How Crayons Work

The Future of Crayons
You can make your own crayons by melting down those old stubs and pouring the wax into heat-resistant molds in cool new shapes. Lisa Gutierrez/Getty Images

It would seem that the possibilities for further renewal of the crayon have long been exhausted. At this point, crayons are crayons and so they shall remain. But human ingenuity is tireless. The introduction of metallic colors back in 1903 was a great innovation. More recently, neon crayons and even glow-in-the-dark crayons have made their way onto the market. No doubt the research and development departments of crayon companies will go on experimenting and bringing out new products.

Besides the familiar crayon made specifically for kids, there are crayons for grown-up artists that are softer and more densely pigmented. And for both kids and adults, there's a water-soluble crayon. After coloring in a space, for instance, a little water on a paint brush can blend and spread the pigment. And maybe this practice is a clue to the future of the crayon. Perhaps the most exciting innovations will take place outside the manufacturers' labs.

If you're a parent, you know about the plague of broken or worn-down stubs that can litter every corner of a house. Admittedly, those fragments of colored wax are often too small to use, but before you throw them out, consider an alternative — crayon rebirth! First, strip the stubs of any paper wrapping that might still be clinging to them, then place them in a heat-resistant container and melt them down in an oven on low heat. The result is a new, multi-hued crayon in swirling, rainbow colors. If you want to get really fancy, you can find or buy heat-resistant molds in interesting shapes to create cool new crayon forms.

And, to bring the subject full circle, you can take a cue from the batik craft to create striking paintings. Start by making a drawing or design on paper with crayons. Then paint over it with water colors. The wax marks from the crayons will resist the paint, creating an unusual multimedia combination that, for some reason, looks almost luminous.

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