Making Wax Colors

Bleached beeswax and raw beeswax
You can find wax in sculpture supply houses or get it directly from bee keepers.  (Sometimes bloom develops on paintings.  This can take a few years.  If it shows up, lightly wipe the painting surface with a soft cloth and a little sesame oil.  The bloom will disappear and the picture will be restored to its original brilliance.)

Ingredients for making wax colors

Ingredients for making wax colors

I have experimented with the addition of linseed oil to make softer crayons.  It does work, but I have found that over the years the oil additives develop fine line cracks in the painted surface.  I no longer use oil.  All of my earliest works, some nearly 40 years old that are pure bees wax have no cracking at all.  I have also heard of people using damar resin.  I believe this is used to raise the melting point of the wax and to create a harder surface.  I do not use it for the cracking problem.


Although you can see many tools in this picture, for making colors I use the frypan with the small tins to melt wax, add pigments to it and then pour the mixture out onto the hot table.  I use the putty knife to work the pigments and wax together and when the wax cools enough to be able to handle I roll it out into crayons.  You could begin with making a basic palette of red, yellow, blue, and white.

Pure beeswax is melted and pigments are added to make colors.  Melt slowly and do not heat over 200º Fahrenheit.  This is important because wax discolors at temperatures over 200º and if you go up to 400º toxic fumes are given off and a little higher than that exceeds the flash point for fire in the studio.  DO NOT GO OVER 200º Fahrenheit!

Earth based oxides go into solution very easily.  On a molecular level the earth oxide pigments look like pockmarked asteroids and wax will permeate those fissures making a wonderful paste.  On the other hand on a molecular level cobalt, graphite, cadmium, and chrome oxide are like hard diamonds and justfloat in the wax.  There is no marriage.  These pigments are very hard to use.  Green is the hardest.  One of the reasons I experimented with oil was to get these difficult pigments to go into solution with the wax.  But I have had to give up the oil and am still suffering with these pigments.  My next experiment with them will be to add kaolin clay.  The clay will have the pockmark asteroid molecule and combined with the pigments may work.  I might also try terra alba which is raw gypsum (hydrated gypsum is plaster of paris and that would never work).