Coloring is successful for everyone. From the beginner to the advanced colorist, everybody can make beautiful pictures.
Working with colored pencils has been an established art form for a long time, but adult coloring books have only recently become very popular. This is a wonderful opportunity for many people to experience creating art in a way that is easy and inexpensive to start. For experienced colorists, coloring books can offer complex and sophisticated designs for self-expression and endless hours of pleasure.
The supplies you chose will be based on your available budget. We have made a comprehensive list, but to get started you could just stick with colored pencils, and a pencil sharpener. Add the blending pencils, a good eraser and black and white markers for highlights as your experience develops.
Here are recommendations for our favorite supplies to buy. All are available at independent art stores and also on Amazon. Because everyone at Art and Color Press is a professional working artist, we try to select for professional level tools, but you can easily find low cost substitutes and still color like a pro.
Here are the supplies you need to create beautiful coloring pages
A selection of colored pencils
Colored pencils aren’t the only way to color pages, but in our opinion they are the best way to start. We recommend the following brands, for highest concentration of pigments and richest colors.
Prismacolors Premier Colored Pencils: Available in sets of 24 to 150 colors, at a price range of $10 to $70. They are more expensive than some available brands, but the quality will give you better results.
Faber Castell Polychrome Pencils: Another popular favorite of experienced colorists. These are also available in sets of 12 to 120. They offer a very nice set of 48 colors for under $20.
If you are very budget minded, don’t hesitate to buy any brand you can find that you can afford. What’s most important is to just get started.
A way to keep your pencils and markers organized
It’s helpful to have a convenient way to store your pencils and markers so you can easily see the colors to chose.
Many colorists like to use professional pencil cases, but, to start out, there’s nothing wrong with using cups.
When choosing a pencil case, look closely at how many pencils it will hold. We recommend cases that hold at least 120 pencils. The Faber Castel’s largest assortment is 120 pencils. The Prismacolor largest assortment is 150 colors. We keep our markers and gel pens in separate cases, but you could certainly mix and match.
A pencil sharpener
You may have one of these already, left over from school days, but if you’re going to buy a new one, go for a sharpener that will give you a good point without breaking it off.
We like these two KUM pencil sharpeners:
KUM 104.03.01 Magnesium alloy metal, 1-hole steel blade sharpener. Under $5. And the KUM Long tip pencil sharpener, metal, 1 hole steel blade designed for an extra-long, sharp pencil tip. $10.
A Helical Pencil Sharpener
Pencil sharpeners have two types of blades: straight blades and blades that are arranged like a helix around a solid core. If you are having trouble with your colored pencil tips breaking, consider investing in a helical sharpener which will give you more reliable results.
We like the Derwent Super Point Manual Helical Pencil Sharpener. $17.50.
For a video explaining how to sharpen Prismacolor pencils (or any other pencils with a soft wax core) go to: https://youtu.be/N-cmI76QNI4
A Colorless Blending Pencil
A colorless blending pencil is a non-pigmented, wax-based pencil that is used to blur over sharp edges. By going over your colored sections with a blending pencil, you can blend colors together so that they flow seamlessly.
You will find this very useful for creating drawings with depth. Shading and blending are techniques that are easy to learn and will help bring your coloring alive. Avoid creating flat coloring pages, and get yourself a blending pencil.
We like the Prismacolor Colorless Blending Pencil. Set of 2 for $3.
Blending stumps are useful for larger areas. They are inexpensive and available in multiple quality levels.
We like the Creative Mark Blending Stumps but they are hard to find. You can buy others at any art supply store or on Amazon. Set of 6 for $2.
An eraser to correct mistakes or create highlights
While any pencil eraser might do the job, there are higher quality erasers made specially for artwork. Investing in one will give you an advantage over trying to get the job done with that old eraser at the end of your yellow pencil.
We like the Tombow Mono Zero Eraser with refills. $3.
You can see from the picture that it’s a specialized art tool. Consider getting two different sizes: a round tip and a square tip. You will find them extremely useful for getting into corners and cleaning up mistakes.
A Black Marker Pen for Fine Lines
You can customize any printed coloring design by adding details with a fine point black marker. Be sure to test the marker on a scrap paper held next to the design to make sure that the thickness of the line is compatible with the original design.
We like the Sharpie Fine Point Black Marker. 2 pack for $3.99. This is a reliable marker with a long lasting fine tip, as long as you don’t press down too hard and crush the tip’s end.
A White Marker Pen
White markers are useful for adding highlights or creating interesting decorative patterns on top of your colors.
We like the Uni-Posca White Marker Pen. $2.50. It dries to an opaque, matte finish that works very well with colored pencils.
Uni-Posca makes markers in many colors, but white is our favorite for adding detail and embellishing our coloring pages.
Sharpie seems to have a hold on the marker market, and we don’t mind because their markers are so reliable. Always juicy. Always ready to lay down saturated color. (Unless you leave the top off!) And, you can buy them anywhere.
We like Sharpie ColorBurst Sets of 24 colors. $10.
Gel Pens for Metallic Glitter Accents
We enjoy gel pens for the bright and glittery accents they create on coloring pages. Adding sparkle to your pages is lively and fun, especially for designs that almost beg for them, like dragons, night skies and even tropical fish.
We like Sakura Stardust Gelly Rollers. Set of 6 for $5. They come in fine and bold points, are juicy and flow easily. The biggest set has 64 colors and costs a whopping $99. (Ask for these for Christmas!)
Gel Pens with Many Colors
There are so many brands of gel pens on the market, almost all at very low prices. It’s fun to have a set with dozens of colors.
We like the Shuttle Art 120 Unique Colors Set. $18.
A Large, Clear Ruler
Clear rulers will give you more utility than wood or metal rulers because you can see exactly where you are on the page, making it easy to line up the ruler with the drawing.
We use clear rulers to add extra straight lines to the design or to mark where we want to add extra details. Use light pencil markings to get started then ink over your pencil lines with the black fine point marker.
We like transparent rulers from Westcott. $4.50. Be sure to get one that’s at least 12″ long.
Odorless Mineral Spirits for Blending Colors
Having a blending solvent on hand is helpful when you have some blending experience and want to take your work to the next level. You can use paint thinner or odorless mineral spirits which can be found anywhere paint is sold.
We like Gambol Artist Grade Oil instead of paint thinner, since we want to avoid the fumes. 1 Liter for $17. Pour a small quantity of liquid into a small jar or bowl. For some blending techniques, you will dip a small brush into the oil. For others, you’ll dip a smudge stick and blend directly with that stick. Either way, avoid contaminating your larger supply by preparing a small working jar.
You will find video tutorials about blending techniques at: http://artandcolorpress.com/coloring-tips/ We encourage you to learn how to blend. This will make a huge difference in your colored pages.
Soft Pastels for Covering Large Backgrounds
Some coloring book designs have wide areas of background, and you don’t want to leave that much white on the page. Stroking with colored pencils takes forever, and can leave a choppy appearance. Here’s an easy solution: use soft pastels. Scrape the pastel stick with a knife to put colored dust on the page. You will also need cotton pads to spread and smooth the pastel dust, plus a can of fixative spray.
We like Prismacolor Premier NuPastel Firm Pastel Sticks. Set of 24 for $17. There are less expensive brands available.
Fixative Spray for Pastels
If you work with pastels, you must seal the surface. After you’ve finished, follow the directions on the can carefully.
We like Krylon’s Fixative for Pencil, Pastel and Chalk Drawings. $18.
Note that we do not spray our pencil drawings. We only use a fixative spray on pastels.
Color Charts for Immediate, Hands-on Reference
It’s very helpful to have examples of what your pencils can do. Going by their painted wood color is completely unreliable. You need to see the actual pigments to get the best results for your coloring pages.Most manufacturers of colored pencils offer free downloadable color charts which you can use to fill in with the pencils you have. Or, you can make your own very easily.
Here is the link to the Prismacolor color chart: http://www.prismacolor.com/style%20library/prismacolor/media/promotions/prismacolorcoloredpencilschart2.pdf
Here is what an actual color chart looks like after adding samples of actual colored pencils:
Here’s what a homemade color chart looks like:
Color Charts that also show techniques and shading
We recommend making your own color charts showing different pressure applications of your pencils. Pressure is critical for how much pigment you will lay down on the page.
It’s also very useful to practice different coloring techniques and save the results of your practice pages. Learning to use colored pencils is easy, but mastering the many techniques available with this wonderful art media takes practice.
Don’t be shy about practicing, and enjoying the many different results you can get by using colored pencils.
Also, be aware that each type of paper has a different texture which will take the pigment slightly differently. Each coloring book from Art and Color Press includes a full page for creating a color chart and testing your colors.
Here is a color chart that shows multiple techniques for working with colored pencils:
And here’s another homemade sheet that shows textures possible with colored pencils.
Click on the Coloring Tips tab on this website to find much more information about coloring techniques: http://artandcolorpress.com/coloring-tips/
Also, you can find a good video tutorial on basic coloring techniques at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p73ii5pKz78&t=229s
Color Palettes to Help You Make Choices
When you first start coloring, choosing the colors for your page can be bewildering. There are so many choices! Where do you start?! Many new colorists feel overwhelmed and anxious about this. If you feel this way, you are not alone!
Finding and using pre-selected color palettes is a way to get guidance and learn confidence choosing colors.
If you subscribe to Pinterest, this is very easy. Just go to www.pinterest.com and search for adult coloring book palettes.
You can also search on Google Images.
And, if you already own coloring books, looking at their colored covers will help you decide which color combinations please you the most. Completed coloring pages are easy to find on the internet. Select the ones you like and chose pencil colors to match.
Here’s the most important thing: please yourself. Practice different combinations. Tear out any page that doesn’t make you happy. Relax. Start again. With just a little practice you will become familiar with color combinations that are pleasing to your eye.
A Color Wheel
There is a lot to learn about color theory, and if you become serious about becoming a colorist, it’s worth the time invested to learn.
Owning a color wheel is the place to start.
We like the set of two creative color wheels available on Amazon. It’s expensive, $16, but you will never need to buy another one. https://www.amazon.com/Creative-different-colored-sectors-relationship/dp/B01LWSZRDK/
Let’s get started!