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What is a Conte Crayon?

what is a conte crayon
Some say Conte crayons look like chalk pastels but with textures similar to graphite. Some compare them to oil pastels due to their waxy features. But what is a Conte crayon? How do you use it to elevate the quality of your artwork?

One thing’s for sure: Conte crayons are nothing like regular crayons. They present firm shapes that resemble hard pastels yet feel smooth when you draw with them. The combination of compressed charcoal, clay, and a tad bit of wax made these Conte crayons highly blendable and an excellent drawing medium.

While that gives you a glimpse of what a Conte crayon is, we will dig deeper through this article. Besides their composition, I will show you the similarities and differences of Conte crayons from other art media as well as how you can use them.

What is a Conte Crayon Made Of?

A Conte crayon is composed of two primary elements: powdered charcoal or graphite and clay. This mixture explains their rigid structure that delivers minimal dust or debris in every application.

Additional components include wax and natural pigments such as titanium dioxide for the white pigment, carbon black, and iron oxides for the rust or reddish-brown tones. With such elements, no wonder Conte crayons are exceptionally pigmented.

On the other hand, a lot of brands now offer modern Conte crayons that feature unique mixtures rather than clay and graphite or charcoal.

Is Conte Crayon the Same as Charcoal?

With charcoal as among the primary components of Conte crayon, it is reasonable to think that it works or performs like charcoal. Although they both render promising results and drawing techniques in art, they are not the same. They work and blend differently than charcoal does.

Keep in mind that Conte crayons use powdered charcoal or graphite that produce a minimal mess, dust, and debris. Charcoal is quite the opposite since it is typically dusty, messy, and relatively much grittier than a Conte crayon. Another difference is that a Conte crayon is sometimes mixed with wax, making them hard and waxy.

Are Conte Crayons the Same as Chalk Pastels?

When it comes to Conte crayons VS pastels, is there any difference? Yes, there is. Conte crayons and pastels are not the same. Their structure and appearance may look similar to chalk pastels, but Conte crayons are much firmer and feel waxier like oil pastels.

Chalk pastels are hard, waxy, and obviously chalky or dusty. Conte crayons are just hard and waxy but can produce fine and neat lines with only minimal dust and debris.

However, Conte crayons are not the same as oil pastels. Oil pastels typically have a soft consistency that provides a creamy laydown. Conte crayons are the other way around. They can be waxy but not creamy and soft; Conte crayons are hard yet effortless to draw with, making them ideal for intricate and precise lines as well as detailed strokes.

Are Conte Crayons the Same as Hard Pastels?

If these Conte sticks or crayons are neither the same as chalk pastels nor oil pastels, perhaps as hard pastels. But are they really the same? Once again, they are not. Some even call these crayons “hard pastels” because of their rigid structure but Conte crayons are much stronger and waxier. Hard pastels are typically a bit chalky, brittle, and dry.

On the other hand, if you prefer using hard pastels, you will probably enjoy using Conte crayons. I can say that they can be the closest art medium you will find that resembles the texture and firmness of hard pastels, only Conte crayons are waxier.

What are the Uses of Conte Crayons?

what are the uses of conte crayons

Conte crayons or Conte sticks are a versatile drawing medium that can be used for sketches and initial applications and layers before dry pastels.
Since they have square edges, these crayons are more suitable for rendering detailed artwork with sharp and fine lines. Plus, they do not leave a lot of dust and debris, keeping your artwork neat and free from messy smudges.

In addition to that, Conte crayons are blendable. You can easily layer it to another Conte crayon and blend them out with your finger. In that way, you can create smooth color blends and artistic effects.

Lightfastness and Color Selection of Conte Crayons

The common color palette of this art medium includes black, white, gray, and sanguine or reddish-brown tones. This amplifies the neutral tones of your art, which is why many artists prefer using these crayons or sticks as initial and supplementary layers before working with pastels.

Some artists, moreover, use these colors to make sketches while others use Conte crayons as their primary medium to create an entire painting in monochromatic hues.

Although the original colors are limited to black, white, gray, and reddish-brown, modern Conte crayons now come in a vast array of colors. This paves the way for color studies and a wider range of color gradients and depths.

But here is another question: are the colors lightfast? It is safe to say that they are. I remember using a pack of Conte crayons to create an art piece. I had put it up for display afterward in a bright room where the sunlight could go through. It has already been a year and the colors have not yet faded ever since.

Are Conte Crayons Water-Soluble?

Classic or original Conte crayons are simply pigmented sticks of powdered graphite and clay that do not dissolve in water. However, some brands manufactured modern types of Conte crayons that are water-soluble, making them suitable for mixed media art.

Are Conte Crayons Expensive?

With around $2 to $3 pricing mark per crayon or around $4 to $20 per set, you can tell that these crayons come at a reasonable price.

What Type of Paper to Use with Conte Crayons?

Conte crayons work great on rough paper or any sketch or pastel paper with a lot of tooth. The rougher, the more pigment it can hold.


To sum it up, what is a Conte crayon? It is an excellent type of art medium that may resemble pastels or charcoal but perform quite differently in terms of blending, firmness, color quality, texture, and precision. Conte crayons are firm, slightly waxy, lightfast, and versatile.

Whether you use them as your primary medium or mix them with other art media, you can elevate your work and take delight in the smooth textures and fine detailed lines of Conte crayons.

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