Encaustic Painting With Wax

Techniques

There are an increasing number of  methods and techniques for use of encaustic paint. On this page we will discuss a few. Although some of these techniques are used primarily by crafters, they can also be  applied by painters to successfully accomplish desired look.

Glazing

A common and favored technique with many master artists. This technique practices using small ratios of pigment to medium to create a tint or transparency in the paint where as the under layer is blended or modified from the new layer. However,  with this technique the wax sometimes lightens  the tint (especially with heavy applications) because it does not always set clear.

Hot Air Blending

This was one of the first methods used the same as a torch a hot air gun is used to soften the line by heating the colored wax on canvas. It can also be used for special dripping effects when wax is heated to a liquid state.

Scratching

A well known method in Italy and France since the renaissance with various mediums identified as Scraffito, is an effective means to create intricate detail without altering the medium,  the scratching method removes small quantities of built up  layers of paint exposing a contrasting under layer of  wax where a subject or design is drawn. Then either the detail is revealed where the under layer is left  or the scratched area is filled with another  color to complete this technique.

A mixed media version known as Kut -kut  builds interwoven lines where encaustic  layered  textures including other materials  such as lacquer, shellac, glass and sand is combined with the process of sgraffito. A merged European and Oriental style and process from between the 15th and 18th centuries, the Kut -kut  technique was mastered by the indigenous tribes of Samar island in the Philippines. This ancient style is characterized by it’s  texture, delicate woven lines and it’s illusive 3 D designs.

click on image for enlarged view

A rare original Kut-kut artwork
Permission from art collector
Dr. Robert Martin
Baguio City, Philippines

Cold Method

The “cold method” of wax painting used by the Greeks, was a method used  for fine details.  Note:  most wax mediums must be able to adhere to an absorbent surface of the painting which is why acrylic gesso preparation is generally not used. This is an important basis for  limiting the amount of linseed or any other oils used in your paint. Using this medium directly to canvas is not recommended. It is much better utilized with the final layers of your painting after several layers have already been applied. 

To make this medium melt beeswax and strain once in liquid state to remove impurities. Add “cold pressed unrefined sun thickened linseed oil” in no higher than an equal ratio to the bees wax  and blend completely. Note: refined linseed oil WILL NOT perform the same.  To this milky substance to use as a hardener, add melted liquid damar resin at a ratio of  1 part damar to six parts medium and mix in completely.  Store this as a medium in a sealed container until ready to blend with your oil tube paint. Vary damar ratios slightly as needed to obtain desired effects. More damar produces a harder finish. Because dry time is extended to remain workable for 24 hrs it will possibly take much longer to dry completely. Finish is obtained the same as encaustic by buffing with a clean dry cloth.

Irons 

This is a successful method used by crafters by smearing a heated iron loaded with paint across the surface or dabbing to create special effects and texture. You can use the bottom, triangular tip or the side edge to get different results.

Pen irons

With heated tips these irons pick up the wax and are used the way an ink pen was used with an ink bottle. Because the pen maintains a working temperature this tool is often favored by modern artists for detail.

Decoupage

This method is often used where an image or drawing,  layers of paper or fiber, or even a metallic foil, is laid down and painted or finished over with wax medium to create a mixed medium effect. With this method the wax acts as an adhesive as well as the finish in each layer of the painting.

Collage

Is done similar to decoupage but images and/or other materials are grouped together as a significant means of expression.

Encaustic Monotype on Paper

A relatively new experimental process merges the painter’s vision via joint  use of the encaustic medium and the monotype printing process. Encaustic paint is lightly applied as a  reversed image to a heated metal plate.  The melted wax  is manipulated with brushes and other tools while still hot and then a paper sheet is laid on the plate. When the paper is pressed onto the plate the back is rubbed and the image is absorbed into the paper. This works as a simple line drawing or silhouette or even a more complex multistage piece done in stages.  

Pancake Griddle Painting on Paper

This process allows you to create paintings on paper using small encaustic blocks as you would use pastels where the color can be manipulated with various tools to your satisfaction. By placing your paper on the griddle the heat is transferred to the encaustic blocks melting the wax as you apply it. When the paper is removed from the griddle the paint sets within minutes. This technique uses the medium with a rich pigment to medium ratio to avoid excessive built up.

Links related to Encaustic Painting

Encaustic Art

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