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How to Color Fabric With Crayons for Unique Fabric Art

Crayons aren’t just for kids anymore and Karri Schaper of Big Fork Quilts, Etc. in Big Fork, Montana, is proving that. She has by far the most artistic technique of all when it comes to fabric painting with crayons.

Instead of simply “coloring” with crayons, she uses them like paint. Much like stenciling, melted crayon colors blend on fabrics to produce some of the most beautiful results I have ever seen and Karri has graciously allowed me to share  her crayon tutorial she developed using the book Creative Quilts From Your Crayon Box by Terri Linn Kygar.

leaves water

Photos via Karri Schaper, Quilt Whimsy, of Big Fork Quilts, Etc.

How to color fabric with crayons:

Drawing the appliqué design on the paper side of fusible web.

Step 1:

Draw the appliqué design on the paper side of fusible web. If creating the appliqué for machine or hand embroidery, print a template of the design and trace it on fusible web. Fuse the image to a high thread count cotton fabric. When cool, cut along the lines, peel off the paper and fuse the piece to an appliqué pressing sheet.

Creating a "paint brush."

Step 2:

Create a makeshift paintbrush with a high-quality paper napkin or paper towel. Fold in half diagonally twice, then fold in both corners to make a point.

Heating crayon

Step 3:

Set the iron to cotton/wool temperature with no steam. Press the appliqué piece and appliqué pressing sheet to heat them. That helps melt the crayon, lets the fabric accept the crayon and sets the color.

Dab the first crayon on the heated appliqué pressing sheet, blending the crayon.

Step 4:

Dab the first crayon on the heated appliqué pressing sheet. A small puddle of melted crayon will form. Using the tip of your triangular paintbrush, dab a small amount of melted crayon and spread it over the appliqué piece in circular motions. Blend so that there are areas of light and dark shading.

Completed shading.

Step 5:

When the base color is complete, cover the piece with a paper towel and press it again to set the color and absorb any excess crayon. Remove the towel, heat the shape and appliqué pressing sheet again to melt the next crayon and begin shading with another color.

Add details using pigma pens, permanent markers, and colored pencils.

Step 6:

Continue to add colors until you are happy with the overall combination. Add details using Pigma pens, permanent markers and colored pencils. Karri added pencil shading along the edges of her piece for extra dimension. She used a stencil brush to smooth and blend pen and pencil markings.

Karri's leaves.

Karri’s leaves.

leaves water

Fused to this background fabric, Karri’s leaves appear to be floating on water. Karri’s examples are used on fusible appliqué, but would work wonderfully on machine appliqué as well as redwork designs created by hand embroidery and machine embroidery. See a video of this technique by author Terri Kygar here.

Learn more fabric painting techniques in the Craftsy class Painted Pictorial Quilts. Sign up today to discover how to turn photographs into line drawings, build fused appliqué designs, use paint to enhance your fabric scenes and more with personalized support from fiber artist Anette Kennedy.

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What is your favorite way to color fabric?


ruby satterfield

I am going to do some crayon applique.

Debbie Henry

Me too, Ruby. Isn’t it gorgeous?


There are so many mediums to add to quilting, I’m looking forward to exploring with this one. I have lived in Big Fork prior to moving to CA. I’m delighted to see someone from that area make a national name.

Debbie Henry

You are so right, Sheila. She has a fabulous technique, I love it!

Mahala Wister

Is it machine washable? Will it fade or run or come off at all if i wash it?


I’m an old-timer at quilting, but unfamiliar with some of your terms. Please explain – 1. fusible web,
2. applique pressing sheet – 3. Pigma pens – 4. stencil brush – 5. fusible applique – 6. redwood designs.
Thanks for whatever you can do. ps. This might be my favorite coloring method. PP

Mariah beals

Are you able to wash them? I know you wouldn’t be able to dry in dryer but will the colors fade if washed?

Elizabeth Bonham

So glad I found this !! I love fabric art using different techniques.

Debbie Henry

Glad to have you, Elizabeth!

Pamela Graham

Yet another person to ask about the fading….???

debbie henry

According to the article, pressing with an iron sets the color. Using a paper towel to press gathers excess crayon. Once the paper towel presses “clean” the colors should no longer fade. I would wash on delicate and line dry if laundering is necessary.


This is great. I’m going to try it. As far as if the colors will wash out, I’ll just have to do a test and see.
I’m wondering if using off-brand crayons would make a difference in quality.

debbie henry

Chris, those who have had great success with colored crayons and pencils have used name brands. I would test an off-brand before completing an entire project. If it is something like a wall hanging that would not be laundered often, an off-brand may be okay. If you try it, please let us know how it worked for you!


I love to color and love to embroider so am excited about this new-to-me art style. However, I’m disabled and unable to stand for long or lift an iron repeatedly. I need crafts I can do in my lap from bed. Could this be adapted to perhaps using a heat gun instead of an iron? And then just have someone use the iron for me to set the colors between layers?

If I am doing it with embroidery, I’m confused which all of the special fabrics and papers I need. I’m unfamiliar with most of these supplies and may not be able to afford them all anyway.

Thanks for the advice!


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