Melted Crayon Paintings

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.

ANYWAY.  People seem to like my melted crayon paintings, and I’ve been wating to post a tutorial.  So here it is.

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.

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44 Responses to Melted Crayon Paintings

  1. Anne Rehorn says:

    Its a great idea and I love your artwork!

  2. Kat Sloma says:

    Very creative! Fun to see how you do it. Happy PPF!

  3. Cool piece and a fun technique! Thanks for sharing it. I’m totally inspired to attempt it on my own. :) Happy PPF!

  4. JKW says:

    Thanks so much for a tutorial. I couldn’t figure that one out. I love how everything turns out. It makes for a new dimension. Blessings, Janet PPF

  5. Lynn says:

    Where did I see this already? On facebook? I love those crayola circles. Looks like it was so much fun but not at all easy to get there! HPPF!

  6. cool tutorial and I did wonder how it was done… thanks for sharing..xx

  7. Ayala Art says:

    This looks like a lot of fun, I like the colors you used, very vibrant each of them, thanks for the WIPs

  8. pointypix says:

    what an informative tutorial! it looks like a lot of fun and I love your circles painting!

  9. Annette G says:

    Smashing tutorial and love your crayola circles. Happy PPF, Annette x

  10. Patsy says:

    You can make a lot of cool stuff with this technique! Thanks for sharing! Patsy

  11. mx says:

    OH I absolutely LOVE this! Thanks for sharing the “how to”!

  12. carlarey says:

    Dang, this looks like fun. Around here there would be the added textural element of dog hair! I love how bright the colors stay, like stained glass. Oh! Trying to mimic stained glass designs might be really interesting.

    • Well, you never know, the dog hair might be interesting….okay, never mind! But stained glass designs would be awesome, either done as a mosaic/collage, or you could try printing the design first and filling it in with color, but I’m not sure you’d have enough fine control. Gorgeous either way, really.

  13. artmusedog says:

    Lovely and fun creations and great tutorial ~ Love your framed piece and the 2nd finished one ~ wonderful effect ~~ thanks, ^_^ (A Creative Harbor)

  14. Marji says:

    Beautiful and fun. Happy PPF

  15. What a fun process! I love how it looks when you’ve cut it out.

  16. What a neat idea, so colorful, so easy. Your cu- out- over-lapping-circles design is so pretty! Very creative! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Anne says:

    Wonderfully inventive and creative! Love your cut-out, it’s very fresh and original!

  18. giggles says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your process…leaves the door open to so much experimenting!! Love your finish pieces…so pretty!! Happy ppf.

    Hugs Giggles

  19. Linda says:

    Looks like a fun project and you had wonderful results. Thanks for the tutorial.

  20. mimitabby says:

    I really enjoyed your tutorial as well as what you did with your “silhouette” (I guess i better find out what that actually is) what a fun way to spend a chillly day (probably not this summer) melting crayons and making cool designs with them. Happy PPF

    Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

    • Glad you enjoyed it! The Silhouette is a digital cutter (the Cricut is very similar) – it hooks up to my computer and cuts shapes from paper. Obviously you could do the same thing by hand, but there’s no denying the machine is faster and easier. I design my own cutting shapes in Inkscape, but of course the Silhouette store offers lots and lots of shapes for a variety of uses.

  21. marycnasser says:

    Very pretty colors and patterns.
    Have never seen this process before!
    Happy PPF!!

  22. Thanks for the tutorial, I have an electric hot plate that I think will work just right so I don’t have to work at the stove. I can’t wait to give it a try. Your piece is lovely, good luck with the show! Happy PPF!

  23. Tammie says:

    how wonderful
    and childlike… meaning something we might have done as children so it might bring out the playful free side of us.

  24. Geri @ says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog – I like this technique (looks fun!) You could even make a bunch of papers and then tear or cut them to create a mosaic collage.

  25. dana says:

    love all the info will have to give this a try!

  26. Rhonda says:

    Great tutorial and wonderful art, especially the circles!!! I like playing with melted crayons too. :-) Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  27. Elisa Choi says:

    This is such a cool and creative process. Thank you very much for sharing the process. It is very clear. I love your work especially the yellow, green, blue squiggles. Great job on the circled stencil too!

  28. KAT says:

    this is so cool ..thanks for sharing your artistic creating.

  29. Carolyn Dube says:

    Fabulous circles! Thanks for such a detailed and fun tutorial!

  30. melting crayon painting…. I’m on it

  31. Belinda says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this how-to! Absolutely love the idea!

  32. Jenn says:

    FYI – melting wax turns it into a vapour, which if breathed in, can be very harmful. I am an encaustic painter and i wear a respirator when working in the studio, as well as an extractor fan. Always make sure you have adequate ventilation (so doing this on the stovetop is great because you can turn the range fan on), and try not to have your face directly above the wax (vapours travel upward from the melted substance). Just looking out for your safety so you can continue making your beautiful work for years to come!

    • Thanks for the information!! The MSDS’s for paraffin wax and crayola crayons indicate that the vapor can be irritating but is not seriously harmful. (I believe that real encaustics are typically mixed with damar resin, which is seriously harmful if inhaled, so a respirator is definitely required with those.) In any case, good ventilation is certainly a good plan.

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