Frequently encaustic printmakers ask how to resolve the issue of beading on the HOTbox plate.
What is the #1 reason HOTbox plates bead up?
The answer is wax.
- Certain transparent colors of wax are of a chemical nature that causes the wax to separate on the plate, i.e. Green Gold or Indian Yellow, synthetic pigments, etc.
- Wax used for cleaning that is not fully removed from the plate and possibly begins to permeate the plate or at least build up on the plate over time.
- Adding wax or medium to your plate while printing will increase beading of some colors. Of course, this is done to make colors and/or the paper transparent. Use it sparingly and pay attention to what happens. If it beads and you don’t want that, then don’t use that color, or don’t use it with additional wax. Then clean thoroughly. (see Cleaning the plate below).
Why is excess wax the culprit?
Not sure but my guess is that over time it permeates the plate. I know that on my 60″ Hotbox I work in certain sections most often, those sections need extra attention to stop the beading.
What helps prevent beading?
- To prevent beading, use only water to clean your plate not wax.
- Only use wax to clean the plate when you really have to i.e. when pigment is noticeable on the surface and the pigment color will interfere with other colors in an undesirable way. And then only use a tiny bit of wax and clean it off thoroughly. Having a bit of pigment left on the plate between prints can be very desirable for accidental blending and helping colors relate to each other.
- It is not necessary to clean the plate between prints! That is a personal choice. You may be able to add a new color to a GHOST print, or simply rearrange any pigment that is left and add new pigment. I have found that more concentrated pigment (i.e., less wax to pigment ratio) and using pigment that is noticeably more grainy provides a “tooth” that aids in layering or at least in less beading.
Cleaning the plate
1. Cleaning the plate with water
- While the plate is HOT, spray with water in sections and wipe with a rag.
- Turn the rag to a clean side and repeat as necessary for the desired effect. Heavy pigments (graphite, metallic, etc) are more difficult to remove.
- If you want your plate cleaner than it is, add a tiny bit of either wax or alcohol and wipe. Read ALL below.
2. Cleaning the plate with wax
What kind of wax should you use to clean the plate? I use beeswax, occasionally medium. JUST A TINY BIT!!! I don’t find that it matters but plain beeswax is certainly less expensive. I do not use soy wax as it is harder to remove. Do not use paraffin (a petroleum product). This was the recommended product back when I first learned and is even on my DVD. But things change with new knowledge.
3. Cleaning the plate with alcohol
If you want it even cleaner use Isopropyl alcohol in the highest concentration possible (99% is best, from your pharmacy or Amazon) and at high heat 180°F or so. Turn on your exhaust fan first and stand away from fumes. Pour a puddle in a small section and wipe with a clean rag. Repeat all over. It evaporates quickly so do a “puddle” at a time.
A few more points:
- In my opinion, beading has nothing much to do with temperature, except at higher temps more wax melts. And if the plate is cool you cant remove the wax residue.
- Paper towels do not clean plates! USE cotton rags, Rags in a Box, or Viva paper towels.
- Turn your plate over, the BACKSIDE of your plate is perfectly usable too!
- Abrasive cleaning, or perhaps long term use, may wear off the anodizing. If that happens, get a new plate, or have it re-anodized (which will involve shipping and cost more).
- You can always utilize the “beading up” to your advantage to create an interesting print.
- Jay Tolbert at Vent A Fume Corp is your source for HOTboxes and plates. Message him!
- Take an Encaustic Printmaking Workshop with Paula Roland
- Read more posts about Encaustic Printmaking