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
Follow these 5 steps to learn how to paint with encaustic
- 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’ve 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.
- 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.
Some artists mix all of their colours directly on the griddle, while others use metal tins. I have done both but I usually use containers.
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.
- Applying the wax – Brush the medium onto the substrate
Choose natural hair brushes (hake or hog bristle brushes) for encaustic, synthetic brushes will melt.
You 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.
- 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.
- Scraping, Incising and Gouging
Clay tools work well for scraping, incising, and gouging into encaustic wax. Scraping helps you achieve a smooth surface. Read more here about encaustic scraping tools
The sky’s the limit….
Encaustic is a very versatile medium. There are seemingly endless possibilities for creating art. Here are a few other techniques to explore now that you understand the basic process.
- 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
- Stencils and stamps can be added to encaustic artwork
- Embellish with gold leaf, pan pastels, rust
Want to learn more about how to paint with encaustic?
- How to print a large image onto multiple pages - June 12, 2021
- Artist Conversation with Andrea Bird - May 23, 2021
- An Easier Encaustic Photo Transfer: The Parchment Paper Method - April 5, 2021
- How to Reclaim Wax-covered Boards - March 9, 2021
- Bee Colony Collaboration | Artist Conversation with Ava Roth - March 2, 2021
- Make Two—At least | Work on Multiple Paintings at a Time - February 23, 2021
- When it’s Hard to Make Art | Finding Momentum - February 8, 2021
- Yes, You Can Paint with Encaustic on Plexiglass - December 13, 2020
- How to Make and Pigment Encaustic Gesso - June 8, 2020
- The power of differences to make your art stronger - February 24, 2020