Black Wash

Red Wind Studio
by Red Wind Studio
One of the first pieces of furniture I painted for my business I used this particular technique. I had no idea if it would work or if it would even look nice but I put my faith in myself and just did it. I was quite happy with the result and now I have another item I thought the technique would look great on so I did it again. This technique is definitely for pieces that have some nice details on them. Here is what the dresser looked like before I started the process.
The dresser has great details and is very well constructed but the top has quite a bit of damage. Although it looks like solid wood it appears to have some veneer which is fine but in order to completely remove the damage on the top I would probably have to sand right through the veneer. So staining the top was out and painting it a solid colour I could do but I would need to do a lot of repairing and using wood filler. This technique uses those flaws and also helps disguise them.

I usually start by cleaning the furniture with a vinegar and water solution but I sanded the top to get rid of the worst damaged parts using first 120 then 220 grit paper first then washed it. I chose FAT Paint colour Parchment as my base colour. I painted the entire exterior with two coats of the Parchment. I felt the brush strokes were a little to defined on the top so I did a light sanding with 220 grit paper once the second coat was thoroughly dry. I used a tack cloth to remove any paint dust.

The next step is to use a clear coat of polyurathane over the base colour. I do two coats of Varathane Satin Polyurethane. I use a sponge brush for the flat areas and a small natural bristle brush for the more detailed areas. It is easy to miss small areas this is why I do two coats to ensure I didn’t miss any areas otherwise I could run into problems on the next step.
Once I have made sure all the base colour is covered with the clear coat and it is dry you can proceed to the next step. I poured some FAT Paint colour Raven into a plastic cup and added a small amount of water to thin it out slightly. I work in sections for the next part. I use the thinned Raven and paint it over one section of the dresser at a time. For example I paint the top of the dresser then take a paper towel or rag and wipe it off going in one direction. Quite a bit will still be left on which is fine. I did this with each section and then did the drawer fronts. Once I have painted each section and wiped off the paint I got a bucket of water and a sponge with a scrubby on one side and 600 grit wet/dry sand paper. I started with the first section I painted with the Raven. I wet the sponge and scrubbed using whichever side was needed to remove the Raven. Now this is where one needs to use their creative judgment on how much of the dark colour to remove. I like to keep the drawers close to the dresser in order to see that I am being consistent with all the sections. I also step back every once in a while to get a full perspective of my project.

The picture above shows how much Raven was left on the drawer front after wiping it off with a paper towel.
While removing the Raven I had to go back and add some Raven back to a couple of places to even things out like the little flower details were not even. In some areas the Raven was being difficult and scrubbing harder cold result in going right through to the wood and I only wanted slight distressing so I opted to wet sand using 600 grit in those difficult areas.

Once I finished removing and touching up the Raven it was time to put three more coats of Varathane over the entire dresser again to seal and protect the paint. I did one more gentle wet sand with the 600 grit paper before the last coat of varathane to ensure a beautiful smooth finish.
The handles were a tarnished brass colour so I chose to paint them Raven and used a new Varathane in a matt finish to seal them. (Sorry no link as I can’t seem to find it on the web).
This is not a weekend project or one for a beginner unless of course you are a daring sort of person and like to go big or go home. It is definitely more time consuming than painting and using a clear wax and then antiquing with a dark wax.

Always be willing to try something new and experiment. It is only paint after all you can always paint over it.
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 4 questions
  • Brandee Brandee on May 03, 2018

    on the polyurethane clear satin coat, did you use an oil or water base?

  • Le' Le' on Jun 17, 2018

    Is there a particular reason that you did not use chalk paint? It is very beautiful..Le'

  • Brenda Emerson Brenda Emerson on Sep 25, 2018

    why do you apply Varathane between base coat and the thinned coat?

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  • Janice Janice on Jan 11, 2020

    Wow! The dresser looks completely different from when you started the project. Thanks for posting and the great pics!

  • Gme88311937 Gme88311937 on Aug 25, 2023

    Thanks for sharing. I “black washed “ (lol- my term for white washing with black paint) the top of a dresser and really liked it. Thanks for sharing. This is the perfect solution for a friends table top. Hopefully, I will have the same results. It’s beautiful!