Wax bloom is a condition that can make a colored pencil or crayon sketch look as if it has a milking haze over the top of it. It is especially likely to occur when using a coloring agent that contains a high amount of wax, and when a lot of pressure has been applied during the color application, making the color medium go on thick and dark.
Many of the online coloring tutorials recommend techniques that are likely to cause wax bloom. These techniques include heavy layering, burnishing, and making sure that every fiber of the paper’s tooth is filled with color.
Wax bloom occurs when the wax in a pencil or crayon sketch rises to the top of the picture surface, causing a whitish film to appear, dimming the colors. There are five ways to cope with it: prevention through medium selection, prevention through application techniques, prevention by using a spray fixative, correction by wiping, or correction by using heat.
In any case, wax bloom is not a disaster, and is unlikely to ruin your picture forever. A few simple coping techniques will definitely save the day. You do not have to lose your favorite coloring pages or pictures to a naturally occurring event that can be taken care of using a few simple techniques.
- Prevention through selection: Wax bloom is most likely to occur when the coloring medium has a high amount of wax in the color core, whether it is the center of a pencil or it is a coloring stick such as a wax crayon. By selecting a coloring medium that is more dependent on an oil base than a wax base, there is less chance of there being enough wax to cause wax bloom. Although they can be a little messy, oil-based crayons, oil-based pencils, and even chalk colors will not develop wax bloom.
- Prevention through application: That nasty white film is more likely to occur when the wax-based color has been thickly layered onto the paper through pressing hard, or by layering followed by a burnishing technique. When the color is spread on lightly, leaving just a little of the paper to show through, then the wax will spread to the uncolored areas of the page instead of sitting on top of the color. While not a perfect solution, it is a functional one. Light coloring is also easier on your hands, is less likely to break your crayons, and allows using the side of a crayon or pencil core to apply color. It also facilitates the ability to mix colors on your page, either actually or visually.
- Prevention by Using a Spray Fixative: A spray fixative is just what it sounds like, which is to say a clear spray medium that places a lacquer or varnish over your picture “fixing” it in place so that it does not change after completion. It is most frequently used with chalk, oil pastels, or charcoal drawings because all of these mediums have a high smear potential. However, spray fixative, including (in a pinch) hair spray will help keep your picture in its original condition. With that said, fixatives, including hairspray, come in different grades. Some will cause a slight amount of yellowing as a picture ages. A good grade of fixative, while perhaps a little more expensive to purchase, is less likely to cause difficulty. Always be sure to let your picture dry thoroughly after applying a spray fixative of any type.
- Correction by wiping: Since wax bloom is simply wax that has risen to the top, it is possible to gently wipe it away, especially if only a small part of the picture has been affected. With that said, it should be noted that when you wipe away the top layer of wax, there is a good chance that you might wipe off some of the color. Do not panic! You are, after all, wiping off some of the color you applied to the page. To wipe off the wax bloom, use a facial applicator, q-tip, or similar implement and do only a small section at a time. This makes it less likely that you will wipe away a salient feature of your picture or that you will smear it.
- Correction with heat: Use a hair dryer on low setting and gently blow across the picture. Alternatively, if you have an Icarus board (a warmed art board) you can use it to warm the wax. The bloom will be reabsorbed into the picture. While it is still slightly malleable, use a spray fixative to seal the picture to prevent further occurrences. As with any spray fixative situation, allow the picture to dry thoroughly before stacking or placing in a book.
While we are on the topic of correction with heat, an Icarus board can also be used to achieve some interesting art effects using melted wax. Because it warms the surface of the medium, the crayon or wax based pencil will melt slightly, allowing it to flow onto the page in a thick, creamy application.
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After a picture that has had wax bloom has been corrected, it is always a good idea to use the spray fixative to preserve the picture. With that said, if the picture is somewhat aged, always test the spray on a tiny corner or section before applying the spray to the whole thing.
An alternative to fixative
Another way to preserve your beautiful pencil or wax pictures is to immediately take a digital picture of them right after finishing your artwork. In this way, you not only preserve the picture in its best condition, you have also prepped it for printing or use in other digital medium. This is an excellent habit if you are uploading your artwork to Patreon, Deviant Art, or similar art sales/posting medium page. At the same time, always keep your original – just in cast you must prove that the work is yours.
Keeping a Record of Your Artwork
In fact, it is always a good idea to take a picture of your artwork. There was once a lady who illustrated children’s picture books. She could not keep the artworks since she was selling them. However, she reduced a picture of each one to a 1 inch by 2 inch miniature and strung them on a necklace that she wore almost constantly. It made a colorful visual record of her many pictures, and possibly even attracted local authors who needed an illustrator for their books.
There you have it! Five ways to correct or prevent wax bloom on wax crayon or wax-based pencil art works. Never again will the dread haze of white ruin your pictures, because you are in the know. You have the tools to repair your pictures or pictures for other people and to make them beautiful again. You now have no need to pretend that white film is evidence that your subject has been touched by ghosts.
As always, happy coloring! May all your days be colorful and bright, and don’t forget if you are drawing or coloring snow, that it is frozen water that will reflect back light and have mounds that cast colorful shadows.
What are the best ways to prevent wax bloom?
One good way to prevent wax bloom is to allow some of the background medium, especially if it is paper or cardboard to show through. That will allow the base medium to absorb some of the excess wax. Another way is to always spray your finished work with an art fixative.
What medium is there besides wax to hold pigment?
A thick oil base can also be used. Oil pastels is a good example of this. However, oil based crayons are not very kid friendly. They tend to smear, and some of the pigments used are somewhat toxic. They are fine to use as an art medium for adults since most grown ups are unlikely to nibble on their crayons or pencils.
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