Encaustic Resources

SUPPLIES

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.

Sinopia waxbeads

DadantBeeswax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Damar RF

Enk Damar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

EnkWaxMediums

RF Medium RF Medium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

EnkWaxColors Enk HotSticks

R&F WaxPaints

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

SennelierOilStick OilSticksR&F

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

SinopiaPigments

Kremer

NaturalPigments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Ceracolor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

LoopTrimTool

Hake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encaustikos, R&F, and others sell hot plates and heat guns and all sorts of supplies you might want to purchase:
HotTool

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

INFORMATION

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:

GROUPS

The International Encaustic Artists (IEA) website has a calendar with all sorts of happenings on it.
The Encaustic Art Institute offers workshops, publishes a magazine, and has a blog.  It also has a relationship with the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
There are conferences!  The International Encaustic Conference is an annual event.

SAFETY

Ventilation is very important, and I’ve seen many different ways that encaustic artists vent the wax fumes away from themselves.  Whether you go high tech or low tech, you just need to make sure you don’t heat the wax so much that it smokes, and you keep yourself safe from fumes and from pigment dust.
I’m a low tech girl.  I use a box fan blowing out the window of my studio.  My wax is between me and the fan.  I keep my palette at the lowest possible temperature to keep the wax liquid, just around 225 on the big electric griddle.  When I’m using smaller tins of wax, I find I can turn it down even lower.
Here is an excellent article about ventilation: this handout from R&F has illustrations.
It’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher handy.  I bought mine at the hardware store. Water is also good to have nearby.
If you mix your own wax paint colors, always wear a mask and gloves when handling powdered pigments.

HOW-TO

Some of the best resources for how to do stuff are videos posted on YouTube.
Here is one I like about making your own encaustic medium.  There are several, but this one is pretty thorough.

4 thoughts on “Encaustic Resources

  1. Elena Pappas

    Hi. Love Encaustic painting. I did my one and only painting in college in 1964.
    It is still on my wall. Would love to send you a pix. I always tell people that it is the oldest form of painting…found in Egyptian Tombs.

    I was influenced by Carl Zerby. I think he taught at the U of Iowa. He went
    blind as a result of using raw bees wax as he was allergic to the wax. Have you ever encountered that?

    1. Sharon Post author

      Hi Elena, please DO send me a picture of your work – abq.sundog@gmail.com I would love to see it! Although I have not heard of blindness, I have heard of paralysis from working in poorly ventilated space and heating the wax too high. Safety is always a concern and something I am quite diligent about.

    1. Sharon Post author

      Facebook has several groups focusing on encaustic art. You can post examples of your work and questions in these groups and get feedback from your peers.

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