Uncommon Materials to draw or paint with

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The Uncommon Materials December 2011 How-To: Angela L Walker - Painting with wax

© Angela L Walker © Angela L Walker 931 posts

A WAXY Recipe for a Colorful Collage


  • Non-metallic oil pastels and/or wax pastels
  • Metallic crayons
  • Glitter crayons
  • Metallic sealing wax
  • Beeswax pellets (melted and liquefied in a melting pot*)
  • Wood panel or cradle
  • Oil paint, Shiva Paintstixs, Adirondack Paint Dabbers and/or wax pastels
  • Thin collage papers (purchased or painted ahead of time)
  • Black and white drawings for image transfer (use toner based or laser printed copies and/or drawings done in graphite)
  • Ceramic word beads and various metal beads/embellishments


  • Heat gun
  • Mini quilter’s iron (or craft/travel iron)
  • Melting pot (Ranger)* or pancake griddle
  • Cookie cutters or anything to press into hot wax to make imprints
  • Xyron Machine (Optional: For adding adhesive to papers, etc)


Let me first say, encaustic painting is quite addictive! My only caution (and a serious one): please have adequate ventilation if you decide to use wax medium instead of just plain beeswax. When you get seriously into encaustic painting, it will be crucial that you have a source of fresh air because manufacturers use dammar resin in the wax medium and when it is heated it gives off toxic microscopic particles. I learned this the hard way and thus I slowed down on my encaustic work until I can get out of my apt and into a studio. This is the reason I’ve chosen to share what I did to make one of my earlier pieces where I used only beeswax and melted crayons, etc.

I was drawn to encaustic painting by my intense attraction to textured art that does not need to be displayed behind glass. Being a mixed media artist, sticking to oil and acrylic was too restrictive for me. I like using all sorts of media to create my art! Therefore, when I saw how beeswax could be used as both an adhesive and sealant for building collages, I was intrigued enough to do more research. That’s when I learned that wax could be used as a medium in and of itself. Beeswax usually comes in only white and natural, but if you are addicted to color as I am, you can also add colorants to the plain wax, or get color into your project by using melted crayons, candles, sealing wax, etc.

My Humble Spirit is an encaustic collage built on an unpainted clay (wood) cradle and sealed with hot beeswax. After it was completed, I painted the sides of the cradle with acrylic paint (Adirondack Paint Dabbers) as a finishing touch. I often plan ahead and make papers/drawings to use in my encaustic collages. In this case, I used both a piece of painted deli paper as the foundation and a copy of a drawing I did awhile back as an image transfer. Here’s how I used wax as both a painting medium and an adhesive. Enjoy!


  • First, I melted my beeswax in my Ranger Melting Pot while I raided my stash of painted papers to find a nice, colorful piece of painted deli paper to use as a foundation for my project.
  • Next, I selected a few metallic and glitter crayons in complementary colors and set them aside. I also gathered some things to make textures in the wax like cookie cutters, perforated cutter wheels, etc.
  • Once I had all my ingredients at hand, I fixed the painted deli paper to my clay cradle and quickly coated this first layer with beeswax. I typically add Xyron adhesive to the backs of my painted papers so that I can quickly use them in my collage work; in this case, the Xyron adhesive only serves to stabilize the deli paper to the cradle. The layer of beeswax is what really permanently adheres the paper to the cradle.
  • Then I took some non-metallic wax pastels (crayons) and melted them by touching them to the bottom of a hot mini iron and letting the liquid color drip onto the top of my first layer. I used several different colors and then used my heat gun to both fuse and blend the colors into the first layer of beeswax. I repeated this step twice to create 3 layers of wax on top of the base painting. Fusing is the reheating of each applied layer of wax so that it bonds with the preceding layer. To fuse the layer, I heated the surface with my heat gun until the finish turned from dull to shiny.
  • While the 3rd layer was still warm, I created texture by pressing the cookie cutters and other objects into the warm wax. And then, to make the designs more apparent, I rubbed some dark colored oil paint into the grooves made by the cutters. Then I put the entire cradle in my freezer for 15 minutes or so to cool it off and make sure the wax had hardened enough to proceed.
  • When I removed the cradle from the freezer, I selected the area where I wanted to place my drawing of the main subject of my project. To transfer the image and incorporate it into the wax, I used my heat gun to warm only that section of the painting where the image was to be placed (being very careful to only warm the wax and not allow it to liquefy again). I quickly placed the image face down on the warmed area and burnished it with the back of a spoon to transfer the drawing to the wax. My next step was to pour water on the back of the paper and go over the image again with the back of my spoon (being very careful not to press too hard or shift the paper in any way). The reason for adding the water was to remove the paper and leave the image transferred to the wax. After I let the water soak into the paper enough for me see through it, I began rubbing the paper off with my fingers. Once all the paper was removed, I gently fused the transferred image to set it before adding another thin layer of beeswax.
  • Now it was time for creative enhancing and finishing touches. I again used the mini iron to melt droplets and splashes of metallic color by melting various crayons and sealing waxes; the higher I held the mini iron from the surface, the more it splattered.
  • Finally I pushed the ceramic word beads and metal embellishments into the warm wax and fused again. Gold leaf/rub-ons were added to the top layer and slightly fused. After a day or so, I painted the sides of the cradle with an acrylic paint dabber and buffed the encaustic painting to a shine (removing the bloom that occurs with most wax pieces).

I hope you’ve found this how-to to be informative and that it encourages you to begin an encaustic journey of your own. This was one of my first projects before I took the next steps in my own encaustic journey. One of my favorite resources was, and still is, a book called Encaustic Workshop by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch. I hope you find it useful as well.

My Humble Spirit
by Angela L Walker

Ina Mar Ina Mar 172 posts

Angela, we are honoured that you are the first artist to initiate this series of how-tos in our group!
Thank you very much for taking the time to explain your technique in such detail and to motivate other artists to experiment with encaustic painting! I love your idea of presenting it as a “recipe”!

The forum is now open to everybody’s questions, congratulations and comments!

© Angela L Walker © Angela L Walker 931 posts

Oh my, Ina, you did a great job of formatting this for me! Thank you so much for all your help with posting this how-to! I am most grateful to you for your patience and guidance.

Additionally, I’d like to thank all of you fellow artists for allowing me to share my wax techniques with you during this holiday season… working on this project actually brought me great joy. :-)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!

donnamalone donnamalone 284 posts

Thanks so much Angela, i now feel i am a big step closer to embarking on encaustic..it looks like it would be great fun, but very important to have everything needed at hand! Thanks again!

Ina Mar Ina Mar 172 posts

Your how-to made it to the RedBubble Weekly Wrap !!! Congratulations Angela!

Dianne  Ilka Dianne Ilka 990 posts

Great job Angela!

© Angela L Walker © Angela L Walker 931 posts

Thanks so much, all my fellow artists here at Uncommon Materials to draw or paint with!

I really appreciate your support and your taking time to read this how-to. This is all so exciting for me and I’m most grateful!

E-Hugs! :)

Midori Furze Midori Furze 182 posts

Thank you very much, Angela
This is fantastic!!