Crayons vs. Colored Pencils

Both crayons and colored pencils are associated with school supplies for children. Each has unique characteristics that can be better for one art application or another. They also have attributes that make them better for various age groups and artists of varying abilities.

Depending on what your artistic goals might be, all you need to know is that they are both valid mediums for art creations, ranging from those first art scribbles on a piece of packing paper to amazingly beautiful freehand drawings by famous artists. Let us take a look at their characteristics and the ways they can be used. 

Crayons are made of wax that has a color dye added. The first crayons were black and were marketed as waterproof writing tools for industry. Around the same time, artistic colors were marketed in Europe. Both the black markers and the artist’s colors contained toxic substances that would not be good for children. 

In 1903 an American company, Binney, and Smith produced the first box of 8 crayons specifically designed for children. Schoolchildren have been using Binney and Smith’s wonderful crayons ever since. They are a brand named Crayola.

How Crayons Are Made?

Crayons are made of paraffin wax, which is delivered to the factory in liquid form. Meanwhile, the dyes have been prepared by creating the colors as a liquid. But because water and paraffin do not mix well, the dye colors are then carefully dried. The powdered dye is then chunked, ground for consistency, and carefully mixed to produce the desired hues. The dye mixtures are then sent to the factory, where they are blended with the liquid paraffin, and it is poured into the molds.  Modern crayons might have other things added to them, such as glitter, perfume, or even bits of blossoms. 

How Colored Pencils Are Made?

Colored pencils are made similarly to crayons, although there are some differences. The central leads can be made from a wax and pigment mixture, or they can be constructed from an oil and pigment mixture. The colored “leads” (no actual lead involved) are then encased in two wooden halves that are glued to create a tube. Some older-style pencils had a metal cap on one end to help keep them together. The wood-encased pigment stick could then be sharpened like an ordinary pencil. 

Ecological Effect of Crayons vs. Colored Pencils

Both crayons and colored pencils are made from nontoxic materials. With that said, neither is designed to be used as make-up or to be applied to any living thing. However, there are some differences in their ecological impact. Although it has been argued that paraffin puts off fumes that pollute the air, both coloring mediums are nontoxic and therefore use nontoxic materials.

With that said, crayons use fewer materials. They have simply colored paraffin sticks covered in paper, whereas pencils require a firmer covering. This causes an extra manufacturing step. Most pencils are made from wood, but some are made of recycled materials, such as old dollar bills. Even so, crayons have a slightly smaller impact on the environment. 

How Crayons Are Used?

Crayons can be used in a variety of ways. The most common way is to grip the crayon somewhat like a pencil and rub it back and forth across the page. Some people advocate keeping the color inside a drawn line, while others advocate using the crayon freehand and coloring outside the lines if desired.

One of the complaints about crayons is that the points quickly wear down, and if you want to do detailed work with them, you must then sharpen the crayon. This is and is not true. Having a sharp point on your crayon can be desirable, but you can color with the crayon on a different part of your picture and carefully bring the crayon back to a point. 

Another point of contention is whether to remove the paper from the wax crayon. If you immediately remove the paper, you weaken the crayon and make it easier to break. Most experienced crayon users (and this includes most school children who are around 8 or 9 years of age) know that if you carefully tear the top paper, you can preserve that self-sharpening aspect of the coloring stick. 

Crayons break if you grip them too hard, and they can become a little soft over an extended period of use. But you should not despair if your crayon breaks. A broken crayon can still be used right down to the tiniest nub of color. More than that, if you have half a crayon, you can go ahead and remove the paper and use the side of it to lay down a nice area of color. You can also create butterfly shapes with the piece of broken crayon, placing them on the paper and twisting them gently. 

How Colored Pencils Are Used?

Colored pencils can be used in much the same manner as a drawing pencil. They can precisely place lines for hatching and cross-hatching, place dots for shading, or be used to sketch around the organic shape of an object. You can simulate the broad coloring application of crayons by bracing the pencil’s colored core with your index finger and applying color using the side of the color stick. It must be said here that colored pencils are more precise when laying down color, but crayons do a better job covering wide spaces. 

Check out crayon tips HERE.

Age, Colored Pencils, and Crayons

Not even chubby pencils are usually given to children under the age of two. This is because it is too easy for a child to poke the sharpened point into tender flesh – whether that might be the holder of the pencil or another nearby child. Pointed objects and toddlers can lead to accidents that include poking that same sharp object into an eye. Therefore, pencils are not a good implement for toddlers.

Crayons, however, can be given to any child old enough to understand that the coloring implemented is not food. Will glorious art be created? Only in the eyes of the youthful artist and a proud parent. But that freedom to put color on objects (oh, it was only just on paper!) could be the first step toward the development of the next da Vinci or Michelangelo.

Around eight or nine years of age, children might graduate to the use of pencils. This is the time when the prejudice against crayons could begin to develop. Colored pencils are seen as a more grown-up tool. 

Artists who produced Great Art with Crayons or Colored Pencils 

Famous crayon artists include Don Marco, Matisse, Monet, Jeffrey Robert, and Kristina Nelson. Famous colored pencil artists include Jae Johns, C.J. Hendry, Redosking, and Lui Ferreyra. 

Mixed Media 

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable ways to use crayons and colored pencils is to combine them with watercolor to create mixed-media pictures. Lay down the basics of your picture using a light pencil sketch, then pick out some important parts with a crayon. Add a watercolor wash, allow it to dry, then add fine details using colored pencils. You can make this even more interesting by using watercolor pencils. It is a fun way to be creative!

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t it cheating to use all those different mediums together?

Not at all! You can make your picture even more fun and interesting by painting tissue paper and cutting out shapes, creating stencils from magazine pictures, or simply cutting out pictures and using them to create a collage.

When creating mixed media, why use the crayon first?

Crayons are wax-based, so the watercolor will bead off them. A hard-cored colored pencil can be used to add color details because it will even scrape away a little of the crayon to create a different effect. 

Will wax-based pencils create the beading-off effect? 

Sometimes. It depends on the pencil and how much wax was used in the core. It can be more fun to blend your pencils using a blending stick or a white pencil. That is something that crayons do not do particularly well.

Is there something else that crayons will not do well?

Yes. You do not want to leave them in an automobile or some similar location. Since the crayons are wax, they will melt and run together. You can still use them to color with, however, and you can produce some extremely interesting effects. You can do something similar with your wax crayon sharpening shavings. It is almost like making your crayons. 

Which do you like best, crayons or pencils?

It depends on the project. Pencils are best for delicate work, but crayons are grand for spreading out a big piece of paper and making a large mural. If it needs to be bold and splashy, crayons work far better than pencils. 

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Shawn C

Hi! I’m Shawn and I Love Coloring and Art and the people in it! I created this website as a resource to help those who are considering getting into adult coloring. My website is your one-stop destination for all the inspired instruction and resources you need to start and grow your adult coloring hobby. From geometric to floral to zen doodles and from time to time even mandala’s when I am in the mood. I have researched and gathered the information to help you in your goal of starting your adult coloring hobby.

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