(updated Nov, 27, 2021)
Encaustic painting is all the rage right now but the cost of supplies can be daunting for beginners. I added encaustic paint to my mixed media inventory five years ago and saved on essential encaustic supplies by getting creative with my choices. Now that I’m completely addicted to the medium, I feel comfortable investing in supplies.
Here’s the “insider” take on how you can get started in encaustics without breaking the bank.
You will need a few items that are essential for starting encaustic painting.
HOT PALETTE A professional encaustic heated palette can cost over $300, but electric pancake griddles are easily affordable and work well. Look for one with an adjustable thermostat. Thrift shops and yard sales are good places to look for a griddle or even a small crockpot to melt encaustic medium. Amazon has one for $34 (with Prime membership).
GRILL THEMOMETER Encaustic wax must be kept below 200 degrees when melted to prevent harmful fumes from being released. I use this grill themometer I found on Amazon to do the trick – $10.
WAX MEDIUM You can buy medium by the bag on Amazon for $23 already mixed, but I save big $$ making it myself by mixing beeswax with Damar resin in an electric frying pan. It’s time consuming, but you can make a big batch and pour it into muffin tins to last much longer. Here is my video on how to create your own medium.
PIGMENT POWDER If you choose to make your own paint, you’ll need pigment powder or oil paint to make your favorite colors. I use about a teaspoon for 1/4 cup medium, but it’s up to you to determine how much to use depending on the opacity you are looking for.
HEAT GUN OR HANDHELD TORCH You can use either. I prefer the torch to fuse large areas and the hot gun for moving medium over the surface. I bought both from Home Depot for around $20 each. Consider using a hose and nozzle attachment on a small propane tank. I was developing shoulder pain from lifting the tank over and over to fuse each encaustic layer. Once I switched to the lightweight nozzle, my shoulder pain disappeared!
NATURAL HAIR BRUSHES Hog bristle brushes work best and are found at a good price on Amazon. Buy a 3-5″ brush for clear medium and a few for other colors. Buying a set can help cut down the cost. $23
SUBSTRATE/ PAINTING BASE If you are a beginner, go cheap. You need to find a ridge surface that is absorbent. Matte board works well especially if you are using inks as your base painting. I chose encausticbord as my first substrate. Most of the time, I use cradled wood panel . I advise the thicker the panel (1 1/2″ or higher) gives a more professional appearance. An 8″ x 10″ x 1.5″ panel goes for around $7.
VENTILATION is essential!! I have a two-way window fan right next to the griddle to pull out any harmful fumes. I also have another fan blowing air towards the window for extra safety. This may be your greatest expense, but well worth being extra cautious. You can read up on encaustic safety precautions on RF Paints website.
PAPER TOWELS for clean up.
MINI LOAF TINS to hold the wax
SOY WAX to clean brushes and the griddle. Encaustikos makes a brush cleaner, but inexpensive soy wax works well. If you have a brush for every color, you won’t need to clean brushes for reuse. Just let the wax harden on the brush and reheat the next time you want to use that color.
Well, there you go. A complete encaustic set up for less than $300.
If you have a bigger budget
ENCAUSTIC HOT PLATE – The professional heated encaustic hot palette is a nice upgrade. Made from a sheet of anodized aluminum alloy, this palette surface allows you to see colors more accurately, and the rimless design allows for easy monotype production.
ENCAUSTIC COMPLETE STUDIO SET UP – If you’re looking for an encaustic studio in a box to get started right away, the R&F Handmade Paints Premium Artist Encaustic Paint Studio Essentials Set is a great choice.
ENCAUSTIC PAINTS. You would think that buying pigmented encaustic medium would be under the essential list, but no. There’s so many wonderful techniques to color this versatile medium you can hold off on this expense until you’re more familiar with the medium. Or, mix your own paint! I use 1 teaspoon of pigment powder to 1/4 cup of medium to create a mid-tone saturation of color. Add more pigment for greater opacity or less for more transparency. You can also use oil paint as a way to pigment encaustic medium. Make sure to let the oil paint sit on an absorbent surface first to draw out some of the oil.
Search Pinterest and YouTube for tutorials using oil paint, pan pastels, ink, and watercolor for adding color to your painting. If you do want to experiment with pigmented encaustic paints, buy a beginner’s set online or make your own with powdered pigment.
A variety of sculptors’ tools such as scrapers, pottery loops, or picks are also nice to have on hand if you would like to try scraping or incising effects. These tools are easy to find at your local art supply store or you may even have them in your studio already.
This article contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item, I receive a small commission without increasing the price of the item.
Please comment if you know of any other encaustic supply hacks to add to the list.
Go to https://www.annestine.com to view my current encaustic painting collection.