Art Materials

Exploring Wax Crayons

It’s been a little while since I started this series off with Canvas, and I thought it was about time I continued it.  This time I’m going to look at that staple tool of any self-respecting budding artist – wax crayons.  Traditional, cheap, practical, easy to use, these are so ubiquitous that their creative potential is perhaps sometimes a little overlooked.  Personally I have found that all wax crayons are not alike.  They differ amazingly – you can get short fat stubby, chunky crayons, or long, thin ones.  Some are hard and plasticky, others (perhaps unsurprisingly) soft and waxy.  Some will produce a dense, bright colour, others a pale washed-out colour.  Unfortunately, you can’t tell just by looking at them how effective they will be, and price doesn’t always seem to be a guide either.  Some of the best I have found have been given out as freebies at restaurants.

Wax crayons are really effective for colouring large areas quickly and for creating large, simple drawings, but their unique characteristics make them especially suitable for the following kinds of projects:

Texture rubbings

Leaves, bark, brass rubbings, coins, wood grain, stone – lots of fun can be had with a piece of paper and a wax crayon – it’s something that everyone must have done at some time or another – simple, but magical to a child, as an image appears before their eyes.

Resist Work

A dark wash over bright crayon creates strong contrast

This technique exploits the water-resistant qualities of wax crayons.  Again simple yet very effective.  You create your drawing in wax crayon, and wash over it with a watery paint.  You can get different effects depending upon how thick the paint is, and the colour of the drawing beneath.  Used with a very watery paint and a white crayon, the effect is light and delicate, but wash over a bright wax crayon drawing with a denser black paint (not too thick or the paint will simply obliterate the drawing) and the effect is much richer and more dramatic.  Alternatively, if the pictures are small you can use a felt tip marker pen over the wax crayon. To get the best effect, the wax crayon has to be applied fairly densely under pressure, which requires some strength to do.  For this reason, very young children are likely to need some help with the drawing.

A pale wash over white crayon creates a delicate effect


First create a brightly coloured background

This technique has 3 stages and is most suitable for older children who have more strength to apply the necessary pressure.
1.  Create a colourful background with wax crayon, felt tips or paint (or cheat and use colourful paper)
2.  Cover it densely with black wax crayon, applying as much pressure as possible.
3.  Using something like a cocktail stick, draw your picture by scraping away the black wax crayon and revealing the coloured surface below.

Add a dense black layer of crayon over the top, and scratch a design or picture into it.
This example was created with a felt-tip background

The same effect can be created rather less cheaply using Crayola Color Explosion – Rainbow paper and pens. I bought some of this for my kids (OK it was for me really) and they (or me) had great fun with it.

Firework scene created with Crayola’s Colour Explosion paper and pens