I just dab my wax brush in my cup, and then slather it all over.  Its important to get the entire piece covered with the dark wax and that you are getting all the lines, nooks and crannies.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

After applying the dark wax, i use my towels to wipe off and even up the wax.  Normally i use one cloth to remove the majority of the dark wax.  Then i take a 2nd cloth and use that one to make sure it looks even, not streaky or blotchy and wipe off more when i need to.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Below shows a pic after i have removed all the dark wax and made sure it looks even and all pretty :)

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

You can see in this pic how the dark wax picks up and highlights those little imperfections and makes them look like they have accumulated dirt over the years.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

One thing that i love about dark waxing rather than glazing (which is what i used to do before switching over to mainly dark waxing) is that i feel like i have more control if i want to build up the “dirt” in certain areas like the corners or around handles or towards the bottom.   Naturally, the dirt would accumulate in corners over time with years of washing and dusting, or dirt would build up around the base or the parts around the hardware that get handled.

To build up the wax in these areas, i will just take my wax brush and the leftover wax that is on it (dont re-dip with dresh wax or it will be too much) and just pounce it into these areas.  Sometimes that alone is good and im happy with the look – sometimes i will have to use a dry cloth and do a little blending.

I would love to put together a little video on this process as well as dry brushing the wax – i will do that soon :)

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Same process on the drawers…

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Side by side of a piece with and without the dark wax – notice how much it changes the white?  If i wanted to lessen this effect and only add a slightly aged look, then i would simply just add more mineral spirits.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Also notice how the dark wax shows up in those lines?  And how it highlights all that crackly goodness that happens with milk paint?  That why i love milk paint and thats why i want to dark wax everything!!

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

After you have wiped off the dark wax and made sure it all looks even, then i normally leave it alone for a few hours, sometimes even over night and then come back and buff the piece so it has a little bit of sheen to it.  Because the dark wax was mixed with mineral spirits, it will take a little longer to dry in all those little cracks and crevices and you dont want to wipe it and have it smear on your freshly waxed piece – thats why i wait before buffing.  Sometimes i dont even come back and buff – just depends on the look that im after.  You dont have to do it – its not necessary.

And the final pics!  This piece was painted in Sweet Pickins Milk Paint in Sweetie Jane and Flour Sack.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint - Dark Wax Tutorial

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Tips & Tricks

– Always clear wax 1st.

– Add mineral spirits to your dark wax.  Life changing – i promise.

– Mineral Spirits can be found at any hardware store, its in the paint section.

– The new mineral spirits brand at Lowes smells like cherries.  For reals.

– If you use the dark wax full strength or just want to tone down the look of your dark wax that you have applied, or need more time to get it even, you can soak a rag with mineral spirits and then wipe it all over and then go back over with a clean rag.

– Use mineral spirits to clean your clear and dark wax brushes.

– No need to add mineral spirits to clear wax, only the dark.

– Waxing is your final topcoat – no need to apply anything over it.

 – If you like the look of the dark wax and want to apply it over an existing finish, you can.  You can apply it over any finish, but no need to apply any other finish over wax.

– Wax hardens and cures over time making for a super durable finish.

– A lot of times, when the waxes have been heated they will melt and liquefy.  This does not affect the quality of the wax whatsoever.  Once the wax has melted it will not go back to its original state.  A lot of people actually prefer to use the wax this way and melt it on purpose.  Using it in its liquid state actually makes it a little easier to use especially if using it full strength.

– Some people like to just use the dark wax to highlight some of the details and not use it all over.  Just make sure and use a clean rag to blend it in.  You can also apply some clear wax over the dark to help with the blending.  Some even like to dip their brush in clear 1st then in the dark and then use it to blend it into certain areas.  This will help control the intensity of the dark wax and make blending easier.

Products i Use

Clear wax

Dark wax

Wax Brushes

Brush Cleaner

Lint free towels 

Any questions?  Just leave them in the comments and i will address them and add them to this post!

25 Responses to Dark Wax Tutorial

  1. Brook Hart December 3, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Thanks for the info…Love, love, love your work!!
    I am wondering how long you let dry between clear wax and dark wax?
    Thanks so much!
    God bless!

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} December 3, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      you can dark wax right after clearing – just make sure and buff the clear 1st before starting the dark

  2. Taylor December 3, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Great tutorial! I love the look of the dark wax and how it does highlight all the details. I will save this for future projects.

  3. Debbie December 3, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    Looks beautiful! Thank you for the tutorial. I look forward to trying it out on a piece I have in mind.

  4. darrielle tennenbaum December 3, 2014 at 8:26 am #

    great tutorial-I do a similar things using hemp oil and dark wax-dark wax is my fav!

  5. Judy December 3, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Thank you so much for the excellent tips. They are the first ones I’ve read that seem to make sense to me. I am one of those that had my hard work look like crap! I guess I’ll get my can of dark wax out and try again now..Happy Wednesday..Judy

    • Rhian March 15, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      Me too Judy, lost faith in the dark wax…..but after this tutorial, i’ll give it another try, thank you Sweet pickins….

  6. Tara December 31, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    Hello!
    Can you tell me what paint color was used in the very first photo of this post? It’s the one where you are comparing a light wax to a dark wax.
    Thank you!

  7. Lori March 20, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    I have a question about the wax. I ordered both the clear and the dark wax the clear wax is solid but the dark wax is liquid is this right or did i get a bad batch or a mislabeled can of dark wax?

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} March 20, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

      You should have gotten a little piece of paper with your order telling you why the dark wax may be thinner. Its completely normal because of the different additives in the dark wax for it to break down/melt. If the dark wax melts it normally wont return back to its solid state. The wax melts during the summer because of the heat or in the winter if it gets placed next to a heat source in a warehouse or delivery truck. It doesnt affect the quality of the wax at all and actually a lot of people prefer to melt waxes so that it makes it even easier to use.

  8. Ginene Nagel~Fox and Finch Antiq July 24, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    Good Morning,
    I painted a great big piece of vintage furniture with three coats of In A Pickle and finished it with the dark wax following the directions on the can of wax. As you mentioned above, it is a big blotchy mess and I am heart broken after the expense and time. Is there anyway to save it now? I should have read all the tutorials so that I knew I should have waxed it with clear wax and then thinned the dark wax with mineral spirits. Thank you.
    -Ginene

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} July 26, 2015 at 11:02 am #

      Yes you can definitely save it, just wipe down the dark wax with a rag soaked in mineral spirits and that will take a lot of it off. Then go back over it with the dark wax thinned with mineral spirits, whatever dark wax is left on the furniture from before will be reactivated and you will be able to get it even.

  9. Jan Jurik September 25, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    The best explanation of dark wax application I have ever read! You go girl! I especially like the tip about mineral spirits… Ok is that another word for paint thinner? Never came across that tip before. I have just finished a gorgeous little side table (Duck egg) and have been looking in anticipation trying to get the courage to dark wax it. I have the Annie Sloan clear wax but no dark wax. Could you recommend a dark wax that I could buy at a local hardware store.
    Thanks again for the best post ever!
    Jan

  10. Woodlandchic September 26, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    I’ve been intimidated by the waxing, especially using dark wax, but I just LOVE the
    look! I made a horrible mess when I tried to wax and gave up. Will definitely be trying again though, using the brushes and your techniques! The finished product is so pretty!

  11. Katie Curlett January 2, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi Sausha, I painted a small vanity in a burgundy oil base paint . I would like the vanity to look darker and old looking. Can I use dark wax on an oil base?? What do you think? Katie

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} January 18, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

      yes you definitely can!!

  12. Sherrie January 27, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Hello. I just found your page a love reading it. Do you have any recommendations on how to make kitchen cabinets darker. Mine are stained a pecan color with lacquer over that. They are about 18 yrs old, wondering what some dark wax would look like, if It would work on top of lacquer. Thank you

  13. Whitney February 24, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    Sausha,

    I applied dark wax over my clear wax (over a week ago.) Its still tacky. Did I apply too much wax? Do I just need to wipe it down more? I’m afraid of removing too much of my “aged” look. Help!

    Thank you lady!

  14. Carole Mayne June 28, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    I have a technical question. I have been asked to re-gild some antiques frames. I would like to use Sheffield gold ( oil based paint) and a dark wax to antique it. Would it be a good idea to use raw umber artists oil paint to tint the Minwax darker?
    I would be happiest to use a chalk paint base coat (dusty red or gray) over the existing frames, then uses the Gold oil paint then oil based wax. The Sheffield gold paint is so nice and brightly reflective. I want into use it as it will need to last another 75 years and I don’t trust the water based gold paints to have this longevity. Any thoughts for me? Thank you so much.

  15. Melody Tucker July 28, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    Can I use your dark wax over a burgundy chalk paint? Do I have to mix it with mineral spirits? Based on using other paste waxes, I am wanting something more liquid because I’m also going to paint my bathroom cabinets with an ivory chalk paint (I have a good quality chalk paint that I want to use up….) and will need a dark wax for that project too.
    I’m a newbie with waxes…. The paste wax I’ve used in the past has been difficult to work with on such a large surface as a cabinet. Thanks!

  16. Stacy August 15, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    I used Annie Sloan paint, clear waxed and then used the dark wax full strength. I hate how dark it is! I tried using the clear wax on top it did lighten it but it still looks like a muddy mess! I only did one side of the piece that way, i figured out how get the look I wanted for the rest of the piece. Can I use mineral spirits to fix that one side? Thank you!

  17. Jeremy Stephens December 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Can you apply the dark wax directly to wood such as pine without painting? Would you apply clear first? I have furniture that I purchased that is pine and dark wax. I want to build shelves to match but I am not sure how they applied it.

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} March 20, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

      Yes you can!

  18. Katey March 8, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

    I have a dining room set I am painting and am ready for the wax part. I plan to use dark wax for the indented details (theres lots of etched detail!) and I intentionally painted less in those areas so my process with the dark wax is easier. I’m about to start the dark wax process and I’m so hesitant now because I only want the dark wax in the background of the detail and not on the actual carved decoration that sticks out a little. Is dark wax easy to wipe off so that whatever white parts I want to stay white will indeed stay white like the rest of the unit? My other question is for the dining table. It will be used quite a bit and although you say the wax is durable, should I be safe and do a polyurethane or something of the like for the table top?

    • Sausha @ {Sweet Pickins} March 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

      you can wipe off more of the dark wax with mineral spirits to tone down the color over white and just get it into the details. But i wouldnt use wax on a dining table (legs and sides are fine, just not the top). I would poly the top of the table.

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