So, I’ve talked before about my affinity for gel medium, but this week I’d like to brag on another medium: wax!
Did you know that wax medium can be used as a sealant for your watercolor paintings? I didn’t either, until our friends at Enkaustikos sent us some instructions and example photos!
Wax medium is a great way to protect your work from scuffs, moisture, and dust.
It has a different approach to sealing work than a varnish would in that it actually absorbs into your paper and fuses with the colors! Think of it kind of like each pigment having its own little protective bubble, rather than all of them together just being under a blanket.
A wax medium sealant is also an alternative to framing behind glass. I don’t know about you, but I personally get pretty annoyed whenever there’s a glare on my work that ends up impeding others’ views–not to mention all the fingerprints. With wax medium, that’s not an issue! You can go with either a matte or glossy finish, and your work will come across exactly as it was intended.
With just a few simple steps, you’ll be on your way to ensuring the safety and longevity of your paintings!
First, prepare your finished watercolor by mounting it to a rigid surface, like a Joe’s Prime Cradled Panel or Art Board, with some sort of acid-free or pH neutral adhesive agent. Acid-free gesso or Yes! Paste are great options.
Once you’ve securely mounted your watercolor and let the adhesive dry, trim away any excess paper from the edges so that your painting is flush with the board.
Thoroughly heat your wax medium in a metal container, like these encaustic cups. To melt the wax, you can either use a heated palette or pancake griddle–though we don’t recommend using a hot plate, as they don’t distribute the heat very evenly–set to approximately 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once your wax medium is melted, use a hake brush or other soft, natural bristle brush to apply thin layers of wax to the surface of your painting. The wax medium will turn milky as it cools, and your painting will look something like this:
Using a heat gun (or hair dryer with an attachment to hone the direction of air) set on low and about 12″ away from your painting, apply heat in circular motions to remelt the wax medium on the surface of your watercolor.
This process is called “fusing” and will cause the wax medium to sink into the paper and form a permanent bond with the paper and your colors!
Through the fusing, you’ll notice that the wax will lose a lot of the texture left behind by brush strokes!
Less wax medium will be absorbed the second time, and any remaining evidence of undesired brush strokes or pooling of medium can be scraped off with a pottery loop or another kind of shaving tool:
Scrape until you’ve reached your desired thickness of wax.
Wax medium is not completely translucent, so keep your layers thin if you want to have maximum visibility of your painting.
A glossy plate finish is achieved by gently scraping and fusing several applications of wax medium until there are no scrape marks or brush strokes evident. A final polish with a soft cloth will bring out the shine.
If you’d like to keep your painting matte, simply forego the polishing step and ta da! Your painting is now preserved!
Give it a try, and let me know how it works out for you!