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Lensing and Shading

Lensing Shoe Shine on a pair of Allen Edmonds Weybridge Oxford Leather Dress Shoes

Lensing using Colored Paste / Wax

Time Needed: 15-20 minutes

Tools Required: Horsehair Brush, Cotton Cloth, Water Spritzer, Color Cream Polish, Color Paste/Wax, High Shine Paste/Wax (optional), Leather Shoes or Boots

Imagine a pair of sunglasses for your shoes. This is what I call lensing and shading.

Lensing is a technique for adding a subtle color over the base of your leather shoes or boots, that changes their appearance depending on the light. It could appear significantly darker or a different hue than the base leather, depending on the color of wax you use and whether the light is direct, shaded, indoors, or outdoors.

Lensing is different from burnishing, antiquing, or patina, in that the color remains within the wax "lens" and doesn't impregnate itself into the base leather. It compliments patina, by adding a new dimension through light effects.

You can use different color waxes (ex. Burgundy or Navy Blue) to add unique coloring, or you can go for similar-but-darker shades of your base leather, or Black for increased shading on lighter colored leathers.

Additionally, you can add a mirror shine on the top of lensing, to reflect and add further dimension to the color and light changes.

How To Start

To begin lensing, first ensure your shoes or boots are clean. Take your horsehair brush and brush off any dust and debris. Thoroughly warm up the pores of the leather with your brush strokes.

For this example, I'm using a pair of Allen Edmonds Benton Derbies, Light Brown Cream Polish and Black Paste/Wax.

Pre-lensing a pair of Allen Edmonds Benton Walnut Calfskin Derbies from the frontPre-lensing a pair of Allen Edmonds Benton Walnut Calfskin Derbies from the side

Use your cotton cloth and spritz once or twice with water until it's damp, not wet, and rub it across the surface of the leather. With warmed-up leather pores and the water beginning to evaporate, you have primed your leather surface to be receptive to the base layer of Cream Polish.

Base Polish Layer

Using your preferred application technique (cotton cloth or fingertips), apply a thin layer of Cream Polish around the entirety of the shoe or boot. Rub it in to the grain of the leather using circular strokes or fore/aft and side-to-side rubbing.



You want minimal cream remaining on the top of the leather after you apply it. The majority of the oils and pigment should be embedded in the leather grain, and only a thin layer of waxes should remain on top. Picture rubbing-in skin lotion: you don't want any excess remaining on the top of the surface of the skin, as it will only attract dust and dirt.

Brush the cream into the pores using your horsehair brush, and ensure an even spread of the waxes.

Take your cotton cloth and pull it taut over your fingertips. Swipe your fingertips across the surface of the leather and pick up any remaining excess polish.

You shouldn't get a thick amount of polish when swiping across the surface, otherwise you applied it too heavily. 

After swiping across the leather with the cotton cloth, brush it one more time, and you'll begin to see a warm glow from the leather. It should be dry to the touch, not tacky, and look restored.

Begin Lensing 

I highly recommend using your fingertips for this process, as a cloth can be overly rough and grab excess wax within the fabric.

Select a Colored Paste/Wax for your preferred lensing. If you're unsure and just want to try this technique for the first time, stick with black, and add shading.

If you want to play with colors, pretend you're considering what shade of sunglasses you'd like to use as a cover on the top of the base leather. Typically, darker shades or contrasting colors offer the most noticeable difference.

Slide gently across the surface of the wax with your fingertips. You should have minimal, but noticeable, product on your finger. Begin at the top-middle of your toe-cap, and stroke directly downwards towards the front of the toe, leaving a thin layer of product on the surface of the leather. Move your finger directly to one side of the initial stroke, and repeat in-parallel. Do this until you've covered the toe-cap from top to bottom. 

The strokes should be very thin, and even if you feel you're outputting very little, it's better to be thin with your application, than to be too-thick.

Once again, rub across the surface of the wax to get more product on your fingertip. Repeat strokes across the top of the toe-cap, except now you want to go side-to-side, cross-hatching the toe-cap.

Repeat this process on the other shoe or boot. Then, similarly, do it on the heel quarters, sticking to the non-flexing areas.

If you're unsure where your heel flexes or doesn't flex, stick to the areas directly around the seam or just above the welting within a 1-2 square inch area of the direct back of the shoe/boot.

After a full-rotation of toe-cap (x2), and heels (x2), repeat the above process. The wax should begin to get glassy and solid. 

If you find any occlusions in the wax, thick spots, or major streaks, remove them with your fingertip or through brushing, and repeat with another thin layer of colored wax.

Finishing Steps

Once you've covered both shoe areas with a solid layer of colored wax, take a step back and examine the lensing you've created. Take it outside, and look at it under different lighting.

If it appears streaky, you can brush it gently (using approximately 80% through-pressure, and 20% down-pressure), until the streaks are gone. If the brush removes some of the layering, you can add another thin layer of wax.

Post-lensing shoe shine Allen Edmonds Benton Walnut Calfskin Derbies indoors

Additionally, you can add a mirror shine on top of your lensing. Usually the steps involved in creating a mirror shine will remove all occlusions, and smooth out the wax, but it may also reduce the colored layers, in-which case you can intermix the Colored Paste/Wax with your High Shine, and keep the lensing along with the mirror shine

Completed Lensing

See below how the different lighting affects the contrast difference between the light brown leather base and the black lensing on these derbies. Notice both the toes and the heels (in the profile shot).

Lensing and Mirror Shining with High Shine and Black Wax derby shoes outdoors on the rocks

Front view of Allen Edmonds Benton Calfskin Derbies Mirror Shined using Lensing Black Wax

Side view of Allen Edmonds Benton Calfskin Derbies Mirror Shined using Lensing Black Wax

Top view of Allen Edmonds Benton Calfskin Derbies Mirror Shined using Lensing Black Wax

Here's another example of lensing.

Lensing a Mirror Shined Pair of Allen Edmonds Weybridge on rocks with fall leaves in the background

If you'd like to share your lensing or shading projects you've completed, send us your pics and we'd love to share it with the Pure Polish community! 



  • Awesome, Kentley. Check out our Shop Page – – and let us know if you have any questions!

    Pure Polish
  • Would like to purchase some of your products .

    Kentley McCollin

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