Encaustic painting, sometimes referred to as hot wax painting, is a process by which an artist uses heated beeswax mixed with pigment to create a textured surface that is both thick and layered as well as vibrant. As the wax itself is hot and sticky as it’s applied, metal tools as well as special brushes are used to spread the wax and manipulate it to achieve the desired result. Encaustic brushes are almost always made of natural materials, as synthetics might melt upon heating. What’s more, they often have smoother bristles than chip brushes so that the wax (and pigment) are applied more evenly. For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about encaustic brushes, check out the top five ARTnews picks below.
1. Enkaustikos Encaustic Brush
This encaustic brush is crafted of hog hair, ensuring that the fibers won’t melt or singe when being used with hot beeswax pigment. Created by accident, the maker fashioned this brush after an old tool of their father’s, which was made of the same natural fibers and held up expertly with various changes of hot beeswax pigment over a long (and short!) period of time. It also boasts a flat, yet slightly angled brush, which is ideal when looking for something that will easily move the hot beeswax around your canvas. With slight modifications, like a shortened handle, the encaustic brush was born. It can be purchased in .75-inch and .50-inch widths.
2. Nara Hake Encaustic Brush Set
This encaustic brush set comes in a set of four different widths, to ensure that you have a size for your every stroke. Made of top-quality goat hair, they are totally natural and will not be affected by the heat of the beeswax. With such wide and short bristles, these brushes are best used on a background wash, as they create a texture that, when painted over, gives the illusion of the foreground as fuzzy. The only downside is that they have a few loose hairs: we recommend you give them a little shake before use so that the bristles don’t wind up in your painting instead of your working surface.
3. R&F Encaustic Filbert Paintbrush
Made of natural hairs, this long-handled brush is perfect for encaustic painting. It features long and full bristles and comes in three different sizes, so you can find something suitable for a variety of levels of detail. The brushes are all flat with a slightly domed edge, to create softer and more rounded strokes. With the ability to create both long and sweeping strokes as well as slightly more-pointed details, though nothing too intricate, it’s a great beginner brush and beloved by teachers.
4. Princeton Artist Brush Catalyst Silicone Blades
Both a brush and a blade, this tool is made of silicone, ensuring that it won’t melt under the heat of the beeswax. It’s used to both create a background texture and manipulate surface wax into more-pointed structures than traditional brushes might allow. While specifically designed for encaustic painting, these brushes also work well with similarly heavy-bodied paints, like oil, acrylic, and more. They can even be used with materials such as clay, plaster, and cake frosting.
5. Escoda Clasico Series Long-Handle Artist Brush
This long-handle paint brush is an artists’ favorite, as it boasts a skinny tip and is great for the utmost of detail when painting with encaustic materials. To ensure that the bristles don’t melt while in use, it is made from Chungking hog, taken from the Chunking region of China and hand assembled in Spain. What’s more, the bristles themselves have been triple crimped so that they don’t easily come loose. While this particular brush is a size 24 tip, they come in a range of shapes and lengths for all your painting needs.