The first step to painting with encaustic is melting the paint. At room temperature encaustic paint is a solid. When heated it becomes a workable liquid. In this liquid state it can be applied to the surface with brushes, but you can also get paint on the surface by pouring, dipping or using heated tools. Here are some basic hints for starting:
Make sure your temperature is between 180-200°F and you have your surface thermometer on your palette
Select the colors you will be using and decide if you want to melt paint directly on your palette or in palette cups
Decide which brushes you would like to use and arrange them on or next to your palette. You will notice that it is necessary to keep your brushes warm so that they remain soft and ready to use. You will find that if you pause with your brush the paint will cool and harden.
The types of brushes you use will affect the way you apply the paint to the surface; a soft hake brush will leave almost no brushstrokes while a bristle brush will.
If you apply warm paint to a warm panel the paint will flow more readily onto the board, while if you apply warm paint to a cool panel the paint will cool quickly and create texture.
It is helpful to heat your support directly on your palette or with the use of a heat gun. If you skip this step the paint will cool very quickly and you will have short brushstrokes.
You can come back to a painting at any time to rework it with the addition of heat.