I love pastels: years before I was an encaustic artist, I ‘painted’ with pastels. Some companies, like Sennelier, offer sets of 500 or more colors, which include gradiated ranges in many hues; and of course you can layer them to create even more variations. I love the rich encaustic colors that I can buy but often I find myself wanting something that isn’t commercial available.
Commercially available encaustic paints: Just as watercolors and oil paints are a combination of pigments and binders, so are encaustic paints where the binder is wax. Several companies make encaustics, I use R&F and Enkaustikos; and I am aware of several smaller companies that offer hand-made encaustic paints. I have more than 20 different shades of encaustics, for example, a warm and cool in each of yellow, blue, red, green, and orange, a few earth tones, black and white, even a couple of metalics; but it’s not enough color to satisfy me.
Mixing your own colors: Most encaustic artists have worked with multiple mediums before discovering wax. Artists are used to mixing their oil paints or water colors (or acrylics) to make the exact shade they want to use when creating a painting. Encaustics can be melted together on the palette or in small tins to create a color the artists wants; but a palette only holds so many tins at one time, which for me limits the number of colors immediately available. Artists may incorporate other mediums into their work and it’s very common for people to create additional colors by using oil paints to make encaustics. But I have a love for the richness of pastels and so that’s my go-to when I want a color I don’t have.
Painting with pastels: If you are interested in increasing your color range I recommend using Terry Ludwig’s handmade pastels or Pan Pastels. I find it’s really important to have a soft pastel that can be applied with a sponge or your glove tip. It was really hard at first to get over using my fingers but it’s better in the long run to wear gloves and take precautions. Terry’s largest set is 640 pieces of the creamiest, most desireable pastels I’ve used in encaustics. If you have a less soft brand you can take an exacto knife or some other tool and scrape the side of your pastel onto a piece of paper for further softening or onto the painting where you want the color. Rub it in and fuse until you are satisfied. Don’t fuse before rubbing in or you’ll be blowing dust around. I have a mask for times that I feel I need to protect my lungs. If you look at the pieces in the picture (blue tape on the sides means it’s still being worked on) you can see where I have been able to have ranges of color or in the case of the far left one, where I have added pastel to pure encaustic color to get the effect I want.