Improve Encaustic Wax Painting: 5 Practical Steps
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Choose the right tools and materials
  2. Prepare your working surface
  3. Mix and apply the encaustic wax
  4. Create textures and layers
  5. Finish and protect your painting

Imagine you're in your art studio, the smell of warm wax filling the room. You're eager to dive into your next encaustic wax painting on panel, but you're feeling a bit stuck. Maybe you're not sure about the tools you're using, or the wax isn't behaving quite right. Well, you're in the right place! This blog is your guide to getting better at encaustic wax painting on panel. Let's start with the first step: choosing the right tools and materials.

Choose the right tools and materials

Now, you might be thinking: "I've got brushes and wax, what else do I need?" But the truth is, like any art form, encaustic wax painting requires the right tools and materials for the job. Let's break it down:

Encaustic Brushes

  • Natural Bristle Brushes: These are perfect for applying and manipulating wax on your panel. The natural bristles are hardy and can withstand the heat of the wax without melting or getting damaged.
  • Palette Knives: For something a bit different, palette knives are great for creating interesting textures and applying wax in thin layers.

Encaustic Wax

When it comes to wax, not all are created equal. You want to select high-quality, pigmented encaustic wax that will give your painting vibrant colors and a beautiful finish. Avoid waxes that are too soft or too hard: the former can be hard to control while painting, and the latter may not adhere well to the panel.

Encaustic Panels

Last but not least, the right panel is crucial to getting better at encaustic wax painting. A wooden panel is a popular choice due to its durability and absorbency — it holds the wax well and won't warp over time. Just remember to prime it first to prevent the wood from absorbing the wax.

Choosing the right tools and materials is the first step towards improving your encaustic wax painting skills. So take a moment to assess your current tools and materials, and make sure they're up to the task. Next up, we'll dive into preparing your working surface.

Prepare your working surface

So, you've assembled your all-star team of tools and materials. It's time to set the stage for your masterpiece. Preparing your working surface is a step that's often overlooked, but it can make a huge difference in your painting process and the final result. Let's get you set up!


First things first, consider your workspace layout. You'll want to have your tools and materials within arm's reach. That way, you can focus on your painting without having to constantly get up and rummage through your supplies. It's the small things that streamline your process and help you get better at encaustic wax painting on panel.

Panel Preparation

  1. Size: Before you start, make sure your panel is the right size for your project. If it's too small, you might feel cramped; too big, and you might feel a little lost.
  2. Priming: Remember when we talked about priming your panel in the tools and materials section? Yeah, it's that important. A good primer can help your wax adhere better to the panel, giving you smoother application and more vibrant colors.
  3. Placement: Place your panel on a flat, stable surface. You don't want it wobbling around while you're trying to paint.

Workspace Safety

Finally, don't forget about safety. You're working with heated wax, after all. Keep flammable materials away from your heating equipment, and make sure your workspace is well-ventilated. It's not just about being safe — it can also help you focus on your painting without any worries.

Having a well-prepared working surface can set you up for success. But that's just one piece of the puzzle. Next, we'll guide you through mixing and applying the encaustic wax. Stay tuned!

Mix and apply the encaustic wax

Let's roll up our sleeves and dive into the heart of getting better at encaustic wax painting on panel - the mixing and application of the wax. It's like a blend of chemistry and culinary arts, with a sprinkle of patience and a pinch of creativity.

Wax Mixing

Mixing wax for encaustic painting isn't just about melting it. You'll want to consider the following:

  • Color: You can add pigment to your wax to create different colors. Start with a small amount and gradually increase until you reach the desired hue. Remember, it's easier to add more pigment than to take it away.
  • Consistency: Aim for a consistency similar to heavy cream. Too runny, and it won't stick to your panel; too thick, and it won't spread evenly.
  • Temperature: Keep your wax heated to a safe working temperature, typically between 160-200 degrees Fahrenheit. Too hot, and it could become a fire risk; too cool, and it won't melt properly.

Wax Application

Once your wax is ready, it's time to apply it to your panel. Here's how:

  1. Brush: Use a natural bristle brush to apply your wax. Synthetic brushes can melt!
  2. Layers: Apply your wax in thin layers. This will ensure that it adheres properly to your panel and prevents cracking.
  3. Fuse: After each layer, fuse the wax to the panel using a heat gun or torch. This helps the layers bind together and creates a smooth, cohesive surface.

Mixing and applying the wax is the core of encaustic painting. It's where you start to see your vision come to life on the panel. And remember, it's all part of the journey to getting better at encaustic wax painting on panel. Up next: adding texture and layers to your masterpiece!

Create textures and layers

Creating textures and layers is a significant part of the journey of getting better at encaustic wax painting on panel. It is through these layers and textures that your painting gains depth and character, much like a well-developed story. Let's look at some practical steps to add those captivating dimensions to your panel.

Building Layers

Layers play a crucial role in encaustic wax painting. They are like the chapters in a novel, each one adding a new dimension and deepening the plot. Here's your guide to layering:

  1. Layering Strategy: Start with a clear plan for your layers. Think of it as creating a roadmap for your painting.
  2. Patience: Allow each layer of wax to cool before applying the next. Patience is truly a virtue here.
  3. Fusing: Remember to fuse each layer before adding the next. This ensures the layers bond together, creating a solid foundation for your artwork.

Adding Texture

Now that we've layered, let's add some texture. Texture can elevate your painting from a two-dimensional image to a tactile, three-dimensional experience. Here are some tips:

  • Tool Time: Use different tools to create texture. A palette knife or a painting spatula can work wonders.
  • Imprints: You can also create texture by pressing objects into the warm wax. Think outside the box: leaves, fabric, bubble wrap - the possibilities are endless.
  • Scratching: Try scratching into the surface of a cooled wax layer for a different type of texture. A stylus or an old, unused comb can be great for this.

As you continue your journey of getting better at encaustic wax painting on panel, remember that mastering the art of creating textures and layers is like learning to write in cursive. It might feel awkward and unfamiliar at first, but eventually, it will become second nature. Next, we'll discuss how to finish and protect your masterpiece.

Finish and protect your painting

Creating your encaustic wax masterpiece is only part of the process when it comes to getting better at encaustic wax painting on panel. Equally important is knowing how to finish and protect your artwork. Let's dive into some practical steps to wrap up your painting journey.

Finishing Touches

Putting the finishing touches on your painting is similar to adding the icing on a cake. Here's how you can make your artwork shine:

  1. Smoothing: Once you've completed your layers and textures, use a heating tool to slightly melt the wax. Then, quickly use a metal scraper to smooth the surface. This will give your painting a polished look.
  2. Burnishing: Use a burnishing tool to further refine the surface. It's like brushing your hair—it adds a touch of smoothness and shine.
  3. Enhancing: If you want to highlight certain areas or add a pop of color, consider using oil pastels or colored pigments. Think of this as adding accessories to your outfit.

Protecting Your Artwork

Now that your painting is finished, it's time to protect it. Like putting a cover on a book, you want to ensure your artwork stays fresh and vibrant for years to come. Here's how:

  • Sealing: Seal your artwork with a layer of wax medium. This acts like an invisible shield, protecting your painting from dust and damage.
  • Handling: Always handle your encaustic painting with clean, dry hands. Remember, oil from your skin can damage the delicate wax surface.
  • Storing: Store your painting in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Think of it as tucking your painting into its own cozy bed.

With these steps in hand, your journey towards getting better at encaustic wax painting on panel is well on its way. Keep exploring, keep creating, and most importantly, keep having fun with it!

If you're passionate about encaustic wax painting and want to expand your skills, consider exploring the workshop 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. While this workshop focuses on acrylic painting, many of the techniques and principles taught can be applied to encaustic wax painting as well. This workshop will help you refine your skills and take your art to the next level.