Lately, I have been busy painting a bird series in encaustic wax.  Along the way I have been posting examples of my work in progress on Facebook. Quit a few of my followers have asked me how to make a charcoal transfer onto the encaustic wax.

How To Transfer A Charcoal Drawing in EncausticIt is very simple…

Here’s what you will need:

  • A photograph or drawing of the subject you wish to transfer.
  • A ‘primed’ encaustic board.
    • The board must be primed with a layer of wax medium applied to the surface. Make sure the wax has been fused and cooled to the touch before transferring the image.
  • A charcoal pencil, or vine charcoal.
  • Tracing paper.
  • A tool for rubbing/burnishing the image onto the board. Below I am using a bone folder. You can also try the backside of a spoon.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Using the charcoal, I make the tracing of the subject to be transferred – in this case it is an owl.
  2. Next, I place the charcoal drawing face-down onto the primed encaustic wax surface. Face-down means that the charcoal drawing is touching the surface of the wax. Keep in mind, the image will now appear in the opposite direction than your original drawing.
  3. Once the drawing is in place I use the bone folder (or spoon) to gently rub over the lines of the drawing. Be mindful not to press too hard and damage the wax surface.
  4. Lastly, I carefully peel back the tracing paper to reveal the transferred charcoal drawing. At this point I am peeking at the transferred image without completely lifting up the tracing paper. If the image is too faint, I can easily replace the paper, match up the lines and repeat the above process.
  5. Once I am happy with the charcoal transfer, I gently fuse the drawing before adding encaustic pigment.

This charcoal transfer technique is quite useful and helps me with my realistic approach of painting with encaustics. I hope you experiment with charcoal transfers and let your imagination expand!

*Let’s also meet on Twitterand on Google Plus, Pinterestand join in the fun at Fine Art Tips Facebook Fan Page! Please checkout my art too, or find me on Instagram lorimcneeartist.

Lori McNee

Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, and landscape oil paintings. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of Idaho, serves on the Plein Air Mag Board of Advisors, and is an Artist Ambassador to Arches/Canson/Royal Talens. As the owner of, Lori blogs about fine art tips, marketing, and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist. As a social media influencer, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. She is a keynote speaker, has been a talk show host for Plum TV, writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market. Also, Zero to 100,000: Social Media Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses. Lori is also a member of the CBS Entertainment Tonight & The Insider Tweet Team.

3 thoughts on “How To Transfer A Charcoal Drawing In Encaustic

  1. Rex Brown says:

    I use a similar technique on my encaustics. Instead of a charcoal drawing, I use an image from a laser printer. You can also use a copy from a toner based copy machine. You can see some of my encaustic work at

    An image specifically using the image transfer is at
    In this image, the image was transferred then another coat of wax and then another copy of the image slightly offset and continued that process until I was satisfied. Hope you like.


    • Lori McNee says:

      Hello Rex, thanks for sharing your encaustic painting. The image transfer sure gives it a mysterious look. I might need to try that for myself! Thanks for the comment… ~Lori

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