Crayola’s Multicultural Crayons Recognize that We Live in a Multicultural World


Crayola introduced Multicultural Crayons in 1992 in response to feedback received from consumers and educators, and represent skin tones of the world. Black and white were included for blending other colours.

As Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Ethnicity Marketing and Advertising, I had no idea that Crayola produced and sold skin tone-coloured multicultural crayons in a tuck box for drawing people.

As a kid growing up in Canada, I remember having trouble getting the right shade of skin colour on the faces of people in my colouring books. What I needed back then was a big box of Multicultural Crayons as an addition to the general packages of crayons I had both at home or at school.

I must admit, from about the age of six, I was a bit of a stickler for some realism in my crayon art. Skin colour was important. I never drew purple dogs or any people with green skin, I could have used Crayola® Multicultural Crayons back in those days. But all I had was Barbie pink to colour in the skin colour in the drawings I made of people. In today’s modern, multiethnic society, pink alone just won’t do.

We’ve all used Crayola products at one time or another. We’ve all scribbled across our colouring books so far outside the lines our parents probably thought we were just colouring nonsensical images.

Crayola Multicultural Crayons are colours specially designed for hands-on learning about self, family, and community. The skin tone-coloured multicultural crayons come in a tuck box and are for drawing people. All kinds of people.

Since 1992: a Product for These Times

The Multicultural Crayons are not a new product. Fact is, they were introduced to the marketplace by Crayola in 1992 in response to feedback received from consumers and educators. The colours were chosen from a standard selection, and represent skin tones of the world. Black and white are included for blending other colours.

Multiculturalism is an important issue in early childhood education today because it is important for each child to build a positive sense of self, and to respect the cultural diversity in others. For ages three and up, the assortment comes in Apricot; Black; Burnt Sienna; Mahogany; Peach; Sepia; Tan; and White. According to Crayola’s website, the crayon colour that the company had called “Flesh” was changed to “Peach” in 1962 in recognition of the multitude of skin hues.

While some people might find packaging “flesh” tone crayons in a “multicultural” box a little bizarre, I’m pleased that Crayola didn’t give the colours ridiculous names like “Filipino”, “Indian”, “Chinese”, “Pakistani”, “Japanese” or “Thai”.

Heeding the Call for a New Age of Multiculturalism

Teachers and children from the Montgomery County school district in Maryland, just north of Washington, were tired of seeing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. being drawn with a black crayon. The problem was Crayola packed its flesh-coloured crayons (hues from apricot to mahogany) only in its more expensive 64-pack, and too big for kids to carry back and forth from school to home.

A spokesman for the company noted that “teachers wanted children to colour drawings of themselves to reflect how they think they look.” Heeding the call for a new age of multiculturalism (and marketing), Binney & Smith, the Easton, Pennsylvania company that makes Crayola, slipped the existing skin-tone crayons into its own box.

Crayola has inspired artistic creativity in children for more than 100 years – since the first box of Crayola crayons rolled off the assembly line in 1903. The company began when cousins Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith took over Edwin’s father’s pigment business in 1885. Early products included red oxide pigment used as barn paint and carbon black used in car tires.

After noticing a need for safe, high quality, affordable wax crayons, in 1903, Crayola produced the first box of eight crayons and sold them for 5 cents. Since then, the Crayola brand has grown into a portfolio of innovative art tools, crafting activities, and creative toys that give kids the power to express all that inspires them as they explore, discover, play, pretend, and dream.

In 1984, Crayola became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hallmark Cards. The company carried the name of its founders, Binney & Smith, until 2007 when it was changed to Crayola to reflect the brands No.1 positioning in the market. The company’s Canadian headquarters are in Lindsay, Ontario.

Today, Crayola remains a leader in children’s creative expression products. They are partnering with Griffin Technology to create colourful kid-friendly apps, bringing unique creative experiences to the digital world. With the Crayola app, kids can turn photos taken on an iOS device into personalized digital colouring pages, where the colour is drained from the picture, allowing kids to unleash their creativity and decorate the colouring page digitally.

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