Encaustic Gesso is typically used to prime your substrate so that you are beginning with a white ground. But, encaustic gesso doesn’t have to be white. In this post, you’ll discover two ways to tint encaustic gesso.
Underpainting with Encaustic Gesso
In 2011, Hylla Evans introduced us to Using Coloured Gesso for Encaustic Underpainting. Underpainting allows you to map out your painting composition before you add wax layers.
Make your own encaustic gesso
In her post, Testing Suitable Encaustic Grounds using the Freezer Test, Amie Brand provides her recipe for making your own encaustic gesso.
2 part cheap white acrylic paint and 1 part calcium carbonate
Yes, I know that acrylic isn’t considered acceptable for an encaustic painting. Let’s not debate it here, go read Amie’s blog post. Alternatively, Chalk paint, milk paint and clay-based paints are also suitable.
2 ways to tint encaustic gesso
Whether you make your own encaustic gesso, use white chalk/clay-based paint or buy Encaustic Gesso, it is great to be able to mix your own coloured gesso.
1. Tint encaustic gesso with fluid acrylic paints
According to R&F, you can use fluid acrylic paints to tint their encaustic gesso. Yes, R&F encaustic gesso does have some acrylic in it.
Can you tint encaustic gesso?~ Richard Frumess, R&F Handmade Paints
Yes. I would recommend using a fluid acrylic. It will not allow the addition of too much acrylic, which would take away the gesso’s porosity. Since it is the same chemical it will mix in more uniformly than adding another type of medium, which might react to the acrylic in the encaustic gesso.
2. Tint encaustic gesso with Kama Pigments Aqua-dispersions
Aqua-dispersions from Kama Pigments are another great way to tint encaustic gesso. Thanks to artist and instructor Jeffrey Hirst for teaching this to me.
AQUA-DISPERSIONS are finely ground pigments suspended in water that enables you to easily make any kind of water-based paint.
The term dispersion refers to the fact that the pigments aggregates have been separated (dispersed) to their finest level: the final result is an aqueous solution of finely divided pigments with outstanding tinting power. Hence, Aqua-dispersions should not be confused for paint or as a painting technique, but rather as another form in which pigments are available.Kama Pigments
Think of when you go to the paint store to buy house paint. The cans of paint that are taken from the shelf don’t contain the pigment. When you select a paint chip, drops of pigment are added to the paint.
Aqua dispersions are pigments they don’t contain binders:
pigment + binder = paint.
Aqua-dispersions (pigment) + Encaustic Gesso (binder) = paint suitable for an encaustic ground.
The way I use these pigment preparations is to mix a few drops into white R&F encaustic gesso, stirring with a popsicle stick to combine. I mix up the colours as I need them. It is important to know that you can not mix Aqua-dispersions into molten wax.
Aqua Dispersion or dry pigment
Aqua-Dispersions are made from the same high-quality pigments sold in powder form. You can use dry pigment, but be careful. There are health concerns when working with powdered dry pigments. Aqua-dispersions are pigments in water, so there isn’t as much of a concern about breathing in dry pigment that becomes airborne.
Give it a try!
I recommend tinting a small amount of encaustic gesso at a time. Keep in mind that the gesso is white so that is going to lighten your colours. I’m enjoying creating mixed-media underpaintings starting with coloured gesso, a variety of collage papers, and mark-making tools before I apply any wax. The underlying history creates a beautiful rich background for encaustic work.
Please add your comments below. If you want to share your work, join the All Things Encaustic Facebook group.
If you’re interested in this topic, read more about encaustic gesso & alternatives in these posts:
- Why use encaustic gesso to prepare a substrate?
- Make your own Encaustic Gesso
- The Freezer Test – how to test suitable encaustic grounds
- Two ways to tint Encaustic Gesso
- Yes, you can use Chalk Paint in place of Encaustic Gesso
- Venetian Plaster an Alternative to Encaustic Gesso
- Stain the substrate with India ink before you begin to paint in place of encaustic gesso
- Create Three-Dimensional Structures With Fosshape - April 2, 2023
- How to reuse encaustic scrapings - February 2, 2023
- Christina Lovisa’s Homemade Paste for Collage - December 12, 2022
- Glass As A Substrate For Encaustic Painting! - November 8, 2022
- How to organize your art studio - October 21, 2022
- Create Beautiful Cyanotype Prints To Use In Encaustic Paintings - September 13, 2022
- How To Do An Encaustic Pour For Outstanding Results - July 12, 2022
- The Best Way To Paint A Smooth Encaustic Surface - June 24, 2022
- How To Use Sumi Rice Paper For Photo Encaustic - June 3, 2022
- How to Create Encaustic Vessels with Creative Paperclay - May 21, 2022
8 thoughts on “How to Make and Pigment Encaustic Gesso”
Can I use powder pigment to color encaustic gesso?
yes, you can but be careful not to inhale the dry pigment.
Have you ever used clear acrylic gesso with encaustics? Or do you have a recipe for clear encaustic gesso?
Hi Emily, Yes I have used clear gesso before adding encaustic medium. It works really well if you have collage materials or a photograph that is too glossy for encaustic.
Can epoxy resin pigments be used with encaustic medium.
No, I don’t think so. I’m not sure exactly what epoxy resin pigments are but a quick search and I see they are referred to as dyes. You can use oil paint or dry pigments but I don’t think these will work.
All very useful, Ruth. Thanks.
It’s great to hear about materials and techniques that broaden our understanding of this wonderful medium. Thank you for sharing this information… this is a great forum.
Thanks for the great information!