Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Silhouettes Meet Melted Crayons

I really didn't see the big fascination with the melted crayon art craze. I mean, you're taking crayons (GOOD crayons!), taping them up to a white board and hitting them with the heat from your dryer. Ooooooh, cool! Melted colors........whoaaaaaa....Not really.

I saw some okay one's out there and I saw some really ugly shit. Let's not say EVERYTHING everyone makes at home can be called "art". I guess, the exception to the rule is if you're a parent. A majority of you folks think your kids shit gold.

Anyway, I had several examples of some shitty crayon art, but I thought about it and figured that putting up crap that I didn't think was up to par would be the equivalent of me finding of my cakes on Cake Wrecks. Not a good feeling in the pit of my stomach, so for the sake of Karma, I'm not going to blast shitty art.

NOT MY WORK!!! (Just my inspiration.)
This, however, is GORGEOUS. I fell in love as soon as I saw this piece and I was immediately inspired to try this out myself. Take a gander!! Isn't it beautiful? I just want to say that this artist is actually offering custom pieces like this on their Etsy site. If you admire their work, but don't want to get your hands dirty (I can dig that) go check them out and buy something.

I love looking at a picture and being absolutely stunned silent. You can't ask for much more than that, can you? I love stunning silhouettes, and I love sharp color contrasts. And I love rain!!! You can't ask for a better mix of mediums, concepts, techniques, or subject matter!!!

I like doing things myself. I probably won't get it as perfect as this artist has, but half the fun is trying, isn't it?

Stretched Canvas.

I think this is a more dramatic piece when you use such a fine board to display your art. Of course, you can use foam board or even just canvas panels, but after doing all this work, why not go all out?
Xacto Knife
Unless you know of a better way to cut out details, this is the way to go.

Glue Gun
I'm sure if you can melt a crayon with a hair dryer, you can melt it with a low-temp glue gun. I happen to have a high temp one. I have several, actually, but the one I was willing to part with was high-temp.
Black Construction Paper
Glue- Nothing fancy.
I'm told the cheap crayons don't work well with melty crayon art. Don't skimp on this!!!

A Cute Pic of a Silhouette
(Top left)This is one of my favorite pictures I have. The lighting was off which makes it a poor candidate for enlargements BUT it was such a fun picture I decided the silhouette could be used for something artsy-fartsy. I used Microsoft Picture Manager to adjust the contrast so I could see the silhouette better. (Bottom)


You're going to want to blow up your picture so that that silhouette is at the correct scale in proportion to your canvas. Admittedly, I sort of printed mine smaller than I would have liked. I found the original scale that the artist used on their art piece was very striking. However, after cutting it out with all the details using the Xacto knife, I was sorely reluctant to do it over again. I taped the picture on top of a piece of black construction paper and proceeded to cut it out carefully.....VERY carefully.
At this point, you're gonna wanna do your edits. For example, I gave myself a boob job and a slimmer tummy. Hey, it's MY silhouette!! You can do whatever you like to YOUR silhouette!

I could probably do something artsy with the negative from my silhouette, but it wasn't a perfect cut and I had to tweek my cut-out a little with a pair of very fine, very sharp scissors. I seemed to have cut out my right hand so I decided to add an umbrella to hide the flaw and to give me a reason to "Dance in the Rain" so to speak. I always loved that picture of the couple on the beach with the butler holding the umbrella.  I guess that's kind of my inspiration for this piece. I ended up using this umbrella picture as a general guide. I trimmed it down so it was scaled properly to coincide with my silhouette.

Light Boxes

Some people skip the whole cutting thing by tracing the silhouette onto the canvas and filling it in with a marker. If you want to do that, it's cool. Create your own light box (see picture to the right), tape your original picture to the back of your canvas with the picture pressed up against the back. Set down the canvas on top of the light box and carefully start outlining with a thin market. I don't recommend using a pencil. Pencils usually resist any paint or marker if you try covering over it.

Be careful!!! It's hard to fix mistakes once you're marking up your canvas. You can always reposition your silhouette and cover the mistake with the melted crayon, so you don't have to chuck it and buy another canvas or anything. Just try to be careful to avoid having to worry about it.

Here's a picture of a homemade light box I found online. It's pretty self-explanatory. Just be mindful that the light isn't melting your plastic!

Mounting the Silhouette:

 I glued it on, making sure to not go overboard on the glue. That's it. Too much glue will make your picture wrinkle and hard to handle. Go easy on the glue! I put the original and the silhouette side by side so you can see I wasn't too far off the mark. And the umbrella? I found a nice one online as clipart and I printed it, and cut it out the same way I did the one of me. That was a breeze after spending so much time cutting out the more detailed one.Can you tell I mangled the fingers on my hand "holding" the umbrella? No? Not bad, huh? I guess if you really messed up or want to touch up the silhouette, you can always do little details with a black marker. But, I'm one of those people who will notice the difference in medium and it would just drive me crazy every time I looked at it. I say, it's your art and you should do what feels good to you- even that that means drawing on your canvas directly with a marker!
Here it is; PRE-melted Crayon Rain!

Protect Your Hard Work:

Now that you spent all that time cutting out (or drawing out) your silhouette, you're going to want to protect it from the Crayon Rain. Theoretically, the rain should be dripping off the umbrella rather than just disappearing once it hits, so it was a little difficult for me to figure out how to make that happen. I ended up covering the black construction paper on the canvas with another piece of regular paper cut around the same size, making sure to match the top of the umbrella almost precisely using the Xacto knife. I then used some painters tape less than 1/8th inch bigger than the paper to old it in place. Basically, I covered the paper with painters tape and trimmed away most of it until I had just enough tape to hold it in place. None of the tape touch the black construction paper. (This is important when I explain what happened later.)

Load the Glue Gun:

Just in case it's not clear, you must remove the paper from the crayon before loading your gun. I know other sites glue the paper and crayon onto the canvas and melt that way with a heat gun or a dryer, but that's not what I'm doing here and the paper is an obstacle, not part of the process. The trigger on the glue gun will most likely just push the crayon in and out rather than just in so be prepared to give your crayon a little shove to achieve your effects. I ended up having to use my Xacto knife's back end to get the last bits of crayon through, at times. Push harder to have the wax dibble out faster to get the long runny lines. Hold you gun with the tip facing down and go easy with the trigger if you want a more spotted or dotted effect like rain drops. Also, protect any surface you don't want to get messy. If you prop your canvas up against a wall, protect the wall and the floor beneath it. Crayon is tricky. It can either come up easily or it can be a pain in the ass. Just prevent the disaster before it happens.

Crayon Color Tips:
Whether you're putting plum or purple or violet, if you naked eye can't really tell the difference in the color of the solid crayon (not the drawn color), then the glue gun won't be able to tell either. That means that a trio of dark colors will look like a dark color and will not show the subtle nuances of the slight hints of pink or red that differentiate them. If it looks dark and nearly the same to your naked eye, it will look dark and nearly the same melted on your canvas. Keep that in mind when you plan out your melting strategy. This is my tip; start with the dark colors first. You have a white canvas and the dark colors offer more contrast, plus there are a lot more dark one's in the box. The lighter or brighter colors will pop out more once you have a nice layer of dark dribbles (as I like to call the melted crayon wax). And you can gauge if your picture is turning out too dark or too bright for your taste. Adjust your colors accordingly, breaking up some crayons to save a little for the end just in case a couple of places need a little something.

Where I Went Wrong:
After melting a bunch of crayons and getting a pretty good feeling, I got ansty and peeled off the blue tape and regular paper off my silhouette. It looked amazing with just one dribble making it past the tape and stopping right at the top of my umbrella. Other than that, there was a distinct 1/8th inch white line around the umbrella, where the tape was. I took my canvas and placed it in my lap, grabbed my glue gun and decided I would carefully create the droplets that would hit the umbrella and run off by tilting the canvas myself. The wax was too melty for  me to control and before I knew it, I had a blue streak come straight down my umbrella, over my face, down my body and right off my foot (on the silhouette, I mean). I was pissed, but didn't touch it. It would harden and I could flake it off carefully with the knife. I waited, and then carefully took it off, but I could see the shiny residue where the dribble left it's mark on my matte paper. Deciding that I still needed to keep going with the dribbles on the umbrella, I slapped on the painters tape directly on top of my silhouette (because I was too lazy to cut out a new piece of paper) and trimmed up the umbrella line and went to town on the dribble. I was thoroughly satisfied that I had enough crayon on my canvas, so I started to pull up the tape. And the tape pulled up layers of my construction paper silhouette. =( It wasn't a total disaster, but I could see where the layers were missing. The camera cannot. (At least not from a distance.) Can you see it at all in the picture to the right? It bugged me, but I don't know what I want to do about it yet. I may cut out another silhouette and either cover up the flawed one or replace it. I don't think peeling it off the canvas will work out. I may just leave it and call it my first lesson.
The aftermath. Not too messy, right?

I got an overwhelmingly large response when I showed a few people the finished work. A lot of ooh's and ahh's. Overall, I'd rather teach people who to do this on their own. I have a request or two from a couple of people for me to make one for them. The silhouette is the hardest part and getting enough colors from ONE box of crayons is a little daunting when you're trying to concentrate on one color. I wanted my canvas to consist of mostly purples but after all the shades of purples ran out, I had to throw in some blues and pinks and greys to get the look I wanted. I may do a couple more but on a smaller scale.  I wonder if I will get the same effect?

"I'm Only Happy When It Rains"
"Pour Your Misery Down On Me"


  1. This really takes my breath away. The colors all work well and you picked the perfect picture. I think you missed your calling kid!

    1. We all have a little creative tick in all of us. We all just express it differently.

  2. This. Is. Awesome! I really love the way it turned out. I love that you're so creative. Thanks for the tutorial. I will have to give this a try. :D

    1. Woohoo! I can't wait to see what you do! There are so many possibilities!

  3. Oh the things we could do in Chicago ....

    1. We would do nothing but non-stop crafting! =)

  4. Oh my gosh....this is sooo pretty!!! And I love that you did a really detailed tutorial on this. I also respect the fact that you talked about mistakes you made on the project. Some people like to come off Martha Stewart perfect. I can't wait to try this myself. Your picture is so perfect. I may have to stage one so I have a pretty silhouette to use. I can't wait to see other posts from you! I found you on Pinterest btw! Cheers!

    1. Thanks! =) Sometimes I read tutorials and blogs and they make it sound like everything is always easy. I think people end up wasting a lot of their materials and time if they aren't warned about the things that can go wrong.

  5. Thank you so much for this detailed tutorial. I've seen these melted crayon art pieces but the ones like yours with the silhouette are the best. When I found out crayons are 50 cents for the box of 24 now (pre-school sale) and my husband has a hot air gun, it was my sign to try one. Am trying very hard to do it right. Your tutorial is one of the best and THANKS A MILLION for taking the time to write it up and post it.

    1. No problem! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Put up a link to your art when you're done. I'm sure it'll be amazing. =)

  6. You can also glue the crayons down and blow dry them for a cool rain effect.

    1. Yes, that's definitely an alternate way to do it!

  7. Did you put the crayons right in the glue gun where the sticks normally go? Then push with the back of a metal cylindrical handle? Is blowing them with a Milwaukee heat gun give a different effect?Very interesting and thorough tutorial

    1. Yes, I put the crayons into the glue gun where the glue sticks normally go, and when I couldn't get them to go any further in, I just used the handle as a device to shove them through all the way. You could use anything that fits into that part of the glue gun. It doesn't have to be any special tool. Using a heat blower will definitely give it a different effect. It depends on if you're taping the crayons onto your canvas and melting them with the heat gun that way, or if you're holding it above your canvas and allowing it to drip. Just be careful not to burn your fingers!

  8. ok i'm gonna try this and pray to the Lord above i don't waste a good canvas by messin up