Painting on Wax Candles?


Active Member
Does anyone know what I can use to put a design onto candles? It's a bit late now, I've done the job for this year's church candle (using my old method of strips of coloured wax) but I'd like to do a more detailed job.

Years ago husband used to serve in the sanctuary of the local Anglican (Episcopalian?) church with another bloke who used to do their church Easter candle, and it was a magnificent job. Apparently he would carve a little way into the candle and then apply some sort of paint, husband thought it was probably oil paints.

So I ran out and bought oil paints. To be on the safe side, I also bought a couple of brushes, so as to not crud up my watercolour brushes. I already know that I can't use acrylics or watercolours on wax. it just beads and then wipes off when dry if you manage to get it to bead in the right place.

Last year I bought some candle paints in tubes - I thought I had the problem licked. But when I opened the packet, the paints had 'gelled' - they'd set and separated, like a tube of blood with no anticoagulant (sorry, memories of past lab work). A blood sample will clot into a sort of jelly, then the clear serum with separate off. These paints looked the same (only different colours, of course) and I played with them on an old candle and it didn't work.

I went back to the shop this year - they had more candle paints, but I wasn't leaving the store without checking them. Turns out, it was the same stock they had last year and all the paints had gelled. They were throwing them out as I left. I bought a pack of oil paints instead.

Tonight I finally got the chance to play. I tried my design on a sheet of paper, and my old practice candle. The paint went on beautifully, it didn't bead or anything. I put it aside to let it dry and got on with dinner.
After dinner I had a look at the practice candle. I touched the paint - it smudged. I left it for another few hours. It was no different. meanwhile the paint on the paper was thoroughly dry. The turps I'd used to clean my brush had almost evaporated and the paint was still smudging. After a few more hours I found that the entire design would simply wipe off.

So I've used my old method again for this year. But I want to get a head start on next year and maybe do some secular candling in the meantime.

One alternative that I do NOT want to do - there is a convent a few hours down the coast where they specialise in candles. They do intricate designs on parchment which they stick to the candle and give the candle one more dip in beeswax. The design still looks sharp but it is now inside the candle. But as the candle burns, the parchment stands proud and the candle melts around it. Or, the parchment catches fire and becomes a second wick, which is a hazard. The person who used to do the candle before me (difficult child 3's godmother) LOVES the parchment method, it's what she used to do (sticking it on with clear contact) and got cranky with husband when he cut off the bit sticking up when it caught fire. She thought the second flame looked pretty, even though it almost set fire to the curtains.

So, any ideas? And does anyone want a set of oil paints?



New Member
Marg - we painted candles back in the dark ages when I was in high school. We used tempera paint - which is water based, but somehow it stuck and didn't rub off. My mom still has one of those candles 30+ years later!


No real answers to life..
Don't they make paints that would go on glass? Seems to me the same principle would apply--putting paint on a slick surface and will it ever dry?...just a thought...hope you find something that works, it sounds like it would be a great project...


Active Member
Thanks for the tips. We're about to go out but should be home early evening. I'll have a go with my glass paints then, on my test candle. It would be good to be able to embellish the church candle a little bit more, although I'm running out of drying time, now. Plus, glass paints are translucent, not opaque. For at least some of what I'd like to do, I need good coverage with opacity.

Thanks for the BHG link, Steph. Those Ceramcoat acrylics look interesting. I don't think I've seen them before, I'll have to go to a larger craft store, I think, and ask. I do know that acrylic model paints or folk art acrylics don't work. At least, not the ones that I have. The glass paints will be worth playing with and I'll have to get some tempera pigments - do you mean REAL tempera, as in, "made using pigment and egg yolk" like medieval artists? I've not tried this but it would be an interesting experiment. I'm sure husband could get his hands on some pigments although I might pass on traditional purple from Murex shells - I believe it stinks and costs a fortune. And I'm not going to try extracting my own - our seashores are protected here, I'd get arrested for harvesting life shellfish. I don't think I'm quite that desperate for a solution yet.



Active Member
OK, update - glass paints don't work. I tried them a short while ago - it just beaded on the test candle, wouldn't stay in place easily. I'll leave it to dry, but it's going to be too late. husband has fiddled around with it and got the candle already set in place in the candlestick - it's not an exact fit, we need to puddle some wax to lock it in place. So making any changes now - we've got 11 hours before it's needed, there wouldn't be time for anything to dry.

Maybe next year.

Oh, and the glass paint instructions say to bake it in a 160 C oven to make it dishwasher safe - wonder how that will work with a candle? :wink:

You definitely can is acrylic but you have to buy " paint adhesive ". You can buy this at or Joanne' . You can not find it in stores . The bottle is about two dollars . I have a candle shop and I am always painting my candles. You put paint equal amounts of drops to the paint with the paint adhesive . Before you paint on your candlevypu must rub the outside of your candle with a cotton ball and rubbing alcholol to get the shine out of the candle . This takes off some of the waxy surface and allows your paint to adhere. I hope this helps