Before you begin to paint with encaustic, you’ll need to pick-up encaustic art supplies and set-up a studio space. Once you have all the supplies you need in-hand, come back here to learn how to paint with encaustic.
5-step Encaustic Wax Painting Tutorial
1. Select and prepare a substrate
Start with a suitable substrate, you may wish to read about choosing and preparing substrates before you continue….
- Before you begin to paint you may wish to use painter’s tape to cover the sides of your panel. When you’re finished the piece you can remove the tape and decide how to further finish the edges of your painting.
- If you wish to paint on a white ground you can purchase Encausticbord or prepare your substrate with encaustic gesso or chalk paint. This is optional, it is perfectly acceptable to paint with encaustic directly on an unprimed panel or board.
2. Melt the encaustic medium in tins on a hot palette
Encaustic medium is made from beeswax and damar resin. You can read here about how to make your own encaustic medium or you can purchase ready-made encaustic medium.
I use a pancake griddle filled with small metal pots. I melt encaustic medium in these tins and then add oil paints for colour. You can also purchase pigmented medium.
3. Brush the medium onto the substrate
- Choose natural hair brushes for encaustic, synthetic brushes will melt.
- Your need to not only heat the wax but you also need a hot brush. Leave your brushes in the pots of coloured wax as you paint and they will stay warm enough.
- Now to start painting! Brush a layer of melted medium onto the substrate.
- Then fuse this first layer of wax to the substrate
4. Fuse every layer
Encaustic wax is applied to a painting in layers, and each layer is fused. Fusing as you work simply means to apply heat to allow each layer to soften enough in order to merge with the previous layers. Fusing provides bonding between layers and overall stability.
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 including the heat gun, blow torch, embossing heat gun, Encaustic iron, and stylus. Heat lamps can also be used. Different effects can be achieved with the different fusing tools.
5. The sky’s the limit….
Encaustic is a very versatile medium. There are seemingly endless possibilities for creating art.
- Medium can be translucent or opaque—you can work through the layers starting with a photograph or underpainting on the substrate
- There are any number of mark making methods to draw on encaustic
- Beeswax works very well with mixed media. The wax will hold absorbent collage elements in place.
- The encaustic surface can be textured or smooth
- The Photo transfer technique is one of my favourites
- Encaustic can be scraped, incised, stamped and stenciled
- Embellish with gold leaf, pan pastels, rust
Want to learn more about how to paint with encaustic?
If you’re wanting to a hands-on experience for learning how to paint with encaustic, I suggest you take a workshop. Andrea Bird teaches in Ontario and she offers short Give it a Whirl sessions as well as 1 and 2-day encaustic workshops.
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