Surface Design and Encaustic

(This tutorials was previously published in the book Encaustic Revelation by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, copyright 2014. It is republished here courtesy of and North Light Books.)

Susan StoverThis technique was taught by Susan Stover at EncaustiCamp 2013.

Fabric and wax have been used together for many centuries and throughout many cultures, from coating fabrics with wax for protection and endurance to creating beautiful patterns with wax and dye. Therefore, it seems a natural combination when you think of using fabric with encaustic. Silk is my favorite fabric to use with encaustic because it absorbs the wax so beautifully, but you may want to try other natural fabrics as well. There are endless options for unique mark-making, layering and patterning when combining surface design techniques on fabric with wax. In this chapter, we will explore contemporary and traditional techniques such as discharge, batik, silk painting and sun printing on silk and how we can use them in encaustic painting.

Materials Needed:
cooking oil or blending stick
Dye-Na-Flow fabric paint
dyed black silk (best to dye your own using Jacquard’s Acid or Procion MX dyes)
encaustic paint and medium
freezer paper
iron for wax
paper towels
piece of Plexiglas
plastic ice cube tray
silk habotai, silk organza
soft paint brushes for water-based paints, a few different sizes
spray bottle for water
stencils (plain mylar or acetate)
tjanting tools
wax tools

materials 2for making batik stamps: wood blocks, cotton rope, wood glue


materials 1
There are a couple of traditional batik tools that we will be using: a tjanting, which is a drawing implement that has a reservoir for hot wax, a handle and spout; and a tjap, which is a stamping tool used for printing a repeat pattern or image. A tjap is traditionally made of flat, thin pieces of copper or metal that are bent and placed on end to form an intricate design. The copper helps to keep the wax hot as it is applied to the fabric. Our homemade version of a tjap is a stamp made with wood blocks and cotton rope. The cotton rope soaks up the wax and makes multiple prints possible. To make your own, cut pieces of cotton rope and use wood glue to attach the rope to a wood block. It is helpful to attach a smaller block or dowel to the back side as a handle. Experiment with your own mark-making tools. Try sticks, cardboard or kitchen tools!

Batik and Silk Painting

batik sample 1

Batik is the process of applying wax to a fabric and then dyeing it. Successive layers of wax and dye can be applied to build up layers of pattern or imagery. Silk painting, traditionally done in the serti method, involves laying down lines of wax to enclose shapes on a piece of fabric. Dye is then applied within the closed shapes. In this demonstration we will experiment with both of these approaches.

It helps to keep your stamps warm on the palette, griddle or shallow pan.

batik step 1

1. With the shiny side of the freezer paper up, iron your piece of silk onto the freezer paper. Use a dry iron, no steam. This will help to stabilize the fabric as you are working on it.

batik step 2

2. Apply encaustic medium using a brush, tjanting or tjap.

batik step 3

3. In the plastic ice cube tray, mix colors of Jacquard’s Dye-Na-Flow. To make pastels, the colors can be diluted with water. (Dye-Na-Flow is a water-based fabric paint that flows like a dye.)

batik step 4

4. Paint the silk. You may choose to do multicolor washes over the whole fabric or more-detailed filling in of shapes. Let the fabric and dye dry completely.

batik step 5

5. Pull the fabric from the freezer paper.

batik step 6

6. Place the fabric between sheets of newspaper.

batik step 7

7. Iron the wax from the fabric.

batik step 8

8. Remove the fabric from the newspaper.

You don’t need to iron out the wax completely, but I find that it is easier to embed the fabric in encaustic later if it isn’t all bumpy with wax.

Incorporating Your Surface-Designed Fabric into Encaustic Paintings

Now comes the fun part, as if you aren’t having fun already! There are limitless possibilities for surface-design techniques when combined with encaustic. I hope these demonstrations start the wheels turning and get you thinking about how you can bring your own ideas of fabric and wax together.

To apply fabric over a whole painting:

apply step 1

1. Start with a few layers of fused encaustic medium or paint on your bord. Press a piece of fabric that is slightly larger than the bord onto the smooth, warm surface. (Here I’ve painted a color onto a bord. If you decide to do this, consider how the paint color might affect the color of your fabric.)

apply step 2

2. Turn the bord over and cut along the edge of the bord with a craft knife to remove any excess fabric.

You can prevent air bubbles underneath the fabric by making sure your encaustic surface is smooth.

apply step 3

3. Brush a layer of clear medium over the fabric.

apply step 4

4. Use a pottery tool to remove any bumps or unwanted texture in the wax.

apply step 5

5. Fuse.

(This tutorial was previously published in the book Encaustic Revelation by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, copyright 2014. It is reprinted here courtesy of and North Light Books.)

U7281_EncausticRevelation_CM.inddTo find out more or purchase a copy of Encaustic Revelation, click here.


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3 Responses to Surface Design and Encaustic

  1. Enamul Hoq says:

    wonderful tips for Surface Design and Encaustic … thanks for sharing with us and step by step

  2. cristyjones says:

    I just love your Surface Design and Encaustic …and it’s easy to design I’m definitely gonna give this a try

  3. This is really an outstanding task. I have tried but that’s not so amazing like yours.