Making Encaustic Medium

If you are new to encaustic, and do not know how to begin, over the next few blogs I will share techniques on creating encaustic medium, what tools to use, and painting and fusing techniques.  

Pecautions:  Before beginning to use any painting materials one needs to be careful with preventing fire, and to consider the toxic fumes of your materials, etc.  In my studio, I have a fan in the window that takes my air outside, I have a fire extinguisher, I have a bucket of water to use in an emergency, I have a waste bucket that is metal and has a lid on it.  I try to be careful at all times.  Beeswax is not toxic unless it smokes and gets too hot so I have a griddle thermoniter to measure the surface of the griddle and keep the temperature around 160 – 180 degrees.  So, just a precautionary note and be careful.  


My window fan.  The air goes out of the window and not towards the inside.  My work area is just infront of that window.  I also keep the other windows open as well when the weather is nice.   Also, there is a company called Ventafume and they have a venting system that vents the fumes directly through a venting hole in a wall.  

Where to Begin?   Making your medium  (clear wax medium is used to thin down your pigmented wax when it is heated on a griddle. You can also make your own coloured wax by adding coloured powdered pigments or oil paint to the medium)  The first item one needs to buy is beeswax.  This can be natural beeswax or beeswax that has been naturally bleached so is clear.  I buy my beeswax in blocks or pellets.    Pellets are great because they melt quickly and I can add the pellets to my pigmented wax as a thinning agent.  One can also buy medium that is in pellet and block form.  These pellet medium and medium blocks can be added directly to your pigmented wax or melted into the pigmented wax.  Kama Pigments ( in Montreal sells all types of encaustic products.  The naturally bleached beeswax is $56.75 for 5 pounds and the  damar resin is $19.05 for 1 pound.  The natural encaustic medium pellets are $95.45 for a 5 pound bag.  So, I sometimes wonder if I save that much money by making my own medium when one considers paying for the electricity, plus the time and equipment one needs to melt the beeswax and damar resins.  One consideration: If you need a harder surface then you will need a different ratio of wax to damar resin so it would be best to make your own.  


Here I have my clear beeswax pellets and I am weighing the wax.  I use a 1 part damar resin to 7 parts of beeswax.   I weigh my wax and then divide the number by 7 and that will be the weight of the damar resin.  

On the right you can see that the damar resin comes in crystals and I put them in a clear bag and use a wooden hammer and crush the crystals until they are powdery.  

The next phase is melting the ingredients together.  I do use an electric frying pan.  


I start melting a bit of the wax until it is in liquid form and then will add the damar resin and let both melt.  After they are melted will add the rest of the wax pellets.   Be careful with heating the wax.  You do not want to get the wax too hot because it may smoke. The smoke is a toxic element and will hurt your lungs.  Just let the wax melt on a lower heat setting and keep moving the liquid around with a stick. When completely melted it is done.  


I use a ladle and scoop out the wax and pour the liquid into these muffin tins.  Once the wax is hard, I will take my wooden mallet and tap the bottom of the pans and the cold wax will easily drop out of the pan.  Note: There are small flecks on the bottom of the wax and I don’t worry about those flecks.  One can strain the liquid wax when you pour the hot liquid into the muffin wells.  This is messy so I take the flecks off by heating the bottom of the wax cake on a hot surface and scrape them off.  I usually leave them in.  By the time I get to the upper layers in my painting those flecks are buried on the bottom layer.  


My wax medium ready to be used.  

In the next post, I will share the tools that I use for painting with wax. 


Author: Anna

I am a painter and sculptor and have a studio beside a beautiful lake. For the past 40 years, I designed and built puppets, masks and sculptures and had solo exhibitions of these works. In 2013, I went back to painting and started working in encaustic. I am interested in issues of identity in terms of weavings as coverings to protect or to hide. The intersecting lines that I create over landscapes create an internal conversation versus the external between nature vs. nurture. Or how actual or psychological barriers erected in an environment can disrupt a cherished place. My engagement with woven structures speak to complex dialogues between identity and psychological barriers. My second passion is teaching. I try to encompass more than teaching my students art techniques. I encourage students to, not only learn the language of art, but to also engage in critiquing art. Additionally, we continually explore ways to enhance one's voice through art in relation to contemporary and historical issues. Encaustic adventures is a blog where not only processes and techniques are taught, but hopefully this sites will engage in a dialogue about the making of art, notions of voice, identity, themes, and ways to establish a body of work within an historical contexts.

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