How to Add an Image Transfer to an Encaustic Painting

One of the beautiful benefits of encaustic art is how the layers of wax can entrap collage elements. And one of the ways you can add layers to an encaustic collage is with transfers.

encaustic painting by supria karmakar
The finished encaustic painting with
butterfly transfer, by Supria Karmakar.

In The Mixed Media Artist: Art Tips, Tricks, Secrets and Dreams from Over 40 Amazing Artists (North Light, 2013) by Seth Apter, Supria Karmakar discusses how she tells a story with her art:

“Each piece I create, I see as a container for the unfolding of a story with layers of narrative that serves to delight, provide meaningful insight and/or provide the viewer a place of comfort and connection, whether it be joyous or melancholy,” she writes.

To illustrate this guiding principle, she demonstrates a method for adding a butterfly image to an encaustic painting.

Supria uses this process frequently in her work, and now you can, too

Making an Image Transfer onto Encaustic Art


  • Finished encaustic painting
  • Metal spoon (for burnishing)
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Laser- or toner-based copy (not ink-jet) (on lightweight paper)
  • Propane torch or heat gun
  • Clear encaustic medium and encaustic brush


preparing transfer for encaustic application
burnishing image transfer onto encaustic
rubbing transfer paper off of encaustic painting
fusing the image transfer and encaustic medium
Making an image transfer on encaustic.
From top: Steps 2, 3, 4, and 7

1. Prepare the area where you would like to place your image transfer by applying some heat to the area with the propane torch or heat gun. The area needs to be warm to the touch (not molten liquid) and recently fused with heat within10 minutes of making the transfer. (Cold surfaces will not take the image transfer.)

2. Prepare your image transfer copy by tearing away any excess white paper.

3. Lay it on the area where you would like the image to transfer, making sure that the area is still warm to the touch. While it should be warm, it shouldn’t be too soft. Using a clean spoon, burnish the copy in a circular motion for about 3 minutes.

4. Spray the top of the burnished image with water to soak the paper. With the balls of your fingertips (don’t use your fingernails), roll off the soaked paper from the surface. The carbon from the photocopy is left burnished onto your work, but the paper rolls off with the water application.

5. The carbon that is released onto the work is sitting on the surface at this point and needs to be gently fused to the previous layer of your work. Using a heat gun, heat the image transfer carbon gently with a circular motion so it fuses to the previous layer. Be careful not to apply too much heat or go too close to your work with the heat gun or your carbon image might shift or possibly break apart.

6. After the image on the work has had a chance to cool down, apply a clear layer of encaustic medium over the carbon image transfer to protect it from getting scratched.

7. Using a circular motion, apply a second heat application with your heat gun, being careful not to get too close to the image transfer. Use enough heat to set the thin layer of medium and to get rid of your brush marks and smooth out the surface.

Your transfer process is now complete. You could leave it on the surface or bury it into the background by applying more translucent colors over the image.

How might you use art to tell your story? Get inspiration and tutorials for encaustic techniques, collage, painting, and more from The Mixed Media Artist.

P.S. Have you used image transfers with encaustic art? What method do you prefer? Leave a comment below.


Blog, Encaustic, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques


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