011 Don't Let Wax Bloom Happen To You!

John and Lisa discuss what wax bloom is and how to avoid it or eliminate it.  

What is wax bloom?

It may also be called “efflorescence”.  It refers to a wax build up.  Colored pencils are typically available in two different types of binders to hold the pigments together.  Generally speaking there are oil-based and there are wax based pencils.  

Wax-based seems to be the most preferred method by manufacturers for binding the pigment of a colored pencil.  Mostly because it’s the least expensive method.  When a colored pencil artist uses a wax-based pencil with a heavy hand, or multiple layers, a very mysterious film may appear.  This oxidation of the wax binder in the pigment is commonly referred to as wax bloom.  It can leave a very white film over at darkly pigmented area of your painting. It can also leave sort of a grayish film over your painting.  

When does it appear?  

I usually do not worry about it at all.  If I happen to see wax bloom then it is going to appear within several days or perhaps a few weeks.  

How do you get rid of it?

There are several methods that can be used to get rid of the wax bloom.  

  1. You can take a soft cloth and rub the area affected.  This is only a temporary fix and you run the risk of color transfer or damaging a texture of the surface.  

  2. You can heat the area with like a blow dryer or something similar.  Use something that will usually add heat to remove the film or buildup.

  3. You can heat it up with the Icarus board.

The way to permanently remove the build up is to spray your artwork with the fixative and then it’ll be gone and you’ll never see it again.

I have seen posts on forums like wetcanvas.com where people are seemingly freaked out by wax bloom. They will say things like yeah I’m not going to use colored pencils because of wax bloom or I cannot believe it I got wax bloom like it’s some kind of communicable disease.  

It’ll be okay.   Take a deep breath and spray your painting to protect it behind another finish spray or a good museum glass or something similar and then don’t ever worry about it.