TECHNIQUES of Encaustic Art    Return to HOME PAGE of www.encaustic,com     Visit one of our sponsor sites   
Iron,  Stylus & Hobby Crafts Methods Assemble a mini hotplate using the encaustic painting iron Hotplate Techniques Zone Hot Air Methods Zone Finer Art Approaches for Encaustic work

Artwork index page










Finishes & Presentation of Encaustic Artwork

Encaustic artwork might well be best left untouched. But you can add tougher coatings to your wax art for greater protection and some waxes can benefit from such treatment.

Untouched Wax Art Surfaces
Many people who have used wax as a medium for artwork will say " Do not put any varnish or coatings onto the wax surface. It does not need them and the wax will outlast anything that you can find to use over it, so don't bother."

That is a fair comment and the natural surface of a piece of finished encaustic wax art has some unique and beautiful qualities. However, some types of wax will show finger marks and can also lose some of the luminosity of colour perceived. In these situations it can be very worthwhile to polish the wax (see below) or even apply a coating of some other material.

BLOOMING: One of the biggest problems of wax, especially beeswax, is that it blooms. When wax is heated and melted the structure of the Carbon and Hydrogen chains becomes disturbed. Upon cooling the newly formed solid is in a stressed state. Various chain lengths (eg 12, 14, 20, 22, etc) exist together in the new mixture and in order for the wax to stabilize these differing lengths tend to separate. The paraffins are then expelled to the surface of the solid wax as the internal structure transforms into a more "relaxed" state. It is this process that causes wax bloom in the form of a dulling white dusty appearance. Many chemists have tried to offer additions to wax formulae in order to build in barriers to this migration of paraffins etc, but the generally accepted opinion is that no easy cure exists. The coating is a collection of platelets. These have been found to dissolve above 35°C. so you can gently re-heat your work to a temperature well below the melting point and the bloom should disappear.
Up to Index

Polishing the Wax Surface
In the encaustic wax mixtures we use you will notice a dulling of the solid waxes as soon as they cool. When you polish the work some surface pigment is removed and the surface wax takes on a reflective and shiny quality. Within a week or two this shine will dull down to a more satin effect and eventually reach a point of stability.

If you want the work to remain at its best then:
a. paint then polish lightly to remove surface pigment and create an initial "shine".
b. re-polish lightly after about 1 month to buff the wax bloom and create a renewed polished result.
c. the painting will never remain completely shiny because the migration of paraffins will continue for a long time but this will at least give a better result.
Up to Index

FRAMING & MOUNTING - a short look at some images...
Take a look through this simple set of images that are presented in mounts and frames. The examples are not extensive but do show how presentation does make a difference to the way your artwork is seen and perceived.

1. When framing under glass always ensure a gap between the wax surface of the painting and the glass - use at least a single thickness of mount board. If the distance between wax and glass is small you will find a "ghost" wax bloom image of the painting develops on the inside of the glass.
2. If the encaustic painting has been framed and glazed it is important that the work should be placed OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT. The glass transforms the frame into a device very much like a solar panel and any dark areas will soon absorb a lot of heat. Beeswax melts at about 62°C so use this as a rough guide to heat tolerance. Some waxes will endure temperatures of up to 80°C or more. Experiment with some test pieces if you are unsure about the melting point / heat tolerance of a particular wax.
Basically there is no problem in the siting of encaustic work, apart from situations of exposure to direct sunlight or where a surface is too hot for continuous hand contact. Also remember the light fastness of the pigments used will be prolonged if they are not exposed to over strong daylight.
Up to Index

What type of varnish can I use over the wax to protect it?
For a start it must adhere to the wax surface. Turpentine can dissolve beeswax so care must be taken if this solvent is used over any wax painting - too much brushing and soon the colour will start to smear.

Encaustic Art wax Sealer
The sealer is an acrylic developed to simulate the sheen of wax and can be buffed although it is never "glossy". Sometimes it is used with wood to simulate a wax finish where a real wax product would not be suitable. If put on with a soft brush it will give a nice finish and a couple of coats make the surface much more resistant to finger marks etc. The receiving wax surface must be polished before the sealer is applied in order to create a good adhesion. One can never stop the wax melting underneath if it gets hot enough and a sharp item can still scratch through to the softer wax underneath. It has been tested outside on wood & metal for a 10 year period with no obvious degrade or yellowing.

The Acrylic Wax Sealer can be used to provide an interface between the wax and another medium so that acrylic paints or other colours can be applied in a mixed media style. Also other tough varnishes could be used over the sealer I guess. (I am not sure what expansion/shrinkage tensions this might cause so it needs to be explored to check for cracking etc). That is the proven extent of knowledge at present.

One customer told me that she had used a Q-tip with alcohol to remove some of the sealer from a 3 week old test sample and believes that a conservationist could remove the sealer this way if required in the future. Remember, once the wax has been sealed with the acrylic varnish it can not be re-worked easily.
Up to Index

Still more to add here one day!

        GO TO Go to the index for encaustic art products OVERVIEW
Arts Encaustic Ltd, Glogue, Pembrokeshire SA36 0ED UK
  Tel: +44 (0)1239 831401