One Amazing Airbrush

super sprayerA kit that turns a regular marker into an airbrush? What is this insanity!?! The moment I spotted the Crayola Marker Airbrush, I just knew that Hope, our kid tester, had to try it…


I’m back, everyone! The Crayola Marker Airbrush is a product that has always kept me wondering. It looked awesome…but would it work? So, when I learned that Dr. Dana wanted me to test it, I was ecstatic!!!!  The purpose of this product is to turn a regular Crayola marker into an airbrush, or paint sprayer. Dr. Dana, Katie and I were a little skeptical about this, and decided to work as a team to test the product. Together, we opened the box.

crayola airbrushInside, there was an 11” tall air tank with a hand pump at the top and 29” of clear plastic tubing protruding from it (to me, it looked like a detonator made of blue and green plastic). Attached to other end of the plastic tubing was the airbrush. It looked like a green glue gun with a little gray cone extending from its tip. Later, I learned this was called the “nozzle.” The nozzle was open at the top, which allows a marker to be inserted in it.

airbrush kit contentsAlso in the box: 20 blank paper sheets, two packages of markers (4 neon fabric markers and 8 washable markers), 4 stencil sheets, 20 blank paper sheets, and a small set of directions. We extracted the materials and looked at the directions.

Houston? Come in, Houston, we have a problem.

Step 1 was titled “Twist it!” and showed a marker stuck inside the airbrush nozzle. But Step 2 was titled “Inset it!” with a picture of the marker hovering above the cavity intended for the marker.  Umm…shouldn’t that happen before you twist it?

directionsConfused, we decided to put the rules of logic and practicality to good use, and “Insert it!” first, and then “Twist it!” Katie set to work doing the third direction, “Pump it!” Grabbing the air pump handle, she pulled up, pressed down, pulled up, pressed down, until the air pressure made it too hard to pump anymore. We taped a piece of white poster board to a door, I pulled the trigger, and…

Nothing.  

A spurt of air could be heard escaping, but no ink came out!!!

Thinking that maybe the paper needed to be horizontal to work, Dr. Dana and I moved the poster board face down on a table, where we sprayed at close range, trying unsuccessfully to get a speck of ink onto it. We took the marker out, and tested it by coloring on a piece of paper. It definitely wasn’t out of ink. We put the marker back in the airbrush. Nothing. We switched markers. Nothing. We switched to a fabric marker.

pink splatterFinally! A few drips of bright pink ink!!!  But that was all. Just a small splatter on the empty tundra of a poster. Confused, we tried every method we could think of, including using the troubleshooting section of the direction sheet. Nothing worked. Eventually, I said, “Hey! How about calling Crayola? Their products sometimes have quality warranties. Maybe we could get help.” So I called.

A nice lady answered the phone. She asked for the product number and name. She looked it up and then she said, “Okay, what’s your problem?” So I told her about the lack of marker spray. She said “Did you hear the two clicks when you put the marker inside the handheld sprayer?” Whaaaaat? I was confused. The directions never mentioned “two clicks!” I replied that no, I did not even know I was supposed to hear two clicks, thanked her for her help, and hung up.

Returning to the poster board and the markers, Dr. Dana and I teamed up to shove a marker into the nozzle, determined to try until we heard two clicks. After much pushing, we heard a magical CLICK click! I pulled the trigger…AND I SPRAYED INK ALL OVER THE POSTER BOARD!

spraying“AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It wasn’t a TV marketing hoax!” I thought.  We started spraying onto the poster. It was amazingly entertaining! It was, in essence, a paint sprayer! I could spray ANYTHING onto the poster board! The airbrush was easy to hold and aim. There were no limits!

canvas 3canvas 2We decided to take advantage of the stencils included in the kit. They were fun to use. Each Stencil had a “theme”.  One was space themed, one sea themed, and the other two were fantasy/random. Cool! But the ink usually “leaked” out of the stencil, giving the resulting picture a blobby look.

stencilDr. Dana suggested that we use a stencil on my arm so we could see what would happen if a kid sprayed ink on their arm. They came out blobby/blurry. But they washed off super easy! I ran my arm underwater and they practically melted away! So no worries if some WASHABLE marker gets on your kid!

airbrush tattooBy the way, when we got out the stencils, we flipped through the paper sheets too. Inside, mixed with the paper, was another set of instructions! These instructions had the marker loading directions in the right order, which was nice. However, they didn’t mention the key two clicks. Without the clicks, the product is a total wash!

There were problems with this kit. Sometimes the ink would bubble and clog the nozzle. This was fixed by pulling out the marker and swabbing the inside with a paper towel.

pooled inkAlso, the marker could unpredictably pool, clog or change consistency as it was spraying onto to the paper (getting my hand green, purple, red, or whatever color happened to clog it). The fabric markers also seemed to run out of ink way faster than the regular markers and they splattered too.  As I mentioned above, the stencils had leaky edges. On some of the stencils, it looked cool (lightning bolt), on others, it looked messy (crab).

crabAnd then there was the pump. The pump turned out to be an Aggravating Annoyance of Frustrating Proportions. I had to stop painting in order to pump every 15-20 seconds, or ask someone to constantly pump to keep the ink going. The job befell Katie. She had to hunch over a table behind me, pumping and pumping, and wheezing, and pausing, and…getting…tired. Needless to say, the pump gave us some good exercise. But when Katie wasn’t there, I had to spray, and then pump for a while, and then spray, and pump. Spray and pump, spray and pump! UUGH! It was enough to make anyone want to explode!

pumpingTo be fair, Crayola does make a similar product for ages 3+. It’s called the “Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Airbrush” The pump is battery operated, so it’s better for younger kids. So if you don’t want to worry about the pumping issue, maybe you should order the battery powered version.

So there was a lot of starting, stopping, wiping, pumping, and starting up again, heaving, wheezing, and arm fatigue. Or, as Dr. Dana wryly noted, you definitely have to “troubleshoot as you go”.

Overall, this product was super fun and satisfying, but the pump gave a bit of a workout, and the directions seemed to be out of order. Also, this product was recommended for ages 6+!!! I think that’s a bit young! Maybe 6+ with Adult Supervision or 8+ with Adult Supervision, but 6+? Come on! It took Dr. Dana, Katie, a phone call to the company, and me to get the product to work!

I think we have the ratings…

Crayola Marker Airbrush

Pros: Fun, Cool, Entertaining, satisfying, endless ways to use, fascinating.

Cons: Hard to use because of constant pumping, bulky, confusing directions, constant troubleshooting, bad recommended age.

Score: 4 stars out of 5!


By the way, if you’re wondering how we made the “spray the camera” photo that begins this post, Hope gets all the credit for that! She suggested we spray a piece of clear plastic with the airbrush, then shoot the image through it. Looks awesome, eh?

Get It Together

get it togetherYou are gazing at the most recent addition to my crafting toolbox. Plastic envelopes! Or, to get technical, poly string envelopes from OfficeMax (the ones pictured above are the “check” size at 5.5″ x 10″). A pack of 5 costs $10.

I love these things. Why?

Our projects often involve little bits and pieces we prep in advance. During story time, as we progress through the project, we have to continually pause to hand out the little pieces. This can take precious time away from crafting (especially when you have large crowds to navigate through). So I started putting all the little pieces together in envelopes and handing an envelope to each kid at the start of the project. Here’s an envelope in action a taxi cab story time:

taxi envelopeI’ve used the envelope system on a number of projects (this mouse clock, this beekeeping set, this bottle airplane, this paint set, this bed tray, and this wooly mammoth, for example). Since the envelopes are plastic, it’s very easy to wipe off stray marker and/or glue. If you don’t have paper or plastic envelopes handy, you can always drop the small pieces into cheap plastic cups (like I did at this candy factory story time).

And while we’re on the topic of organization, I definitely recommend art caddies for keeping your tabletop supplies in check! I bought mine from Discount School Supply. A set of 4 colors cost $25. They are “classroom grade” and practically indestructible.

art caddyHowever, when it came time to put together a home art studio for my kids, I went with a cheaper $4 version from Michals craft store. The plastic is thinner and the carrying handle isn’t quite as comfortable, but all in all, they’ve held up pretty well!

As you can probably guess, I like to be organized. Way organized. In fact, I’ve turned organization into a super power. The way I see it, I don’t want to spend time hunting for my scissors. I want to spend as much time as possible being creative. If I know exactly where my scissors are, I don’t have to give it another thought. Apply this principal on a larger scale and you get my library’s art supply cabinet:

art cabinetHere, supplies are sorted into plastic bins, dish tubs, copy paper boxes, salvaged paper trays…you name it! For oddly sized or bulky objects (like pom-poms), I use plain old plastic storage bags with zipper closures. I also have a neat-o scissor rack I wrote about in this post.

You would think I would be tidy while crafting, but no. During the process of creating a project or piece of art, I make a total mess. I spread out everywhere, tossing things right and left, gently shedding curls of paper and sticking bits of tape to my pants. Just look at the crafting carnage that was generated during the building of this haunted house.

tremendous messBut when the job is done, everything goes back in its proper place. I cannot leave my office a mess at the end of the day. And I can’t start a project with a messy office either. It’s weird, but somehow I make this organization/creation contradiction work for me.

One final tip! Since I don’t have any counters or spare table space in my program area, I work off an old book truck. All the supplies are prepped and ready to go, and I just roll it right into the workshop area during the program. It also doubles as a portable hot glue station.

book truckSometimes, however, even this humble book truck has its moments of glory…

horse and riders

Hair Chalk Challenge

hair chalk reviewOur kid tester Hope is back once again! In this exciting installment, she’ll be reviewing and comparing two types of hair chalk: Alex metallic hair chalk pens (for ages 8+, a five color package retails for approximately $10 ) and Kiss Naturals hair chalk (for ages 6+, a two color box retails for approximately $13). Take it away Hope!

Hi everyone! The Kiss Naturals hair chalk is described on the box as an “All natural DIY craft making kit.” I would have to agree with this statement! You mix together the ingredients and let it set inside molds to make a chalky material. The Alex version took a different twist – glittery chalky “pens” (the pens were really just chalk holders). Definitely less DIY than the Kiss Naturals. Just pop off the little plastic covering.

The box for the Kiss Naturals chalk was a little misleading. The front of the box showed two sticks of chalk in a bold red and blue. However, the package had a small sticker that said the box contained supplies for orange and purple chalk, and the actual molds for the hair chalk were heart shaped, not rectangular.

kiss naturals hair chalkThe Alex chalk pens were in a clear package, so you could see each product. This clear packaging is helpful, especially on a cosmetic product [Dr. Dana notes: the larger boxes of Kiss Naturals hair chalk, which contain 6 colors, do have a clear window on the front that displays the contents].

alex hair chalk pensThe Alex pens had some directions inside the package, and the directions only had two steps in English! There were three total pictures with directional captions. Each one had a foreign language caption, but only two had English captions. Two of the pictures were almost (but not quite!) identical, but only one of those pictures had an English caption! Talk about confusing!

alex directionsThe Alex pens also included a tiny comb to use in your hair. The comb was so small, it seemed more suitable to use on an American Girl Mini Doll’s hair than human hair, but as we didn’t want to ruin a hairbrush, we decided to try our luck with the tiny comb.

The instructions said to separate a section of hair and rub the chalk on it. As my helper assistant, Em, held out a section of my hair and ground some yellow Alex hair chalk into it, I tried not to yelp! The hair chalk, despite Em’s heroic effort, barely left a trace of color, and to make matters worse, it smelled like vinegar! We tried several different colors of the Alex pens, but they ALL smelled like vinegar! The only solution was to keep it away from my face while grinding it in my hair so I couldn’t smell it!

tiny combEm then ran the little comb through my hair. It got caught in the slightest knots in my hair. SUPER UNCOMBFORTABLE!!! In the end, the Alex pens left an okay amount of color, but it most noticeably left what looked like colorful dandruff in my hair!

yellowThe Kiss Naturals chalk was not much improved. As I mentioned above, it’s a DIY project. When you open the package, it comes with two little baggies of pigment, a tiny spoon, a little measuring cup/beaker, a bottle of purified water and what appear to be rubber ice cube molds (those are the hair chalk molds).

Okay everybody! It’s time for the most interesting part of the review: the witch hazel CONFUSION!

The front of the Kiss Naturals box has a cartoon picture of the items in the box. Nice feature! I noticed that the little bottle on the front of the box was labeled “Witch Hazel.” I got excited! I’d read about witch hazel in books, and was interested to see how it would work in a cosmetic product. Interestingly enough, however, the little bottle inside the box was labeled “Purified Water,” and the directions also said to use water. Why did the directions say water, and the box say witch hazel?

mistake on boxAfter opening the bottle and smelling it, the Pop Goes the Page team determined that it was not witch hazel. Why wasn’t it? Was there a typo on the box? Or did the company send the wrong bottle and directions? Definitely something a consumer should know!

In the end it didn’t matter, because as Em and I whipped up the lavender chalk, I completely missed the bottle of water and used tap water. By the time I saw the bottle of purified water in the bottom of the package it was too late! After mixing the pigment with the (tap) water, we poured it in the mold. Taking a glance at the directions, we realized that the chalk had to sit for FOUR hours!! FOUR!! Two hours in the mold, and two out of the mold. After two hours inside the mold it was completely hardened, and we decided to use it. Whether or not it set quickly because of the tap water I am not completely sure.

hair chalk heart However, much the same events followed with the Kiss Naturals chalk as with the Alex pens. Em ground the chalk into my scalp. OW!!!!! After going through this cosmetic torture, Dr. Dana pointed out that Kiss Naturals suggests applying the chalk to wet hair (Dr. Dana also noticed that the Alex pens definitely say dry hair). I don’t know if this would have made a difference but, in the end, despite Em’s efforts, the chalk left my hair a pale white-lavender color. NOT PLEASANT! Especially not after Em had ground it into my hair! I wonder if the chalk would have been more easily applied to wet hair?

Then it was the moment of truth: The washing of the hair!

That night, I turned on the warm water and started scrubbing my hair. And scrubbing. And…well you get the picture. The Alex product definitely took more scrubbing to get out. Without a doubt!  That’s when Kiss Naturals came through for me. Their product washed out easily, without any trouble at all!

Now it’s time for the SCORES!

All in all, the Alex pens score was…
Comfort :  3/10
Style/Color: 5/10
Smell: 1/10

Pros: Colorful. I loved how there were more color choices!
Cons: TERRIBLE smell, not easily applied, took a bit of scrubbing to get out of my hair.


All in all, the Kiss Naturals chalk score was…
Comfort: 3/10
Style/Color:  4/10
Smell:  10/10 (no odor)

Pros: NO SMELL!!!!!!!! DIY project. I really enjoyed being able to mix up a purple concoction! It was like being in Macbeth, but no gory stuff! WASHED OUT QUICKLY AND PAINLESSLY!
Cons: Not easily applied, faded color

So as far as style goes, the Alex pens took the cake. But it was a very stale cake. Neither of the two hair chalks tested are hair chalks I would recommend, because of the discomfort they caused. It didn’t help that the Alex pens had pictures of supermodel-gorgeous kids on the front! Talk about saying you’ll get glam hair, and getting glitter dandruff!

hair streaksSo out of the two hair chalk products tested, neither was a completely satisfactory product! If I had to pick one of these products to recommend, I would actually recommend the Kiss Naturals chalk over the Alex pens, only because the Kiss Naturals chalk was dry and odorless, whereas the Alex pens left me with a soggy, sore, dandruffy-appearing head.

Though a little uncomfortable, this hair chalk might be a fun rainy day project for someone, even if hair chalk isn’t really my thing. Just look out…you may see me whistling this song down the road someday…

“I’m gonna wash that chalk right outta my hair, I’m gonna wash that chalk right outta my hair, and send it on its way!”


Many thanks to Hope for providing photos, and to Em for her invaluable assistance!