Drawing with Conte crayons

Several loafs of bread on a white surface drawn with conte crayons

Posted On September 9, 2019

Conte crayons originate from France and are named by their inventor Nicolas Jacques Conte. They are similar to soft pastels but are a bit harder and contain more oil. Crayons are made from pressed chalk and graphite bind together with resin and oils. They come in the form of sticks and pencils.

Tones Of Colours

Black and white Conte crayons exist in three different tones: HB (middle tone), B and 2B(softest). All other colors are made in just one tone 2B. The softer the crayon is the stronger trace it leaves and is easier to smear it.


Since Conte crayons were traditionally used for tone drawings in the past they were limited to black, white, Sephia, Sanguine, and dark brown. Nowadays you can purchase Conte crayons in many different colors but some artists still prefer limited harmony of traditional colors that gives their drawings that classical look that reminds of the drawings made with chalk by Leonardo, Michelangelo and Rubens.


Best results can be gained if you use Conte crayons on grey, ochre or yellow-toned paper. Same as pastes and charcoal they require a paper with a rougher surface which can hold the pigments.


The most practical way to use the crayons is to break smaller pieces and use the sharp edge for lines and the side of the stick for covering toned surfaces. Crayons are soft enough so you can smear them with your finger or using a rag or piece of paper.

A technique known as ” a trois crayons” was very popular in seventeenth-century and remained popular till today. It is a technique in which you use Sanguine, black and white.

When you apply those colors on grey or light brown paper you get the tones that are easy to read and create a powerful feeling of thone, color and shape. Sanguine crayon is used for drawing the shape, toning and hatching. It is used with black and white to create darker and lighter tones.


To draw this drawing you will need the following:

  • A sheet of grey pastel paper
  • Dark Brown Conte crayon
  • Raw Sienna Conte crayon
  • Old Gold Conte crayon
  • White Conte crayon

Start by sketching the composition with Dark Brown Conte crayon. In order to determine the position of the elements of the composition easier, draw pale horizontal and vertical lines.

Point out some of the corners to make the composition more interesting. Using Raw Sienna start building the color of the pastries with pale hatching.

Change the direction of your moves while you are working in order to make your composition more dynamic. Leave some areas of the paper uncolored for the palest parts of the drawing.

sketch of pastries made with conte crayons

Adding The Details

Go back to Dark Brown crayon to determine the contour more precisely. Use hatching and cross-hatching to depict the depth of tones and to give shape to the objects but again leave some surfaces uncolored.

Draw the shadows that pastries are casting on the cutting board with rough swift hatching. Ad pale shadows to the background with wide moves using the side of the crayon.

With the Old Gold, crayon draw the parts of the pastries where the light shines on them the brightest fallowing the shape and contour of the pastries to give the impression of shape and firmness as well as the texture of the objects.

Ad more light to the big pastry in the front plane of the composition thus making it the centre of the completed drawing.

hand sketching several pastries with conte crayons

Finishing Touches

Emphasize on the brightest areas of the composition by adding new layers of cross-hatching using White Conte crayon.

Go back to Dark Brown Conte crayon and go over the shapes of smaller pastries. use Dark Brown And gold crayon to draw seeds on top of the pastries.

Draw the details on the cutting board using a white crayon for hatching. Draw small scattered seeds that fell off the pastries on the cutting board using Dark Brown adding them lighter areas with Old Gold crayon.

With Dark Brown and Old Gold Conte crayon additionally, work on the shapes and tones adding the shades and light. Add a few white spots on the upper part of the pastries to depict the flour powder.

After you finished adding the details and you think your drawing is complete use spray fixative to preserve your drawing.

This is just one of the ways and one example of using the Conte crayons once you realize how they are blending and get the feel of them, possibilities are endless.

If you have any questions about the technique mentioned above feel free to leave them in the comment section and I will be more than happy to answer and help in any way I can.

Written by Magdalena

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  1. Joe Porretta

    How do you begin a drawing with Conte crayons? What do you start the drawing with (ie. graphite pencil, charcoal, charcoal pencil, pastel pencil, conte pencil)?

    • Magdalena

      Hi Joe,
      The best way to start your drawing with Conte crayons is to use a Conte crayon of the color that you will use later on the drawing but chose the color that will blend nicely with the rest of the drawing.


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