Pre-made encaustic medium can readily be purchased but you will save money if you make it yourself. Many artists buy the raw materials and make their own. Here’s what you need to know to make your own encaustic wax medium – materials and step-by-step instructions.
What is encaustic medium?
Encaustic medium is made with filtered beeswax and damar resin crystals. Synthetic waxes are commercially available, but beeswax is the type of wax that is traditionally used for encaustic art.
In its natural state beeswax is yellow. Bee pollen gives natural beeswax its yellow colour.
Refined, filtered or bleached beeswax:
White beeswax has been mechanically processed to filter out the bee pollen and turn it white.
Damar (or Dammar) resin crystals
Damar resin is a hard natural tree resin sourced from trees in East Asia and India. It is a sticky sap that oozes from the tree, the trees are not damaged by the extraction process. To prepare encaustic medium, damar resin crystals are added to beeswax. Do not use damar varnish.
The addition of damar resin crystals makes the medium more durable than beeswax alone and hardens it and raises its melting temperature. Adding damar resin allows the encaustic painting to be buffed to a higher, more translucent sheen and helps prevent bloom (a white cloud on the surface).
Encaustic medium is available to buy in a variety of forms, as:
- ready-to-use encaustic paints (medium is premixed with colour pigment) in tins, blocks or sticks
- pre-made plain natural or refined encaustic medium to which you can add oil paint/pigment for colour
- raw materials (damar resin crystals and beeswax) to make your own encaustic medium —use it to dilute highly pigmented encaustic paints, or add oil paint or pigment for colour as you work
Equipment Needed to make Encaustic Medium
In addition to beeswax and damar resin crystals, you will need the following equipment. Work in a well-ventilated studio space. Silicone utensils work best. For your convenience, I’ve put together an Amazon shopping list (the affiliate links help fund this site
- a deep heated vessel — i.e. an electric skillet or crockpot, electric palette, grill or griddle with a pan. Have a look at a thrift store — I bought mine for $7
- a thermometer to test the accuracy of your skillet
- a stirrer: wooden paint stick, silicone spoon, large natural brush
- to filter the medium you also need
- a tight-weave cloth such as microfiber cloths, cotton muslin or flannel sheets. If using cheesecloth, as in the video below, make sure you use multiple layers thick enough to capture all of the particulate matter.
- a large container – silicone, metal or plastic
- rubber bands to hold the cloth over the top of the container
- a silicone soup ladle
- silicone muffin cups
Recipe to make your own Encaustic medium
There is no standard encaustic medium recipe. Different artists and manufacturers will use a different ratio of damar to beeswax.
- R&F’s medium is a 9:2 (4.5:1) ratio
- Enkaustikos standard medium is 6:1
- I purchase my encaustic beeswax & damar from Waxworks Encaustics. They use a 5:1 ratio of wax to damar resin crystals.
I recommend buying from a local supplier or a company such as R&F. Avoid wax from China and check reviews before purchasing.
Many encaustic artists start with a ratio of 8 parts of filtered beeswax to one part damar resin crystals and increase the amount of beeswax from there to find the ratio that they prefer.
How to make your own Encaustic Medium
Important: never leave the skillet unattended during this process. Do this in a properly ventilated studio.
- Measure the beeswax and damar resin in the quantities specified in your recipe (Waxworks Encaustics damar/beeswax comes pre-measured 🙂 ).
- Heat your skillet to 220°F (never above). Use a thermometer, don’t rely solely on the skillet temperature control.
- I wear disposable gloves and crush the damar resin crystals in a Ziploc bag with a hammer to speed up the melting process.
- Some people melt the beeswax first, others melt the damar first with just a bit of beeswax, and still, others put them in together. Experiment to see how you like to do it. The damar will be very sticky.
- Stir the mixture until the damar resin crystals and wax are combined.
- If you are going to strain the medium you will need to ladle it through a cloth into a prepared container. You can use elastic bands to hold cheesecloth in place over your container.
- Once filtered you can ladle the medium into the muffin cups.
- Allow the medium to cool then pop them out.
- Sediment will have collected on the bottom of the pucks. You can heat the bottom of the puck and then scrape off the dirty wax and discard it.
Adding Colour to your Encaustic Medium
- You can purchase highly pigmented encaustic paints and extend them with your own medium.
- A small amount of oil paint can be added to the medium
- Some artists mix in powdered pigments. Be very careful not to breathe these in.
Ready to get started?
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31 thoughts on “How to make your own Encaustic Medium | Instructions & Recipes”
First time trying to melt beeswax and resin following instructions from a book. The wax melted fine but the resin did not and settled to the bottom of crockpot, although I stirred often. Resin never melted. Now it’s stuck on the bottom of pot. What do I do? Throw the pot out?
Did you buy damar resin? Did you try putting the damar in a bag and smashing it with a hammer?
Well, I’m starting with encaustic as a medium over photographic prints. Using matt so the wax will stick. The issue I’m having is that of “polishing” the final product. It doesn’t shine. Using a cotton cloth but I’ve seen encaustic art that has a nice sheen to it. I used a 8:1 ratio of beeswax to Damar resin (without carnuba).
Would more resin and perhaps 6% carnuba offer better shining?
Hi Michael, I use a 5:1 ratio and mine can be buffed to a shine. TBH I’ve never used a different ratio or Carnuba so I can’t comment on those.
Is the ratio of wax to damar by weight or volume
Hi Steve, I recommend by weight.
Hey there, can anyone suggest a ratio of wax to damar that increases durability on the surface?? 4 to 1 was referenced early in this thread, but no one responded to the question.
I just started mixing my own medium and as the pieces are sculptural, they need to be moved once in a while. Commercial medium seems soft.
Hi Keith, I use a 5:1 ratio. I’m not creating sculptures but I have a series of accretion pieces that are very 3-D and they are standing up very well.
Can luster wax be substituted for damar? It seems to have similar properties. I am layering up to 50 fused layers of alternating colors and then carving into the stack. I’d like to be able to hold the piece in my hands without it softening. What produces the smoothest most durable result without the layers smearing under my carving tools?
Hi David, I haven’t used Luster Wax. I suggest you contact Enkaustikos directly. Their website talks about adding only a small amount to your encaustic medium. https://www.encausticpaints.com/sundries/luster
Hello–I am just starting out with encaustic. In the process of getting all the tools and figuring out how to make the medium. The piece I want to make is a cradled board that is 30 X 60. Can’t decide if I will glue thick paper to it or canvas and then gesso –and then add medium. My cradled board is about 1.5 thick—should I use painters tape on the edges? And I am wondering about the pre-mix Vs. making your own medium. I know it is expensive–but wondering how much I will need to cover a 30 X 60 board? Guessing it will need 2-3 layers after I gesso–and then another 2-3 layers after I add canvas–might be adding other items on top of the canvas. Watching videos of medium produced –and small pucks as a result–that get melted down and they only seem to cover a small substrate — 8 X10? I am trying to figure out how much I would need if I bought it premade? (from R & F) Or if I made it on my own–how much filtered beeswax and Damar Chrystals would I need to make enough medium for my painting? I am not seeing any encaustic blogs that address this. Thanks for your help.
What ratio of wax to oil pastel do you suggest if going that route? For and opaque wax…
Thank you some really useful beginner tips to use on my photos. I’m also having problems with yellow dried wax and think I need to get a thermometer same as Robyn Above. Great idea to crush the resin first …why didn’t i think of that? Should I be using filtered beeswax?Is soy wax an option?
Just a word of caution, you forgot an very healthy and important thing, I would say a MUST to have in your studio : a very good ventilation system or at least a proper mask.
I see some well known artists doing demos with neither one of these.
Three artists I know in my area have developed cancer for not having one.
Be very careful!
All the best
Thanks Cristina for commenting. I’ve modified the post linking to another post about the importance of venting your studio. However, I would caution against assigning the cause of cancer to unventilated encaustic fumes.
Has anyone on here used encaustic extensively over an acrylic mixed media panel?!
No, you don’t want to paint with encaustic directly over acrylic. Christina Lovisa in her book Two Worlds Collide talks about using Chalk Paint to transition a piece, preparing a toothy ground for encaustic medium. Read more here – https://allthingsencaustic.com/mixed-media-collage-ground/
I have! I know traditionally it should be oils, or even more precise Tempra like the Eqyptians did in the oldest art collection in the world. I love it, you just need to make sure the underpainting is completely dry
Thanks for taking the time to make this post. I have been creating over acrylics for years. Yes, its a no no adding acrylics to the layers or the wax itself…however, my underpainting has been acrylics and my work always turns out! I am going to venture though into oils now and creating my own pigments all thanks to your article!
I have a really dumb question. I’m just getting started and I don’t have a thermometer. I suspect the problem I’m having though, relates to temperature. When I put the wax on my gessoed cradle board it is yellow and doesn’t lie flat – brush strokes, bubbles, bumps. I heated the board and that helped a little with the texture but I still am seeing a very yellow cast to the medium. I thought I’d through out this batch of medium and start over – with a thermometer. Do you think that’s my problem? Did I get it too hot?
Perhaps you’re not using filtered beeswax? I also find that the wax needs to be hit with heat after applied to the panels to get it smoother. I’ve really embraced the idiosyncrasies of the wax in my work, though.
Can you help? I made medium with some pigments and result is fine. But surface isnť smooth on all sides. And on the underside is always little bit different shade, do you know why?
Photo is here: https://imgur.com/a/qyNJz
(sorry for my english)
I also have the same problem… I did a batch of blue and purple and it is quite translucent and the top of the cake I made is pale versus the store bought medium with color in it (Enkaustic version). Any hints on creating a more opaque medium? I use beeswax and damar resin and add oil paint. are there other pigments or paints that can be added?
Thank you in advance.
You wax may be too hot when you pour it. Once everything is melted together turn the heat off and start mixing in your pigment. Mix until the temperature falls to around 150 degrees, then pour into your molds. This will help prevent the pigment from settling in the wax before it hardens. Hope that helped!
Also – try using powdered pigments instead of oil paints. It will take a lot of pigment to make an opaque paint. I just made some blue paint sticks last night and used 50g of pigment to 250ml of homemade medium. This makes a very vibrant blue. You’ll want to add powdered pigment slowly, and only once the wax has cooled to under 200 degrees. This will prevent clumps and discoloration.
Can I just dip my paper into the medium before it dries?
Hi Taylor. Yes, you can dip paper into molten encaustic medium. I did this in this piece – https://allthingsencaustic.com/encaustic-scrolls/
My ratio on medium is 4 beeswax and 1 damar resin crystal, but I still can marking on the surface easily after made it, means is still not too hard. Is that ok?
Nice article but even better you live in my home away from home Toronto I live in Texas. Last year I rented a house on the islands to watch the leaves change, great time. Came back with over 6000 pictures to begging the process of my new series. I’ve worked in encaustic for over 25 years now love every minuet of it always a learning experience almost like opening presents Christmas Day. My site is down for now, my web designer is on his way from Florida to spend the week with me to get it up and going … If ya friend me on face book you’ll see many of my works there And if ya look hard enough I think there is a documentary from Texas Country Reporter if ya can’t find it there go to YouTube and type in Texas country reporter and under search type beeswax artist From that you’ll see my inturpetation of encaustic I also use resin along with it to give it an even deeper effect
Just wanted to say nice article Reason being now everyone has to go to the 1000% markup art store Grin. I buy thousands of pounds a year from local bee keepers
Enjoy the weather up there I’m sure everyone is coming out of hibernation right about now grin
Thanks for commenting Darrell, it’s nice to know someone is reading the blog 🙂 Prepared medium is convenient and perfect for beginners but at some point every serious artist will want to make encaustic medium on their own, whether to save money or to just as part of the artistic process.
I have jars of powder pigments from Pearl paints. Can I use this to add color to my encaustic medium and if so how do I go about it?
Hi Jean-Marie! Have a look at this post about Pearl Ex Pigment Powder