How to Antique Furniture

Through ageing and antiquing wooden furniture it is possible to make a new and shiny table or chair look as though it has been sitting around for a longtime developing the patina of old age. Some techniques are more dramatic than others and some are more suitable for painted surfaces than bare wood while others make use of the two effects together to achieve a successful finish. Practise on an area that is not normally visible before starting the whole piece. In this way you can hone your skills for the best finished effect. The materials and equipment that you need for this type of paint effect are much the same as for other general techniques: a variety of paints, paintbrushes and varnishes. However, in addition you may need a hot air stripper for more heavy-duty antiquing and some wire (steel) wool for rubbing back paint layers.


  1. Petroleum jelly: On a dried coat of emulsion (latex) brush on blobs of petroleum jelly, working inwards from the edges of the furniture. Then paint with a second colour of emulsion but don’t worry about completely, covering the surface. Leave to dry and then wipe with a cloth and soapy water. The paint over the petroleum jelly will peel away to reveal the paint beneath.
  2. Candle wax: Use this technique alone or follow on from the petroleum jelly described, as here. Once the paint has dried again, rub over the surface with candle wax, concentrating on the edges. Apply a third colour of emulsion and when dry rub over the surface with sandpaper. The top coat of paint will come off where there was wax. Finish with two coats of varnish.
  3. Tinted varnishes: Are available indifferent colours so choose one to suit your furniture. Antique pine is used here and is applied with broad brush strokes. While wet, wipe away the excess; the more that is removed, the less old is the finish.
  4. Button polish: For a more subtle finish, use button polish. Rub on with a soft cloth and then remove the excess while the polish is still wet.
  5. Artist’s oil colour: This time mix a little burnt umber with white spirit (paint thinner) in a paint kettle (mixing cap) to a very thin wash and apply with a paintbrush. While wet, wipe off the excess for a slightly stained finish. Varnish when dry to protect the surface.