When we think about crayons, we think about Kindergartens taking their first art classes in school. Crayons reach SO far beyond elementary school though. In fact, professional artists use crayons too. And, they create beautiful work with them.
Professional artists use crayons to create colorful, vibrant, realistic, and whimsical pieces of art. Crayola is a very popular brand of crayons, even for professional artists. When used in the proper way, Crayola crayons can create stunning pieces of work that rival anything in a museum or gallery.
You may not have thought that simple Crayola crayons could create such beautiful and stunning works of art! Well, they can. So, the first thing we’re going to do is explore some AMAZING artists that are using crayons at levels you may have never imagined. Then, you’ll be inspired. There’s no doubt. So, we’ll dive into the tools and tips you need to know to get started with your own crayon art.
Beautiful Art Made with Professional Crayons
Crayon art is a “see it to believe it” kind of thing. We’re so accustomed to crayons being a fundamental preschool tool that it’s hard for our brains to switch into a different, professional gear. Even I knew that crayons were used by professionals, yet I had NO IDEA that Crayola could be used for such magnificence until I really dug into it. So, we’re going to dig into it.
To start off with, let’s look at Kristina Nelson’s art. I first found Kristina through an interview she did with another great art site (source). After I stopped drooling over her work, I read the interview and found out that her favorite types of crayons are, you guessed it, Crayolas.
Can you believe that her stunning pieces of art were created with the same crayons that we all used to scribble with grade school? Me neither. But, it’s true. Crayola has some superpowers that we’ve been neglecting.
Yeah, I’m impressed. What’s a shame is that Kristina keeps a low profile. She actually had published a book at one point, but it’s not available anymore. I totally understand when artists want to focus on their art instead of marketing and fame, but I would totally be following everything she does if she had more of a web presence. I mean, go take a look at her amazing art!
Lastly, we’re going to talk about Don Marco. What’s incredible about Don Marco’s crayon art is that it focuses a lot on people. It actually took quite a bit of time and experimentation to figure out how to achieve the perfect skin tones with a mixture of Crayola colors (source). As you probably noticed, Crayola pops up here again! Yes, these beautiful works by Don Marco were also made with Crayola crayons.
Now that we’ve seen SO many beautiful pieces of crayon art work, let’s talk about how you can get started yourself. Firstly, let’s talk about what to use.
What Crayons to Use – Crayola and Beyond
It’s no surprise that Crayola wins the crayon gold star. No, they aren’t just the elementary school champions, they’re also hugely popular in the professional art world. At risk of repeating myself, all of the crayon art that we just admired was all made with Crayola crayons. Crayola can produce some stunning results.
No question, if you want to get started with crayon art, you should buy a set of Crayola crayons.
Keep in mind that they should be from the Crayola brand. Not all crayons are created equally and a cheap set of dollar store crayons isn’t going to cut it. Luckily, Crayola crayons aren’t expensive at all. As far as art supplies go, your crayons will be some of the cheapest in the bunch.
Crayon art has a very low barrier to entry from a financial standpoint, so go buy some Crayolas and start experimenting!
My top choice is this pack of 152 crayons. Not only do you get a great set of crayons that includes every color you can imagine, you get an awesome crayon holder too. No more sifting through a huge box of crayons to find the color you’re looking for!
Crayola crayons aren’t your only option though! If you want to experiment with something other than your elementary school standby, here are some great alternatives.
Caran d’Arche Neocolor 1 and 2 Wax Pastels
These are fancy crayons. You may find that they’re a little more smooth and creamy than Crayolas and just have a bit more finesse to them. But, it’s not just the quality of these crayons that prompted me to put them on this list. In fact, it’s the differences between their Neocolor 1 and Neocolor 2 variety.
The Caran d’Arche Neocolor 1 series are similar to your standard crayons. As I said, you’ll notice that they’re smooth and creamy, but they function much more like a traditional crayon than an oil pastel. Basically, this is your go-to choice for a high end crayon. I say “high end” but they’re actually not that expensive. Even fancy crayons are still budget friendly.
It’s with the Caran d’Arche Neocolor 2 series that things start to get interesting. These crayons are actually water soluble. This means that you can treat them almost like watercolor crayons. Simply color, paint over with water, and you have an amazing watercolor-crayon creation. If mixing crayons and watercolor interests you at all, these are the crayons to go with.
These aren’t just fancy crayons, they’re historical too. Conté crayons were invented in France in 1795 by Nicolas-Jacques Conté and were used by art greats such as Degas and Picasso (source). See, pretty cool history there. They were invented specifically for drawing and sketching, so they’re great companions for your everyday art projects.
As you’ll notice, these crayons are square, so make sure you’ll be ok with adjusting your grip before you choose them over their round counterparts. Otherwise, these crayons will do what you would expect crayons to do! Albeit at a higher quality. Take a look at the video to see them in action.
Lyra Graphite Crayons
Alright, so these aren’t the colorful crayons that we’re used to, but I had to include them because they are SO dang cool. I mean, look at them!
If you like the feel of crayons, but you want to sketch, you have an amazing hybrid of a crayon and a pencil right here. Also, have you ever wanted to watercolor with graphite?! Well, here’s your chance. Lyra offers a water soluble graphite crayon that will turn your graphite crayon drawing into a watercolor masterpiece. Take a look at the video to see what I mean. These graphite crayons can be a really fun tool to add to your artist’s toolkit.
How to Learn to Use Professional Crayons
There aren’t a lot of classes about crayon art specifically. Well, not a lot that address the professional use of crayons. There are a TON relating to art for kids. Without a class to take you from start to finish, here’s how I would go about learning to use crayons in my art.
1. Experiment with the crayons. One of the biggest learning curves with crayons is something you can’t learn from a video. Many of us have used crayons for scribbling and coloring, but we haven’t used them for serious art projects. As with any new art materials, you’ll want to take some time to experiment with your crayons and get to know them.
See how they glide, blend, and interact with your paper. Lay some colors down and see how grainy or smooth they are. How much pressure do you need? What happens when you lay one layer on top of another? Understand how the crayons feel in your hands and how that differs from the pencils you’re accustomed to.
Basically, get to know your crayons.
2. Experiment with colors. Once you’ve become acquainted with your crayons, it’s time to learn how they work, especially from a color perspective. If you have a background in painting or colored pencils, this will be a shorter learning curve. Every medium is different though. Get a feel for each crayon color.
How vibrant are they? How do they blend with one another? How are the colors impacted when you put one layer of color over another? How are crayon colors different than the colors of the other mediums you’re used to?
Color is a HUGE component of crayons, so this is an important thing to get a grip on.
3. Use your crayons A LOT and refine your art skills. There definitely are some crayon-specific tips and tricks that you’ll learn as you use crayons on a continual basis. The best thing you can do to learn these tips and tricks and naturally improve your crayon skills is to use your crayons A LOT. While doing so, take some time to refine your art skills.
Diana has been an artist for over 25 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana’s latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.