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encaustic and solvent dilemma

Well … encaustic and solvent are words that should not go in the same sentence …

The use of solvent, or not, in encaustic painting is a question that arises to many artists. There is much confusion about the different types of encaustic painting that we will try to clarify:

Painting techniques using beeswax:

Encaustic: The simplest technique to paint with beeswax is encaustic. No solvents are used as only heat is used to melt the paint.

Cold wax (or cold encaustic): The technique of painting with beeswax that uses solvents to melt the paint. No heat is necessary. As it is not heated, it should therefore not be called encaustic (which means “burn in” in Greek “). In English properly named is Cold wax painting.

The water-soluble wax: This is a wax soap that can be  diluted with water.

Instead of encaustic and solvent, better, cold wax and solvent

If for whatever reason you decided to paint with Cold Wax, you have to use solvent to make the Cold Wax Medium or Cold paste.

In today’s post we will try to give some basic ideas of how to choose and use the solvent. If possible, without the need for a master in organic chemistry …

Choosing solvent in 3 tips

Avoid using complex solvents that are defined by the word “universal” they are very complex mixes and include all kinds of substances. The simpler, the better. To know the composition, you can look at  the safety data sheet and see if it includes more than one substance, checking the famous CAS number. If you have more than one CAS number is that it is a mixture..

The product labels have pictograms and R,S sentences that give us clues to the toxicity of the substance contained therein.

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encaustic and solvents: read safety pictograms

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encaustic and solvent: old and new pictograms

In the case of solvents you will always find: flammable, harmful, irritant etc … if you use solvents this is the price you have to pay…

However You should check and avoid if very toxic (skull) or very harmful to health (a torso with a white star-shaped mark) appear.

Below you’ll find pictograms that may appear. There are two versions, red is the new and orange is the old. You will find the equivalences  in the figures below.

Solvents age in the bottle until they are useless.  They turn yellow and leave a sticky residue. It is best not to buy more solvent than you need, even if it is cheaper the bigger one.

It is always a risk to have it stored and in the end have to throw it away. warning! you can never throw solvents down the drain, since they are also very toxic to the environment.

Using solvent in 6 tips

If possible be outdoors or in a room with high ceilings. No other people or animals should be sharing the same room as you. Avoid rooms like kitchens with gas boilers that produce sparks.
Use products containing solvents always in small jars with narrow mouth. Always close the lid  when you have finished using it.
Ventilate thorougly and constantly. Opening a window is not enough, there must be cross-ventilation to ensure the entry of fresh air.
The main routes of hazard in living beings are, in this order: inhalation, skin contact and ingestion.

Sometimes we forget the contact risk since it does not have immediate effects. Just think that drugs like Vicks VapoRub or Reflex contain as active ingredient turpentine for example (at minimum concentration) and its use is topical. There must be a reason…

It is convenient always wear glasses and do not let bare skin. If clothing becomes contaminated clothing should be removed immediately and wash skin with plenty of water. Wear gloves.

If you use concentrated solvents, during prolonged periods or the solvent is heated, it is not enough to ventilate the room, you MUST wear a protective face mask with appropriate filters, similar to what we indicate below. It is what we like and carries preinstalled gas and particule filters.
If you have to get rid of solvent, you must take on the original boat to a collection point in your city. The effects on water and vegetation is devastating. astado

Toxicity of solvents

All solvents are toxic, irritant and harmful for people and for the environment. Solvents contain volatile organic compounds (VOC). These substances evaporate easily, are flammable and can dissolve fats (those from the skin for instance). The risk of exposure during use is therefore very high.

Toxicity can be acute or chronic (immediate effects) or (long term effects), most often the effects are of the two types.

Some solvents can trigger allergies  (derived from turpentine for example). Some solvents may cause cancer (benzene, formaldehyde) and/ or serious problems in the endocrine system and reproductive systems.



This post is also available in: Spanish