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I've heard of paintings being finished with a thin wax coat, but I didn't know if this could be done with oil paintings specifically.

If wax is not compatible with dried oil paint, what other materials could be used to create a similar, even matte finish?

For clarification, I am asking if wax can be used in place of varnish on a finished, dried/cured oil-painting. If so, is there a specific kind of wax one would use in this circumstance?

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You should look at encaustic painting which is painting with pigmented beeswax. It is possible that the paintings you have seen with a waxy finish are encaustics.

That being said, pure beeswax is compatible with oil paint and you can cover oil paints with it to get that translucent look. The paint may bloom a little if it is not fully dry but probably not so much you would have to worry about it.

There are also wax mediums that you can use with oil paints. They are a mixture of solvent like mineral spirits or turps, wax, and resins; pretty much the same materials you would make liquid mediums for oil painting with the addition of beeswax. These you can work cold mixed with oils, dry pigments, or as a top coat, and get that same translucent look. In my experience they work fine but do not have the same "solidity" as pure beeswax encaustics. They also take longer to set. You can find them searching for cold wax mediums, or you can make your own with the aforementioned ingredients.

edit: just saw your edit and pure beeswax is compatible with oil paints and both it and wax mediums can be used as a top coat. They will be more matte than varnish.

  • Hey, I liked your answer for the most part, but I haven't accepted it as my solution because of the off-topic parts of the answer. (Encaustic painting and mixing paint with wax don't relate to my question about creating a finish on top of a completed painting.) I'd be happy to accept your solution if you edited out those parts; part of my goal in participating on this site is to create a good database of art knowledge with clear, topical answers to questions. =) – A. Staffelbach yesterday
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I don't have an answer but I'm curious why not use a matte varnish? I'm not asking to sound smart I assume you have a reason and I'd like to know for my own education. Is there a benefit for lack of a better word in using wax?

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