EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito

Students explore colour mixing, gradation and sgraffito techniques using wax crayons.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 9


Art Techniques
Language Arts


complementary colour gradation pigment sgraffito


Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Crayons - 24 count Rulers Pencils Toothpicks Tissues

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EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step One

Step One

  1. Divide your paper into a grid.
  2. Use the width of your ruler for the width of each box.
  3. Colour the outside box in the bottom row blue.
  4. Continue to fill in each box in that row.
  5. Change the pressure so the colour gradually goes from dark to light.
  6. This is called gradation.
EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Repeat the same thing in the next row.
  2. Once the blue is done, apply yellow on top of the blue.
  3. Notice what happens to the colour.
  4. Continue in this way choosing colours that you like to work with.
  5. Fill 6 rows of colour.
  6. Next add a thin strip of colour on either side of the rows.
  7. See what happens when you colour a contrasting colour on top of the original colour. 
EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Three

Step Three

  1. In the last row add a different colour in each box.
  2. Press very hard so the colour is thick and bright.
  3. Try layering contrasting colours. 
EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Now start adding thin strips on either side of each row like you did before.
  2. Use colours that you like to work with.
  3. Notice what happens as the same colour mixes with each new colour.
  4. Let the colour flow out the top of the grid in some interesting way.
  5. This will help you to remember what colour is on top of each row.
EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Use a black crayon to draw a line halfway along the top row – the last row you coloured.
  2. Colout the new shape black.
  3. Colour right over top of the other colours.
  4. Press hard so you get a smooth, dark black layer.
EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Tape a toothpick to the end of a marker to make a scratch tool.
  2. This will make it easier to draw with.
  3. Use the toothpick to scratch lines into the black crayon.
  4. This technique is called sgraffito.
  5. You can polish the finished drawing by rubbing it lightly with a tissue.
EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. View your drawing with fresh eyes.
    - What do you like best about your finished drawing? Why?
    - What more would you like to learn about drawing with crayons?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create colour gradation and sgraffito designs using wax crayons;
  • blend 2 different colours of wax crayons;
  • build on their own and others’ discoveries to generate new ideas;
  • explain their process; 
  • express opinions about the artworks.


Have students: 

  • work in their sketchbooks on a Crayon Quest for several days;
  • challenege themselves to draw a variety of things they see around them;
  • play with the application of colour;
  • reflect on what they learn;
    -  what they were trying to do
    -  what worked
    -  what didn't work
    -  what they will do next
  • share their ideas with others.


  1. Place students into small groups so they can share the crayons.
  2. Spread newspaper on tables for easy clean up.
  3. Make a partially complete sample.
  4. Search Don Marco crayon artist on the Interent and download several examples of his drawings.
  5. View the video Don Marco.


  1. Explain that wax crayons are:
    - drawing tools made with pigment (the colours) and wax,
    - popular with children and adult artists because they are a good drawing tool that makes it easy to learn how to draw and paint. 
  2. View and discuss several drawings by Don Marco – crayon artist and/or watch the Don Marco video.
  3. Ask students to share some of the ways they know how to use wax crayons.
  4. Explain that today's class is for exploring different ways to use wax crayons so that they will be able to get the most out of them when they make pictures and designs.
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create different gradations of colour using wax crayons.
  2. Create sgraffito designs using wax crayons
  3. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  4. Explain your process.
  5. Express opinions about your own and others' drawings. 

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have: 
    - created a grid of different colours
    - created 6 rows of smooth colour gradation
    - created sgraffito design with different kinds of lines
    - added interesting designs at the top of the grid
    - kept the paper in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Have students work with a partner or in small groups.
  2. Ask them to:
    Discuss the effects of pressure on the end result.
    Talk about the effects of layering colours to make new colours.  
    Compare the exercises and describe to each other what they did to get certain effects.
    Consider how doing this exercise might help them if they were creating a picture.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their drawings – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the drawing, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – CrayonTechniques.pdf)
  5. Have students reflect on their own drawings in their sketchbooks. Ask students:                                                                                              
    - What is the strongest feature in your drawing? Why?
    - What have you learned about drawing with crayons?
    - What more would you like to learn about drawing with crayons?