The best tools and supplies needed to work in encaustics are all made by R&F Paints (available through your favorite art supply stores). However, if you are looking to save a little money, I can recommend some alternative options (especially if you are putting together your encaustic painting workshop for the first time). For your convenience I put together the following list of my favorite products. However, feel free to do the comparison shopping yourself, by exploring the many vendors in my exhaustive list of other Encaustic Resources.
The Art of Encaustic Painting by Joanne Mattera is THE primary sourcebook for how to make and work with encaustic. Sadly, more recent books understate or ignore important health and safety information. This is a must read for everyone interested in painting safely with encaustic.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, Embracing Encaustic by Linda Womack will delve into more advanced painting techniques for image transfers and creating texture.
If you haven’t made the commitment to make your own paints, or you are simply looking to dabble in encaustics, this starter kit is a good value.
Likewise, you can make the paints in your starter kit go a lot further by thinning them down with encaustic medium. It won’t change the color intensity very much but it will stretch the paint bars (and your budget) a long ways.
For around $35, this electric skillet with adjustable temperature gauge is an affordable alternative to purchasing R&F’s heated palette, which normally costs around $250. It also doubles as a good pot to make encaustic medium in. Remember that paint pigments are toxic – once you’ve used this with encaustic paints, never use it for food (likewise, don’t donate it later to Goodwill).
Interested in making encaustic monoprints? There’s not a readily available commercial product for this although there are individuals who make high-quality custom encaustic monoprint hot boxes. Until you are ready to make that commitment, try this $60 buffet server instead. Even though you have to work around the equipment cycling on and off, it’s still a great starter “hot box”.
The R&F HotShot Heat Gun has a widely adjustable heat gauge and is the least expensive option I’ve found with this valuable feature (most heat guns only have a high/low setting – not safe or practical).
If you are nervous about open flames, I recommend the Iwantani cooking torch because of it’s pistol type ignition. These are a favorite of artists working with encaustic for their portability and ease of use. Unless you are fusing a lot, these little canisters will last a while. Don’t forget to buy the refills – you can pick them up at your local hardware store. (There’s also another version of the Iwantani torch here which may be a little cheaper).
Clean and filtered bars of beeswax from Rudy’s Honey make great natural colored encaustic medium once you mix it with resin. It doesn’t have the same transparency as the clear medium from R&F, but it works just fine for building up underlayers of encaustic paint or for adding a warm glaze to the top layer of your painting. It’s completely safe and natural – plus it smells great! They offer free shipping and have the best rates per pound I’ve found yet.
There’s no other place to get quality damar resin crystals than R&F and you are going to need these to make your own medium. One pound will last a long time.
The safest way to clean your brushes is with R&F’s soy wax. (Go Soy Power!) Avoid paraffin wax because it is petroleum based and not the healthiest nor environmentally friendliest way to clean your brushes.
The best quality, clear filtered beeswax is also from R&F. Once mixed with resin to make encaustic medium, this wax is perfect for building up translucent layers or mixing vibrant encaustic paints. Though other companies sell similar “pharmaceutical grade” wax products, I remain loyal to R&F simply because their wax is intended to be used with encaustics and has no chemical additives. Nor do they use any chemical bleaching processes, which can negatively affect both your pigmentation and your health. That’s a lesson you don’t want to learn the hard way – so stick to R&F.