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 resin crystals
Damar resin is a hard natural tree resin sourced from deciduous trees. The trees are not damaged by the extraction process, it is comparable to tapping trees for maple syrup. 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 also serves to harden it and raise 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 —then adding 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.
- a heated vessel — i.e. an electric skillet or crock pot, electric roaster oven with removable insert, electric palette, grill or griddle with a pan
- a wooden paint stirrer or spoon
- If you’re going 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 – metal or plastic
- rubber bands to hold the cloth over the top of the container – or drape the cloth in a metal colander
- pot holders
- a 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.
I purchase my encaustic medium from Waxworks Encaustics. They use a five to one ratio of wax to damar.
In the video below, artist Susan Crouse-Kemp uses 8 parts of filtered beeswax to one part damar resin crystals.
How to make your own Encaustic Medium
- Melt the beeswax and damar resin in the electric skillet in the quantities specified in your recipe.
- Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or paint stir stick until the damar resin crystals and wax are combined. If you want to speed up the process you can first put the damar in a bag and smash it with a hammer.
- If you are going to strain the medium you will need to pour it through a cloth into a prepared container
- Ladle the medium into the muffin pan
- Allow the medium to cool then pop them out.
- Sediment will have collected on the bottom. You can heat the bottom of the puck and then scrape off the dirty wax and discard it.
Ready to get started? Buy filtered beeswax and damar resin here.
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