Encaustic photo tutorial

how make encaustic photos

Wanna learn how to make encaustic photos? Here I’ll show you how to transfer photos onto wax! Far out!

Step 1: Gesso setup

Gesso setup

These are 10×15 inch pine boards. And yes, I have lots of storage in my shelf by the window. My dining room is really more of a studio working space.

Step 2: Waxing setup

Waxing setup

We space-time warp over to the 3rd floor of the Lill Street Art Center. It’s a nice big room with lots of space.

Walk-through of my setup:

1) Printout of everybody’s generous helpful votes from the Facebook album.

2) Heat gun

3) Heating pan with bowl of melted wax set to 225°

4) Gesso’ed board (without wax, we’ll get there!)

5) My toolbox with all my super encaustic supplies

6) Handy dandy aluminum foil roll

7) Paper towels

8) Rubbing spoon with folded paper towel

9) An board in progress (waxed with image applied) but I didn’t rub off all the paper

10) Paper removal station with sponges and can of water

11) Printouts for the next print! They are standing at attention ready to be deployed.

12) Garbage can, cuz we don’t throw things on the floor. We are artists, not barbarians!

Step 3: Waxed board

Waxed board

I dip the brush in the tub of melted wax and brush it onto the board. This is what it looks like. I shoulda gotten some pics of me brushing on wax, but i’m so fast with the wax, the camera wouldn’t be able to see it. It’s like a lightning bolt. ZAP!

Step 4: Wax board with printout

Wax board with printout

Let’s put this nice tulip photo onto a wax board! Are you ready!?

Step 5: Placing wax board onto photo

Placing wax board onto photo

Normally you think you’d place the photo on top of the board. But I like to put the board on top of the photo. Yeah, that’s right. I flip it around. It’s nice to have the photo a little bigger than the board. When printing the photos, I messed up a little and didn’t make the photo big enough. It’s easier to line up the board onto the photo this way. Trust me.

Step 6: The board is completely laying on the photo.

The board is completely laying on the photo

Where did the photo go? It’s under there. Don’t freak out. The board didn’t eat it or anything.

Step 7: Board with print

Board with print

I place the board onto the working table with the print side up, cuz we are gonna get ready to rub that photo onto the board!

Those are easels in the background. They like to do painting and drawing in this room too. But tonight I have the room all to myself!

Step 8: Rubbing a photo onto a wax board

Rubbing a photo onto a wax board

And then we rub like we never rubbed before. Seriously. To make sure the photo transfers onto the wax, you have to rub this sucker HARD. I like to put all my weight onto the spoon as i rub. I’ll rub so hard, that the wax underneath will move around. You need a really sturdy table for this. If your table is not sturdy, it’s gonna be really frustrating.

Also, that spoon is gonna get REALLY hot if you are rubbing it right. Seriously. It’s metal. It gets hot! I fold up a paper towl and put it in the bowl of the spoon. You know what else is cool about spoons? You can use one hand to press down on the bowl of the spoon, and use the other hand to hold the handle. One hand is pressing down. The other hand is guiding the spoon around.

Don’t bother trying to use that wooden tool just to the left. I tried that on one of my photos and it sucked big time. Half the image didn’t transfer! Wooden ceramics tool, you need to stay in the ceramics department where you belong!

Was I too mean to the wooden ceramics tool?

Another thing. When you think you’ve rubbed it enough, repeat the rubbing and spend twice as much time as you think you’d need. This part is really important.

Step 9: Rubbing off the paper off

Rubbing off the paper off

Now that you did a great job rubbing the print onto the wax board, it’s time to take the paper off. But ah! You can’t just peel the paper off, you silly bug. That paper is STUCK big time on the board.

What are we gonna do?!

Dip a sponge into a can of water and start rubbing the paper off. The paper will get all soggy and precipitate off. I don’t know what the real word is for that term. But the paper gets all soggy. And just globs off. Yeah. Glob. That’s the technical term.

In this photo you can see the photo appearing! Magical! The toner adhered to the wax! Keep on rubbing that paper off soldier!

Step 10: Final encaustic photo

Final encaustic photo

Now that we finally got all the paper off, here’s what the final board looks like! Note you can see that the wax has a pattern on it from all the rubbing. For this particular image I rubbed in circles. On other prints I’ve done horizontal or vertical lines. Those look nice too.

The final print has a nice wax glean to it.

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12 years ago

I thought for sure you would have like 2,000 comments on this by now. Lucky me! I’m first! “What a great demonstration post! This is very cool!!!” 🙂

Michele Pfeffer
12 years ago

love it

Mary Gore
12 years ago

Great instructions…easy to follow so I think I will give it a try! Thanks 🙂

BJ Lantz
12 years ago

Left out important detail ~ is the print out laser or inkjet or does it matter…

Dahlia DCo
11 years ago

Digging this and creative ideas are spinning around in my head!

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