Encaustic Art Transfer Technique with Carbon Paper

15 Apr 2012

The other day I made a joke about filling out my teenage daughter's endless extracurricular activity forms, along the lines of, "at least I don't have to produce them in triplicate." Meri looked at me blankly until I explained the concept of carbon copies. Then she looked at me the same way she might have if I'd told her I wrote my first words with a chisel in stone.

encaustic art by daniella woolf
Transfers on encaustic by Daniella Woolf.
The exchange led me to wonder if they even make carbon paper anymore. It turns out they do. You can still find carbon paper at your local stationery store (or online), and it's a great method for mark making in encaustic art.

I discovered this transfer technique in my new favorite art book (with DVD), The Encaustic Studio: A Wax Workshop in Mixed-Media Art by Daniella Woolf.

Many kinds of drawn or printed images can be easily transferred onto the encaustic wax surface. Because the wax has an adhesive quality, all it takes to transfer is to rub the image or drawing with a burnishing tool.

In the case of carbon paper, you're actually drawing with the burnishing tool directly onto the smooth wax.

You can do this spontaneously or prepare your drawing or words on a piece of tracing paper that you place over the back of the carbon paper as a guide.

Here is how Daniella made the carbon marks on this piece of encaustic art.

drawing on encaustic art
encaustic art with carbon paper
It's easy to draw on encaustic art
with carbon paper.
1. Lay carbon paper face down on the smooth encaustic surface. [The surface] can be cool or warm, but should not be hot. Draw or make marks on the back of the carbon paper; in fig. 1, I'm using a smooth stone. Experiment with making marks with other implements.

2. Peel back the carbon paper to reveal your drawing.

3. Lick the surface of the wax very lightly with a low flame from your torch or low setting on your heat gun. If you apply too much heat, the lines will disperse or break up in the wax. Apply a thin coat of encaustic medium to protect the image.

In the example, Daniella transfers another layer of color and pattern using the Saral brand of wax-free transfer paper (found in art supply stores).

Then she adds a third layer of overall texture by putting down carbon paper and rolling a brayer over a piece of mesh-plastic from a vegetable bag to transfer a pattern. (I love it when you can find encaustic supplies right in your house.)

What a simple yet effective technique for enhancing an encaustic painting or encaustic collage. The Encaustic Studio is filled with ideas like this one, with page after page of inspiration and instruction.

Now, if I could just find a use for my old slide rule.

P.S.  What "obsolete" objects and supplies have you found new uses for in your art? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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Learn innovative techniques from expert encaustic artist Daniella Woolf and revolutionize your art with wax.


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on 16 Apr 2012 10:07 AM

Oh boy!  It's so funny to see this post about actual carbon paper, since I actually just wrote a tutorial about how to create your own "carbon paper" in order to transfer oil paint stick pigment from paper to fabric for art quilting!  


I adore this simple image transfer technique and all its infinite uses!

on 16 Apr 2012 10:45 AM

I guess it's not obsolete, but since I never pull out the sewing machine any more, the tracing wheel has become one of my favorite encaustic tools. I've even found ones that make long dashes instead of just dots. I'm always on the lookout now at thrift stores. I love running the wheel through warm wax and then darkening the marks with oil paint.

on 16 Apr 2012 11:21 AM

Thanks for letting me go just a bit off topic...

I have several books of ditto masters!  They are for use in the elementary school classroom and contain terrific simple drawings and printing.  I'm afraid to experiment with them cuz they can be SO messy.  Has anyone experimented with them in their encaustic or mixed media artwork?


Noony10 wrote
on 16 Apr 2012 4:06 PM

I hunt for old craft books from the 60's and 70's.  Although not as sophisticated as books and materials we have today, they offer techniques using basic materials that were available then.  I can learn something from a simpler time.  

Cate Prato wrote
on 17 Apr 2012 9:25 AM

Great ideas, everyone! Lookcloselypress, that is a seriously cool technique! Thanks for sharing.

on 18 Oct 2012 12:30 PM

Welcome to Day 4 of Encaustic Week! Today, with the help Michelle Belto's book Wax and Paper Workshop: Techniques for Combining Encaustic Paint and Handmade Paper , I'll show you how to add a transfer to your encaustic art .

Hovawart wrote
on 17 Nov 2012 10:25 AM

The "balls" from IBM selectrics are good for impressing typeface into polymer clay, etc.