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The encaustic techniques
You probably already know that there is more than one type of encaustic painting. It is therefore not easy to define what is encaustic?. The encaustic paint is extremely versatile in both techniques and materials. To obtain a good result, it is important to know thoroughly the characteristics of the materials that you are going to use. You can use so many and varied materials for encaustic painting that it is necessary to know well its properties and, above all, the compatibility between them. The quality and compatibility of the materials you use and a good execution will depend not only on the result but also on its durability.
Most (*) encaustic techniques have a common basis which is the preparation and sizing of the support. Once the support you choose is sized, it can be manipulated and painted on with innumerable materials and techniques, that we will explain to you next. The encaustic materials that are used in encaustic painting are basically always the same and of its quality and good execution will depend the final result.
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Basic technique and primer
The preparation of the base can be made with gypsum or paper:
Base technique with gesso
- Choose a wooden panel and clean it of dust and grease
- Protect edges with painter’s tape that can be removed without residue even after several weeks
- Apply a even layer of gesso suitable for use with encaustic (in the restricted area of the blog you have some recipes) and let it dry completely.
Base technique with watercolor paper
- Choose a wooden panel and clean it of dust and grease
- Protect edges with painter’s tape that can be removed without residue, even after several weeks
- Paint the front with white paint of any type and let it dry completely
- Choose watercolor paper with a wheight of approx 300g / m2 and with little texture since it will absorb less binder. Cut it 1 or 2 cms larger than panel size.
- Extend vinyl glue (white carpenter’s glue) to the wood over the entire surface and press the paper to put it in place. With a credit card (or similar) press and slide the glue from the center to the edges in all directions. Turn it upside down on a clean surface and put some books on it until it dries completely. Trim the edges of the paper with a cutter.
First layers of wax (sizing)
The correct sizing of the panel sizing has to be well executed, it has to have a sufficient thickness and, in principle, to be uniform, smooth and without bubbles. Getting this surface is not easy but little by little you will get better.
- Heat the wax mixture with resin and apply 2 layers of wax with a wide brush (paletine). The skins that work best are hake-type goat hair brush ¹. Melt the second layer with the first one with a hot air gun or with a hair dryer that can regulate the amount of air coming out to a low position. It is not necessary to completely wax the wax, it is enough that the top layer begins to glow a little.
- If you have followed these steps correctly you will have obtained a surface of wax of about 3 mm smooth and without bubbles. To help you, you can use a triangular scraper ² to, before fusing, to get rid of pinholes and drops that may have remained.
Apply 2 or 3 more layers always melting the next with the previous one following the same process
75 encaustic techniques
You can use all these encaustic techniques one on top of the other, provided you apply a clear layer of encaustic medium between them. If you execute them properly you can build up to 50? layers, really no limit
Watercolour and encaustic
You can use watercolour paint on the wax and wait for the drops to dry. The shapes are capricious and unpredictable. You can also use old watercolour drawings for your collages.
Crayons and encaustic
If you do not use them on wide areas you can use crayons without problem. The ones we like the most are Woody from Staedler.
Decoupage and encaustic
Decoupage is a technique of decorating with tissue papers that are also suitable for use with encaustic medium as adhesive, the paper will become bright and perfectly protected.
Drawing on encaustic
You can draw with crayons, oil pastels and pigment based waterproof felts and by transfer.
With encaustic you can encapsulate any small element when it is dry. You can encapsulate seeds, leaves, woods …
Water soluble encaustic
On the base preparation you can paint with water soluble encaustic paint with brush or knife, as long as you do not dilute too much the paint. Water soluble encaustic paints take time to dry, so before applying a new layer of medium you should wait a couple of weeks.
On the base preparation you can paint with cold wax with brush or knife. Cold wax pait has solvent, so before applying wax you should wait for it to dry. If you have mixed the cold wax medium with oil in tube you will have to wait longer to allow the oil to “cure”
You can use any type of stencil that can withstand the heat. You can make them yourself with projection acetate for instance.
You can write with a hot stylus, with carbon paper, and transfer metallic foils. You can also use pens with inks formulated with pigments.
You can stamp with any type of stamps and inks
Photo collage with encaustic
You can use photos as long as the paper is not shiny. If you prefer you can paste the photos to the panel before sizing with wax. You will not be able to undo or make rectifications.
You can make a transfer of any frottage made on paper, for example leaf traces, wood etc. You can use graphite pencil or hard pastels.
You can use shellac on the wax, you have to be careful when melting because the shellac burns. Some artists use this burned effect in their works.
Intarsia is a technique in which a part of the base wax is extracted, with a linoleum gouge for example, and is filled with encaustic paint of another color. You need to fuse it and then use the triangular scraper to remove the protruding wax.
Intarsia with pressure
It is possible to make sunken marks on the wax by pressing objects onto warm wax, threads, etc. And proceed in the same way
You can use rubdown transfer lettering sheets sheets
You can use this type of brushes to create marks on the still warm wax.
You can paint with oil in bars on the surface of the wax. If you use oil bars you should wait for them to “cure” before applying a layer above.
You can paint with oil pastels on the surface of the wax. If you use oil pastels you should be careful not using the in extended areas since they do nor dry or “cure” like oil bars.
Oil in tubes
You can paint with traditional oil whenever you wait for it to dry and heal. You can get precious textures .
Iron oxide stains enhance their color and shine with wax. You can oxidize iron elements on paper or on the primed base directly
Working with paper and wax is exciting. You can use any paper as long as it is absorbent. The paper becomes translucent. If you use thick papers you will need to use an iron to stabilize their position.
Japanese paper is specially suitable for this technique because it is not pressed and remains very absorbent. If you use thin Japanese papers these will “disappear” as soon as they are impregnated with wax.
There are on the market carbon-colored papers that are very easy to use. They are placed iupside down and painted or written on.
Paper with drawings
You can recycle part of your drawings in paper in the new works
Paper with text
You can use printed newspaper or book. Note that if printed on both sides, they will both show as soon as you apply the wax
Contact transfer paper
To make transfer on wax from an ink jet printer, the best solution is to use satin paper or what is called “contact transfer paper” which is a paper similar to the glossy paper where the self-adhesive labels are attached to.
The burnt effect of the paper is highlighted by the wax. You can burn the paper in a controlled way with a pyrograph pen, a cigarette or an incense stick.
To use the tissue paper of the printed napkins, you must isolate the layer with the pattern eliminating those that come attached, normally one or two
View Japanese paper
Pastel (in pans or sticks)
Soft pan pastels are normally applied using sponges (make-up type). Hard or soft pastels need first to be made powder on sanding paper. You can also make pastel transfer.
You can use powder pigments directly. You should be careful not to inhale them. Graphite powder, it works very well.
It is a good idea to photocopy photos and use them in the collage
Recycle small objects
Recycle your drawings
See paper with drawings
You can use waterproof markers with pigment inks
Scrapbooking and encaustic
Scrapbooking is nothing more than a type of collage that binds your photos and other memories on paper and fabrics. You can use the encaustic wax medium as an adhesive to obtain a very durable and weather resistant result.
When working with encaustic it is usual to work in 2-3 work at a time, this allows to recover dead times.
Sgraffito / grattage
The wax allows you to “scratch” and burn with simple utensils. A metal tip or a linoleum gouge are perfectly suitable.
Help! I don’t like it
Do not worry, you can undo at any time what is done just by applying heat and removing the wax.
Organza Transfer for printer
There are on the market fabrics (silks and organzas) to print on printer. You can use these prints between your wax layers. There are for toner and for ink printers.
You can write with the hot stylus or wax pencils
You can provide texture or relief to the wax surface easily while the layer is warm.
You can make marks with Indian ink with brush and the result will be unpredictable. If you want to make fine lines you can use bamboo pens and lightly press the warm wax
Alcohol-based inks work very well because they are very bright and transparent
Magazine paper transfers
You can do text transfers from magazines. Cut the figure well so that the white satin of the coated paper is not transferred.
Gilding – Transfer foil
The wax is an ideal base for heat activated foil . You can use gilding films or even gold leaf.
Transfer of photocopies
It is very easy to make black and white tonner based photocopy transfers without needing applying any product. The wax should be warm, not hot, and the photocopy paper somewhat glossy. Once the back of the image is rubbed onto the warm wax, the paper is removed by moistening it and rubbing it lightly with the finger. If traces of paper remain, they will disappear with the next layer of medium.
Glazing with color
You can use glazes using layers of wax to which you have added transparent pigment
Glazing without color
You can use colorless glazes obtaining very interesting blur effects
Pouring the medium
A finishing technique is to pour the hot encaustic medium on the panel. You will get a smooth and satin layer. Once cured you can polish it with suede or special polishing paper to improve dust retention.
View crayons and encaustic
(*) the only technique that is applied directly to the gessoed panel or cardboard is the one using the encaustic iron to extend the colors. This technique has many practitioners in Europe .
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Notes & Multimedia content
¹) Mark making with ink
²) Interesting video on how japanese paper is made
³) Cut paper collage artist video
This post is also available in: Spanish