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All About Neocolor II Wax Crayons

These intensely saturated art materials are beloved by art journalists far & wide. Neocolors can be blended with fingers, used to sketch, smeared and dissolved with a brush or used to paint like watercolors. There are 126 Neocolor II Water-Soluble Wax Crayons, and they are bunches of fun. 

The background for this simple journal page was scribbled with Neocolor IIs and painted with water for a dreamy look.

Here are some examples made with Caran d'Ache Neocolor II wax crayons, index cards & water. The first four are 3x5" lined white index cards. The last three are 3x5" index card dividers {like manilla folder paper}. These cards do not provide the perfect substrate for mark-making and -{that}- is what makes for fun + free experimentation. 

Left: Painted the index card with water, then drew the rainbow on top. Right: Drew the rainbow on a dry index  card, then painted with water. Isn't that YUMMY?

Left: Drew the rainbow on a dry index card. Right. Drew the rainbow on a dry index card then rubbed to get a softer look. No water used!

Starting with a dry index card, wrote words, then painted with brush and water. So deliciously grungy!

Starting with dry card, wrote words, then smudged with fingers to soften. Just as cool, just different.

Drew lines with Neocolors, painted with water.

Drew lines with Neocolors, smudged with fingers. There's an errant drip of water on the top right... ignore that! 

You can also use Neocolor IIs kind of like pan watercolor paints; use a wet brush to grab color from the crayon and paint! The result is muted, soft watercolor and extremely useful on-the-go, in a creative travel kit instead of toting around watercolor paints. I drew a mandala with india ink while the neocolory-paint was still wet. 

8 x 10" loose art journal page dated 2009; one of my early art journal pages.
The papers are edged with Neocolors.

Neocolor grid from my exacompta journal {the Neocolors enhance the textured lines in this particular paper}.

Neocolor drawing, painted some areas with water to soften.


3x5" index card, squares drawn with Neocolors, spritzed with water.


Some of the lovely Caran d'Ache Neocolor II colors {notes below on some duplicates}. You can get small sets, huge sets or get them in singles. My suggestion is to keep it simple. Unless you are planning to do entire pages or drawings using Neocolors where you would find value in a wide array of colors, a dozen will be more than enough for art journaling. Get the colors that you LIKE and you'll use them! Random thoughts? Dark colors are lovely for adding emphasis and grunge to papers in a collage. Bright colors are lovely on black or dark backgrounds. Whites and grays are lovely for edging dark papers. 

Some notes on particular colors.

For lemony yellow: I would suggest either #470-spring green or #010-yellow... they are similar. Chinese green is just a touch to the green.
For bright red: choose I would suggest either #290-ruby red or #070-scarlet... they are similar. Ruby red is a touch darker.
Nice-to-have colors: #407-Sepia, #131-Periwinkle Blue, #160-cobalt blue , white, black.

Use them to highlight art journal pages, edge images, paint them with water for a watercolor look, draw on a wet page for intense color. If you prefer the non-water soluble type, get Neocolor I instead. The colors are exactly the same. 

Curious about Neocolor I crayons?  The work exactly the same EXCEPT they don't change or dissolve when wet. So you can apply them and then rub to soften the color. I have a few but generally use the Neocolor IIs.

Note: I've also tested and used Lyra Aquarelles and highly recommend them! There are a few in the photograph above.

Here's a video where I sketched in ink and colored the sketch with Neocolors.


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Reader Comments (10)

I'm off to try the edged papers technique - fab article

01.12.2015 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Corke

How do seal neocolors II if you incorporate with acrylics and want to end with a gloss finish.

01.13.2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnna D

Thanks for this post on Neocolors!

01.13.2015 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Since I'm basically housebound and grounded due to a broken ankle from a slip on the ice on Jan. 3, this blog post is perfect. I have a set of the Neocolor II and haven't used them but a few times in the 5+ years I've owned them. Time to get some index cards out and one of my many art journals that never get completed. Maybe I'll also do the scientific artist experiment and make notes of the colors and the effects of dry, rubbed, color into wet, wet into color. What a concept - use my art journal for experiments! Thank you, Tammy, for the great article.

These look SO fun, unfortunately I have looked & looked around here, and they are nowhere to be found. :(

I did manage to find some water soluble oil pastels, and they appear to work quite similarly. I know Amazon carries them (in singles too!) but do you have another recommendation for a good place to find them?

01.13.2015 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I started a smallish collection of Neo-Color II's last summer, picking out 2 dz of my favorite and basic colors. I had already been using Portfolio brand water soluble crayons and liked them a lot because of their versatility. I find the color selection of NC II's to have a greater variety and range and little difference in flexibility or color saturation when compared side to side. Both have performed equally well. I think i will add NC II's to increase color selection on future purposes and replace basic colors with the Portfolio as they are less expensive. I store them in a small vintage tin cigar box that fits nicely in my travel art kit. Great post Tammy!

01.13.2015 | Unregistered CommenterBetty Richardson

Tammy, I've been considering buying some and now I'm convinced! Thank you so much for all the details and the video! I love all the photo examples, too!

01.13.2015 | Unregistered CommenterBetty

Great post! I've been thinking about these since I tried a set my friend had. This makes me want to get my own even more. :)

01.14.2015 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Love this post, thanks for showing the examples.

01.14.2015 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Spillane

Hi Tammy thanks for this post. I love my Neocolor 2, I do have a question, what kind of pen or marker can you use to write over them after you've blended them with water thanks! Lissa

Hi Lissa. Good question. If they are dissolved and feel like watercolors on your paper, you could write with a PITT pen, for example. But if they are smeared or not dissolved I would not write on them with any pen because the wax gunking up your pen or marker. At that point you could paint your words on top with acrylics or just add words on a separate sheet of paper.

01.29.2015 | Unregistered CommenterLissa

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