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?

  • 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?
    – Tony
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 17:39
  • We worked with wax a lot, finishing large plaster panels and other projects, so I have been thinking a lot about wax finishes. Now that I am oil painting again, I was curious if wax would work similarly with oil paintings. I remembered a student in one of my undergraduate classes finished some paintings with wax, but I couldn't remember if what kind of paint she used or if her methods were sound. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


Pure beeswax is compatible with oil paint and you can use it as a top coat or "varnish" on oil paints to provide a matte finish.

There are also cold wax mediums and varnishes that you can use with oil paints. They are a mixture of solvent like mineral spirits or turps, pure beeswax, and resins, the same materials you use to make mediums and varnishes for oil painting with the addition of beeswax. These you can work cold mixed with oils, dry pigments, or as a top coat to get a matte finish. In my experience they work fine but do not have the same depth as encaustics. They will take longer to set but will be easier to work with and provide a stronger finish than pure wax.

The curious may want to look at encaustic painting which is painting with pigmented beeswax and gives a distinctive appearance of depth and translucency which using a wax varnish approximates.

  • 2
    IMHO mentioning encaustics is useful as the look is similar and the materials used are the same, and are a cool thing some readers may want to know about. As far as wax mediums, they will be far easier for an artist to work with than applying hot wax and are another way to reach your goal of a wax finished painting which also seemed useful. I will rearrange it so as to emphasize the limited amount of information your question demanded, will that satisfy?
    – rebusB
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 23:06
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    @Joachim - well I did edit it so the first sentence provides a direct answer to the question. Not unhappy about the edit, it does read better. But the rest of the info is on topic so I am not going to delete it. OP and anyone else who is disinterested in the rest could just stop reading after the first sentence. If someone else (including OP) wants to copy paste the answer for the credit more power to them.
    – rebusB
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 21:20
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    I don't see how covering alternative but closely related materials is off topic especially when they provide a more practical or alternative solution. More related info does not unanswer the question IMO. (I'd get it if there were pages of blather to wade through, but I don't think this ranks among those kinds of answers.)
    – rebusB
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 2:10
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    @rebusB I completely agree with you. Additional information is usually a bonus, especially here on Arts & Crafts. And it's certainly not off-topic.
    – Joachim
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 13:22
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    @A It's an answer and the additional information is certainty helpful, because the question itself doesn't say why you want to try wax, specifically. Similarly, if an answer provided other "all natural" alternatives to beeswax. The answers are meant to help people with the same or similar questions, which this certainly does. Regardless, whether or not you mark the answer as accepted does not indicate whether the answer was correct or accurate, so you're free to vote as you choose, for whatever reason. On the other hand, the community as a whole rates the value of the answer.
    – user24
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 5:16

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