How to get started with Encaustic Painting | List of Tools & Supplies

Get started with Encaustic Painting

If you’ve been wondering for awhile how do I do encaustic painting? and now you’re ready to get started, this post will help you choose the encaustic supplies and hot wax tools you need to set up your studio. You can also learn a lot more about encaustic painting by reading the other posts in the encaustic beginner’s guide.

Encaustic is an expensive medium, and you should consider your budget before you begin. You will need to set up a studio space that has good ventilation and you will need to purchase hot tools and supplies.

The links to Amazon will help you get set up to start painting with encaustic and the affiliate links help support this site.

What tools and supplies do I need for Encaustic Painting?

If you’re ready to jump all in, a full encaustic painting kit is a smart way to get everything you need in one go. Alternatively, you can encaustic art studio tools and supplies piece by piece.

Encaustic Kits

ENCAUSTIC MEDIUM:

If you’re ready to begin painting with encaustic you need to start with encaustic medium. Medium is made with filtered beeswax and damar resin crystals and is available in a variety of forms, as:

  • ready-to-use encaustic paints (medium is premixed with colour pigment) in tins, blocks or sticks
  • pre-made natural (golden) or filtered (white) encaustic medium to which you can add oil paints or pigment
  • raw materials (damar resin and beeswax) to make your own encaustic medium to which you can add oil paints for colour

OIL PAINTS:

If you are using plain encaustic medium you will want a variety of oil paints in your studio to add colour to the wax:

  • Do not add more than 25% paint to 75% wax, or you will end up with a wax that won’t harden
  • Glazes of colour can be made using a very small amount of paint to the encaustic medium
  • Stay away from oil paint with health warnings on the label and don’t use Prussian blue (toxic when heated) or zinc white (curdles when heated)

BRUSHES FOR ENCAUSTIC:

Use natural hair brushes for encaustic, synthetic brushes will melt.

GRIDDLE OR PALETTE OR HOT BOX:

To melt encaustic medium you will need an Encaustic Palette, Electric Griddle or Hot Plate. An ideal hot palette is one that heats evenly and offers a refined temperature control. You may also want to purchase a griddle thermometer or temperature regulator.

BOWLS or TINS:

You will also need small metal bowls or tins to melt the medium in. Have a look at your local thrift store for inexpensive baking tins. Choose flat bottom metal tins – rounded bottom bowls can be tippy and you don’t want to spill precious encaustic paints!

FUSING TOOLS:

In encaustic art the artist will fuse the layers of wax with either a heat gun (not a hair dryer), an encaustic iron or a blow torch. Using different fusing tools creates a variety of surface textures. You may be interested to read more about fusing tools on the post: Choosing the right encaustic fusing tools.

SUBSTRATES TO PAINT ON:

Ideal surfaces for the encaustic artwork are absorbent, rigid and heat resistant. Suitable grounds include wood, untempered Masonite, stretched canvas or linen, plywood, drywall or plaster, heavy watercolour or printmaking paper and even plexiglass! Do not use a typical acrylic gesso as an encaustic painting surface, select an encaustic gesso. Experiment with a variety of substrates and grounds to find your favourite.

COLLAGE ELEMENTS:

Wax is a marvellous adhesive, you can embed just about anything into it, making encaustic a perfect medium for mixed media collage. You’ll want to have a supply of collage elements in your studio.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS:

Before you begin to paint with wax it is important to consider ventilation of your studio space and ensure that you have a fire extinguisher close at hand especially when working with collage elements and a blow torch!

Want to learn more about Encaustic Wax Painting?

Now that you have all the tools, read about the encaustic painting process.

Please add any comments or questions below.

Encaustic paint pots image source: Andrea Bird used by permission

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic and encaustic workshops in Ontario.

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17 thoughts on “How to get started with Encaustic Painting | List of Tools & Supplies


  1. Hi Im very new to encaustic and was wondering if you can use a white acrylic paint as a base coat instead of gesso? Thanks for all the great information.


  2. Hi Ruth,

    Thank you so much. I will buy some encaustic gesso


  3. Hi Ruth- I don’t have a thermometer at present so the temperature of my encaustic paints are varying a bit-I’ve read that artists sometimes paint with the wax at a lower temperature to get a matt / more textured effect; does paint applied at lower temperatures have the same stability? i.e. if I am applying layers is it neither here nor there what the is because the temperature of the wax will be brought ‘up’ when I fuse it? Thanks


    1. Fionna,

      You want to just heat your wax to melting point. The only cautions I’ve heard are not to overheat – you don’t want it to smoke.


  4. Hi Ruth,

    Can I use the heat from my “Grill-Panini” electric heating appliance to melt or heat wax? The “Griddle” side’s lowest temperature is 200 degrees, which is too hot.

    Mary


    1. Mary, you don’t want to overheat the wax. And you don’t want to use an appliance that you will use again for cooking food. I use an old pancake griddle


  5. I would love to do encaustic art, but as I live in the tropics I’m hesitant due to my work melting. Our candles melt here at times so encaustic art would too don’t you think. Or maybe there is something that can be added to the wax to firm it up?


    1. Bonnie,

      Damar resin is added to beeswax to make encaustic medium. Damar resin acts as a hardening agent and to prevent bloom. Temperatures would need to reach 150 degrees to start to soften the piece. You wouldn’t want to expose any fine art to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight. Your paintings would be fine to hang in an air conditioned home..


  6. I’ve been looking at electric warming trays instead of griddles for melting wax and encaustic paints. Found some with variable temperature controls with the highest temp reaching about 200 degrees and use less electricity to operate. They are available with stainless steel, porcelain or tempered glass tops. Do you have any advice as to which type top would be preferable for use with encaustics?


    1. Hi Matilda,
      These sound interesting. I suggest going on one of the Facebook groups and asking your question there. Hopefully, someone else who has tried them will be able to give you an opinion. Please comment back after you’ve tried it and let us know how well it works.


  7. Hi Ruth Maude,
    I used my pancake griddles for the first time to melt my wax which is in tins with flat bottoms. I had a thermometer on the surface which read anywhere between approximately 150-200 degrees F, depending when the griddle thermostat came on. The wax did not completely melt in the tins. I waited about an hour and a half, got frustrated and unplugged it all. Not sure what to do.


    1. Hmmm sounds like you’re doing everything right. Try turning up the temperature. Maybe the thermometer is faulty. If you are melting a small amount of medium in a tin it will melt fairly quickly, full tins can take 45 minutes.


      1. Thanks for the speedy reply! The thermometer is brand new, purchased from R & F while I was in Santa Fe for the Artisan Expo in Sept. Maybe I’ll get another to test out. I was heating some 1.5 oz hot cakes for transfer into a larger 8 oz tin so I could add some medium. I also was thinking that I would have to increase the temperature slightly. Am nervous about overheating the wax but I am not ready to put out the cash for an R&F encaustic hot plate just yet.


        1. Angela, 200 degrees is fine as long as the wax isn’t smoking. I would just give it longer to melt. I haven’t used the R&F hot plate, I haven’t heard great things about it. I use a pancake griddle for pots.

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