Monday, April 20, 2020

Mixed Media with Stencils and Cold Wax

Hi all, it's Gwen back with a new project focusing on paint, texture, and stencils.

This month I created a mixed media panel using some of my stencil designs combined with a product I've really been having fun exploring... cold wax. More specifically, water-soluble cold wax.

I love the different looks and textures I was able to get from a single medium and I wanted to walk you through some of the process for creating this piece.

To start, I made two masks. I knew that I wanted to use them to mask off a few areas of my piece and I wanted them thick so I could build up the cold wax around them so I used cardboard. I stenciled with my Decorative 6 Petal Flower stencil and some ink onto the cardboard, used a pencil to add about a 3/16" buffer around the edge of the design, and then cut them out.

Next I took a 6" x 8" x 1" cradled wood panel that I'd collaged, stenciled, and layered with mediums and glazes. (I used my Decorative Flower Stamen Medallion and Ornamental Circle Cluster Screen stencils along with some of my rubber stamp designs from PaperArtsy.)

I used some Pyrrole Red acrylic paint and a stencil brush and pulled out my Decorative 6 Petal Flower stencil again and stenciled the image in a few places on the panel and let it dry.

I took the cardboard masks I'd made earlier, cut one in half, then lined up the pieces with my stencil design and tacked them in place with some removable adhesive.

Most cold wax is oil based and you mix it with oil paints. However, I've started to see some water-based wax paints and cold waxes and mediums on the market and these can be mixed with acrylic paints. In this case, I took some Powertex water based cold wax and mixed it with Anthraquinone Blue (one of my absolute favorite blues.) You can see from the photo that you can mix in a little or a lot of the same color to get a range of values to use on your piece.

I spread the wax onto the panel with a palette knife. In some places I kept it very thin so that it was more like a glaze which allowed the design underneath to show through. In other places I built the wax up so it was quite thick, especially around the edges of my masks. I used my fingers to smooth and work it in some places.

When my wax base was spread the way I wanted it (and I put some on the sides of the panel as well,) I brought out some Ceracolors - these are water based wax paints. I used some turquoise and gold to add just a few swipes of color and shine into the piece.

While it was still wet and workable, I used one of my handmade mark making tools to add some texture and marks into the wax.

Next, I carefully removed my cardboard masks to reveal the stenciled areas and hints of the collage. I used my fingers to smooth and work the wax along the edges where it had been touching the cardboard until I liked how it looked.

At this point, I decided that I wanted to heat emboss over the stenciled areas. If I had been thinking ahead, I would have done this before adding wax to my piece. (Because wax melts. LOL.) But, I decided to try it - worst case scenario, I had to redo some wax.

One of my PaperArtsy stamp sets (EGL03) features several of my stencil designs in smaller and more detailed versions that work great when paired with their matching stencils. I stamped the 6 Petal Flower in the center of the stenciled version using pigment ink, then added some of my new Dead Sea Blue Boho Blends embossing powder, shook it off, and very carefully heated and melted the powder (I used the lower heat to keep from melting the wax and, fortunately, it worked.)

I've said it many times before, but I just love the look and the texture I get from adding heat embossing into my work.

I felt like the piece really needed some embellishing to finish it off, so I added some African vinyl disk beads and also pulled out some of my new Boho Beads and added just a few of them on top of the stenciled designs.

Beads are another of my favorite ways to add texture and a unique look to my work.

A few dangles from my collection of Turkmen jewelry parts were a great finishing touch. I adhered the final embellishments and then set it aside to dry. (Cold wax can take a few days to dry completely, depending on your climate.)

Here are a few closeups so you can see the texture from the wax, heat embossing, and the added dimensional elements:

That's it for today! I hope you enjoyed it and maybe even came away inspired to try a new product or technique to amp up the texture in your work.

Happy stenciling!


  1. Such beautiful work! The wax adds a lot of depth to the blue and your stencil designs look fantastic embellished with the embossing and beads

    1. Thank you so much Ann! I love how varying how much paint you mix into the wax gives so much versatility... such a fun medium to play with.

  2. Didn't know about the water-soluble cold wax at all! A whole new road to you know if the cured wax is vulnerable to heat and humidity? ( I live in Texas )

    1. Thanks Nancy! So... I'm not an expert, but cold wax doesn't so much cure as it dries by solvent evaporation which is one of the main differences between this and encaustic. The drying time can vary based on humidity (it's not Texas, but it gets quite humid here in the DC area in the summer!) but once it's totally dry, it's about the density of a beeswax candle and the wax has a melting point around 155 degrees F. So it's probably along the same lines as putting a CD on your dashboard in the summer... I wouldn't put a cold wax painting on a truck with no A/C to go somewhere that takes a while, but it should hold up fine in regular circumstances. Hope that helps!

  3. That is new. I love cold wax but now I may love it more. TFS

  4. Interesting idea... I actually LOVED the look until the blue was added. but may have to try the wax.


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