Introduction: Melted Crayon Mosaic

Crayons are cool--They smell like childhood itself. Their colors are intense and never fade. Plus, they melt.

Surely, with adult-scale tools, attention span, and allowance, one could waddle through the swamp of nostalgia and emerge bearing some worthy craft, at least, if not rightly art?

Step 1: Preparing the "tiles"

  1. "Wow" children with a box of Crayola crayons. A BIG box. Then "bum out" children by telling them they can't use the crayons. This box has 800 crayons, 50 each of 16 colors. Cost $42 online.
  2. Strip the labels. Sometimes you can just slide them off, if you freeze the crayons for a while. Sometimes you need a knife.
  3. Buy some miniature ice cube trays made of silicon. These make 1cm cubes. Cost $11 online.
  4. Get a little girl to clip your crayons into pieces just as tall as a cube space in your tray. The pieces will melt to be about 1/2cm tall.
  5. Cook around 160F for 30 minutes or so, or until fully melted. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. Find the little girl again. Make her pop your new tiles out of the ice cube trays.
  7. Organize your cubes with an empty beer box.

Step 2: Create Your Mosaic Plan

  1. Look at the color of your tiles, compared to the color they make when drawn on white paper. Cry over how dark and indistinguishable most of them appear. Realize that your palette of 16 colors is really about 5 distinct colors. Cry some more.
  2. Download "MirthMosaic_Crayola.xlsm" from this page. Open it in Excel. Ignore your cautious mind and turn off the macro warning that Excel gives you whenever you open a file with a macro in it. What could go wrong?
  3. Enter a number in the orange box labeled "max dimension". Start around 40. Much bigger and you will hate yourself later.
  4. Click the "Select Image" button. Select an image. Wa-hey!
  5. Watch MirthMosaic open the image and "read" in its pixel colors. Realize that this is MUCH better than your mosaic will look, since it uses the full 64 kajillion Windows palette.
  6. Click on something in the "select palette" box. Click on something else. See the difference?
  7. Futz around with the red/green/blue/brightness/contrast buttons until you come up with an interesting mosaic plan.
  8. Switch to the "Purchase List" tab. Check if you have made enough tiles for the plan you have in mind. Probably not. Better make more.
  9. Switch to the "Solution Index Reversed" tab. Print this page(s).

Step 3: Assemble Your Mosaic

  1. Find a flat board larger than your final image.
  2. Glue down straight strips of wood to make the bottom and left sides, at right angles to each other.
  3. Cover the board with aluminum foil, so the melting tiles won't stick to it.
  4. Using your plan, start placing tiles. Notice that the tiles are all different heights, and have funny-looking lips on their edges. Don't despair; you are looking at the mosaic's backside, silly!
  5. Repeat step 4 until done.

Step 4: Fusing the Mosaic

  1. Cut an old T-shirt into a piece larger than your mosaic.
  2. Cover the mosaic with the cloth.
  3. Using a heat gun (or, alternately, a hair dryer or maybe even an oven) melt the tiles to the cloth. That's what holds it all together! When the back looks like a complete muddy failure of a project, you're done!
  4. Let it cool for several minutes until the wax hardens again.
  5. Place another board on top of the T-shirt/crayon amalgam, grab both boards, and flip the project over.
  6. Lift off the original backer board, and voila! Crayon mosaic, suitable for framing. I cut a board to fit inside a store-bought frame, then used construction adhesive to stick the finished mosaic in place. Just keep it out of direct sun...

Folks not interested in quite so much work might want to check out my Instructable on making mosaics with fused beads, right here: Fused Bead Mosaics From Photos