One of the most exciting things about working with encaustic media is it's versatility. You can do a lot with it, and incising lines is a great way to create interesting design elements and contrast in a painting.
When I know that I will be incising lines and or shapes into my work I will typically add a number of layers of wax first in a variety of colors, and then go back and incise lines. The incisions can be deep or shallow, random or purposeful.
Once you have created incisions you can then decide if they will be filled with wax, pigment stick, oil paint of even India ink, etc.. There are many options, depending on what you hope to achieve with the work.
The process of creating lines can be challenging, but good tools, and heat management (working the wax at the right temperature) can really make all the difference. If you want to incise line/shapes more accurately, make sure your wax is warm (not too hot or the wax will be too soft to work with) but warm enough so that your incising tool can work smoothly through the wax to create a controlled, clean lines.
Using a stylus to incise lines in wax works well. In this example I have used a ball head stylus to incise a line around an object in a painting. With a ball stylus you can create an even line and because it does not have a sharp point, it creates a rounded incised shape. The line is wide enough to fill with wax, pigment or other material or you can just leave it plain.
If you choose to fill the line with wax you can use a scraper to remove the excess wax, which allows you to create a nice clean line. In the example below, I am using a metal scraper to remove the excess wax. This scraper has a sharp wide sturdy metal blade on both the round and square scraping sides, which works much better than wire clay scrapers. It also offers a lot more control than using a razor blade, and because it is the blade is sharp and the body metal, it holds up well to working with encaustic/heat.
In addition to a ball head incising stylus, you can also use just about any pointed tool to make lines in wax. I particularly like to use wood tools that are made to work with clay, like this pointed clay sculpting tool. The points need to be sharp and somewhat small, and they need to be strong enough to hold up to working with wax. The one shown here is 8 inches in length and has a great feel when working with wax. You can see the nice tight line that I was able to make with this tool as shown in the example below.
Another incising tool that works really well with wax are wood carving tools. I carry two in my store that I specifically picked out for making incisions/lines that are not too wide. They both have a relatively narrow carving v-shaped head, which allows the artist to make nice clean narrow lines like the one I created below in this example.
I added a bunch of new incising tools to my store recently, all with Encaustic painting in mind. So instead of having to buy large sets of clay sculpting tools for example (more than half of which you will probably hardly ever use), you can just buy the tools that work well for working with wax and for incising in particular. The tools I added are all made well,with good quality materials and finishes.
Each of the example photos above link back to my store and that particular item.
Hope you enjoyed this article and have fun creating.