The best thing about coloring is that you don't need a lot of supplies! On this page I'll tell you all about the best markers, colored pencils, gel pens, or pens that I use for coloring, and discuss the pros and cons of various brands. (Click on any of those links to be taken directly to that section!)
In the past few years my published coloring books have sold over 3.5 million copies, which has kept me really busy with testing out dozens of different coloring supplies to find the ones that work best in adult coloring books. Below you can see examples of the art from my coloring books that I colored using different media and brands!
As you can see from the artwork above, all you need to get started are markers, colored pencils, gel pens, or pens, which you can get cheaply at almost any store! Art supplies can range in price from economical to pricey, so if you're just starting out and you're on a budget, I'd suggest starting with lower-priced brands and then if you want, add more higher-priced coloring supplies later.
My favorite combo is to use markers, colored pencils and gel pens or paint pens all in the same page, because they each have specific qualities that can be combined to create some really cool effects. Here's a rundown of my favorite brands and how I use them!
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Markers are my favorite coloring supply, because they're so easy to use! Below you can find an overview of some of my favorite brands. I've organized them into two sections: alcohol-based and water-based. For a more detailed look at art markers, such as the difference between water-based markers and alcohol-based markers, be sure to check out my in-depth article - Markers: a buying guide.
My favorite brand of markers are Copic. I use Copic Sketch markers, which are refillable - a huge bonus!
Copic markers are alcohol-based rather than water-based, so the colors apply very smoothly, with minimal streaking or lines from overlapping. Copic Sketch markers come with a brush tip and a chisel tip, but I mostly use the brush tip, which comes to such a fine point that it can fill in tiny details. They're also great for filling in large areas with color.
Copics come in a wide range of colors so you can get just about any color of the rainbow. I love that you can get colors that range from soft and subtle to bold and vibrant to deep and dark. The colors can be blended together which is another reason I generally prefer alcohol-based markers over water-based markers (such as Crayola).
Copics can be purchased individually, so you can grow your collection over time by starting with your favorite colors, or you can invest in a set. The only downside of Copics is the price, but since Copics are considered professional-quality markers, they come with a price tag to match. If you’re on a budget, don’t worry, because there are more affordable alcohol-based markers that are just as good that I also recommend on this page (they just tend to offer less colors and often aren’t refillable).
To learn more, check out my in-depth review of Copic Markers. I compare the different types on offer – Classic, Sketch, and Ciao – and discuss tip shapes, color range, lightfastness, and more! I’ve also written a page of Tips for Using Alcohol Markers in Coloring Books.
Blick Studio Brush Markers
Blick Studio Brush Markers are one of the best options if you're looking for a cheaper (but still professional-level) alternative to Copics. They're very similar to Copics - they're artist-quality, double-ended, refillable, and the nibs can be replaced - but they cost $3 less per marker! The brush tip provides a wonderfully smooth application of color, and they come from a reliable brand that's been around for decades (Blick). The only downside when compared to Copics is that they come with fewer colors (144 vs. 358). But for most people, 144 colors is more than they'll ever need!
Ohuhu Alcohol Brush Markers
If you're on a budget and you're new to the world of alcohol markers, then a set of Ohuhu alcohol brush markers are an excellent way to get your feet wet without breaking the bank. They're even cheaper than Blick Studio Markers, but they're currently only available in sets and unlike Copics and Blicks, they're not refillable, the nibs aren't replaceable, and they're not available open stock (individually). Read my in-depth review to learn if Ohuhu markers are right for you, plus see examples of artwork I colored in with these markers!
Another economically-priced alcohol marker that you can consider are Arrtx Markers. The markers from their Alp series are also double-sided with a chisel tip on one end but instead of a brush tip on the other end, they have a fine point tip. They come in a beautiful range of colors so they’re great for beginners who aren’t sure whether they prefer a brush tip or fine point tip. Check out my in-depth review for more info, along with several examples of artwork that I colored in with Arrtx Alp Markers!
Sharpie colors are bold and vibrant. You can buy them individually or in limited edition sets (such as the 80s Glam Set or the Electro Pop Set). They also come in Neon, which is wonderful for eye-popping color! Of the different types available, I mostly use Sharpie Fine Point Markers (this links to Blick Art Materials, and if you make a purchase I get a small commission that helps support this site).
I like that I can get good, smooth coverage with Sharpies. They're also inexpensive and easy to find in stores, so they're a great addition to any coloring supplies collection.
I only wish that Sharpies offered a range of truly soft and subtle colors, for instance, a light pastel blue, green or pink. They do offer a few colors that are labelled “pastel” but they are actually much darker than the pastel colors offered by Copic (or any of the other above-mentioned brands), for example.
Because they lack those subtle pastel colors, I rarely use only Sharpies to color in a page - I typically use them in combination with other brands and/or media.
However as you can see from this page from my Groovy Abstract Coloring Book, you certainly can use only Sharpies to color an entire page with eye-catching results!
Bic Marking Pens (formerly called Bic Mark-Its)
Bic Marking Pens are very similar to Sharpies so they also deserve a special mention. Like Sharpies, you can buy them in affordable sets that include a diverse range of vibrant colors. I like the “Fine Point” Bic Marking Pens because the tip really is fine which makes it great for coloring in tight spaces, and the marker can be used at an angle to fill in larger spaces.
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Prismacolor Premier Markers
I only have a handful of Prismacolor markers but I like them a lot. They are also considered artist-quality markers, but they are less expensive than Copics. They're vibrant and come in a wide range of colors. Prismacolor is a well-established and reliable brand (I also love their colored pencils) so their markers are top-notch.
Chameleon Markers can be fun to work with because they're designed to simplify the blending process. They have a unique system that's different from other markers. Basically, by touching the "clear" end of the marker to the "colored" end of the same marker for a few seconds, the clear alcohol ink soaks into the colored part. Then you start coloring with it on paper and it starts out clear (or almost clear) and after a few seconds the color starts to return to the marker tip, creating a nice gradation of color. If that sounds confusing, don't worry - the markers come with an illustrated instruction pamphlet.
Below is a page from my Flower Mandalas Coloring Book that I colored with Chameleon Markers!
Tombow markers are actually called "brush pens" but to me they feel more like markers rather than what you'd traditionally think of as "pens". They have dual tips - a pointy brush tip and a hard fine-point tip. I typically use the brush tip to color in fine details and the hard tip to draw in extra details. I don't use Tombows to fill in large spaces because I've found that they can create lines where the marker overlaps (unlike Copics, for example).
Yes, Crayola makes my list! Even though Crayolas are meant for kids, they are cheap and vibrant and come in a nice range of colors. They're best for filling in smaller areas rather than large areas, because they leave lines where the marker overlaps. Of the many different types of Crayola markers, I prefer the Crayola Super Tips Markers. The biggest downside of Crayola markers is that the colors do fade relatively quickly (some colors, within days or weeks), as opposed to the other markers I mentioned in this list, whose colors last longer. It's another example of how you get what you pay for. If you don't mind that the colors will fade, then Crayola markers are a wonderfully affordable option for "in the moment" coloring. Then, if you scan or photograph your finished masterpiece, it'll be preserved for posterity even if the marker colors fade!
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Colored pencils are wonderfully versatile tools for coloring. They're lightweight, portable, don't require any preparation other than sharpening, involve minimal clean-up, and the best brands offer rich colors that blend beautifully. They can be used to fill both large and tiny spaces.
For a more in-depth look at colored pencils, check out my Complete Beginners Guide to the Best Colored Pencils.
My favorite brand of colored pencils is Prismacolor. The colors are so rich and vibrant that if you press them down hard enough on the paper, the finished artwork can look as rich and vibrant as a painting! Prismacolors come in a wide range of colors that can be easily layered and blended to create new colors and/or to create shading effects. Shading is a fantastic way to add dimension and interest to a coloring page, to make the artwork really pop. In addition to layering colored pencils on top of colored pencils, I often layer colored pencils on top of markers to create shading.
Prismacolor have a few different types of colored pencil. I use and recommend the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils (see below), which are professional quality, so they're a little on the expensive side. You can buy them individually (around $1.13 each at the time of this writing), which is handy when you want to try them out or re-stock certain colors. You can also save some money by purchasing a set. If you like doing super-detailed coloring, Prismacolor also offer "Verithin" pencils which are designed to be sharpened to a very fine point.
Another professional-level brand of colored pencils are Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. They’re offered in a huge range of colors that, like Prismacolors, can be purchased open stock (individually) or in sets. The colors are beautifully vibrant and blend well. Although I have more experience with Prismacolors (having used them since high school), a few years ago I purchased a set of Polychromos colored pencils and I do love them a lot.
Gel pens are fun to work with because they come in a variety of styles that can add special effects to a coloring page, such as metallic or glitter. They're also perfect for filling in tiny spaces and adding extra details on top of markers!
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Sakura gel pens are my favorite. The ink glides smoothly and they have a fun range of colors and styles, such as Metallic, sparkly Stardust, pastel Souffle and vibrant Moonlight. I love the glittery appearance of the Sakura Stardust gel pens, which is great for adding eye-catching accents to a coloring page. I like to color in areas with marker and then add details on top using a white Sakura gel pen or Souffle gel pens. The ink in the Souffle and Moonlight gel pens are so opaque that they can be used to color over the black lines in a coloring page, which can create some cool effects.
Here's a page from my Detailed Mandala Coloring Pages that I colored using Sakura Gelly Roll Pens. Notice how the opaque ink was able to cover the black line art of the coloring page.
Fiskars is another good brand of gel pens that are quite affordable when you purchase them in a 48-piece set. The colors are bright and include varieties such as neon, glitter, metallic, and swirl. They don't color as smoothly as Sakura, and they tend to skip a bit more, but they're good value.
If you love glitter, Pentel SparklePop gel pens are the best! The glitter is really vibrant and sparkly, adding something special to your coloring pages. In Australia I noticed the same gel pens are sold as "Hybrid Dual Metallic" so keep that in mind if you're outside the US and you want to find these pens.
Pens are ideal for filling in small spaces as well as adding extra details and pattering on top of areas that you've already colored in with markers.
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Staedtler Triplus Fineliner
Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens have super-fine tips so they're excellent for filling in tiny areas of detail with color. They're also great for adding details to a coloring page. They can be purchased individually or in sets.
Paper Mate Flair Guard Pens
While these Paper Mate pens don't glide as smoothly as the other pens and markers I've mentioned in this list, they do have nice vibrant colors and the tips are small so they can be used to fill in tight spaces or to doodle extra details onto a coloring page. Plus, they're inexpensive - always a plus!
Paint pens (also referred to as “paint markers”) are fantastic for adding extra details to a coloring page, especially if you want to add dots and other decorations on top of areas that you’ve already colored in with markers.
Uni-Posca Paint Pens
Also called “Posca pens” or “Posca markers”, Uni-Posca is an awesome brand of paint markers. You can buy them individually or in sets and they come in a variety of nib sizes. They come in a lovely range of colors and also offer glitter and metallic paint markers. I only wish they were refillable and came with more colors! If you’re new to paint pens, I recommend you start with a set of Poscas.
Montana Acrylic Markers
Montana is my other favorite brand of paint markers. While Poscas are great for beginners, Montana offers artists the benefits of refillable markers and replaceable nibs. They even offer empty markers so you can mix different colors to make your own unique colors! The barrels are see-through so you can easily see when you’re getting low. The color range is great and they also come in various nib sizes.
Embellishments are a great way to add extra pizazz to your coloring pages! I like to add embellishments to my coloring pages last, after I’ve finished coloring it in with markers, for example.
Ever since I discovered 3-D paint designed for papercrafting, I’ve loved adding small 3-D dots to my finished coloring pages. My favorite brands are Nuvo Crystal Drops and Ranger Stickles Glitter Glue. You can also often find inexpensive sets of puffy paint at Target or Walmart which can be used on paper.
Another way to add some 3-D flair to your coloring pages is to decorate them with gems! Self-adhesive gems are the most convenient, but they’re more expensive than the non-stick gems. If you use non-stick gems, a handy way to stick on the gems is to use a glue pen. I’ve been using the ZIG 2-Way Glue Pen and it’s been perfect for gluing gems onto my coloring pages!
Here’s an example of how I used gems to embellish a coloring page from my Detailed Mandala Coloring Pages. Click to enlarge the images.
These are currently my go-to art supplies for coloring in the art from my coloring books. I love to experiment with new coloring supplies so I'll be sure to update this list when I discover more cool supplies!
Return to the Coloring page.