This remarkable match-up reminds me of Godzilla vs. King Kong. (Not a kaiju fan? Skip to the next paragraph.) At the end of that movie, the audience is left to wonder who really won the battle? We see King Kong swimming away out to sea, supposedly back to his beloved Skull Island, but no where is Godzilla. But since Godzilla is seen in many more movies afterward, it would appear that Kong wasn't exactly a victor. In fact, how many movies has King Kong been in since that battle with Godzilla? One maybe two? So overall, maybe Godzilla was the real victor. This is precisely the situation I have with Distress Crayons vs Gelatos.
Gelatos are a product from Faber-Castell. They are/were very unique. Gelatos are a pigment stick that comes in a small tube that can be applied almost like a lipstick. They are very soft and creamy but look more like a crayon when applied dry. When they are wet, they look more like a paint. They can be blended together either with water or just with the smearing of your finger. They come in a variety of colors and in small or large tubes (Double Scoops), if you are applying it to a large area, such as a canvas.
Distress Crayons are a product from Ranger and Tim Holtz. These debuted at CHA 2016 this past January and there has been a lot of talk about them. These "crayons" are also a soft pigment stick that plays well with water and is "water-reactive" like all Distress products. They come in a pen-like tube that is narrower and longer that the standard Gelato tube. It is creamy and can be smeared/blended and comes in 18 colors (currently) that match the Distress palette also from Ranger.
So I did a little head-to-head comparison.
In this corner: Gelatos.
Let the combat begin!
So I decided to just swatch the new crayons out on a single page in my Art Journal. I picked out Gelatos in colors that seemed most appropriate to match against the crayons. I will admit this was a little tough. The palette of the Distress line can be very unique and the set of crayons I had chosen were a bit more "earthy" in tone than most of the gelatos I owned seemed to be. But I did the best I could with what I had.
I used a large Dylusions journal and gessoed the page. Once dry, I split the page in half so it had a top and a bottom. On the top, I made swatches of the Gelatos, and on the bottom, I used Distress Crayons. My purpose was to test 3 things: 1. How well did they smear and blend? 2. How well did they work with water or how well the color moved with water? 3. Did they smear a lot when a finishing coat of ModPodge was used over the top of them?
I laid down some of the pigment stick in the upper half of each stripe first. After I laid down all 6 colors, I went back to blend with my finger. The middle portion of the stripe is where I used my waterbrush to lift the color and spread it with water. The bottom of each stripe is an experiment that presented itself and I'll touch on that in a bit.
Next up, Distress Crayons:
I applied the crayons first and applied all the colors by just scribbling them on the top of a stripe. I blended the red and it seemed very similar to a gelato. This is when I decided to apply the rest of my colors before blending. It seemed a better plan than blending and wiping off fingers then applying and repeating. So I left the crayons unsmeared until after I completed the gelato application and smearing. Here's the weird thing that happened: when I came back to the crayons to blend them with my dry finger, they didn't want to blend. They didn't want to smear. They didn't want to leave the lines of color they were currently in. At first, I thought maybe it was just the Rusty Hinge color. But all of them reacted the same. Even on the gessoed surface, they were very stubborn about being rubbed. In fact, I was left with streaked colors...as in you could tell where the lines had been. It was much worse than the above photo portrays. This was an instant turn-off for me. Blending and smearing with a dry finger was the main way I used gelato and if these crayons weren't any good at that, they were dead to me.
BUT, I had smeared the Festive Berries rather well when it had first been applied. So that led me to believe that perhaps, you needed to rub the crayons soon after application or they dried too much to blend later. This became my unforeseen 4th experiment at the very bottom of each stripe. I went back and applied each crayon color again at the bottom ONE AT A TIME and smeared it immediately. Each one worked rather well with similar results to a gelato. To be fair, I went back and applied the gelato colors to the bottom of their respective stripe and let them sit for about the same time as the crayons had. After they had had time to "dry", I tried to blend them with my dry finger. They blended just like they had when first applied. Hmmm...
The Distress Crayons were just like the gelatos when I used the waterbrush on them and the color was easy to lift. The Mod Podge test was a bit different than the gelato but not unexpected. The Mod Podge applied lightly with a light touch really caused the crayons to "bleed". I assume this is because of the crayons "water-reactive" properties. This is why the photo shows the crayons smeared better than they actually did. With water, these crayons move very well and the Mod Podge lifts a bit of that and evens it out. This happens to gelato but to a much lesser extent.
HERE'S THE HEAD-TO-HEAD:
Both products are very similar but your choice will depend on your personal preference mostly. It will also depend on the application and technique you want to use it for.
Both products are soft and creamy and are applied from a tube. Both can be used directly onto a surface or lifted with a waterbrush to create a watercolor or softer look. Both work on a gessoed surface and can be coated, lightly, with Mod Podge to "seal" them in.
Distress Crayons come in an interesting pen-like tube that is easy to grip and makes application more precise for small areas.
Gelatos are in small, more rotund tubes that are easier to use for large background areas.
Distress Crayons must be blended almost immediately upon application or the blend-ability disappears unless you add water.
Gelatos are much easier to smear and blend without the application of water.
Distress Crayons come in 18 colors. Though more may be added, they will remain in the confines of the Distress color palette. If these colors, don't appeal to you, you're screwed. Gelatos come in 52 colors some of which have a "shimmer" to them or a metallic sheen, if you will. But if that doesn't interest you, no big deal.
I have learned from other sources of these two differences as well:
Distress Crayons have the water-reactive property that allows them to splay out from the source as the pigment follows the water.
Gelatos don't do that.
Distress Crayons can NOT be used directly onto rubber stamps for stamping. Because of the above reactive property with water, they cannot be rubbed onto a rubber stamp then misted and stamped.
Gelatos can be applied directly to a rubber stamp, misted lightly with water, and stamped to produce a decent image. (and because you've used gelato, it becomes a resist to inks.)
The winner is...wait for it...
Or is it...could it be...
For ME, the winner is Gelatos. I already own a bunch and they have never let me down. I adore smearing them with a dry finger and using them around the edges of paper I have collaged down. When the Distress Crayons wouldn't blend after a given time frame, I lost the new product excitement. I rarely get excited about Distress products "water-reactive" nature. In this instance, it means very little to me. If I wanted to use these with water, I'd just reach for a paint or an ink or a watercolor. I never use my gelatos like a paint...I use them like chalk or crayons. I don't want to water them down. I want that strong color.
I DO LIKE the Distress Crayons for the colors. I have a few favorite colors in this palette that don't have a comparable counter-part in a gelato...like Peeled Paint or Seedless Preserves. I DO LIKE the pen-like packaging they come in, though it doesn't lend itself well for how I smear that stuff over a background. It's just kinda cute, ya know? I doubt I'll buy any more of them. I've got what works for me and I'll stick with it.
So what's the winner for you?
Depends on what you want to use it for and how you work.
Hope this helps you narrow it down!