Help for Beginners who want to learn how to do Encaustic Painting
If you want to learn how to do Encaustic Painting you’re in the right place! Welcome. All Things Encaustic is a collaborative blog for artists working with encaustic. If you’re just beginning to paint with Encaustic medium start here. If your question isn’t covered here, review our blog posts or add a comment at the bottom of the post and we will be happy to respond.
Click on a question below to expand and view the answer.
If you want to make sure that the method you are using will stand the test of time, use the freezer test. The freezer test is a way to check if a substrate or underpainting method is suitable for encaustic art.
- Start with a sample project
- Add layers of encaustic medium on top of the substrate you want to test
- Properly fuse each layer of encaustic medium
- Allow it to cool completely.
- Place it in the freezer and leave it overnight
- Remove it from the freezer and allow it to get back to room temperature
- Drop it on a concrete floor with force, multiple times
- You may wish to repeat the freeze thaw cycle multiple times as well
- Inspect the painting —dented corners aside, if the encaustic has chipped away and separated from the underpainting or substrate then it isn’t compatible—if it held, then it is acceptable.
No varnishing is required. Damar resin in encaustic medium acts as a hardening agent so the finished encaustic painting will cure to a hard finish that will repel dust.
No. Beeswax alone is just not durable enough. Damar resin is a tree sap that is added to beeswax to make encaustic medium. The addition of damar resin acts as a hardening agent allowing your painting to cure and will reduce or prevent blooming (a white clouding of the surface).
Encaustic is the name for both a wax painting medium (beeswax and damar resin) and a painting process involving heat to apply and fuse the medium. The name Encaustic comes from the greek enkaustikos which means “to heat” or “to burn”. Heat is used throughout the encaustic painting process. Encaustic lends itself to mix media and collage, natural dried collage elements can be layered within the wax.
Here is a blog post offering a more detailed description including the History of Encaustic from The Artist’s Handbook
There are different methods of working with encaustic wax to create art:
- In traditional Encaustic painting, encaustic medium is melted in small tins on a griddle. Using a brush the medium is painted on an absorbent substrate such as a wood panel. Each layer is fused with a hot tool such as a blow torch, heat gun, iron or stylus.
- Encaustic Monotype printmaking – is painting with solid pigmented encaustic blocks or sticks on a heated plate or palette. Paper is then placed over the hot wax and pressed down with a barren. The artist will then pull a print from the plate.
- Three-dimensional encaustic sculptures – To create a 3-D encaustic sculpture the artist will create a skeletal structure using materials such as wire, wire mesh, plaster gauze and modeling paste. Paper, fabric or natural fibers are dipped into molten encaustic medium and applied to the skeletal form and fused.
- Iron Wax Painting has recently become popular. It involves melting pigmented blocks of wax directly on an encaustic iron. The iron instead of brushes is used as a tool to paint on cards or cardstock. An encaustic stylus with different nibs may also be used. Additional fusing is not required.
Cold wax painting is not encaustic as it does not use heat.
Proper safety precautions need to be exercised in every artist’s studio to reduce the risk of exposure to toxic substances.
With adequate ventilation and a working temperature that is under 200°F, encaustic is a safe medium to work with. It is important to use a thermometer to keep a check on your temperature. Encaustic fumes, when released at a safe temperature, are not considered dangerous. Yet, all wax mediums, when heated, do release fumes.
Beeswax has a lovely natural smell and, if kept at the correct temperature, the effect of wax fumes is minimal. Only heat encaustic medium to the melting point, never to the point of smoking. Some people are more sensitive to wax fumes than others. If you develop headaches or respiratory irritation, try working outside or improve the ventilation inside your studio.
When making your own encaustic medium, make sure you use damar resin crystals—not damar varnish which is toxic.
Encaustic painting is solvent-free, eliminating the need for turpentine, mineral spirits, or oily rags in the studio.
Microcrystalline is a petroleum-based wax that will give off vapours in the molten stage. If you use microcrystalline medium instead of the traditional beeswax medium, extra consideration should be taken to provide proper ventilation.
Proper ventilation in the encaustic studio will significantly reduce potential hazards in the encaustic studio, open a window, or install a reverse fan or fume hood. Using a Vent-a-Fume which has been designed for use in an encaustic studio is highly recommended.
For more information about encaustic safety please see The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide
Encaustic painting is an ancient practice. Encaustic painting was practiced by Greek artists as far back as the 5th century B.C. Most of our knowledge of this early use comes from the Roman historian Pliny the Elder whose Natural History, written in the 1st century A.D.
Use natural hair brushes for encaustic wax painting, synthetic brushes will melt.
As encaustic medium does not deteriorate the brush and can always be remelted, brushes can be left uncleaned indefinitely.
No solvent is necessary for cleaning encaustic equipment. Should you wish to clean your brushes, you can dip them in melted paraffin or soy wax. Soy wax is non-toxic and burns cleaner than paraffin. Soybeans are a renewable source, unlike paraffin. Soy wax is naturally biodegradable. Soy wax is also easier to remove than paraffin wax, so after the colour has been cleaned out of the brush, the brush can be washed with soap and water and is reusable in other mediums.
Enkaustikos manufactures a Slick Wax specifically for cleaning your encaustic brushes, tools, and even your palette between encaustic color changes. Rinse your brush in the slick wax and wipe off any excess wax with a paper towel, the slick wax will have removed the color.
Encaustic tools can be cleaned of wax and paint by leaving them on a hot surface and wiping them clean when the wax has melted.
Yes, you can use a small amount of oil paint to add colour to plain encaustic medium.
When mixing oil paint with encaustic it is important to understand oil and wax relations see this Wax/Oil Ratio diagram from R&F.
There is a danger (the painting won’t be archival), in making a mixture where the amount of oil and the amount of wax are equal. Do not add more than 25% paint to 75% medium or you will end up with a wax that won’t harden. Some artists put oil paint on paper towel or cloth to absorb some of the oil before adding it to the molten medium.
Glazes of colour can be made using a very small amount of paint to the encaustic medium.
Encaustic wax is applied to a painting in layers, fusing merges the layers together. Fusing as you work simply means to apply heat to allow each layer to soften enough in order to merge with the previous layers.
You need to fuse the first layer of wax to the substrate and then each subsequent layer needs to be fused to the layer below. There are a variety of encaustic fusing tools used by artists working in encaustic.
I’ve been told that as well but that is not acceptable practice.
Encaustic wax is applied to a painting in layers, fusing merges the layers together. Fusing as you work simply means to apply heat to allow each layer to soften enough in order to merge with the previous layers.
You need to fuse the first layer of wax to the substrate and then each subsequent layer needs to be fused to the layer below. There are a variety of encaustic fusing tools used by artists working in encaustic.
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 will provide the artist with a variety of surface textures.
Read more from the blog: Encaustic Fusing Tools
Indoor environments, even on a very hot Summer day, are not hot enough to melt wax. Beeswax will alone will melt at around145°F. Encaustic medium is made with damar resin which raises the melting point further. By adding damar the melting point of an encaustic painting is 180-200°F.
Don’t leave an Encaustic painting in a car, heat of the sun is intensified through car windows. Still, it is advised not to hang the painting in direct sunlight or very close to a heat source. When hanging or storing any fine art, temperature control and sunlight exposure should be considered.
When using an electric griddle or pallet to melt encaustic medium you want to keep it as low as you can so the medium is just melted between 150°F and 200°F – never above 200°F. You don’t want to get to a point where your wax is starting to smoke. You may want to purchase a griddle thermometer so that you can keep an accurate check on the temperature. You may find that temperature isn’t consistent all over the griddle – some spots may be hotter than others. A griddle thermometer will help you keep a check on that. A temperature regulator may be helpful for use with other fusing tools.
In her book “Encaustic Art the complete guide to creating fine art with wax” Lissa Rankin explains the difference between monoprints and monotypes.
“The meanings of the terms monoprint and monotype are very similar, because each technique yields one image (mono = one). …A monotype is a printed image from a plate containing no incising or matrix. It is therefore a singular image and cannot be replicated. A monoprint, on the other hand, is similar to the monotype with its drawing or painting, but… it has an additional matrix—something that can be replicated multiple times.”
With encaustic printmaking encaustic medium is painted directly on a hotbox or an anodized aluminum plate heated on an electric griddle. A print is then pulled from it. Each monotype is a one of a kind original.
Learn more about encaustic printmaking.
Microcrystalline is a relatively new petroleum-based wax, which will give off vapors in the molten stage. Extra consideration should be taken to provide proper ventilation. Microcrystalline has a higher melting temperature than beeswax so it is more pliable allowing for more time to mold, shape, model, cast, carve and form objects. Microcrystalline is also less expensive than beeswax. Microcrystalline wax will yellow over time from exposure to UV so it is very important to paint over and encapsulate the impasto wax layer.
Damar (or Dammar) resin is a tree sap collected from trees in Malaysia. Damar resin is harvested without harming the tree. Damar resin is added to beeswax to make encaustic medium. It acts as a hardening agent allowing your painting to cure and will reduce or prevent blooming (a white clouding of the surface). Beeswax will alone will melt at 145 degrees F, adding damar will raise the melting point to between 180-200 F degrees.
On its own, Damar Resin is not toxic. Damar varnish is toxic and should not be used.
Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas, and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.
A gesso layer is optional. Many artists choose to work on gessoed grounds so that they are starting on a white surface. Artists working in encaustic often paint directly on raw wood and other absorbent substrates without gesso.
You can either purchase pre-gessoed boards or purchase encaustic gesso and apply it to the ground yourself. As a general guideline, grounds for encaustic painting must be absorbent, so acrylic gessoes are not recommended. Rabbit-skin glue gesso is considered the most traditional, time-tested ground for encaustic.
A gesso layer is optional. Artists working in encaustic often paint directly on raw wood and other absorbent substrates without gesso. If you want to begin work on a white surface, prepare the substrate with encaustic gesso. Gesso is also available in colours. Alternatives to gesso include venetian plaster or chalk paint.
You may have seen YouTube videos that melt crayons for encaustic medium; this isn’t recommended. Crayons are made with paraffin and a mix of other types of wax. Paraffin is inexpensive but too brittle for encaustic, it tends to crack and chip.
Clear paraffin wax can be used in the encaustic studio to clean your brushes.
You can return to a piece any time — just lightly fuse it to warm the wax and then start working on it again.
Yes, encaustic is an ideal medium for assemblage / mixed media / collage painting. Encaustic wax can both preserve and adhere collage elements to artwork. Read more about encaustic collage here.
Cold wax medium is wax that has been melted with turpentine. Cold wax medium is a paste that is combined with oil paint. Cold wax speeds up drying time of oil paint and increases the paint’s workability. Cold wax gives the paint a creamy texture that can be spread on a painting like butter.
Unlike encaustic that you heat up and fuse, cold wax does not need to be and should not be heated as it contains solvents. In encaustic painting, the wax medium must be molten to work with and then each layer needs to be fused (reheated). Cold wax is not molten.
Like encaustic, cold wax can be applied in layers.
Encaustic tiles are inlaid ceramic tiles and have nothing to do with encaustic painting. The term encaustic was traditionally used in two ways, to describe both encaustic painting with beeswax and a medieval enameling process.
In the nineteenth century Victorians confused inlaid ceramic tiles with tiles made using the enameling process and in error applied the term encaustic to inlaid tiles. Encaustic is now a commonly accepted name for inlaid tile work.
The main binder is typically natural beeswax. Encaustic medium is made from beeswax combined with damar resin which acts as a hardening agent.
Encaustic is wax, it doesn’t dry but rather solidifies. That process of heating the wax will liquify the wax. When removed from the heat source the wax will cool and solidify very quickly. Fusing with hot tools will extend the workability of the medium.
Painting on stretched canvas on stretcher bars is not recommended. It is not rigid and when heated and covered with wax it sags. It is also important to note that most canvases from an art supply store has been primed with acrylic gesso, which is not compatible with encaustic.
If you want to paint on canvas or linen, first stretch it over a ridged support. Ideal surfaces for the encaustic artwork are absorbent, rigid and heat resistant.
Candles are made from a variety of waxes. For encaustic painting, use encaustic medium made from beeswax, damar resin and pigment. You can learn about how to make encaustic medium here.
If your question about how to do Encaustic Painting wasn’t covered above
- You can also check out our blog posts for more in-depth answers to many of your questions.
- Review the questions and answers in the comment section
- Submit your own comment below
- How to reuse encaustic scrapings - February 2, 2023
- Christina Lovisa’s Homemade Paste for Collage - December 12, 2022
- Glass As A Substrate For Encaustic Painting! - November 8, 2022
- How to organize your art studio - October 21, 2022
- Create Beautiful Cyanotype Prints To Use In Encaustic Paintings - September 13, 2022
- How To Do An Encaustic Pour For Outstanding Results - July 12, 2022
- The Best Way To Paint A Smooth Encaustic Surface - June 24, 2022
- How To Use Sumi Rice Paper For Photo Encaustic - June 3, 2022
- How to Create Encaustic Vessels with Creative Paperclay - May 21, 2022
- Comparing Irons for Encaustic Painting - November 10, 2021
114 thoughts on “How to do Encaustic Painting | Frequently Asked Questions”
First, thank you for all the help, support and education you offer to those interested in learning encaustic. I have taken one of your workshops, and follow your work as well as all the postings on All Things Encaustic on Facebook. I have learned a great deal from you.
My question today pertains to using water miscible oil paints with encaustic medium. I gave up traditional oil paints years ago due to the solvents, and now I have a very large inventory of water miscible oils that I want to use if possible. So my questions are:
1. Can straight water miscible oil paints be applied to a finished work in encaustic and allowed to dry on the encaustic surface? These would be paints that have not been mixed with encaustic medium. Would I have to apply a layer of wax medium over the paints at some point and fuse them?
2. Also, using the formula of 25% traditional oil paints to 75% encaustic medium, would this ratio also apply if using water miscible oil rather than traditional oils.
I hope these questions make sense. If you need more clarity, please let me know. Thank you in advance for your forthcoming response.
Hello Joy, Thank you for your kind comments. To answer your questions, I have not tried water-miscible oil paints myself. I suggest that you try searching in encaustic Facebook Groups using the search terms water-soluble oil and water-mixable oil as well as water miscible oil. There will be someone with experience that can help you. I wouldn’t expect that it can be added to the molten wax but under or on top of the wax is a possibility. You can experiment and try the freezer test.
This is so awesome, the way you’ve really put thought into this website.
How do you like pine rosin vs demar? I hear it was cheaper so I went with it. Unsure if I’m using it right as it’s hard to “melt”. It comes in powder form and then kinda clumps into a candy like substance while melted in the wax.
I did a larger painting on Canvas. I get it. Not recommended. And it’s starting to chip. Do I need more layers? Should I “stabilize” the canvas by using resin casting the back side? I know that would make it much heavier, unsure if it’s worth it. I LOVE the painting I did. And I really want to sell it, but I want to make sure it’s of quality. Not junk that will fall apart.
You are awesome. Thanks again for such an awesome site.
I am semi new. I did a big piece on canvas.
I have never used pine, I’ve only used damar resin, so I can’t comment on this.
I suggest that you use cradled panels. There are two problems with stretched canvas. One is that the gesso they are coated with is acrylic and the wax won’t adhere well to it. The second problem is that the surface isn’t ridgid so it will move and flex causing cracking. To use canvas, stretch it over a hard board.
Hi – Thanks for all your great advise and resources on working with encaustic.
I do not see anything on how to build up an outline to accentuate an area. There is lots about incising and carving in, but not so much about increasing a section in a line – not just dry brushing for texture – but a nice smooth consistent line as say an outline or tree branch or to draw attention to rocks. Is this simply done with a brush and layer after layer of wax? I have recently purchased an electric tjuanting tool hoping it would accomplish this task, however, I do not find it hot enough to keep the wax melted and have had to order a temp regulator…which may or may not help. Waiting for that to arrive, but in the meantime, maybe you have a tip or trick to achieve raised lines. Thanks so much, Sonia.
Have you tried masking tape? Place the tape on either side of the line you want to create and burnish it down. Then paint with clear medium so if there is any leakage it is clear. Then build up the line fusing gently. Remove the tape carefully, pressing down the edges as you do.
I don’t have a question…just a thank you for your wonderful blog!! I am brand spanking new to this medium and have stalked your blog many times over the last week…yes…brand new!!
It is obvious that you put a lot of time and effort here, and just wanted to thank you!!
Your work is beautiful!!
Thanks Debbie for your kind comment
Hi, I am wanting to create fine lines with unpigmented encaustic medium. Do you have any recommendations about the best tool for the job? Do batik styluses work? Have you any experience working with an electric tool for this? Thank you!
I haven’t tried the batik tjanting tool but I have used the encaustic stylus – https://amzn.to/3yRpSU9. It works well but it takes some practice to use it well and doesn’t hold much wax. There is an Enkaustikos Batik Wax Writer that holds more wax. I haven’t tried it.
I am a beginner but very excited But one thing bothers me the cloudiness how long before that disappears or is it something I am doing or not doing. Help
Cloudiness happens. Use a razor blade or pottery tool to gently scrape off a thin layer of medium
Is it possible to use tubes of watercolour to add colour to encaustic medium?
Hi Carolyn, You can paint on top of a watercolour painting with encaustic but no, you can’t use watercolour paints to pigment the wax.
Help! Just started with encaustic yesterday. I used R&F encaustic medium, heated my griddle (kept a close eye on the temp) melted the pellets, used a goat hair brush (which I kept in the wax to keep warm) and an unprimed cradled wood board to play on. But from the moment I took brush out of wax, the wax immediately started to solidify and went on thick and gloopy/bumpy! Not smooth at all! I tried heating the piece to spread the wax smoother, but that just seemed to make it worse. Had a hard time scraping it as well to try and smooth it out. And to make things worse, my brush hairs started coming out in clumps after sitting in the heated wax for about 20 minutes! (I guess a really cheap brush! LOL) So what am I doing wrong? How can I get the wax to go on thinner/smoother? Do I need to heat the board up before I start with the wax? Do I need to let wax sit a bit longer (even though it’s fully melted) before spreading? Do I need to prime the board first with something? Piece came out very interesting with the textures, but really want smooth surface. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
Thank you so much!
Hi Donna, Is the temperature in your studio very cold? Are your brushes warm? Heating the board doesn’t hurt. No need to let the wax sit, once it is molten you can use it. You can prime with encaustic gesso but you don’t have to. When you fuse you can make it smoother – a flat iron is great for that. Sorry I don’t know how much help I’m being
Hi. I would like to use alcohol inks on encaustic. But I don,t know what to do so that the inks won’t fade in the future.
Hi Christina, Have you seen this post? https://allthingsencaustic.com/alcohol-inks-encaustic/
Ruth, I love encaustics and have been doing workshops for a couple of years. Here’s my question: Can I do an encaustic workshop outdoors? Would the warmed wax, and beeswax aroma attract dust and insects? Owing to Covid-19 and social distancing, I’m being asked to host a workshop outdoors, so we can all spread out, but still play with encaustics. What is your reco? I think the stickiness of the wax, while working with it, may attract pollutants, bugs, or …?
I haven’t taught a workshop outdoors but I have set up a table and worked outside. It was lovely, I wasn’t bothered by insects but I know others who work in a garage with the door open have said that bees and other insects can be a challenge. Weather will be a factor for sure. If you ask on the Facebook group I’m sure there will be a number of people who have tried this.
I had to install screens on my studio windows because the encaustic medium was attracting honey bees!
What can I use to protect my worktable? I’m looking for some new suggestions.
What a wonderful resource you are!
I have problems with streaky lines when the wax dries on top of some encaustics gesso, usually dark ones, I’m not sure if it is my fusing, the heat of the wax, or ???
Even if I fuse back to almost liquid, they return
I hope you are able to help.
Hi Robin-Lee. I haven’t seen that happen. Could you join the All Things Encaustic Facebook group and post your question with photos? The photos may help. Is this happening all the time? Are you fusing with a torch, heat gun, or an iron?
Thank you for getting back to me.
I don’t use Facebook.
It mostly happens when I use Evans Holy Grail burnt Sienna gesso and pure beeswax.
I wish I could send you a picture here, it resembles whitish brush strokes, not all over, just in patches, the only thing I can think, is I am doing something wrong with my fusing between layers of wax.
Ah, Robin, I understand now. Thanks for emailing me a picture. What you’re experiencing is bloom. You need to have damar resin in your encaustic medium. Don’t paint with pure beeswax. Damar prevents bloom (the white marks) and acts as a hardening agent to help the painting cure properly.
I tried to do a portrait using encaustics on a wood panel. I came out really bad. Can I somehow scrape this off and reuse the panel for something else. What would I need to do to prepare the panel for another project?
Hi Vickie, Sure you can scrape it off and start a new painting. No need to do anything special to the panel. You can just start painting with encaustic on the scraped down panel.
Ahoj, ako sa dajú použiť alkoholové pigmenty na maľovanie – na encaustický podklad?
Hi, how can alcohol pigments be used for painting – on an encaustic substrate?
Hello Oli, Here’s a blog post about using alcohol inks. Be careful when breathing in the fumes and know that they may fade over time.
Ahoj Oli, tu je blogový príspevok o používaní alkoholových farieb. Pri vdychovaní výparov buďte opatrní a vedzte, že môžu v priebehu času blednúť.
Hi there, my name is Justine, I am currently working on a new product that is made using beeswax, paraffin and stearin powder….my wax lantern..
I am then designing each side using Encaustic mediums. But I have noticed that air bubbles have started forming between the shell of my wax lantern and the encaustic medium….to the point of almost being able to peel off in one big piece.
I understand that wax as a substrate could be an issue, but can you suggest anything at all I might be able to try as a binder to help reduce the air or separation from forming. I fuse in between each layer of encaustic, so that is not the issue…..I do warm the surface of the wax shell (lantern) so the encaustic medium does spread nicely and set nicely….the separation starts to appear a couple of hours later. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thank you in advance…
Desperate, I have created a wax lantern, so the shell is a combination of hardeners, and beeswax. I am using encaustic mediums to decorate my lanterns…for some reason I get this lifting or moisture bubbles that keep appearing after completion…why could this been happening? Do I need to put YES glue down first? The moisture is happening between the layer of the shell and the encaustic medium….
Is there any rule of thumb as to how much medium one can add to opaque encaustic paint WITHOUT making it transparent? For example using R&F titanium white, if I want it opaque should I use it without diluting? It has so much pigment, it seems it should be diluted at least some. It also doesn’t go very far without adding medium. Thank you for any advice!
It’s a case of trial and error. I don’t know of any rule of thumb.
can I use Yes glue to glue down linen to a birch panel before I start my encaustic layers?
I haven’t personally done that but I think that it would be fine. Maybe ask on one of the encaustic Facebook groups. Some may recommend a different adhesive.
I want to make geometric shapes in my encaustic painting. What is the best material to use to mask with that can handle the heat and wax?
Ordinary masking tape works well. You can also cut your own stencils.
I have applied 4 layers of encaustic medium as my base coat…. i have a surface that is not the smooth surface that I want before applying color….my piece is pretty large… is it possible to get a smooth surface by scraping and ironing at this point before moving forward?
I hate to scrape everything off.
If you want a smooth surface you need to get it smooth before moving on. An iron is good and a large flat pottery scraper. Heat the scraper up and work on wax that is cold or only slightly warm. That way you will scrape off the bumps and smoosh into the divots without taking off too much.
I plan to print images on paper then paste them in small metal trays – and then apply wax medium and fuse. Am I on the right track? Thank you.
I really appreaciate your site. I took an encaustic class at Herron School or art and Design and loved it.I wanted to learn more, so thanks for the tips.
Quetion, do you only use bee’s wax? What about soy wax or coconut wax combined with bee’s wax? I know I would have to put resin in them, but I was wondering why only bee’s wax?
I have forgotten if I have added damar to a quantity of wax. How Can I test for it’s presence?
I’ve never worked with wax that doesn’t have damar so I don’t know if it would feel any different. Maybe pop over to one of the many Facebook groups and ask the question there.
Will try, thanks.
This morning I had a light bulb moment. I heated my plate up to a high temperature and tested known pieces of wax. The wax without damar melted and boiled, the one with damar just melted. Problem solved!
Can rustoleum spray paint be used in encaustic painting? I’ve seen blog posts about using spray paints in encaustic and in fact one used liquitex spray paint which i believe is an acrylic, so that has confused me.
Do you mean the Rustoleum Chalked spay paint? I’ve used chalk paint but not in the spray can form. Acrylic and encaustic don’t work well together but Christian Lovisa uses a lot of different materials under encaustic and then uses Liquitex clear gesso as a bridge to then work with wax on top of the painting
I’ve looked and looked at so many sites, videos and resources about the shellac techniques, but none of them discuss the material being used. Upon searching, I find shellac at hardware stores, but I also find shellac ink in art supply. Which is being used in encaustic?
I have the same question, and like you, have searched!
Hi Cheryl & Cassie,
Just use the shellac you buy at the hardware store. I haven’t used shellac ink, I use India Ink.
I have used Bulls Eye Shellac, Clear – https://amzn.to/39Ze2fF
Hi , How can I get my last layer to be pure flat, even beeswax?
I guess this could be a blog post in and of itself! It really is a skill that you develop as you become more experienced fusing. If you fuse too much you’ll create pools and waves of wax. I use an encaustic iron followed by a blow torch or heat gun. You can also scrape with a razor blade from time to time to even out your surface and encourage subsequent layers to go on smoothly. Some artists use a pour method, create a lip along the sides of your panel with masking tape and make sure your panel is level before you pour the hot encaustic medium onto the painting surface.
Ruth, I have a question on a similar note. Tonight, I attempted an abstract landscape using different colors of pigmented wax (I used a very small amount of Shiva Painstik added to medium, and brushed that onto several layers of medium). When I fused this layer, the color ran all over the place! This could have been a cool effect, if that’s what I was going for, but this piece had a specific composition that was ruined by all the running. So, I tested my techniques on a test patch, with light fusing, but the color still ran. I then tried just blending the oilstick directly onto the medium and wiping off most of the excess, then fusing…alas, the color still ran & pooled! Now, I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong, and have turned to videos online, only to find so many people successfully using pigmented wax to create images that stay in place during the fusing process. Do you know what I might be doing wrong?
Hi Kandace, I haven’t used Shiva brand. Have you read this post? https://allthingsencaustic.com/pigment-sticks-encaustic/ There are a couple of demo videos in that post. Perhaps they will help you.
I am just reading about with art technique for the first time. I am going to pull my inspiration board together an give my first project some thought. I am sure ill have more questions.
When I brush the medium across the substrate, it builds up on the edges. What should I be doing differently? Thank you.
You can tape the edges of the substrate before you start to paint, then use an iron to flatten the drips, pull off the painter’s tape and the edges will be clean.
thank you Ruth!
Hi again Ruth,
do you know if there is a clear encaustic gesso on the market? So that if you want to work on wood, the grain can still show through?
You don’t need any gesso then. Just use encaustic medium and the grain will show through. The reason to use encaustic gesso is to prevent the grain from showing.
Hi! I was wondering if you can use some sort of high gloss varnish on a finished collage/encaustic Piece?
I have never added a glossy finish. I just buff my paintings with pantyhose. BUT I have found this product Evans Encaustics High Shine Top Coat. If you use it please let me know what you think of it.
great, thank you! I looked it up, it looks interesting. I like the fact that they recommend photographing your work before applying the high gloss.
yes that is a great tip to photograph first.
I am just getting started with Encaustic and trying to set up a workspace in my home. Since I am unable to purchase wax or medium locally I need to order online and have it shipped. How much medium should I order that would last me @6 months? 2lbs? 5 lbs
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
That’s such a hard question to answer Mary. It depends on how much painting you’re doing and how big and thick the paintings are. I used 2lbs last week!
Is it okay to use acrylic paints with encaustic Wax? Not mixing them together, but painting on tissue paper and between layers.
Rhonda I don’t know anything about acrylic paints as I don’t use them. My understanding is that encaustic and acrylic won’t bond and it should be avoided. You could always give it a try on a test piece and then do the freezer test.
Hi, Great blog and posts. I’m curious if you ever mix dry pigments into the wax medium to create your own colors. And if so, what ratio of pigment to medium do you tend to go for? Is it more cost effective to do it this way? I was recently looking at the French Quarry site, the earth tones are so luscious I’m curious about giving it a go; but would not like to invent a wheel, if there’s someone who already has this down pat, would love to know what they’ve discovered. Again, trying to reduce costs as much as possible. Thanks.
Thanks for your comment. Here is a post about dry pigment. You need to be careful about breathing in airborne particulates.
Our studio just inherited boxes of vegtable based candle wax. Is this any good for encaustics?
Please read this post about making encaustic medium. Medium is made with beeswax and damar resin. I don’t know what ingredients are in your candles. You can try if you want and then run a freezer test described in the question above. If it can withstand the freezer then it should be fine. But I wouldn’t sell these works if you aren’t sure that they will stand the test of time.
Hi there. Thanks for your wonderful site – Im sitting at the other end of the world in South Africa where there is not much encaustic happening, so your advice is heaven sent. Can you please tell me – the photos printed on cardstock – how would you go about hanging this on a wall? Im not sure how to prepare this at all, perhaps framed but without glass like an oil painting?
It’s so great to know that people all over the world are reading! Yes you can frame without the glass. I have framed my monotype paintings with matboard behind glass.
I don’t like to use gloves when I work encaustics. What’s the best way to remove wax from hands .?
I don’t wear gloves working with beeswax encaustic medium and I don’t find that I need to do more than just wash my hands after painting. I took one workshop where we used microcrystalline wax, I didn’t like the way my hands felt that day and would have prefered using gloves. I would recommend gloves when using products such as shellac, dry pigments and alcohol inks. It is always wise to consult material safety data sheets for any product you use.
I am just starting with encaustics and do not want to spend a lot of money on substrates, we have lots of scraps of plywood, drywall, water color paper around – can I use these just for practice?
Sure all of those are fine for encaustic.
when i apply the encaustic mixed with oil paint onto the board i’m painting on, it starts cracking and flakes off. i thought this might be because i had the wax too hot and the temperature change was too drastic once i put the paint on the board, but i turned down the heat and it still cracks. do you know why this is happening or how to fix it? thanks, madison
I’m not sure what you’re doing
I hope I’ll be able to help you sort out the problem.
I have 2 questions.
After applying and fusing a # of layers of pastel,is it okay to use encaustic paint over it?
Also, I layer down an area of oil stick,and attempted to fuse lightly. Is it okay to paint over this with encaustic paint?
Thank you for your reply
Yes you can encapsulate oil with encaustic medium if the oil is still wet. And the oil stick layer shouldn’t be too thick. See this post – https://allthingsencaustic.com/pigment-sticks-encaustic/
Can I use oil pastels rather than pigment sticks?
Yes you can use oil pastels with encaustic. You can draw directly onto wax with an oil pastel and then gently fuse.
I see on Pinterest some artists using encaustic inside little tins…. do you think they had to prime the surface first with encaustic gesso… or went straight to wax? thank you!
Encaustic Gesso is used to prime the substrate before wax is applied. This is an optional step.
Encaustic Medium (beeswax and damar resin) is heated in little tins and oil paint or pigment is added to the melted medium. Does that answer your question?
yes,,, thank you
Can I use encaustic on glass?
You can use Plexiglass – You’ll want to use sandpaper or steel wool first to rough up the surface creating a toothy surface so the encaustic will adhere. I have never seen encaustic on glass. You can try and let me know how it works out. I would be interested to know if it is archivally sound.
Can you reuse scrapped off encaustic wax by filtering out the pigment?
I save wax scrapings, melt them down and add black paint to make black medium. If you keep your scraps sorted you can create colours other than black. I don’t know of any way to filter out the pigment.
Is there a way to thin the wax? It seems that when putting the wax on the painting, it hardens so quickly and therefore difficult to get it to spread in an even manner. I know that you go over it with a heat source but I’m wondering if there’s a way to thinning it down even before applying it.
No, you don’t want to thin the encaustic medium. What ratio of beeswax to damar resin are you using? If your substrate is warm before you start to apply that will help. You could also try the pouring technique.
I really have the same question.
It is almost like the medium is hardening before I have the change to do what I would like to do.
In all video’s it looks like artists have all the time to work in a relax way and brush the medium in a normal pace on the board. Nothing like me who has to hurry Like crazy to be able to brush some medium on the board at all.
Hot wax on my wrist because my haste and lumps on the board.
Am I living in a to cold environment?
Feeling unmotivated 🙁
Diana, are your brushes warm? Either leave the brushes sitting in the molten wax or rest them on the side of the griddle. Are you using pots to hold your molten wax or are you melting the wax directly on the griddle? I find that leaving brushes sitting in pots of molten wax works well.
Thanks for the quick reply!
I have my brushes warm. On the hotplate or in the aluminum cup full of the medium.
The room is cold, because I read that you have to ventilate.
So I have a fan on the right of me, blowing fumes who maybe are there, to the open window on the left.
Could that be the problem?
I live in Holland so no sunny and warm environment for me.
It also takes at least two hours before the block of medium is melted
So what could be the problem do you think?
Kind regards, Diana
Read about ventilation here – https://allthingsencaustic.com/encaustic-studio-ventilation/ It does sound as if your studio may be too cold, two hours is a long time depending on the size of the block of medium.
Hi. Can you recommend a good book to get me started. I live in England in the south west and can’t find any class to give me an introduction, but this is something I have wanted to do for a while as I love to layer.
My top two current favourites are:
Encaustic Art, The Complete Guide to Creating Fine Art with Wax by Lissa Rankin and The Encaustic Studio: A Wax Workshop in Mixed-Media Art by Daniella Woolf. The nice thing about this is one is that it includes a DVD.
Hi 🙂 can candle wax be used as an encaustic medium? Perhaps with the addition of damar resin?
I would only use pure beeswax and yes you need to add damar resin. Damar is a hardening agent, beeswax alone is too fragile.
Can I use oil paint on encaustic.
I would like to add clear letters.
I’m not clear as to what you’re trying to do but yes you can use oil paint with encaustic. You’ll need to have the right oil/wax ratio.
If I create a series of monotypes using acrylic paint on thin paper (super thin), can embed the monotype(s) in my encaustic painting? I want to transparentize the paper in the painting with the wax but utilize some of interesting texturing from the monotype.
Personally, I would only use an encaustic monotype in an encaustic painting. But I suggest you give the freezer test a try. See the question above “How do I check if a substrate is suitable for encaustic using the freezer test?”
what is the difference between an oil stick and a pigment stick in encaustics?
Hi Hilda – Pigment sticks are oil sticks. You can read more here https://allthingsencaustic.com/pigment-sticks-encaustic/
Do I need to heat encaustic gesso to apply?
No Donna you don’t. It isn’t wax it is a chalky paint.
Hi I was wondering if you can cure encaustic paintings quicker…? I usually buff before they go to little shops but worry that a bloom will come onto the surface and they will look dull when a customer takes them home. I saw a previous post about a top coat from Evan’s but unfortunately they don’t seem to post to Ireland. Much appreciated article full of great information….
I’m not aware of any way to speed up curing. I include this info sheet with paintings I sell. https://allthingsencaustic.com/encaustic-care-instructions/
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 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