Cold Wax, an alternative to Encaustic

My first reaction when I heard about cold wax was, “well if it isn’t heated then is it encaustic?”.

Cold wax medium is used at room temperature, whereas traditional encaustic painting uses molten encaustic medium. The name encaustic literally means “to burn”. Painting with cold wax does not use the encaustic painting process. Cold wax is a different medium and a different painting process.

What is Cold Wax?

“Cold wax medium…is a pasty substance made of beeswax, resins, oils and mineral spirits, that is mixed with oil paint and applied directly to a support, without any fusing or heat applied. (For health and safety reasons, heating cold wax is not advised.)” (Source: Rebecca Crowell)

From what I read it shouldn’t be heated because of the solvents it contains. Then I heard about MPO™.

MPO™ – Master Paste Original

cagihdaaMPO™ is a handmade paste composed of premium quality white beeswax mixed with other natural ingredients. MPO™ contains NO toxic content. MPO™ can safely be fused at low temperatures.

MPO™ cold  wax medium is ready to be used immediately after opening. Successive layers applied will remain pliable for several hours or until heat exposure. MPO™ dries quickly after each application without a heat source. It is compatible with birch board, plywood, masonite, MDF ampersand board, cardboard, canvas or even glass surfaces.

You don’t ever want to melt the cold medium which means that encaustic irons should not be used with MPO™. Fussing is done by torch or a heat gun on very low temperature. When applying heat always do so while in motion and on a low setting – keeping the temperature below 65°C (149°F).

Over to you…

I haven’t personally tried cold wax. I would like to hear from you. How does working with cold wax compare to encaustic? Please add your comments below.

About Ruth Maude

I'm an artist from Toronto working in Encaustic. My day-job is as a WordPress web designer, developer and instructor. I started All Things Encaustic to document what I learn and to explore encaustic art.

Visit My Website
View All Posts

13 thoughts on “Cold Wax, an alternative to Encaustic

  1. I was so excited to find your blog. I have been working with encaustics for about 5 years and love the medium. It is so forgiving! Finally..okay to make “mistakes.” Sandi

    1. but wax is solid until heated. Can someone explain the cold wax process? How is it applied if its solid?

  2. I’m working with encaustic since 20 years. Long time experience, first by my own tools, then with encaustic iron, stylus, etc.
    THEN I finally tried MPO! First was very unusual, because I had to use the spatulas and had to use the torch first time in my life.
    I can tell you: It WAS/IS an amazing experiment! The paste smells heavenly, no fumes, at all (of course, you have to be careful, not to burn the surface).
    I’m working ONLY with MPO from now on; can hardly think to turn back to the former method. With MPO you can create a rich, but though transparent surface, create as free, as much you want.
    With the colored paste is even more enjoyable, because you don’t need to mix the colors, just apply the colors in layers.
    I can recommend it to everybody, because this IS the healthy way to use encaustic.

    1. hi Maria, I just saw this blog and read your comment, I have tried MPO but find it so hard to manipulate, it just isn’t as pliable and smooth then the cold wax i’m used to .. do you have any trick for that? also can it be applied over cold wax or as a final see through finish? thanks for any help you can give me.

      1. Hi Brigitte, I’m working with MPO since two years. At the beginning I had also some difficulties, because I didn’t use spatulas before, but after some time it is much easier now. If you can’t find it enough smooth, then mix some transparent MPO to the colored paste, then it will be really easy to work with.It is recommended to heat with torch, very carefully, after every layer, when you already let it dry for 24 hours. Don’t give up, it is ALL comes from experience.

      2. If some of the MPO paste seems to be a bit hard, then mix some clear MPO to it, then it will be smooth again. I keep my pastes in a refrigerator, because I’m living in Arizona…when I’m working with it again, then have to wait about two hours, to get the room temperature. I don’t have any problem with it. Just need to practice! 🙂

  3. I discovered the joy of working with beeswax about a year ago and have been experimenting with it ever since. It is such a versatile medium – I particularly like the textural or sculptural qualities of working with wax. I have learned to do ‘cut outs’ (similar to paper artists) and even weave with wax to produce unusual wall art. There seems to be an never ending number of ways to work with wax if you like experimenting like I do. I haven’t tried MPO yet though…I’ll put it on my to-do list

  4. Its not the heating process that defines encaustic, it’s the content of the wax being used. I don’t know anything about MPO. What is meant by ‘low temperatures” ? Cold wax is not encaustic. It may be a lovely product, it may produce lovely results. If its spreadable, its not encaustic. Lets not confuse the 2 very different waxes.

    1. REGARDING Encaustic painting.

      Okay now thoroughly confused. Cold wax is not heated, but can be layered, but encaustic wax is heated and also layered. Then whats the difference between the two?
      Can color pigments be added to cold wax and how long does it take to dry and harden? Thank you.

  5. I paint with encaustic wax and have friends who paint with cold wax. I cannot see the similarities except they both have wax in them, and can bind with oil. The end result is very different and the process is totally different. The one thing I hear is that working with cold wax is extremely gratifying.

  6. Since there was so little information about how to use MPO out there I realized I would have to teach myself how to use it. I have been working with encaustics for almost 18 years and, like probably all encaustic artists, I am addicted to it. Encaustics is the most fun you can have without going to jail….
    I have just opened a few cans of the MPO. I work in abstracts, use a torch. I cannot control the temperature of the torch but the flame is not high. I just cannot believe the results I am getting! The way the wax melts together while creating some amazing effects immediately; how the surface is glassy immediately – no buffing necessary. How I can add layers, details, a whole section with another color on top and then fuse and I have another universe to be delighted with. Have not yet tried the heat gun. In my work with encaustics in general I use the torch 95% of the time because I prefer those results.
    When I first started using the MPO on a clean panel I found it a little too difficult to cover the area stroke by stroke, so I have tried covering the wood with a few layers of clear hot wax or white (the color is unimportant, depending on the painting one is working on), and after fusing and cooling those few layers I start with the MPO. It’s perfect. And this is just day one! I am hooked.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *