A Quick Review of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II Wax Crayons

Neocolors are ridiculously saturated wax crayons that can be used for drawing patterns, embellishing collage elements, adding depth to mixed media art journal pages, edging, and mark-making. ⬅️ What are Neocolors? What’s the difference between Neocolor I and Neocolor II?

There are only a handful of materials that I would consider ESSENTIAL for mixed media art journalists. And Neocolors fall into that category. Neocolor II, to be precise. But more on that in a bit. Art journalists around the globe use these sticks to smudge, smear, embellish, edge, doodle, and add graffiti-like marks to their creative work.

Let’s take a look at just a smidgeon of what these luscious crayons can do!

Neocolors.

The art materials that I use most often in my work are versatile and flexible. So they are building blocks rather than serving a very specific one-time purpose. Neocolors are a core part of my creative process and I use them quite often! I’ve been using Neocolors for a decade - actually the same exact set - and they are still 100% fantabulous.

Mixed media art journal page with a bit of everything including molding paste, found papers, magazine images, Neocolor II, acrylics, alcohol inks, painted papers.

Mixed media art journal page with a bit of everything including molding paste, found papers, magazine images, Neocolor II, acrylics, alcohol inks, painted papers.

Neocolor II swatches on off-white Strathmore drawing paper.

Neocolor II swatches on off-white Strathmore drawing paper.


What's the Difference between Neocolor I and Neocolor II? What do they do?

Similarities between Neocolor I and II

1. Draw bold, intense color patterns.
2. Smudge what you draw for softer edges.
3. Draw adjacent colors and blend to soften where they meet. 
4. Draw edges around collage elements or page edges to add depth.
5. Draw around the edge of your paper, artist trading card, or index card and then rub to soften. Gives a weathered, tea-stained, grunge, or vintage look. Especially neat with metallic Neocolors, browns, creams, payne’s gray, etc.
6. Draw soft portraits, building up color as you go. 
7. Add rich color to pencil or ink drawings.
8. Make any mark that you can draw with a crayon, including imperfect dots, circles, lines, graffiti-like marks.
9. Can be used with watercolor, gouache, ink, acrylics, etc.
10. Neocolors really POP on dark backgrounds and can be used on black paper or dark acrylic paint for a neon-like effect. See examples below!


Ideas for using Neocolor I
[not water-soluble]

1. Take advantage of the fact that you can smudge them but they won’t dissolve. So if you use as a mask, you can paint with watercolor or spray with inks.
3. Use in combination with Neo II and water… so that the Neo I lines don’t budge yet Neo II lines dissolve and bleed.
4. On an art journal page or canvas, make marks or patterns and then paint a layer of acrylic paint. The pigment from the Neocolor will not bleed into the paint. If paint is translucent, you’ll see through to the earlier layer.
5. On an art journal page or canvas, paint a background with acrylic paint and allow to dry. Then make marks or patterns with Neocolors. Smudge or smear or rub to blend together!


Ideas for using Neocolor II
[water-soluble]

1. On an art journal page or canvas, make marks or patterns with Neocolors and then paint a layer of acrylic paint. The pigment from the Neocolor will absorb partially into wet paint. We play with this technique in my Novel Approach workshop.
2. On an art journal page or canvas, paint a background with acrylic paint and allow to dry. Then make marks or patterns with Neocolors. Smudge or smear or rub to blend together! We play with this technique in my Groovy Grunge workshop.
3. Draw or edge something, paint around the edge with acrylics, and the color will partially dissolve into the paint. 
4. Draw on wet paper and the color will dissolve a bit to a soft line.
5. Make marks on watercolor paper, then spritz with ink or water to create intriguing results.
6. Wet a brush and grab color from the Neocolor stick and paint a soft watercolor-like background. 
7. Use on-the-go in your creative travel kit if you don’t wish to tote around watercolors. Use a brush to add quick bursts of color to pencil or ink drawings.
8. Draw or edge a collage element or page edge, then paint with a wet brush and water/watercolor/gouache. The color will partially dissolve. We play with this technique in my Tiny Museum workshop.
9. Draw patterns and create abstracts on index cards for the Daisy Yellow Index-Card-a-Day Challenge [Couldn’t resist the mention, after all I use Neocolors a great deal during ICAD!]

Neocolors.

Details!

Swiss manufacturer Caran D’Ache describes them as “wax oil pastel” with soft, velvety texture which does not does not crumble, ultra-high pigment concentration, superior covering power, luminous colors, and excellent light resistance.

Note that there are two types of Neocolors.

Neocolor I. Water-resistant, not water-soluble. 60 colors. Neo 1, set of 15.

Neocolor II. Water-soluble. 84 colors. These are my favorites! It’s difficult to find individual open stock Neocolors at reasonable cost, but I have found them at Artist & Craftsman. Neo II, set of 15 is a perfect starting point. This set will last for years and years! Want more colors? Go for a set of 30. You don’t need “all” of the colors, unless you are going to be drawing something where you need fine gradations of color.

Neocolors are one of my go-to art materials for art journaling. They are versatile and the colors are luxurious and saturated. They have a buttery smooth texture.

Keep in mind that {like oil pastels or regular crayons} you cannot write directly on them {unless used like watercolor, dissolved} because they gunk up the nib or get wax on the fiber tip. It will ruin your pens.

With a zillion color choices, how do you choose? How many do you need?

My suggestion is to keep it simple - I bet that a small set of 10-15 will be more than enough for art journaling! If you plan to create portraits or drawings where you’ll need a variety of colors, you’ll want to get more. Hint: Get the colors that you LIKE and you'll use them!

A note about using pens or markers on top of wax crayons. Don’t do it!

If your Neocolors are smeared or otherwise not dissolved, do NOT write on them because the wax will gunk up your pen or marker. Your options at that point are to paint words with acrylics and a tiny brush or write on a separate sheet of paper and adhere to the base which includes Neocolors. 12+ ways to get words on the most challenging art journal backgrounds! Also try pencil on top of Neocolor for a cool effect.

Neocolors.

Doodling with Neocolor II in an altered book; pages from the  Groovy Grunge Workshop !

Doodling with Neocolor II in an altered book; pages from the Groovy Grunge Workshop!

Neocolors and thread on black paper.

Neocolors and thread on black paper.

To give you a feel for what it’s like to work with Neocolors, watch the Universe tutorial where I draw with Neocolor II [this would work the same with Neocolor I as long as you are using dark colors; with light colored acrylic paint the Neocolor II dissolving would be visible with light colored paint. My examples are on 3x5” index cards, but you can use this same technique on loose paper or in an art journal. The black paint on the first card is Golden High Flow acrylic paint; the [iridescent] copper paint on the next card is Golden Fluid acrylic paint. The grey and teal paints on the next card are Golden Heavy Body acrylic paint. PS. I buy heavy body acrylics in jars [4 oz or 8 oz] because I use so much of them — plus it is more convenient to dip the brush in the jar and not have to deal with opening tubes. All paints in the examples are full-strength, not thinned, so highly opaque!!!

Here’s another video where you can see how Neocolors can be used to “edge” collage elements. After I edge the collage papers, I do paint over with heavy body acrylic paint, so as a side note… if you are going to do that you do not need to “edge” first! The goal here was to show two different ways to make a grid collage. See details in Make a Grid.

Mixed media art journal page in an altered book, drawing with Neocolor II on black acrylic paint. Cool, eh!?

Mixed media art journal page in an altered book, drawing with Neocolor II on black acrylic paint. Cool, eh!?

Mandala drawn on index card dividers with Neocolor II and silver fluid acrylics.

Mandala drawn on index card dividers with Neocolor II and silver fluid acrylics.

Collage elements edged with Neocolor I wax crayons.

Collage elements edged with Neocolor I wax crayons.

Edging on collage elements with Neocolors. We create this kind of art journal page in my  Novel Approach Workshop !

Edging on collage elements with Neocolors. We create this kind of art journal page in my Novel Approach Workshop!


How do they compare to other mediums?

Some folks would disagree - but I really think that Neocolors are almost in a category of their own. They are related to crayons, related to oil pastels, but they are really not exactly either of these! They are more firm than an oil pastel and have texture but are not thick like you would use for impasto, but that’s not my area of expertise:) They are more creamy and crayon-like than Derwent Inktense. With Neocolors there is no powdery residue of any sort and they don’t flake off on your hands. And while they “can” be sharpened with a crayon sharpener, I have never sharpened mine, just use them as they are.

How do Caran D’Ache Neocolor II compare to Lyra Aquacolors?

I would suggest that these two materials are quite similar. When “fresh” out of the box they both work pretty much the same although the Lyra are ever-so-slightly less buttery smooth. BUT after several years the Lyra do not feel as consistent and smooth and were drying out! After a decade of use the Neocolors work the same as when I purchased them!


Mandala with Neocolor II and ink on watercolor paper.

Mandala with Neocolor II and ink on watercolor paper.

Left: Drew the rainbow on a dry index card with Neocolor II.  Right. Drew the rainbow on a dry index card then rubbed to get a softer look. No water used.  FYI: The same results would occur with Neocolor I, as no water was used.

Left: Drew the rainbow on a dry index card with Neocolor II.
Right. Drew the rainbow on a dry index card then rubbed to get a softer look. No water used.
FYI: The same results would occur with Neocolor I, as no water was used.

Left: Painted the index card with water, then drew the rainbow on top with Neocolor II. Right: Drew the rainbow on a dry index card, then painted with water.

Left: Painted the index card with water, then drew the rainbow on top with Neocolor II.
Right: Drew the rainbow on a dry index card, then painted with water.

Drew lines with Neocolor II, painted with water.

Drew lines with Neocolor II, painted with water.

Drew lines with Neocolor II, smudged with fingers. Ignore that errant drip of water on the top right! FYI: The same results would occur with Neocolor I, as no water was used.

Drew lines with Neocolor II, smudged with fingers. Ignore that errant drip of water on the top right! FYI: The same results would occur with Neocolor I, as no water was used.

Watercolor-like background created by using a wet brush to grab color from the Neocolor II and apply to the page. Drew the mandala in india ink while the Neocolor was still wet.

Watercolor-like background created by using a wet brush to grab color from the Neocolor II and apply to the page. Drew the mandala in india ink while the Neocolor was still wet.

Landscape drawn with Neocolor II on index card.

Landscape drawn with Neocolor II on index card.


The wrap-up

I simply adore them!!!

A++ all around!


Color Selection Notes

Dark colors are lovely for adding emphasis and grunge to papers in a collage. 

Bright colors are lovely on black or dark backgrounds.

Whites, grays, and neutrals are lovely for edging on dark papers. 

If you are looking to build a small set of Caran d'Ache Neocolor II colors by purchasing individually, here are some notes about particular colors. There are 84 colors available; these notes are based on the original 128 available in 2015. You can find hand-drawn color charts for the original assortment at wet canvas: one + two three.

For lemony yellow: Either #470-spring green or #010-yellow... they are similar. Chinese green is yellow but to the green.

For bright red: Either #290-ruby red or #070-scarlet... quite similar. Ruby red is a touch darker. 

Nice-to-have: #407-sepia, #131-periwinkle blue, #160-cobalt blue, white, black.

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Neocolors.