What Should I Color With?
Since my first coloring book was released, I often get asked what the best coloring tools are for those just starting out with adult coloring books. But as I have only recently begun coloring again, I haven’t experimented with a lot of different media yet. So I asked my friend and coloring expert Dana to write up this summary with her top choices for both budget and premium coloring tool options. -Sue
Best Coloring Tools: Top Picks
So, you’ve finally taken the plunge and purchased an adult coloring book or two. Congratulations!
Although there’s no rule stating you can’t tackle your first picture with a box of crayons swiped from your preschooler’s art supply stash, you’ll get better results if you invest in some coloring tools for your own personal use. Having your own supplies will also help you feel more like a “real” artist, which is a mood booster all on its own.
This article is intended to provide you with a quick rundown of the most popular options for coloring in adult coloring books: colored pencils, watercolor pencils, gel pens, and markers. Each option has its own unique advantages and disadvantages that you’ll want to consider before making your purchasing decision.
Advantages: Colored pencils are easy to use and can be sharpened to a fine point that’s great for detailed images. If you want to get extra fancy, you can blend them with a special colorless blending pencil, baby oil, mineral spirits, or paint thinner.
Disadvantages: You need to be careful not to drop your pencils, as this can make the lead start to break off inside of them. When your pencils get too short, you’ll need a pencil extender to be able to hold them comfortably. Layering colors can also require quite a bit of pressure, which some people find starts to cause their hands to hurt after a long coloring session.
Top Picks: If cost is a concern, the 50 count Sargent Art colored pencils offer a decent range of colors and a quality level that’s a step up from Crayola colored pencils. If you have the money, however, I’d recommend treating yourself to a set of 48 count Prismacolor colored pencils. You can always buy a larger set of Prismacolors down the road, but I’ve found that this gives you more than enough colors to experiment with as a beginner.
Advantages: Watercolor pencils are ideal for blending, letting you add an element of realism to your colored pictures.
Disadvantages: There’s a learning curve with watercolor pencils. Too much water makes your paper soggy and causes your colors to run together, while not enough water makes them just look like ordinary colored pencils. They also require you to work with an image printed on fairly thick paper, as paper that’s too thin will start to buckle when it’s wet.
Top Picks: I personally don’t use watercolor pencils very often, but I’d suggest Crayola watercolor pencils if you’re on a budget and splurging for the Prismacolor watercolor pencils if you’re looking to treat yourself.
Advantages: Gel pens are suitable for fine details and come in fun metallic or glitter options. When you’re not busy coloring, they make writing your to-do list less of chore.
Disadvantages: Gel pens tend to run out of ink fairly quickly, which means you’ll need to keep buying replacements if you’re coloring on a regular basis. Some people also find that their pens tend to “skip” when coloring with lighter pressure.
Top Picks: I’ve tried most of the budget-priced gel pens, but I think the Fiskars 48 piece value set gives you the best color assortment for your money since it includes glitter, metallic, neon, and swirl pens. If you’re willing to splurge, Amazon has a 74 piece set of Sakura Gelly Roll pens that would be my top pick. They are full of ink and flow very nicely, although you do need to take care not to smudge them while you’re waiting for the ink to dry.
Advantages: Markers are the easiest to use if you have carpal tunnel, arthritis, or other hand issues, as you don’t need to put so much pressure on the page to completely fill in an area. The ability to lay down rich pigments without a lot of pressure also makes coloring with markers a bit quicker than using colored pencils or gel pens.
Disadvantages: Markers will almost always bleed through your paper, which makes working with single sided coloring books difficult as you’ll either need to make a copy of the image on the reverse side or simply live with the fact that you’ll automatically lose half the images in your book. If your coloring book is double sided, you’ll need to either remove the page from the book or put a sheet of cardboard behind it so you don’t damage the next image.
Top Picks: My personal favorite markers are the Bic Mark-It fine and ultra fine markers. They’re inexpensive, the rubber grip makes them easy to hold, and they’re clearly labeled with the color names so it’s easy to keep track of your favorite color palettes. If you want to upgrade, however, both Spectrum Noir and Copic markers get excellent reviews across the board.