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Encaustic Painting Tips and Techniques

Dhanashree Patane
For years, painting has been an expressive art, and this art has its many faces with the different painting techniques used. Encaustic painting is yet another beautiful style of painting, we have described the formation and skills of this style here.
Art and painting has a rich heritage. From centuries, painting has remained the most creative form of art. The many cultures and styles that we see in painting today, have been developed over time, which have a history spanning over centuries.
A unique example among the many creative styles of painting is encaustic painting. This style is developed using heat, color and wax for painting. The technique has traces of development, dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries B.C.
It is known that the Greeks and the Romans discussed the creation of this form of painting. Encaustic was not a very popular form in the early stages of development of this style. By that time other easy to execute styles like fresco, tempera and oil painting were very popular among most of the artists.
Slowly in the eighteenth century, this style of melting wax to fuse colors, gained popularity. Encaustic painting techniques are durable, they give charming results and dry fast. Since the twentieth century many famous artists have displayed great work with this style. The technique has been simplified here, take a look.

Material Used / Required

Wood, canvas, clay board and other platforms are used for painting. The stronger the base, lesser are the chances of the wax cracking and wearing off.
For the colors, any color like water pigments, oil pastels, powdered pigment and oil colors can be used. Choosing beeswax is the most recommended for this style of painting. With the help of special brushes and other tools, the wax is spread as per the design of the painting.
In the modern age, artists use special surfaces that can heat the painting, or they also use certain instruments that can be heated. Other material required is brushes and tools, like a hot iron, hot plate to melt the wax, hot gun, etc.

Encaustic Painting Techniques

The traditional technique tells us of using melted wax directly on the canvas. Sometimes a hot surface is moved close to the surface of the canvas, for the wax and pigments to fuse well. With time many modern styles have been practiced for encaustic painting.

Brush technique

One of the most traditional methods is melting colored wax or pigmented wax and using it directly on brushes. Many a time plain wax is melted and then added with pigment. The brush is then used to paint the desired output.


This type of painting gives amazing results with a glaze and glossy finish. Less amount of pigment is used in a larger quantity of wax. Usually a thick under layer is used and this thin coating of wax with a tint of pigment, is used to create that glaze.


In this style an iron is used as the heating medium for wax. This iron works as the surface to smear wax, it is then rolled across the canvas. It may also be used in certain areas only. It can give a good glaze and amazing textures.

Encaustic pancakes

Molten wax with pigment is left to harden, so that it forms a crayon or similar like strength. This is shaped like small blocks. A hot surface, like a heating device (e.g. Hot plate, griddle) is used as the base. A paper or canvas is placed on the top of this base. The canvas is heated and then the encaustic blocks melt as you sketch and paint on the canvas.

Hot Air

Once the painting is set on the canvas, hot air is blown on the canvas, set with colored or pigmented wax. It helps in blending and also to create special effects like softening the look or creating a dripping effect.

Hot Iron Pen

Just like hot irons, this style uses a specially designed heating tool, like a pen which is filled with molten wax. The pen has temperature regulation, so even the smaller details can be achieved in the painting.

Encaustic Printing

Molten wax is applied on a metal plate that is heated, in the desired effect and design, as a reverse image. A paper is then pressed on this plate and rubbed along the surface so that the image is well printed from the metal block on the paper.

Scratching or Sgraffito

In this technique, painting or palette knives or other sharp tools are used to make the painting. The tools are used to scrape off the wax on the top layer, while revealing details and designs in the under layer. Sometimes the scraped area is filled with contrasting colors. This can create three dimensional illusions, depth.


This way of painting is similar to making a collage. Paintings or designs on canvas or paper, in any medium are placed in layers or in collage style on a base canvas or paper. Then a layer of wax is applied, coating this with wax. Two mediums are mixed creating a superb effect and finish.
These were the major styles used in encaustic paintings. Some tips include choosing the right tools and materials, heating the wax and applying it well in time. When using the many techniques make sure you pay attention to the overall look and result it produces.
With all this information we sign off on this creative journey of encaustic painting techniques. Painting as an art in itself is beautiful, and with all these creative attributes, it has become more of a revered passion than plain art!