Creating a Beeswax Nature Illustration by Kelli Perkins

I’m not ashamed to admit that I adore walnut ink. The ability to make an instant “vintage” work of art has an allure I just can’t pass up. Although artists have been using coffee and tea to dye paper and fabric for years, walnut ink is an easy-to-use substitute, and I keep a diluted jar handy for finishing touches.


  • Substrate (illustration board or heavy watercolor paper)
  • Archival ink pen
  • Watercolor pencils
  • Acrylic paints
  • 7 Gypsies® walnut ink
  • Vintage pearl buttons
  • E-6000® adhesive
  • Beeswax


  1. Choose a base for your illustration. I use illustration board for its smooth surface, but you can also glue watercolor paper to cardboard. It will be important to have a sturdy base for the beeswax, which will stretch and crack if the surface bends.
  2. Lightly outline your subject in pencil, then draw it in with an ultra-fine archival ink pen. Use the pen to create shading and detail.
  3. Next, color over your image (here the bird, eggs, and nest) with watercolor pencils and blend with water to fill in basic image colors.
  4. Break out the acrylic paints to do your background (I’m addicted to yellow ochre) and finer details in your painting. Use multiple shades of the same color to add depth and highlights.
  5. Dilute walnut ink crystals per directions. Use a piece of paper to mask the areas you don’t want splotched with ink. Dip a paintbrush in walnut ink and shake it onto your image in random patterns. Experiment with different brush sizes for larger or smaller drops. Allow the ink to dry completely for darker spots or dab off with the corner of a paper towel for lighter areas.
  6. Glue on some old pearl buttons or other embellishments using strong adhesive.
  7. Using a brush reserved for wax work, slather on hot beeswax, then use a heat gun to melt it evenly across your artwork. Take care not to heat the wax too much or it will begin to saturate the background and leave oily marks.


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