EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito

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

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 9


Art Techniques
Visual Arts


complementary colour gradation impasto pigment sgraffito


Toothpicks Tissues Crayons Ruler Pencil White Paper

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EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step One

Step One

Divide the paper into a grid using the width of your ruler as the thickness of each box. Draw 7 columns in each direction to make a grid with 49 boxes.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Two

Step Two

Don't worry if the boxes are not perfect. This is just a place to explore how to work with wax crayons.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Three

Step Three

Choose a blue crayon and begin to colour in the bottom box applying heavy pressure.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Four

Step Four

Continue to fill in each box in that column gradually changing the pressure from heavy to medium to very light. Notice what happens to the colour. This is called gradation.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Five

Step Five

Repeat the same thing in the next column. Once the blue is done, apply yellow on top of the blue. Notice what happens to the colour.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Six

Step Six

Continue in this way choosing colours that you like to work with. Fill 6 strips of colour. Next add a thin strip of colour on either side of the columns. See what happens when you colour a contrasting colour on top of the original colour. 

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Seven

Step Seven

In the last column add a different colour in each box. Press very hard so the colour is very thick and bright. Try layering contrasting colours. 

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Eight

Step Eight

Now start adding thin columns on either side of each row like you did before. Use colours that you like to work with and notice what happens as the same colour mixes with each new colour. Let the colour flow out the top of the grid in some interesting way. This will help you to remember what colour is on top of each column.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Nine

Step Nine

Use a black crayon to draw a line halfway along the top row – the last row you coloured. Fill in the space with black crayon. Colour right over top of the other colours. Press hard so you get a smooth, dark black layer.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Ten

Step Ten

Tape a toothpick to the end of a marker. This will make it easier to draw with. Use the toothpick to scratch lines into the black crayon. This technique is called sgraffito.

EXPLORING CRAYONS – Gradation, Sgraffito - Step Eleven

Step Eleven

You can polish the final paper by rubbing it lightly with a soft tissue.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Explore gradation, impasto and sgraffito using wax crayons;
  2. Explore how to mix colours with wax crayons;
  3. Build on their own and others’ discoveries to generate new ideas;
  4. Explain their process; and
  5. Express opinions about the works; 


Provide a variety of drawing challenges for students to work on in their sketchbooks, for example,

  1. Choose an animal to draw.
  2. Draw the outline (contour) of all the details.
  3. Colour the lightest areas with a light coloured crayon, yellow for example.
  4. Colour the shadowed areas with a dark coloured crayon, purple, for example.
  5. Press your finger where the two colours meet and gently rub until they blend together.


  1. Place students in groups so they can share the crayons.
  2. Spread newspaper on tables for easy clean up.
  3. Make a sample. (This doesn't have to be complete, but should give a general idea of what you are expecting.)


  1. Explain what wax crayons are – drawing tools made with pigment (the colours) and wax. 
  2. Explain that wax crayons are popular with children and adult artists because they are a good drawing tool that makes it easy to learn how to draw and paint. 
  3. You may want to show students the work of Don Marco – crayon artist.
  4. Ask students to share some of the ways they know how to use wax crayons.
  5. 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.
  6. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create different gradations of colour using wax crayons.
  2. Experiment with sgraffito technique.
  3. Experiment with impasto technique.
  4. Explain your process.
  5. Express opinions about your own and others' works. 

The Process

  1. Show your sample and explain the challenge. 
  2. Demonstrate each technique. 
  3. Encourage students to notice how much pressure they are applying as they experiment with different techniques. 



  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 superimposing 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.