You can purchase pre-made encaustic medium or you can make your own. 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’s the difference between beeswax and 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.
Natural beeswax: In its natural state beeswax is yellow. Bee pollen gives natural beeswax its yellow colour.
Refined, filtered or bleached 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 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 to make encaustic medium
In addition to beeswax and damar resin crystals, you will need the following tools.
- 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
- wooden paint stirrer or spoon
- 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.
- 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
- silicon muffin cups (or nonstick baking 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. In the video below, artist Susan Crouse-Kemp uses 1 part damar resin crystals for every 8 parts of filtered beeswax.
Video tutorial: Step-by-step instructions for making encaustic medium
Ready to get started? Buy filtered beeswax and damar resin here.
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