I heard that colored pencils use wax (or clay) as a pigment vehicle, and crayons (wax pastels) use wax as pigment vehicle.

I found recently that crayons are mind blowingly cheap (96 crayola crayons for $6), whereas colored pencils tend to go for at least $2 for a pack of 24.

I am starting to think I should just switch to crayons for when I need to get some color down, especially if I intend to take photographs of them rather than frame them.

I tried searching for what the differences between crayons and colored pencils were, but I couldn't find anything.

My question are:

  1. Are there any drawbacks to blending crayons with pencils (such as crayola/prismacolor scholar)?
  2. Are there any drawbacks to using crayons over pencils?
    I couldn't find any lightfastness information, and can't think of any reason for them to behave any differently than a typical pencil other than not having wood, and being softer.

3 Answers 3


Quality will be much higher with pencils. The softness of crayons dramatically reduces your precision when drawing, and they have a tendency to "skip" - I guess because of the higher amounts of wax involved. This is why crayon drawings rarely have a uniform color field, and don't blend well.

You will use up your crayons much faster than pencils as well, because the soft wax smears much faster. As you mentioned, the wood of the pencils also lends durability. I've never had much luck mixing the two unless I want to see the different marks - the materials are different enough to stand out next to one another.


Cheap or expensive, crayons are softer, pencils are harder. Pencils will scratch off crayons but I see no problem with using crayons over pencils.

However, cheap crayons are really not worth it. Cheap colour medium, in general, means more filler and less pigment resulting in dull colours and unsatisfactory reaults. If you can't afford decent quality colouring products, I'd suggest you do the colouring digitaly, instead.

  • oh, so you are saying the problem is that if i use them as a base layer, pencils tend to scratch them off, and unless they are very pigmented, they won't be very noticeable or stick at all on top of pencil layers? But then again, I found that really thin layers of crayons don't really scratch off with pencils, and they tend to be fairly bright and true to their color, but I guess markers do this better. I notice that crayola crayons tend to get really scratchy as soon as I get to third layer of crayon only drawing.
    – Dmytro
    Jul 20, 2018 at 22:15
  • the thing is that pencils scratch off pencils too if you are too rough, i understand they don't layer as well, but they come in larger and cheaper color variety which allows you to mitigate a lot of the scratching that pencils naturally get if you try to blend difficult deep colors(such as deep skies, water, or skin).
    – Dmytro
    Jul 20, 2018 at 22:19
  • Anyway, 1) are you saying that they're as good as pencils for single-layer drawings? 2) are you saying that they're great for blending due to their waxiness and high filler content? Why are they not worth it, if a 96 set of them only costs $7, equivelent to 48-96 crayola pencils(2-4 of each), or 2(singular) high end pencils.
    – Dmytro
    Jul 20, 2018 at 22:21

I have found over the years that sometimes the cheaper crayons and pencils can be better than the expensive ones, but it takes time and experimentation to find what works well and what is truly junk. I've bought some pencils which would literally cut lighter weight papers just as good as a Xacto knife and some crayons which were so hard I wondered if they were actually some sort of prank prop. My experimentation actually led to a realization that what type of paper and mediums I was using made the biggest difference. If you want to use both pencil and crayons finding something the pencils will not tear or indent, but will also grab the pigment of the crayons is necessary. I would suggest a mixed media paper around the 90lb or higher weight, with a rougher surface and a fine tooth. On another note - a good way to reduce art supply costs is working with a limited palette and learning to make a variety of colors through blending and layering. That way you're only buying a few items versus a whole set.

  • I'm not really worried about costs, rather I'm curious why more artists don't use crayons, they seem very bright, accessible, work well with hot water as a thinner, nice to apply with palette knives, and are easier to block in color with than pencils yet don't stain as much as oil pastels.
    – Dmytro
    Aug 11, 2018 at 0:39

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