For the sake of transparency, I haven’t used (or even thought about using) crayons for coloring since I was a little kid, and even back then I preferred colored pencils. Crayons felt waxy, clunky and gumpy and I never felt I had control over how the colors looked on paper. They just didn’t work for me. I am a colored pencil junkie. Maybe even a colored pencil snob (no, not really⏤I just love colored pencils).
But every now and then, something comes along to shake that proverbial tree and that’s why I am so excited to share my thoughts on the sweet, clay crayons I received from Bambino.
When I first opened the package I was amused by how little they were, but I couldn’t wait to start using them⏤partly because Bambino was a brand that was new to me⏤and because I had never tried crayons made of clay.
Bambino (ColouringWorld Limited) is located in South Yorkshire, England, and the crayons themselves have been around since 1889. They were awarded gold at the Paris Exhibition in 1937, and more recently, became a 2021 Craft Awards Winner. I have a feeling they will become more prominent in the adult coloring community as more of us recognize how delightful they are.
Bambinos are solid-core crayons that contain natural kaolin clay and a small amount of wax. They are highly pigmented and more vibrant than typical wax crayons (like Crayolas) which consist of paraffin wax and pigments. Bambinos look like skinny Crayola crayons because of the paper wrappers, but they feel much more dense⏤much harder⏤due to the clay content. They are non toxic (so they are safe for the wee ones with supervision) and currently include packs of 18 colors and 24 colors, plus a double pack of 24 colors.
As a side note, in addition to the crayons, Bambino also has Jumbo sets of 12 and 24 colors on their website. The Jumbos look more like colored pencils with a wood barrel and pigmented core. I have not tried them yet, but it’s probably safe to assume the pencils are similar to the crayons.
While the crayons are currently only available in the UK, they do offer international shipping. Currently (May, 2022), Bambino crayons are under $10 for a set of 24 and under $16 for 2 packs of 24 (the double set) so they are affordable. After trying them out, I ordered a few more sets so I have a backup, plus I mailed a set to each of my coloring team members so they could try them, and an extra set to include in a special, upcoming giveaway.
Like I mentioned, the crayons are surprisingly small (thin) and lightweight. They seem to be marketed mostly toward kids due to the graphics on the box and the little animal shapes on the paper crayon wrappers instead of color names or numbers. But don’t let the packaging fool you⏤they are not just for kids!
The crayons are a little over 3″ long, about 1/4″ in diameter, and feel quite strong for their size. In fact, one of the crayons rolled off my desk and clattered to the hardwood floor in my studio and it did not crack or break. I’ve not been so lucky with some of my colored pencils.
What about the colors?
Overall, the color range in the set of 24 is pretty decent, though I would love to see more colors. You can never have too many colors, right? Most adult coloring fans appreciate a solid set of greens, and while this set only contains two, they can be blended with other colors (like reds, browns, yellows, etc.) to create different green shades, tints and hues.
The Bambino set of colors seems to fall in the “middle value” range which means it lacks very light and very dark hues. For example, while there is a lighter blue, its value isn’t that different from the three other blues in the set (see swatches below). Personally, I would love to see a darker (such as “Prussian”) blue and a much lighter (maybe “Sky”) blue. The violet crayons are also fairly similar in value so it would be great to have a lighter (“Lavender”) and deeper violet as well.
But again … if you are comfortable blending, you can certainly achieve plenty of color variety with this set as it exists.
Coloring with the Bambinos
After I swatched the colors in my charts book (and I should mention that I named the colors myself since there are no color names on the crayons) I pulled out a few different types of paper to test out the Bambinos.
What immediately struck me was how very little pressure⏤just a feather touch, really⏤was needed to lay pigment down on my paper with these crayons. This is especially favorable for people who have arthritis or other issues with their hands or fingers but still want to color.
They do not feel waxy or greasy⏤but they also don’t feel too dry or scratchy. They feel balanced, effortless.
I was able to consistently achieve over 12 layers of color on the different types of paper I used. They worked well on my favorite card stock, and they also worked great on coloring book paper⏤everything from heavier pages down to thinner coloring book pages. And because they layer so well, they are easy to blend.
How do they sharpen?
These crayons sharpen exceptionally well! I tried a small, KUM hand-held manual sharpener, a Mitsubishi hand-crank style sharpener, and my x-acto electric sharpener⏤all with no issues whatsoever. The crayons sharpen to a fine point (which makes them acceptable for detail work), and they can also cover larger areas quickly and easily when tilted more parallel to the paper’s surface.
I also discovered that the leftover crayon “dust” or powder after sharpening a crayon is pretty great for smudging on paper with your finger, brush, sponge or Q-tip to create soft backgrounds. Try sharpening your crayons over separate containers to collect the powder if this sounds interesting to you. Different colored powders can be blended together, of course, and because these crayons erase really well, it is easy to go back and clean up areas where you don’t want color overlap.
You can also use an eraser to create special effects in these “smudged” areas. In the experiment below, I played around with smudging and blending green and blue powder, and then used a Tombow Mono eraser to highlight some of the bubbles and create rays of light in the water.
In addition to layering and blending the crayons with one another, I used a Prismacolor Blender pencil on some colorings, and also burnished some colorings with a Caran dAche Blender Bright stick. Lora, from my coloring team, tried using Gamsol (her favorite blending medium) to blend the Bambinos and said, “they are sweet wee things. They blend beautifully with Gamsol.” So, if you are keen on using different blending mediums, the Bambinos seem perfectly compatible.
If you like to incorporate watercolors into your coloring pages or artwork like I do, I found that the Bambinos are fairly water resistant. In the photo below, you can see where I used a white, yellow and orange crayon to see if they would resist water and show though blue and green watercolors. I used my Windsor & Newton half pan set and a water brush. I didn’t press the crayons on the paper too forcefully, but they did resist the watercolors for the most part. I sometimes like to draw patterns and designs into areas I am coloring for more interest, and think that the Bambinos might be promising for special effects using wax-resist.
As a coloring book illustrator, it’s important for me to take my line art for a test drive before I let my designs out into the world. My beloved coloring team is amazing when it comes to this task, but I still like to color some of my own work, too. The Bambino crayons have become super handy for my workflow, and I can’t imagine not having them nearby in a little clay pot on my desk. They are also being put to use in the artwork I create for book covers, social media posts, and beyond.
All-in-all, I give these clay crayons a happy thumbs-up. In a nutshell, they are:
- easy to use
- vibrant colors
- sharpen beautifully
- capable of multiple layers
Will there be more colors added to this delightful collection? A little bird told me it might be a possibility! So please check out Bambino’s website, and you can find Bambino on Instagram as well as Facebook.
Finally, keep an eye on Ruby Charm Colors on Facebook and Instagram for an exciting Bambino Crayon and selected mini prints (from the Ruby Charm Colors Mini Box Set) giveaway! I’ll be posting information and rules very soon!
Cheers to all things colorful, my friends!