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A selection of colorful crayons Crayones cera.jpg
A selection of colorful crayons

A crayon (or wax pastel) is a stick of pigmented wax used for writing or drawing. Wax crayons differ from pastels, in which the pigment is mixed with a dry binder such as gum arabic, and from oil pastels, where the binder is a mixture of wax and oil.


Crayons are available in a range of prices, and are easy to work with. They are less messy than most paints and markers, blunt (removing the risk of sharp points present when using a pencil or pen), typically non-toxic, and available in a wide variety of colors. These characteristics make them particularly good instruments for teaching small children to draw in addition to being used widely by student and professional artists.


In the modern English-speaking world, the term crayon is commonly associated with the standard wax crayon, such as those widely available for use by children. Such crayons are usually approximately 3.5 inches (89 mm) in length and made mostly of paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is heated and cooled to achieve the correct temperature at which a usable wax substance can be dyed and then manufactured and shipped for use around the world. Paraffin waxes are used for cosmetics, candles, for the preparation of printing ink, fruit preserving, in the pharmaceutical industry, for lubricating purposes, and crayons. [1]

Colin Snedeker, a chemist for Binney & Smith (the then-parent company of Crayola), developed the first washable crayons in response to consumer complaints regarding stained fabrics and walls. [2] A patent for the washable solid marking composition utilized in the washable crayons was awarded to Snedeker in 1990. [2]


A wide variety of crayon boxes have been produced over the years VariousCrayonBoxes.jpg
A wide variety of crayon boxes have been produced over the years

The history of the crayon is not entirely clear. The French word crayon, originally meaning "chalk pencil", dates to around the 16th century, and is derived from the word craie (chalk) which comes from the Latin word creta (Earth). [3] [4] The meaning later changed to simply "pencil" which it still means in modern French. [4]

The notion to combine a form of wax with pigment goes back thousands of years. Encaustic painting is a technique that uses hot beeswax combined with colored pigment to bind color into stone. A heat source was then used to "burn in" and fix the image in place. [5] Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar, was thought to describe the first techniques of wax crayon drawings. [6]

This method, employed by the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and even indigenous people in the Philippines, is still used today. However, the process wasn't used to make crayons into a form intended to be held and colored with and was therefore ineffective for use in a classroom or as crafts for children. [7]

Contemporary crayons are purported to have originated in Europe, where some of the first cylinder shaped crayons were made with charcoal and oil. [8] Pastels are an art medium sharing roots with the modern crayon and date back to Leonardo da Vinci in 1495. Conté crayons, out of Paris, are a hybrid between a pastel and a conventional crayon, used since the late 1790s as a drawing crayon for artists. [9] Later, various hues of powdered pigment eventually replaced the primary charcoal ingredient found in most early 19th century products. References to crayons in literature appear as early as 1813 in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. French lithographer Joseph Lemercier  [ fr ] was also one of the inventors of the modern crayon. Through his Paris business circa 1828, he produced a variety of crayon and color related products. [10] But even as those in Europe were discovering that substituting wax for the oil strengthened the crayon, various efforts in the United States were also developing.

Early Dixon crayon ad from Aug 1901 Dixon Crayon Ad.jpg
Early Dixon crayon ad from Aug 1901

The initial era of wax crayons saw several companies and products competing for the lucrative education and artist markets. The Franklin Mfg. Co, founded in 1876 in Rochester, New York, was one of the first companies to make and sell wax crayons, and in 1883 they appeared with a display of crayons at the World's Columbian Exposition that year. [11]

Some of the earliest records of the modern paraffin wax crayon comes from Charles A. Bowley of Massachusetts, who developed wax coloring crayons in the late 1880s. Bowley had been selling various stationery items in the vicinity of Danvers and had developed clumps of colored wax designed for marking leather. With the need for more accuracy, he went back to his home and formed the wax crayons into more manageable cylinder shapes similar to that of a pencil. He packaged his crayons into decorative boxes and offered them through stationer clients he knew. The demand for his crayons soon exceeded his ability to keep up with production and he partnered with the American Crayon Company, [12] who had been producing chalk crayons, in 1902. [13]

Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith had been long established in the coloring marketplace through Binney's Peekskill, New York, chemical works making lampblack by burning whale and carbon black, as well as their chalk products. In 1902, they developed and introduced the Staonal marking crayon. A year later in 1903, Edwin Binney's wife, Alice Stead Binney, [14] coined the name Crayola by combining the French word for chalk, craie, with the first part of oleaginous, another name for the paraffin wax used to make the crayon. [15] [16] Binney and Smith were quick to capitalize on their creation, selling boxes of various sizes and color pallets. [17] The Rubens Crayola line started in 1903 as well, [18] aimed at artist and designed to compete with the Raphael brand of crayons from Europe. [19]

A March 1905 ad from Crayola Crayola Ad 1905.jpg
A March 1905 ad from Crayola

Their most recognizable brand was the Crayola "Gold Medal" line in yellow boxes, which referred to one the company earned with their An-du-Septic dustless chalk during the March 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. They used the award to design a new line of crayons featuring the medal on the front of their box. [20] Initially, they developed and introduced the No. 8 box of eight assorted colors, which became an immediate success; it was even featured on a postage stamp in early 1905. [21] From there they began to phase out other Crayola crayon boxes until their line of Crayola crayons featured the Gold Medal design.

Hundreds of companies entered the crayon market, but only a few exist today, with Crayola dominating the market in the United States. That brand become a generic trademark [22] also used to describe other brands' crayons. In all, there were over 300 documented crayon manufacturers in the United States and many more in other countries.


Crayola crayons One Made it.jpg
Crayola crayons

Beyond Crayola, other brand name crayon manufacturers today include Rose Art Industries and Dixon Ticonderoga, the successor to the American Crayon Company. Numerous suppliers create generic brand or store brand crayons. These are typically found in supermarkets.

In 2000 there was concern about potential contamination of asbestos in many popular brands of crayons after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in May of that year that they had tests performed finding that three brands of crayons contained asbestos. [23] In a follow-up study released in June the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found traces of asbestos fibers in three crayons and larger amounts of transitional fibers which can be misinterpreted as asbestos as a result of using talc as a binding agent in additional crayons. CPSC declared the risk to be low, but said that because of the concerns it had asked manufacturers to reformulate the concerned crayons and commended them for their swift agreement to do so. [24] [25] [26]


Early French artists, including François Clouet (1510-1572) and Nicholas L'agneau (1590-1666), used crayons in their early art projects. Clouet used crayons for his modeled portraits, which were so elaborate that he caught the attention of Henry V, who knighted him. He became a court painter for the royalty, and his entire art career began and consisted of some wax crayon art. L'agneau illustrated his portraits with outlines in wax crayons, and with tints of watercolor. His portraits were often of people who looked surprised or unaware of their surroundings. [6]

Sister Gertrude Morgan was most known for preaching the Gospel around New Orleans with simplicity and easy-to-understand crayon drawings. Morgan caught the eye of a gallery owner E. Lorenz Borenstein, and was allowed to show her work, play her music and spread her word of God at the gallery. Her early drawings were that of just very modest and simplicity crayon drawings, depicting biblical text to provide a clearer image to those who were unfamiliar with the Bible. Morgan went on to publish a record of her biblical songs and has artwork featured in the American Folk Art Museum in New York. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

Pastel Art medium consisting of powdered pigment in the form of a stick

A pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are similar to those used to produce some other colored visual arts media, such as oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation. The color effect of pastels is closer to the natural dry pigments than that of any other process. Pastels have been used by artists since the Renaissance, and gained considerable popularity in the 18th century, when a number of notable artists made pastel their primary medium.

Crayola American corporation

Crayola LLC, formerly the Binney & Smith Company, is an American manufacturing company, specializing in art supplies. It is known for its brand Crayola and best known for its crayons. The company is headquartered in Forks Township, Pennsylvania in the Lehigh Valley region of the state. Since 1984, Crayola has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Hallmark Cards.


Conté, also known as Conté sticks or Conté crayons, are a drawing medium composed of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with a clay base, square in cross-section. They were invented in 1795 by Nicolas-Jacques Conté, who created the combination of clay and graphite in response to the shortage of graphite caused by the Napoleonic Wars. Conté crayons had the advantage of being cost-effective to produce, and easy to manufacture in controlled grades of hardness.

Oil pastel Stick consisting of powdered pigment and an oil-based binder

An oil pastel is a painting and drawing medium formed into a stick which consists of pigment mixed with a binder mixture of non-drying oil and wax. They differ from other pastel sticks which are made with a gum or methyl cellulose binder, and from wax crayons which are made without oil. The surface of an oil pastel painting is less powdery than one made from gum pastels, but more difficult to protect with a fixative. Oil pastels are bold and bright. They can be blended easily but they can break easily too.

A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing. Writing consists of different figures, lines, and or forms. Most of these items can be also used for other functions such as painting, drawing and technical drawing, but writing instruments generally have the ordinary requirement to create a smooth, controllable line.

Prismacolor is a brand of professional artists' supplies originated in 1938 by the Eagle Pencil Company, and currently manufactured by Newell Brands. Products in the Prismacolor are colored and graphite pencils, and soft pastels. Other products include erasers, pencil sharpeners, and cases.

Edwin Binney American entrepreneur and inventor

Edwin Binney was an American entrepreneur and inventor, who created the first dustless white chalk, and along with his cousin C. Harold Smith, was the founder of handicrafts company "Binney and Smith", which marketed his invention of the Crayola crayon. The Binney family lived in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, as well as Fort Pierce, Florida.

Sanguine or red chalk is chalk of a reddish-brown colour, so called because it resembles the colour of dried blood. It has been popular for centuries for drawing. The word comes via French from the Italian sanguigna and originally from the Latin "sanguis".

Liquitex American acrylic paint manufacturer

Liquitex is a US company that supplies art materials, focusing exclusively on the development, manufacture, and distribution of acrylic paints. Founded by Henry Levison as "Permanent Pigments" in 1955, the company created the first water-based acrylic gesso. That same year, Levison decided to reorganize the company under the name "Liquitex". In 1956, the company starting selling water-based "Soft Body" acrylic paints. In 1963, "Heavy Body" paints were available with a thicker consistency. The company offers the largest number of acrylic paint products in the world.

Caran d'Ache is a Swiss manufacturing company of art materials and writing instruments. The company, established in 1915, produces a wide range of products including colored pencils, graphite pencils, pastels, fountain pens, ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils, markers, gouache paints, and ink cartridges.

The following is a partial timeline of Crayola's history. It covers the Crayola brand of marking utensils, as well as the history of Binney & Smith, the company that created the brand and is currently a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards known as Crayola LLC.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and typical guide to drawing and drawings:

Royal Talens

Royal Talens is a Dutch company located in Apeldoorn that specializes in art materials. The company produces and markets its own products, apart of commercializing other licensed brands such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Bruynzeel. Products commercialised include acrylic paints, oil paints, watercolor paintings, brushes, markers, inks, pastels, pencils, pens, gouache, canvas, papers.

Colored pencil Type of art medium

A colored pencil, coloured pencil, pencil crayon, or coloured/colouring lead is an art medium constructed of a narrow, pigmented core encased in a wooden cylindrical case. Unlike graphite and charcoal pencils, colored pencils' cores are wax- or oil-based and contain varying proportions of pigments, additives, and binding agents. Water-soluble (watercolor) pencils and pastel pencils are also manufactured as well as colored cores for mechanical pencils.

Charcoal (art) Form of dry art medium

Artists' charcoal is a form of a dry art medium made of finely ground organic materials that are held together by a gum or wax binder or produced without the use of binders by eliminating the oxygen inside the material during the production process. These charcoals are often used by artists for their versatile properties, such as the rough texture that leaves marks less permanent than other visual arts media. Charcoal can produce lines that are very light or intensely black, while being hard to remove completely. The dry medium can be applied to almost any surface from smooth to very coarse. Fixatives are often used with charcoal drawings to solidify the position to prevent erasing or rubbing off of charcoal dusts.

Metallic color Of colors: having a sheen, as of metals

A metallic color is a color that appears to be that of a polished metal. The visual sensation usually associated with metals is its metallic shine. This cannot be reproduced by a simple solid color, because the shiny effect is due to the material's brightness varying with the surface angle to the light source. In addition, there is no mechanism for showing metallic or fluorescent colors on a computer without resorting to rendering software which simulates the action of light on a shiny surface. Consequently in art and in heraldry one would normally use a metallic paint that glitters like a real metal.

History of Crayola crayons

Since the introduction of Crayola drawing crayons by Binney & Smith in 1903, more than two hundred distinctive colors have been produced in a wide variety of assortments. Crayola became such a hit because the company figured out a way to inexpensively combine paraffin wax with safe pigments. The line has undergone several major revisions in its history, notably in 1935, 1949, 1958, and 1990. Numerous specialty crayons have also been produced, complementing the basic Crayola assortment.

Colin M. Snedeker was a British-born American chemist best known as the inventor of the first washable crayons. Snedeker developed the washable crayon while working as a chemist for Binney & Smith, which was the parent company of Crayola crayons at the time, in response to complaints from parents and consumers. He won the patent for the washable solid marking composition utilized in the crayons in 1990. He also developed products for Kiwi shoe polish and DuPont.


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