Jul 30, 2015

Which Should You Buy? - Water Color Paint Lineup

August and September is the best time to buy art supplies for your children. All the stores are advertising back-to-school discounts, but it can be hard to tell which products are the best buys for the money. 

We wondered what brand of water color paint is the best for the money so we purchased three different brands: Crayola, Cra-Z-Art and Art Blast from Hobby Lobby. They all basically look the same on the outside, except Crayola is slightly larger and says "30% more than the next retail competitor". This claim proved to be true.  

We removed the paint chips to compare the amount of paint in each compartment and it was obvious that Crayola's contained at least 30% more.  The paint brush in the Crayola paints was also softer than the other two. The other two paint brushes had hard plastic bristles.

Next we tested the quality of the paint by painting swatches of each color. Here are the results:

Overall, Cra-Z-Art seemed to have the best colors, although Crayola was a close second. Cra-Z-Art had the blackest black.  Art Blast's colors weren't as saturated and even as the other two.


Cra-Z-Art paint cost $1.64, cheaper than both Crayola and Art Blast, so it was the best quality for the price, however it is made in China.

Crayola which cost $2.97, costs 58% more than Cra-Z-Art, but has a least 30% more paint, so it really only cost about 20% more than Cra-Z-Art paint. Crayola makes most of their products in the USA so you can pay 20% more and support a US business or buy the China-made Cra-Z-Art for 20% less.

Art Blast cost $1.99, and had about the same amount of paint as Cra-Z-Art, but the quality of the paint wasn't as good, however, Art Blast is made in the USA.


Jul 24, 2015

Back-to-school Crayon Lineup

We're starting to see stores stocking up and moving their school supplies to the front of store in anticipation of the new school year. They all offer discounts and incentives to shop at their stores, but it can be hard to know which brands you should buy. I decided to visit my local Walmart, Dollar Tree and 99¢ Only Store to see which stores carry the best crayons for the best price.  I must say I wasn't surprised at my discoveries, and was quite pleased that my instincts have been right.

I have always been partial to Crayola brands because I know they have quality products and have been in business since 1885, and best of all, most of their crayons are produced in the US. While Cra-Z-Art (formerly Rose Art) crayons are only half the price and are a close runner-up as far as quality, but they are produced in China.

The crayons I purchased at Dollar Tree and The 99¢ Only Store were actually much more expensive and of far lower quality.

The first thing I tested was the quality of the color and how well it actually spread over the paper.  I colored in the following chart to compare the crayons.

Back-to-School Crayon Lineup - Compare five different crayon products which were all purchased  on the same day. 
Crayola performed the best in the color swatch test, however Cra-Z-Art came in a close second. The purple and green Cra-Z-Art crayons clumped up more when I tried to color over them to make the color darker. The Crayola Crayons cost 50¢ for 24 crayons and the Cra-Z-Art was only half the price at 25¢ for 24 crayons. Even though both of these companies are American-based, Cra-Z-Art makes their crayons in China. So basically you have to decide whether or not the extra 25¢ is worth supporting an American-made product. I'm sure these prices are much lower than they usually are, so stock up now. At this price I doubt Walmart is making much of a profit on them.

Note* - Although I didn't include the Crayola Twistable crayons in this test, I have used them and found that the colors are far less saturated than the regular Crayola crayons. The twistables cost $2.97 for a box of 24 crayons, far more than the regular ones, but the actual crayon inside the twistable container is much smaller than the regular crayons. Why buy an inferior crayon that cost much more and leaves a plastic container that can't be recycled?  The only benefit to this crayon is that it is a less messy than the others. There are no crayon shavings, or peeled paper cover to clean up, and the crayons don't leave pieces behind when coloring.

I often hear people talk about how great the Dollar Tree and 99¢ Store are, but I have never been impressed. I have never really compared prices, but from what I could see they both have cheaply made products most of which are imported from China and other countries. And most of the things they do sell for  99¢ can be purchased for less at other stores. This proved to be mostly true with the crayons.

The Liqui-Mark Crayons from the Dollar Tree cost twice as much as the Cra-Z-Art crayons and three times as much as Crayola crayons and performed way below both the major brands. Their green crayon was more of the blue-green, not a true green. The pink crayon didn't want to spread over the paper and was streaky. There was no violet crayon, only a light violet and a dark purple. These crayons are more brittle than the major brands so they break easier.

Dollar Tree had by far the worst crayons.  Their crayons are made in Thailand imported by Greenbrier International, Inc. There are no names on the crayons. No matter how hard you press you can not make the color saturated.  Many of the crayons barely put color on the paper, and they smell like stinky perfume. You can't even use these crayons for melting projects because they don't melt at 200 degrees. You may be able to melt them at a very high temperature, but I didn't want to try, and that wouldn't be safe.  DON'T BUY THESE CRAYONS! The 64 crayons aren't worth $1.00, they aren't even worth a penny. I threw them away.

Dollar Tree also sells Playskool crayons. These are more expensive, a little better quality, but do not cover well and are quite messy because they leave a lot of crayon residue behind. The peach, apricot, and strawberry crayons all look like the same color and you can barely see them on the paper.  They are also a waste of money.

I also tested a box of 12 Sargent Jumbo crayons from the 99¢ Store (not pictured) and found that they colored very nicely. The only problem with these crayons is their color choice. They included three different varieties of orange.  It would have been better if they included a light blue or blue green instead of the carrot orange for more variety. These are nice crayons for very young children, but they are too big for detailed work. Sargent is another American-based company that makes their products in China.

Note - Although I didn't include the Crayola and Cra-Z-Art Washable crayons in this test I did test them separately. Both crayons worked well, the colors were saturated and comparable to the non-washable crayons. The biggest problem with these crayons is the cost. Crayola's are $2.47 compared with 50¢ for the non-washable crayons and Cra-Z-Art's were $1.47 compared to the 25¢ for the non-washable.  I decided to see how washable these crayons are compared to the regular crayons.  I wrote the names of the crayons on a piece of cotton and then ran the material under water.

The "W" stands for washable and the "R" stands for regular. The "UC" stands for the Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable crayons. I held the piece of cotton under the tap for about 30 seconds. As you can see by the second picture the washable crayons dissolved quit a bit better than the regular crayons.

Next I wanted to see how washable the crayons were with soap. After scrubbing hand soap into the material for about 10 seconds the washable crayon marks were gone and the non washable crayons were still slightly visible. After another ten seconds of rubbing in the soap all the crayon marks were gone. So both the washable and regular crayon marks were washable with soap without much effort. Next I wrote on a glass surface with all four crayons and then ran water over the surface. The washable crayons dissolved right away with little effort, but the regular crayons also disappeared with a little wipe with a cloth.

I really don't see the point of spending  three to five times as much for the washable crayons when the regular crayon marks can be removed with soap and water and just a little more effort. But if you run a school or child care facility they might be worth the extra money to make cleanup time shorter.


Buy Crayola if you want a great crayon and want to support the US economy. Buy Cra-Z-Art if you want to save a little and still get a top quality crayon. Stock up now while they are cheap!

You can find lots of back to school crafts and learning activities on Danielle's Place. Check out these pages: Back-to-School Crafts Page 1 and Back-to-School Crafts Page 2, and Ready-for-School Activities for Children.