Unleash Your Inner Artist: Mastering the Art of Cold Wax Medium in 5 Simple Steps!

I’ve used many different art mediums in my time but I love nothing more than working with oils and cold wax. Nearly all my art on this site has been created in this way. So I thought today I’d share with you why I love the medium and my top tips for getting started with it, both as a bit of a behind the scenes insight into my process and also to help those of you interested in creating your own art with the medium.

Introduction to Cold Wax Medium

What is Cold Wax Medium?

Cold wax medium is a mixture of beeswax and solvent that is used as a medium in painting. I use the Zest It brand which can be found here. It is a versatile medium that can be used with oil paints, powdered pigments, pigment sticks and oil pastels to create a range of textures and effects and its perfect for artists who want to experiment with different textures and layers in their artwork. It’s particularly suited to one of my main methods of applying several layers and then scraping some of it back to reveal interesting effects as the different layers interact. Whilst I have done this to good effect in some paintings using acrylics (Harbour and Hidden on the site are two of my best examples of this) cold wax medium takes it to a whole new level.

Cold Wax Medium vs Encaustic: What’s the difference?

Cold wax medium is often compared to encaustic medium, but they are two different mediums. Encaustic medium is made of beeswax, damar resin and pigment and is heated to a liquid state before being applied to a surface. On the other hand, cold wax medium is not heated and is applied directly to the surface. Cold wax medium has a softer texture than encaustic and dries to a matte finish, while encaustic has a glossy finish.

Advantages of Cold Wax Medium

One of the biggest advantages of cold wax medium is its versatility. It can be used with a range of materials including oil paints, powdered pigments, oil pastels, and pigment sticks. As mentioned it dries to a matte finish, which can be great for artists who prefer a more subtle effect – although you can add a few drops of Galkyd Light to give a slightly glossier finish. Cold wax medium is also very forgiving, allowing artists to make changes and add layers to their work even after it has dried.

Cold Wax Medium Drying Time

Speaking of drying time – one of the things to keep in mind is that cold wax medium can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to dry depending on the thickness of the layers applied. Many people recommend letting each layer dry completely before applying another layer to avoid smudging or blending. I have to say though that’s not what I usually do – at least not currently. I like applying wet on wet to get that smudged blended look. It’s one of the things I like about the medium. But when you do that you have to be careful not to over blend and lose all the colours and contrast and end up with a muddy mess! I’ve been there more often that I care to admit! But when you get the level of pressure and the amount of blending just right the effects can be amazing.

Using Cold Wax Medium on Paper

It’s important to use the right paper for cold wax medium. Arches oil paper is the one I use although I’ve also used canvas paper. If you use other paper you need to apply several layers of gesso first. You can also use gessoed canvases but you have to apply thin layers otherwise there is a risk of cracking over time.

Tips for Working with Cold Wax Medium

  1. Use a palette knife to mix the cold wax medium with the paints and other materials. Many people use 50% cold wax medium to 50% oil paint. I tend to use a little less cold wax medium than that.
  2. Experiment with different tools, brushes and sponges to create different textures and patterns.
  3. Apply thin layers of cold wax medium to avoid cracking.


Cold wax medium is a versatile and forgiving medium that can be used to create stunning art pieces. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, cold wax medium can help you unleash your inner artist and experiment with different textures and layers in your artwork. I love working with the medium so if you’re interested give it a try and let me know how you get on.