Wax / Encaustic Technique

Mar 22nd, 2007

Comments: 4
Category: technique

Wax / Encaustic Technique

Recently, I received an inquiry in my guestbook:

i am a painter also, and was attempting to use cold wax menium. i was admiring your work on your site and wanted to ask you about using wax. do you know if there is a way to make the wax harden? i’ve tried cutting it with mineral spirits, and gamblin galkyd, and find that it always stays soft, like a candle. i’ve done research, but if you have any suggestions could you please write me back?

I though I’d post my answer here for all as a point of reference and to open the theme for discussion. Please feel free to post comments, additional information, corrections, etc…

Yes, there is a way to make wax harden – though never fully. You can add Damar Resin (also some times called Rosin, Dammar, Damhar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resins) . Also, using a portion of Carnauba Wax (Carnauba wax – from the leaves of the Carnauba palm – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnauba_wax) helps. This wax is much harder than beeswax. Lay off the turps and use 50% microcrystalline wax (Microcrystalline wax – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcrystalline_wax – with very fine crystalline structure – find it in a craft store or order online).


  1. Luc April 19, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Just read your answer about encaustic technique and had another question for you if you don’t mind.

    I’ve been working in encaustic for a number of years using panels.
    I’m interested in doing more work on canvas and am trying to find out if canvas needs to be gessoed or not when using microcrytalline.

    What are you thoughts?

    Luc Bernard

  2. a stahl April 20, 2007 at 1:29 am

    You can’t really use encaustic on streched canvas. Only the thinnest layer will work. Wax needs a ridgid surface. If you desire the canvas look, then try putting canvas over your panel. And yes, I’d defenitely prime it, so that you have good tooth and that the material is protected.
    Hope that helps – Anne

  3. blujett8 June 1, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    thanks a mil for posting about this…I’ve intended to venture into wax for many years now, yet not attended a workshop or such….and not having enough $$ to play around as much as I’d prefer…SO- thanks for the valuable info as well as response/ outreach…..peace-Heather

  4. Anonymous January 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Hi – I was hoping you could answer a couple of questions ; 1. Does burnishing in between encaustic layers (and fusing) increase the gloss of the final coat? When building up layers to create optical depth – how much setting time should one leave between layers – ie- as soon as the wax hardens (but is still warm) – a few minutes- or should one wait an hour or so until it has started to really set ….? (I’m talking multiple layers 10- 20 Layers – thanks for your thoughts, Fionna

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