Introduction: No More Tears Watercolor: Crayon Resist

If you've ever given a young child a set of watercolors, you know that they aren't as simple to work with as the craft aisle may have you believe. Watercolors are on just about every elementary student's school supply list, but every time they paint with them, the image comes out blurry and often the tears start rolling when the child can't seem to put their idea on paper. Watercolor is actually a challenging medium even for an experienced artist, but a crayon (or wax) resist can make all the difference in helping a beginner create a beautiful watercolor painting.

A crayon resist is also the basis of a "Magic Painting" that kids love. While I use crayons, Agoodgirl has shown how to accomplish a "Magic Painting" with a candle.

Step 1: Materials

crayons - Crayola Construction Paper Crayons are my favorite! They're bold on any color paper.

watercolor paper


glass of water

watercolors - Prang makes the highest "school" quality paints for just about a dollar more than the Crayola brand. They're what I recommend for a child or beginner. However, Crayola makes a good set as well if you need to keep it cheap. There are other decent/good brands, but do not buy $1 watercolors (unless they're on sale). You simply cannot make a good painting with a bargain bin set of paints.

Step 2: Without a Resist

Watercolor requires patience and planning, two skills that aren't well developed in young artists. These images are just a couple examples of watercolor paintings without a crayon resist. They tend to get blurry and the colors mix in undesirable ways. It may not be the end of the world, but a crayon resist would make the same painting so much more engaging and easier for an adult to see and understand.

Step 3: Draw

Draw the image you want to paint. Keep in mind that you cannot paint lines, so I usually tell my students to draw like a coloring book. Draw shapes instead of lines.

You will not be able to paint anything that is colored with the crayon, so remind children not to color in large areas. Very small areas may make sense to color, but often the child will be tempted to start coloring in the sky or the ground.

Lines should also be dark and thick, especially with very young children. Thicker lines help them stay within the lines when painting.

Step 4: Paint

Now, simply paint within the lines. I tell my students that the paint is "afraid" of the crayon. It runs away from it. If you deliberately paint over the lines, you can see the paint move away from the crayon. It creates a border that the paint is reluctant to cross. In a couple of the images you can see how the paint has pooled up but not crossed the crayon borders.

The beauty of a crayon resist is that even a student that can't help themselves and slops paint carelessly on their paper, will still have a painting with an understandable image at the end of the day. The crayon drawing they did will still be visible. A student that takes their time and paints carefully, will have a fantastic and engaging image.

Step 5: With a Crayon Resist

Here are some images created with a crayon resist. Even when fine motor skills prevented the student from coloring within the lines, the images came out fun and readable.

Step 6: Magic Painting

For an image that appears like magic, draw with a white crayon on white watercolor paper. I opted to draw stars in the sky and details on my moon. It's hard to see what you've drawn, but tipping the paper into the light will help.

Then, paint over the white. The image will appear magically!

Step 7: Have Fun!

These are all paintings I used as examples for my students.

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