Instructables
Encaustic is an ancient art medium that is useful for painting, collage and a few less art and more practical molding and casting applications. Encaustic medium is a combination of bleached and purified beeswax and gum damar. The gum damar is used to make the wax harder and the work more permanent.

Wikipedia has a relatively accurate entry on encaustic:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encaustic

and an entry profiling one of the most famous/cliche early uses of encaustic. Considering the age of these, most are in incredibly good condition:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fayum_mummy_portraits

On the last page of the instructable I have some information about using it and non-painting uses for it. So if you're not sure, skip ahead to that to see the possibilities. I'll also be posting further instructables on the subject.

This instructable is about making the medium and turning it into paint. While it's beautiful and versatile, there are a number of very important safety concerns that are included. There is a chance for serious injury while working with these materials, but all good art involves risk, so be smart and you should be fine.
 
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Step 1: Materials and Equipment

Picture of Materials and Equipment
Materials (with links to where I got some items):

- bleached beeswax pastilles http://www.danielsmith.com/products~sku~284+020+006.asp
- gum damar crystals http://www.danielsmith.com/products~sku~284+470+015.asp

- pigments
Dry powdered pigments are the way to go if you're making much of any given color. http://www.danielsmith.com/subcat~cat~800201301.asp
If you only need a small amount of any given color you can use oil paint. This isn't very efficient, though, which is why it's only smart to use it for a color you don't need much of.

Equipment:
Most of the equipment involved will have to be devoted to encaustic, because encaustic should not come in contact with anything you eat.

- an empty aluminum (soda) can
- a can opener
- a pair of pliers
- a heat source (an electric griddle is best but it is possible to do this on a stovetop)
- a mortar and pestle or other crushing method (the more crushed the damar is the faster it disolved)
- a mini-muffin tin (mine is silicone, which makes it easy to remove the wax once it's hardened) or a similar mold
You will never, ever, ever use this for food again.
- something plastic or wooden for stirring.
This will need to be okay to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I use the handle of a plastic spoon for most stirring, and wooden popsicle stick and toothpicks for some things.
- a scale.
The one in this picture is a postal scale, and that's not right. I flaked when I took the picture. You want a kitchen type scale for this that measures in 1 gram increments.
- oven mitts, an 'ove glove' or some other way to not burn your hands
- a metal knife or palette knife.
A butter knife would do the job, but again, not the one you use for butter.
Greta245 years ago
Hi, thank you for offering this instruction. I'm curious, since Damar is actually a form of turpentine can I use that instead of the resin? Thank you, Greta
ksiler176 years ago
Are there any type of varnishes that can be used on top of encaustic painting that are premade. i'm really interested in gloss but rock hard finish? what about shellac? thanks .
westfw7 years ago
Hmm; do you happen to know of a plasticizer for pine rosin? Something that will cause it (from an alcohol solution, for example) to dry to nice shiny and durable films instead of crystalizing or something? I understand rosin was used in some old varnishes, and I've got the rosin and assorted other things, but I can't find a formula for an actual rosin-based varnish (which I guess is what I want.)
technoplastique (author)  westfw7 years ago
It's my understanding that 'rosin' is a form of 'resin' (usually just dried out instead of semi-liquid). Linseed oil will dissolve almost any rosin. In fact, linseed oil is one of the best and most archival oil painting materials available. Pine rosin is a really old varnish ingredient and was used on a lot of European furniture. Contemporary violin makers still seem to use quite a bit of it, and here's a link to a recipe and info on how to make pine rosin into varnish:

http://www.newviolinfamily.org/forum/showpost.php?s=6a2877ab80678635681e246d51e21652&p=145&postcount=14

I've never tried that particular formula myself, but being that you're starting with rosin instead of resin it might take a bit more oil to completely dissolve it. There's another (and much more elaborate) recipe available there as well:

http://www.newviolinfamily.org/forum/showpost.php?s=6a2877ab80678635681e246d51e21652&p=113&postcount=12

These will probably give you a place to start - let me know if you've got any questions about any of it, I've made a lot of my own paint and mediums over the years....
Thanks. Those look promising...

> I've made a lot of my own paint and mediums
More fodder for Instructables! I've always been intrigued by "the technology of art"
technoplastique (author)  westfw7 years ago
If there's interest in them I'll keep making them - a few years ago I was in a LIBRARY (what are those again?) and found a few really old books on art making. I've been playing around with it ever since. And let me know how those recipes turn out if you try them!
Yes please! By the way - I was visiting an artist specializing in encaustic art, during a Open Studios tour this weekend. She used miniature cooking pots from the kids section at Ikea to heat her various encaustic colors on a hotplate. :-D
canida7 years ago
Cool, I'd wanted to know how to do this! Thanks!
technoplastique (author)  canida7 years ago
No problem, I'm glad you were interested! I'll always take requests for info on obscure art techniques.... ;-)
This is a really neat artform, it is really different and unique. If you want, you can add this iBle to the Your Art Group
technoplastique (author)  Spl1nt3rC3ll6 years ago
Joined and added - thanks! I've got a lot of other things in process that I'll probably add to that group eventually, too!
Thanks. I can't wait to see the others.