The edges of encaustic paintings/panels can be treated in a variety of ways. Some artists mask the edges, and then remove the tape and paint them in acrylic. It is also possible to cover the edges with encaustic medium. The iron, in combination with the blow torch, is a great tool for this.
Recently, I created a large body of work on panels that were 2″ deep, and I wanted the edges to read as ‘wood’…. no colour added to the encaustic medium. I used the yellow, natural medium, (the colour of honey), fusing the first layer with a blow torch, to really sink it into the wood surface. The second layer I fused with the iron, which gives a smooth surface. If you don’t use or have a blow torch, then fusing both layers with the iron is fine.
Coloured wax can also be used, using the same method as above… but you will likely need a few more coats to create an even surface. The more intense the colour (e.g. more oil paint/pigment added to the wax), the fewer coats you will need. Sometimes artists will match the colours on the edges to the colours from the piece, or just choose one colour that sets off the painting nicely. I’d recommend neutral colours, but it depends on the look you’re going for. In some cases, a bright red can be wonderful!
It is best to use the ‘nose’ area of the iron as you move across the surface of the edge. It allows for more control. It is important to keep the iron moving in short light strokes, with a medium to light pressure being exerted. This takes a little practice. The temperature of the iron should be two notches down from ‘low’ for enough heat, but not too much. Overlap each stroke as you go, to create a smooth surface.
I tend to angle the substrate back, with the face of the painting up, so that any drips will fall off the back edge, rather than over the surface of the piece. I recommend taking care of edges at the beginning of your painting. If you wait until the end, it may impact on the surface and create problems. The edges can be buffed after they have hardened or cured, to a high shine, as desired.
How do you finish the edges of your encaustic paintings? I would love to read your comments.