Williamsburg Wax Medium

Page14_1From the very beginning, oil painters have used mediums to extend, modify, tweak and transform their paint in one way or another. These have run the gamut from the simple use of solvents when creating an initial wash to much more complex concoctions and recipes that involve the blending of various oils, resins, balsams, and waxes. While Williamsburg has always supplied many of the base ingredients for painters who like to make their own mediums, we want to also take this opportunity to highlight our Wax Medium, which comes ready to use and is offered in 8, 16, and 32 oz. cans only.

Wax Medium

A mainstay from the earliest days of the company, Williamsburg’s Wax Medium is made from a combination of linseed oil, bleached beeswax and dammar crystals that have been carefully melted and blended together. Unlike other wax pastes currently on the market, our Wax Medium contains absolutely no solvent, making it especially attractive to painters wanting to minimize their exposure to solvents in the studio. Having the feel of a soft paste when scooped from the can, it quickly becomes silky and quite fluid under the pressure of a palette knife as it is worked by itself or blended into paint. It is also unique in that it will form a film even on its own. This is particularly significant because most other wax pastes do not, and adding too high a percentage of wax by itself can cause problems of brittleness and poor adhesion. By contrast, because our Wax Medium starts with a blend of wax and oil together, a painter has much more freedom and leeway in how it is used.

Wax Medium blended with Williamsburg's Slate Black and Alizarin Orange Oil Colors.

Wax Medium blended with Williamsburg’s Slate Black and Alizarin Orange Oil Colors.

Small additions of 10-20% of Wax Medium will give one’s paint a thinner, more flowing consistency, with none of the fumes associated with mineral spirits or turpentine. As one moves into higher ratios, the paint will start to gain a beautiful translucency, while drying to more and more of a satiny sheen. However, some caution should be used at these higher levels since the paint will dry to an increasingly softer film the more wax you add, while greater transparency will make the mixture more vulnerable to the eventual yellowing of the oils. Because of that, it is best to limit applications with higher percentages of the Wax Medium to the upper layers of a painting, and when creating more translucent effects, leaning toward warmer colors where any yellowing will have the least impact. Lastly, Wax Medium can also be blended with other oils and alkyds to create a wide range of variations. A moderate drier, a 3 mil layer which is about the thickness of a piece of office paper, will dry in 4-7 days.

10 Responses to Williamsburg Wax Medium

  1. Dan June 29, 2018 at 8:23 pm #

    Thank you Sarah for that helpful exciting explanation.
    Sounds like a great alternative to more common solvent CWM. Questions:
    You recommend this wax medium in combination with encaustic?
    And may you prescribe acceptable wax/damar/linseed oil proportions?


    • Sarah Sands July 2, 2018 at 9:19 am #

      Hi Dan – While technically Williamsburg’s Wax Medium could be added to encaustic you want to be careful and not overdo it. As this diagram from R&F Encaustic shows, you can end up with an unstable film if the wax and oil ratio approached 50%. For the sake of the diagram, you can use the pigment stick to represent the wax medium:

      As we are not experts in encaustic, we would refer you to one of the encaustic paint manufacturers (R&F, Encaustikos) for additional guidance.

      In terms of an acceptable wax/damar/linseed proportions, we are not sure what context you are asking about. For making a wax medium for oil paint? As something to add to encaustics? Our own recipe is proprietary, but if look for recipes for encaustic medium as a starting point, you will find most range from 9:2 to 10:1 ratio of wax to damar. The amount of linseed oil that is added at that point places you along that oil paint/encaustic spectrum of the diagram, so a lot will depend on what you want to achieve and which medium you are working in. For oil paints, we would normally advise t keep the wax content as low as possible, with 10-15% being a good maximum.

      Hope that helps as always.

  2. J October 11, 2018 at 2:24 pm #

    What is the approximate largest ratio of the Williamsburg Wax Medium to out-of-tube oil paint that will render the combination stable enough to paint on canvas surface? At what point should we be worried about brittleness/lack of drying on such surface?

    • Sarah Sands October 11, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

      Hi Ryko – Our concern is less with flexibility than with increased yellowing and softness. Because our Wax Medium is made with linseed oil, it will actually form a film on its own that is quite pliable. However, if you start to add a lot of the wax medium to a paint you will find that it could noticeably yellow over time and start to be much too soft to easily paint on top of. Also, while we have done a lot of testing with single blends applied in a single layer, we have not actually done any testing to explore what the limits or issues are when trying to layer or use the medium in a more complex process. Because of that we generally hold to the advice we give in the article, which is to keep additions to the 10-20% range. Going beyond that is certainly possible, with really little limit on the percentage, but keep any of those layers towards the top of a painting. Unfortunately, however, that is also where any increased tendency to yellow will be most noticeable and increased softness could cause issues with dirt and dust sticking to the surface.

  3. Oksana Zhelisko July 30, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

    Hello Sarah,
    I have recently experimented with the wax medium and loved working with it. I have applied textured layer of wax and paint in a 40/60 % range. It has been a week and it hasn’t dried even a bit. Reading the previous comments I realize that I can go that thick with it.
    Does it mean that it wont dry at all ? I appreciate any comments or suggestions from you.

    • Greg Watson July 30, 2019 at 3:43 pm #

      Hello Oksana,
      Sarah is on sabbatical for the year, so I am happy to answer your question.
      As mentioned in the article, a thin layer of Wax Medium, about the thickness of a sheet of paper, can take 4-7 days to dry. That standard dry time is then modified by the paint you mix it with. If you mixed with a faster drying color, then it may be possible to dry well in a thicker/textured application. If you mixed with a slower drying color, it may be quite a while until a textured application dries. Like other mediums based on linseed oil, using Wax Medium in higher ratios of medium to paint are better used thinly. Using the Wax Medium thinly will lessen the likelihood of extended dry times and yellowing of the paint layer.
      We hope this helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to email direct at
      Best Regards,
      Greg Watson

  4. Selena October 5, 2019 at 2:15 pm #

    Can you post a link of this medium being used by an artist while painting?

    • Greg Watson October 8, 2019 at 2:48 pm #

      Hello Selena,
      Unfortunately, we do not currently have a video or a link with that information. We will put it on the list and try to get something posted to our social media soon.

  5. Sally Hirst October 15, 2019 at 6:23 am #

    Do you know if it’s possible to mix this with odorless mineral spirits to create a Cold Wax Medium? The recipe I use for CWM is a mix of beeswax, damar resin and OMS. I can use this with oil 50/50 without any problems.

    • Michael Townsend October 15, 2019 at 6:24 pm #

      Hello Sally.
      Thank you for your question.
      The WB Wax Medium isn’t the same as a cold wax product like Dorland’s. It is not meant to create impasto texture, more so to help stiffen and make the paint mixture more buttery.
      – Mike Townsend

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