What is Cold Wax Medium?

Tidal flats at Discovery Park beach by Simon Bland

Tidal flats. 12x12, oil and cold wax on panel. 2017

Cold wax medium often produces mixed results for me. Sometimes I've used it like regular oil paint and loved it, other times it has caused me to overwork paintings that should have been easy. One thing I do like about it: it's great for producing abstract effects, particularly when light is involved.

What is it?

Cold wax medium is melted beeswax that has been mixed with a solvent. It usually has some alkyd medium added to it to make it stronger and more flexible. You use it with oil paints.

How Do I Use It?

Mix it up with oil paint just like you would any other medium. The solvent evaporates from the medium and it dries to a hard, matte finish. It is best to use when painting on panels as cold wax doesn't have the same flexibility as pure oil paint.

When the solvent evaporates the residual paint layer is waxy and can be scraped and worked very easily.

How Much Do I Use?

You can use as much as you like. The fat over lean rule doesn't apply to cold wax paintings. That means you can do thin layers over thick layers. You can even apply the medium without any paint mixed with it.

Why Would I want To Try It?

It's a different painting experience. You can easily add a new layer while the layer underneath is still wet.The paint can be applied thick or thin and pushed around as it dries. It can be manipulated like regular oil paint, but it's much less slick. That means you can work it with things other than brushes—the painting I've show above was mostly done with a kitchen spatula (one of the silicone ones).

 I've written previously on how to make your own mediums, including wax medium.

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