Encaustic & Wax Paste


Encaustic (Hot Wax) painting dates back to ancient Greece. Beeswax is the oldest known pigment binder. Encaustic literally means "Burning In". The process itself is very simple. Pigment is added to molten bees wax and (often) resin, which is applied to a surface. The surface itself may be warm allowing for manipulation of the encaustic paint.It may also be cool causing the brush stroke to "Freeze" immediately.The final treatment is the "burning in" which consists of passing a heat source over the surface, causing a fusing and bonding of the painting. The surface may then be polished with a soft cloth for a nice sheen. This is the "Classic Way", today there are any number of ways of working with wax. Encaustic has the advantage of not yellowing, of weathering well , being unaffected by moisture and being able to with stand higher heat than oil paintings. Encaustic is good for creating texture and can be painted on any number of surfaces (Canvas, Paper, Stone Wood Panels, and so on). The advantages of adding balsams and resins to the wax is argued endlessly. To the beeswax you can add Linseed oil, Larch Turpentine, Dammar Crystals, Mastic, Colophony, Carnauba Wax, Copal, and so on. With a little research you will find many "encaustic" recipes. Be willing to experiment to find what works.

Basic Encaustic

There is no prescribed way to produce encaustic paint. Pigments vary in weight, tinting strength and transparency, so they require experimentation to achieve the results you're looking for. The wonderful aspect of creating your own encaustics is that you can control these properties, and create your own unique colors; you can't do this when you buy ready-made wax blocks. The following recipe produces an encaustic medium that can be used exclusively to create an encaustic painting, and is ideal for beginners. But, after you try this recipe, you'll probably want to get even more adventurous and try other ingredients!

Recipe for Encaustic with Dammar Crystals
Adapted from The Art of Encaustic Painting, by Joanne Mattera

All you need is:

  • * 10 parts Refined Bleached Beeswax
  • * 1 - 2 parts Dammar Crystals (optional)
  • * Pigment (quantity varies)

Step #1: Melt 10 parts Refined Bleached Beeswax. We recommend you use a large double boiler with a pour spout or an old sauce pan over an electric hot plate to make your medium. Later, you can transfer your mixture into a stainless steel or teflon muffin tin so that you will be able to individually mix and re-heat various colors. Refined Bleached Beeswax melts between the temperatures of 145 - 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step #2: Melt 1 - 2 parts Dammar Crystals into the large pot. Break up the crystals as small as you can before adding them to the pot. Dammar Crystals melt at 225 degrees, so you will need to reach this melting point to thoroughly dissolve them. Once they have dissolved, lower your heat to 150 - 180 degrees. Strain out any impurities with a cheese cloth. You may now pour your mixture into the warmed muffin tins, or any other pallet to begin blending your colors.

Step #3: Add your pigment. Start out with a hint of pigment. Brush out a test swatch to see what the color looks like on your background. Add more pigment if you like, but be sure not to exceed a maximum 1:1 ratio of pigment to wax. Avoid over heating as it will cause the wax and pigment to separate, but ideally you should maintain a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don't forget - Encaustic paints should be applied to a rigid surface; a canvas is too flexible and can cause your painting to crack in the future. Your panel should be prepared with authentic gesso. Acrylic-based gesso is not absorbent enough to bind with encaustic paint. The metal tools that you use to apply encaustic should be iron-free, such as stainless steel, to keep rust from integrating into your medium. Also, you must use authentic bristle brushes, as synthetic brushes can melt from the heat of the wax. For more information about encaustic, we recommend the comprehensive book The Art of Encaustic Painting, by Joanne Mattera

Wax Paste


  • 1 part Beeswax (bleached or natural)
  • 3-6 parts Turpentine


Melt beeswax in a double boiler. When wax is molten turn off heat source and add turpentine to wax. Mix gently and completely. Cover and allow to cool.Store in an air tight container.


This will render a soft paste that can be used as an oil painting medium as well as a binder for pigment. To make a paint moisten pigment w/ turpentine to form a paste. Add wax paste to pigment paste until desired consistency is reached.

Hardened Wax Paste


  • 2 Parts white Beeswax (by weight)
  • 1 Part bleached Carnauba Wax (by weight)
  • 6 Parts Turpentine (by weight)


As in the Wax Paste, the beeswax is heated in a double boiler waterbath and combined with 3 parts of the Turpentine. In a separate double boiler heat the Carnauba wax. Combine the melted Carnauba Wax with the remaining 3 parts of turpentine. Blend the beeswax mixture with Carnauba wax mixture, by vigorously stirring the two together while they are cooling.


Makes a great finish, because it can be polished into a rich lustrous surface after application.

Caution: Do not allow the turpentine-wax mixture to splash onto the hotplate or heating flame. Wax paste is extremely flammable and difficult to extinguish once lit.

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