One day in the DMC, Tom Hack said that he couldn’t be the only one who uses crayons on dice. Jon McDaniel contributed an expertly crayoned Gamescience set using white crayon. The thread was inspiring, with many dice maniacs providing advice on crayoning.
I’ve used crayon before, but it was on early polyhedral dice from AD&D sets that were rough looking to say the least. Back then, the junk crayon use was a formality to get the numbers colored in just enough to read. They weren’t pretty. It was like coloring a beach ball with chalk.
Fast forward a few decades later, and why wouldn’t I try crayoning my Gamescience? Because of a gaudily-garbed druid NPC named Lucynil Font, I had an ever-growing set of “ugly” opaque Gamescience, and many in that expanding set still needed some coloring. So I set on my task to try crayoning in the numbers on precision dice.
Effort: Technically speaking, crayoning dice is much more hard work. You need to press down hard to get the wax into the crevice, and sometimes you need to go over it multiple times to replace wax that comes out. You need to get at the grooves from different angles. At first I was trying to “color” in the numbers, but I soon realized that it wasn’t a matter of filling it in. It was more like scratching off a lottery ticket.
Technique: In addition to mastering the different angles and applying more pressure than paint markers, I also had to learn how to clean up the waxy mess. With ink, I usually made a hot mess with the paint and cleaned it up with some rubbing alcohol on a paper towel. Being a parent, I turned to wipes to clean off the wax. That was a mistake. Wet cleaning does NOT work on wiping wax clean as well as dry paper towels or napkins. In fact, I soon learned to place the die on a napkin or paper towel and wax away. Then throw the wax-covered napkin away and replace it. Then keep it on the clean napkin while cleaning it off with a new one – and repeat. The idea is to keep the napkin clean because if it’s too covered in wax, it gets right back onto the die.
Tools: The only crayons I had on hand were Crayola and Playskool. Crayola seemed to cause less of a mess, and there were obviously more color options there. Playskool seemed to go into the grooves much easier (with less pressure), but the chunks also came back out of the grooves more often. So Crayola wins that battle. I didn’t notice any difference in ease of coloring between colors of the same brand.
Zocchi: Much like with inking, certain dice were more difficult to master than others. Just like with inking, d24s are a pain. I actually gave up on the d24 and opted to ink it instead. It was a dark purple, and colors wouldn’t show up with waxy crayon as well for some reason. The d3s took some finesse to learn, but it was actually easier to crayon in the R, P, S letters than it was with paint marker. Zocchi d5’s were comparable with crayon as with ink – no problems there. The d14s and d16s seem easier with ink; those are super easy to do with a paint marker. But chunks of crayon seem to come back out of the deeper grooves for those.
Fun: The first night I tried out crayoning, I accosted my 6-year-old son’s box of crayons. I set out a bunch of colorful dice, and of course he wanted to be part of it. So we sat there and colored in the dice. He had trouble coloring in the whole thing, so I kept him to d6s and dice with less sides. He wasn’t as patient with the process as I was, but he had a lot of fun helping me choose “ugly” combinations. I couldn’t let him color in with ink, or I’d have a huge mess. But the crayon is more kid friendly, and without the lingering smell of rubbing alcohol when it’s clean-up time.
I will not be forsaking my paint markers for crayons. Even though wax is a fun alternative to paint, it’s a lot more difficult. However, I will be returning to crayons eventually. They were a good fit for the “ugly” dice theme because they offered more color options. Putting tan crayola on permafrost felt deliciously heretical. And the nostalgia factor is real. I haven’t crayoned dice since the 80s. But I would recommend limiting crayons to a single color on a single set to minimize effort and mess. Keep in mind that it does take more pressure and time to wax in the numbers and clean up the mess than it does with ink.
How does inking differ? Stay tuned for part 2!
Want to write an article of your own on your precision-dice inking experiences? Contact Joss Hevel in the DMC.