Home / Encaustic Techniques / Encaustic Painting with Rust
How to create rust for Encaustic Painting

Encaustic Painting with Rust for Powerful Effect | Step by step instructions

Encaustic rust

Encaustic Irony and Rust

Thought Bubble…Now rust would be an interesting conversation in an encaustic painting!

First hurdle. How do I get this intriguing organic substance for my art without wrestling a rusty piece of iron from the scrap yard into my home studio?



Big Box Hardware, here I come. A little aisle surfing and steel wool caught my eye and leapt into the cart!

Next hurdle. Break through the protective coating used on steel to prevent rust. Some iron products even have a thin coating of wax. As an encaustic artist, I appreciated the ‘iron’y.

In this case, however, steel wool has a microscopic oil layer.

More curiosity screen time led to a link about pickling steel, a process used to remove the protective coating. My grandmother was a pickling wizard. Pickled cucumbers, beets, and watermelon rinds; you name it, and out came the vinegar. I can say I finally have her with the pickled steel.

Now to soak the steel in vinegar, and then expose it to oxygen and moisture. A two-step process.

Then again, I’m a bit patience challenged. Why not speed this up and mix some pickle with some H20? One-step process!

[clickToTweet tweet=”#Encaustic painting with #rust by @journez How-to instructions + photos to get you started pic.twitter.com/rzZkmcexFC” quote=”Encaustic painting with rust! How-to instructions and photos to get you started “]

How to create rust for encaustic painting

Supply ListVinegar, Steel wool, and water to create rust for encaustic painting

  • Glass dish
  • Glass jar with lid
  • Steel wool
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Paint brush


  1. Set steel wool inside glass dish
  2. Mix 1 part vinegar to 1 part water in spray bottle.
  3. Spray steel wool with mixture and let sit for several hours or overnight
  4. Store rusty run off liquid in glass jar
  5. Create art

I use rust like paint for my encaustic art. Brush on, let the moisture evaporate, then fuse.

This seemed the safest way to produce rust. I encourage your own research.

Safety Precautions

This technique does produce a smell similar to sulfur — ventilate! Wear gloves and a surgical breathing mask so you don’t breath in the particles.

encaustic painting with rust by Sharon Blomquist
“Mesabi Homage” | “Cuyuna Homage”
Encaustic Paintings by Sharon Blomquist

Enjoy encaustic painting with rust!

If you have a tip to share about using rust in encaustic painting, please join the conversation and leave comments below. Thanks for reading.

About Sharon Blomquist

My best conversations are with abstract art. It is a place where the discourse can go where it may, and the final word is always a delightful surprise. Working with encaustic is like creating the Creme Brulee of the visual art world. I use a torch and am surrounded by the delicious aroma of sweet beeswax. Fuse on! Sharon Blomquist

Visit My Website
View All Posts

21 thoughts on “Encaustic Painting with Rust for Powerful Effect | Step by step instructions”

  1. Thank you so much for your post. Inspired me to experiment and now I see a lot more rust in my future. 😉
    I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. Should any rust be covered by a layer of medium to protect it?
    Thank you again for your expertise and time!!

    1. For a couple of my paintings, I used Krylon Artist Spray Workable Fixatif over the rust. I don’t know why a light fusing wasn’t enough for them when other paintings were fine. The Fixatif did darken the rust considerably.

  2. Just found this on Pinterest. Good article, easy to follow instructions that helped me creatively. Your grandmother would be proud. Pickle away

  3. Rust is one of my favorite tools. Try putting rusty items directly on the encaustic wax surface and spray with a mixture of half vinegar and half water. Let the mixture evaporate and dry. Enjoy the rusty design left on the wax. You can scrape off gently any of the rust you don’t want. Put a layer of wax over the design to seal. I also embed rusty nails and other rusty items into the wax.

    1. How does time effect the rust and encaustic? Does the encaustic “fall” or peel away from the nails? Does rust impact the encaustic in any way?

      1. Hi Deborah,

        Fusing so that the wax encapsulates the rust will help it to stick. I have also used Krylon Artist Spray Workable Fixatif over the rust when fusing wasn’t enough. The Fixatif did darken the rust considerably.

  4. Stumbled on this via Pinterest – thank you internet! There is a real shortage of knowledge about these encaustic techniques in my part of the world (NE UK) so thank you so much for your generous sharing. So timely, I just had failed experiment trying rusty iron wire on a recent piece of work so this technique may fill the gap perfectly.

  5. Thank you so much for generously sharing this technique. I plan to have some fun with creating some rusty encaustic art. Awesome idea.

  6. Merci pour ce site merci pour votre partage de vos expériences c est encore plus important qu il y a peu de cours de ateliers ma ou je habite ( France )
    Merci encore
    Thank you for this site thank you for sharing your experiences it is even more important that there are few courses of workshops ma or I live (France)
    thanks again

  7. You can then use the rusty steel wool on paper, spray again with vinegar water mix and leave wool in contact with paper overnight. Voila beautiful rusty collage paper. I like to use this on baking/parchment sheets from the supermarket the paper almost disappears in the wax

Leave a Comment

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

Scroll to Top