Family how-to: use melted crayons to decorate a flag

Published 25 October 2017

Melt and grate crayons in our take on Jasper Johns’s encaustic paintings, working with wax to design a flag that represents you.

  • Extra inspiration!

    Jasper Johns began painting the American flag in the 1950s. By 2002, he had created around one hundred different versions of it in paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures. Johns made his first flag paintings using encaustic, a mix of liquid wax and paint that dries quickly, creating a very textured surface on the canvas. In his early flag paintings, you can see every single brushstroke. Look at Jasper Johns’s flags in our online gallery.

    In this family how-to, you’ll learn how to make your own version of Jasper Johns’s encaustic, using melted and grated crayons.

    Be careful when using an iron, and get an adult to help and supervise. Even after the iron is switched off it may be hot!

    • Family how-to: decorate a flag 1

      What you need

      • Crayons with the labels soaked off – chunky ones are best for grating

      • Sandpaper

      • Pillowcase or other piece of fabric – you could use a tea towel or dishcloth instead

      • Scissors

      • Cheesegrater (this can be cleaned afterwards with hot water)

      • Iron and ironing board, or a flat, safe surface that can be ironed on

      • Greaseproof paper

    • Colouring in sandpaper blue crayon family how-to jasper Johns flag GIF

      1. Draw and colour on your sandpaper

      Pressing down hard, draw straight onto the sandy side of the sandpaper.

      You can colour in a whole area to make a block of solid colour, draw shapes or anything else that you can think of. Draw across the whole sheet, or just a small area.

      Don’t forget that, as with a lot of printmaking, you will place the drawing face-down on your fabric, so the drawing will be a mirror image.

    • Family how-to: decorate a flag 3

      2. Cut out your drawings

      Cut around the drawings you made. If you coloured in a large area of sandpaper, you can cut shapes to transfer onto the fabric.

    • Family how-to: decorate a flag 4

      3. Place the sandpaper colour-side down onto your fabric

      Ask an adult for help with this step.

      Warm up your iron. You can use a low to medium setting as crayon melts easily! Iron your fabric to remove any creases before you start.

      Lay some greaseproof paper underneath your fabric. If you are using a pillowcase, put some inside it too.

      Choose the spot for your first piece of sandpaper and place it crayon-side down on your fabric.

      Lay some greaseproof paper on top of the sandpaper and fabric to protect your iron.

    • Family how-to: decorate a flag 5

      4. Iron over the sandpaper

      Ask an adult for help with this step.

      Iron over your piece of sandpaper. Crayons melt easily, so it won’t take too long – only a few seconds. You can peak under a corner of the sandpaper to make sure the crayon has melted.

    • Family how-to star reveal GIF square

      5. Reveal your print

      Let the sandpaper and the wax cool down for about 10 seconds before removing them to see the results!

    • Family how-to Jasper Johns flag heart reveal

      6. Repeat the process with other shapes

      Do the same with the other drawings and shapes you’ve made on the sandpaper. You can use the same sheet of sandpaper several times, after you’ve transferred the crayon to the fabric.

      You may need to use some more sheets of greaseproof paper if the melted crayon seeps out.

      Experiment with colours and different amounts of crayon colour on the sandpaper.

    • Grating crayons family how-to Jasper Johns flag

      7. Try grating some crayons

      Adding grated crayon instead of drawing on the sandpaper will create a different effect. You won’t need any sandpaper for this technique.

      You can grate the colours onto a sheet of paper, so that you have a few to start with. You can use use the fine or coarse grater surface and see what effect you get from each. If you’re feeling confident, you could also skip this step and try grating straight onto the surface!

    • Family how-to sprinkle crayons flag Jasper Johns

      8. Sprinkle the grated crayons onto the fabric

      Place greaseproof paper under your fabric, adding some inside as well if you’re using a pillowcase.

      Sprinkle some grated crayon on top of your fabric, where you want the colour to be. The grated crayon will spread when it melts, so you won’t need much.

      You can use one colour, or mix colours together. You can also overlap with some of the sandpaper drawings.

    • Family how-to Jasper Johns flag iron grated crayon GIF

      9. Iron the grated crayon

      Ask an adult for some help with this step.

      When you are ready to iron, place greaseproof paper on top of the grated crayon.

      Iron over the greaseproof paper and grated crayon.

    • Family how-to Jasper Johns flag grated crayon reveal

      10. Reveal the results

      When you’re done, wait a minute for the crayon to cool. Peel off the greaseproof to reveal the results.

    • Family how-to Jasper Johns finished flag

      11. Share your finished flag with us

      Add more shapes and drawings, using both the grated crayon and the sandpaper methods!

      Hang up your finished flag and send us a photo.