I made this today. I’m displaying a couple pieces of art at AMF this summer, and I think this will be one of them.
I’m pleased with it, I think. I’m not sure. I might redo it in blue and green instead of blue and purple.
As far as I know, I invented this technique, though it’s simple enough that I doubt I’m the first. It was inspired by a book we had as kids, which suggested melting crayons onto aluminum foil. I’ve tried that, and while it looks pretty on the foil, it falls apart as soon as you pick it up, so I’m not sure that they tested the idea very well. Or possibly I’m forgetting a step.
Edited to add: I noticed a couple of people came here after searching for what media this would be considered. Art made from melted wax, such as crayons, is considered encaustic painting, aka encaustics. Professionals generally use a mixture of beeswax, pigment, and damar resin, which helps stabilize the wax, but that gets tricky and/or expensive. This is the cheap version.
You will need:
- A hot, flat surface. I use a baking sheet flipped upside-down over the center burner on my stove. A griddle would also work just fine. Be aware that whatever you use will get a certain amount of wax on it, so cover it with foil first if that’s a problem.
- Paper. I just use regular printer paper. If it’s printed on the reverse side, the printing is likely to show through (you can decide whether that’s a problem or not) and if it was printed on a laser printer, the toner might rub off a little.
- Crayons. I use Crayola crayons.
- Magnets (optional). I use a couple of magnets to steady the paper on the baking sheet. If your surface is ceramic that won’t work, and it would be wise to have a potholder or something on hand.
- Texturing implements (optional). Q-tips, popsicle sticks, skewers, combs, whatever comes to mind.
- Cheap white candles (optional). Plain paraffin wax can be used to help the other colors blend and move. I use cheap tea light candles for the purpose.
Also, use some common sense. Heat plus wax plus paper is not the safest combination in the world, and I would be very sad if you got hurt. Make sure you have plenty of space and plenty of light and plenty of ventilation. (There’s some debate over whether Crayolas release bad fumes when melted. I’m inclined to think they don’t, given how happy the media would be to release headlines about the dangers of leaving crayons in the car, but better safe than sorry.) Don’t have pets or small children underfoot, don’t leave it unattended, etc etc etc.
Once you’ve assembled everything, you can get started.
Turn the heat on as low as it gets (you can always go hotter later) and put the paper on the hot surface. Once it’s had a minute to heat up, start drawing with crayons. I use the blunt end of the crayon, since it melts so fast anyway. Just make sure the paper is peeled back well. It may take you a couple of tries to figure out the best speed/pressure/heat combination, but it’s not hard.
I don’t have any pictures or video of the actual drawing. This is the paper after I’ve done squiggles in yellow and green. If people think a video or more pictures would actually help, I can get Hero to give me a hand at some point. But I doubt it’s necessary.
I’ve added a blue squiggle. You can see how the colors blend together where they overlap. You can also see a couple of places where I was moving too quickly and the crayon didn’t melt on smoothly. Not really a problem. And sometimes it might be what you wanted.
Added a couple more colors, paying attention to filling in gaps. You can see how the blue got swept around when another color passed over it.
By the way, metallic and glitter crayons look GREAT in these. I didn’t use any here, but the melting process pulls off enough wax that the you get lots of glitter from glitter crayons and the metallic wax looks brilliantly shiny.
Added some texture with the edge of the popsicle stick. Actually I think the big size are called tongue depressors. Whatever. The paper looks odd as a whole, but it’ll get cut up and the bits will look awesome.
Once you are done, move the magnets and (carefully!) pick up the paper. Wave it around for a couple seconds and put it down to finish cooling. If you want to continue, put another piece of paper on the hot surface, reposition the magnets, and go ahead.
This is another one I made. This time I put down a layer of plain candle wax first. That seems to let the colors spread out more, and I think it takes texture better that way. Your results may vary. Fortunately, this is a very cheap craft and you can afford some experimenting.
CLEANUP: Once you are entirely done, cleanup is mostly just a matter of putting everything away. Some wax will have soaked through the paper and coated the hot surface. I rub it with a paper towel while the wax is still melted to soak it up, and that works pretty well.
The cooled paintings are translucent. This is a closeup of the second painting, over a surface that is white on the left and dark on the right. You can see how the surface below changes the appearance slightly.
Picture of the first painting held up to the light. These would be very pretty for suncatchers or to make a window more private.
The artwork at the beginning of the post was done by cutting out the design with my Silhouette and then melting crayons onto it. It’s a delicate process, and I’d like to try doing more of them. It’s also a messy process, so I used another sheet of paper to pick up most of the wax that got on the pan. I have no idea what I’ll do with that; add watercolor and cut it up, I guess.
These are some of the others I’ve made in the past few weeks, so you can see some of the variety I’ve gotten. I have made ones with contrasting colors as well, but didn’t have any on hand to photograph. But they look awesome.
I haven’t used a comb yet (need to pick one up since Hero would be annoyed if I ruined his) but I have drawn lines with skewers and chopsticks, pushed it around with a used gift card, smudged it with q-tips, etc. Sprinkling wax shavings would be fun to try, and I bet I could get some cool effects with a hair dryer or heat gun.
As for using these in mixed-media artwork: they don’t like sticking to things. You’ve essentially made waxed paper, after all. The glues and tapes that work for normal paper won’t hold them at all. Super77 and Mod Podge Dimensional Magic both hold them fairly well, though if you pick at them you’ll be able to peel the paper and colored wax away from the uncolored wax on the bottom. (Actually, it just occurred to me that it might be really cool to glue them down upside down, and then pull the paper away and just leave the colored wax! Might have to try that some time.) I have done some sewn collaging with melted crayon paintings, and that works well, and of course people who are working in encaustics anyway won’t have a problem.
Sharpies write on them fairly well. If I want a specific font on them I’ve been known to hold the piece of melted crayon painting up to my computer screen and trace the lettering with a sharpie. Gel pen can be coaxed to write on them, but you need to let it pool a little and then dry for a really long time and then spray with a fixative or hair spray. I haven’t tried painting on them. I assume watercolor would just bead up, and I suspect acrylic paint would peel off. Oil-based media might stick.
I think that’s all I know. Have fun experimenting!
I’ll splash this around a bit, I think, starting with PPF.