I’m pretty much a do-it-yourself type when it comes to encaustic supplies, but you can also buy most things ready to go. Here are some materials I like to use. Click on any photo to open a link to the vendor’s web page.
If you want to make your own medium and paint, Dadant is a beekeeping supply shop that sells really nice USP beeswax by the pound. Always use natural or white USP beeswax, but make sure it is not chemically bleached. Beeswax is available in yellow and white from a variety of sources, in several forms.
You will need to melt damar resin crystals into your beeswax to create encaustic medium. A common ratio is 1:8, or 1 part damar crystals to 8 parts beeswax. Strain the molten medium to remove particles that are present in the damar resin. No, damar varnish is NOT the same thing. See the “How-To” section below for a link to a good video on this process.
If making your own medium sounds like work, you can buy it already made. Clear medium is the basis for all encaustic art. It comes in blocks, tins, beads and pastilles.
You can buy paint already made, or color your own medium. Fine encaustic paints are available from a number of manufacturers and will provide you very reliable color and consistency. Encaustic colors come in blocks and sticks as well as tins, and you can buy them one color at a time.
You can use paint sticks or oil sticks for color: melt a bit on your palette or in a tin and mix with encaustic medium, draw with them, or use them for encaustic printing.
Pigments are available from many retailers, and I happen to like Sinopia and Kremer. You might also try Natural Pigments, who have other fabulous products for painters. To add pigment to medium to make your own paint, wear a mask and gloves. Melt the medium in small containers and add a small amount of dry pigment. Stir, and let the pigment and medium mix for a minute or two. Test the color on a test board, and add more pigment as needed until you reach the desired depth of color.
You can also color your wax medium with oil paints. Start with a little pigment, stir well, and let the heat bring out the color. Add more if you need more.
A newer product called Ceracolor is a water soluble fluid paint made with an encaustic medium. It’s pretty quick-drying and once dry, it can be set with heat. I have used it on top of “normal” warm encaustic and found it handy. I have used it on its own, too. A fluid retarder extends drying time but also thins the paint to a glaze. Available through Natural Pigments.
Brushes and scrapers: Pottery tools come in handy for manipulating the wax. They are readily available, but for that special tool, try Bailey Pottery. Brushes should be made of natural bristle, as nylon bristles can melt. You can find them in plenty of places, including hardware stores.
Kits are available for beginners – perhaps easier than assembling everything yourself:
For inexpensive and sturdy surfaces, I like to use birch plywood. Sometimes I use a product called Encausticbord from Ampersand and I really like the results. It can be found at art stores – I usually shop at Blick. (Here’s a video about Encausticbord, featuring a painting by one of my teachers, Francisco Benitez.) You can often find wood plywood panels and boxes, which are great for encaustic. You may want to treat them with rabbit skin glue (sizing). Or, just buy encaustic gesso.
Encaustic supplies are available at fine art stores. You won’t find much in the way of encaustic supplies at craft stores.
Other miscellaneous things I use include disposable mini loaf pans for wax medium. I buy them at the grocery store. You might want a few real metal ones for your favorite colors and clear medium. Builder’s paper to cover my work surface is something I purchase at the home improvement store, in the flooring department. A griddle makes a fine place to heat your wax, and can also be used as a hot palette, at least for light colors.
Heat is typically applied using a heat gun or a propane torch. Remember to fuse between every layer of wax! Craft stores sell inexpensive heat guns. R&F sells a fabulous heat gun that has heat and air volume control. If you like to use a torch, the big hardware store or plumbing supply store is the place for you. Especially handy are torches with ignition triggers. Inexpensive propane bottles can be found in lots of places, including camping stores, big box stores, and hardware stores.
For DIY gallery framing, I like pictureframes.com Remember to skip the glass!
R&F has a lot of information on their website, like on this resource page.
What the DIY artist really needs is a good recipe and instructions, so here is a great video that provides both. I would add this: wear a mask when dealing with the crushed damar – you don’t want to inhale the dust. I use an electric frying pan to make mine in and melt 4 pounds of wax and 1/2 pound of damar varnish in the pan. Keep the heat low enough to melt the wax slowly and create no smoke. Cupcake molds work well for making smaller cakes of encaustic medium.
Great books on encaustic painting are out there, and your library may have some of these: