You Need More Than Pencils and Markers to Color
Coloring is an activity no longer relegated to children. Over the last five years, the adult coloring phenomenon has been booming. Walk into any bookstore, and you'll find an array of adult coloring books on virtually any subject. Visit a craft store, and you'll discover a rainbow display of coloring utensils.
When you first start out as a colorist, you may think that's all you need—some books and pencils/markers. While there's nothing wrong with stopping there, you may soon find that there are other materials that may be helpful in creating your work.
The 7 Best Coloring Supplies for Adults
- Pencil Sharpener
- Pencil Extender
- Blending Pencils, Tortillions, and Stumps
- Electric (Battery-Powered) Eraser
- Blender Markers and Waterbrushes
- Tutorial Books
- Storage Items
1. Pencil Sharpener
If you often use colored pencils to color, you'll need a good pencil sharpener that won't keep breaking your points. Many colorists prefer manual sharpeners over electric ones because they have more control over how much to sharpen a pencil. However, some electric sharpeners automatically stop to prevent it from whittling your pencil down to a useless nub.
Some pencil sharpeners make super-thin points, which are great for detail work. However, this can increase breakage. Others have a larger opening that leads to wider but shorter tips. And some have the best of both worlds and feature both openings.
Keep in mind that colored pencil cores are made of wax, and over time it builds up on the blade. Run a regular graphite pencil through from time to time to help clean off the wax. However, once a blade goes dull, it's best just to replace it.
Pro tip: When sharpening, avoid turning the pencil to prevent breakage. Instead, turn the sharpener itself.
2. Pencil Extender
Sooner or later, you will wear down your pencils to the point that you can't comfortably hold them anymore. Is it time to toss them? No way! Pencils can be pretty pricey. You'll want to use your prized possessions for as long as possible.
A set of pencil extenders will let you use your favorite colors for a considerably longer period of time. Just position the pencil however you wish in the extender, then screw on the extender until the pencil no longer moves inside.
Keep in mind that fatter pencils or triangular-shaped pencils may not fit in extenders.
3. Blending Pencils, Tortillions, and Stumps
Ever wonder why veteran colorists' pencil work looks so polished and smooth? Have you noticed that their colors look seamless? That's because they blended their colors.
A blender pencil smooths out color when put on paper. It can remove pencil strokes, eliminate white spots caused by the paper's texture ("tooth") that miss the color, and blend two or more colors together.
- After coloring a section, simply take the blending pencil and rub it right on top of it. You'll see the difference instantly.
Although most blender pencils are essentially wax-based, tortillions are made from tightly rolled-up paper with a point on one end. Tortillions can be used on pastels, chalk, and graphite as well. You can use them dry as is or wet with a blending solvent like Gamsol. Stumps are similar to tortillions except for the fact that they are pointy on both ends.
Some folks use none of these items and are content with whatever they have around the house—cotton swabs, tissue, and Vaseline are commonly used by colorists.
Pro tip: If you're going to dip a pencil tip in Vaseline for blending, make sure to wipe it off completely when you're finished, as the Vaseline can soften the tip.
4. Electric (Battery-Powered) Eraser
An electric eraser sounds like overkill. Why on earth should you use one when standard erasers do a perfectly good job taking care of mistakes?
Electric erasers tend to have tiny, narrow tips, which make it easier to erase small mistakes in your pencil work. The vibrating motor also does most of the work and saves your hands from cramping up.
You also have more control when using an electric eraser. If you wish to make a certain spot just a tad lighter rather than erasing it completely, you can do that.
Best of all, because electric erasers tend to be pen-shaped, you can actually use them to draw or add highlights to your work. Artist Cindy Wider uses a sanding block to shape an electric eraser tip to a point, thus making the eraser more pen-like.
5. Blender Markers and Waterbrushes
Marker fans also have a few tools at their disposal. Those who use alcohol-based markers may want to check out blender markers/pens. Blender markers help create beautiful color gradients. You can rub the blender over an existing color to lighten it. You can apply two colors of varying tints next to each other, then rub the blender across both to blend them together. Check out the many YouTube tutorials for more ideas.
Pro tip: If you accidentally color outside the lines, use a blender marker to "push" the color back inside.
Waterbrushes are for watercolors or watercolor markers. As the name suggests, they are a brush with a hollow handle that holds water. Gently squeeze the handle to expel water onto the brush, then apply the color.
Waterbrushes eliminate the need for dipping a brush into a small pot of water that can potentially get knocked over. However, make sure just to use the tiniest amount of water, or the paper may warp.
6. Tutorial Books
It may sound a bit silly to need a how-to guide on coloring. After all, children do it! But there's no harm in learning some techniques and how to create certain effects. Want to learn how to create a gorgeous sunset? How about a realistic teardrop? Or perhaps just a deeper understanding of color theory? Tutorials will help.
There are books for all levels of colorists, from beginners to veterans. The four books in the photo above are among the most highly recommended:
- Color Workshop, A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Artistic Effects by Rachel Reinert
- How to Color Like an Artist: Colored Pencil Techniques including Blending & Shading by Veronica Winters
- New Guide to Coloring for Crafts, Adult Coloring Books, and Other Coloristas!: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques for All Skill Levels! by the authors of DO Magazine
- Colorist‘s Special Effects: Step-by-step guides to making your adult coloring pages POP! by Helen Elliston
Pro tip: Make sure to purchase the colored-page version of Colorist‘s Special Effects, not grayscale.
If you'd prefer to save your money for actual coloring books but still want to learn some techniques, have no fear. You can find many YouTube tutorials and websites available to use.
7. Storage Items
Now that you have your books, pencils, markers, and all the other items featured in this article, you'll need a place to keep them! Let's talk about storage.
1. Colored Pencil Cases and Wraps
While there's nothing wrong with keeping your pencils in their original box, it may be more convenient to store them differently. Soft wraps made of cloth or canvas are handy when you have a small travel set of pencils. For larger sets, consider a zippered case with multiple "leaves" for your pencils.
Since some pencils are thicker than others, when shopping for a case/wrap, make sure they fit in the individual loops. Also, keep in mind that gel pens and markers will likely not fit, as they are often thicker.
2. Art Supply Carts/Caddies
Ideally, you'll want to put your books and supplies on a bookshelf in some corner of your house. But what if space is an issue? Then consider an art supply cart, preferably with wheels. There are many to choose from, depending on your needs.
3. Use Your Imagination!
Get creative and use whatever you have lying around at home for storage. Put your markers in empty mason jars, decorative cups, or little pails, as in the photo above. Cut some PVC pipe to an appropriate length and glue them on the wall. Check out Pinterest for more DIY storage ideas.
Pro tip: Store markers (especially dual-sided markers) and gel pens horizontally to prevent them from drying out.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the best brand of coloring pencils to use?
Answer: I'm not fully sure of your question, but I presume you are asking for recommendations on coloring pencils. There are essentially two kinds of colored pencils: oil-based and wax-based. Oil-based pencils tend to have harder cores and thus don't break as easily. They layer nicely but don't blend as well as wax-based pencils do. Wax-based pencils are more common, with a softer core. They provide a more buttery color, but because they're softer, the cores tend to break more easily. Oil-based pencils also keep a pointy tip longer than wax-based. Many people have both kinds.
If you're a beginner, I suggest you start with less expensive brands and smaller sets. Play around with them and visit various sites to learn techniques. But the truth is that you don't necessarily need to have the absolute top, expensive brands to achieve what you want to do in your coloring. I've seen some amazing work with inexpensive brands.
Toni Schwartz (author) from San Jose, CA on September 14, 2018:
I briefly mention watercolor books in my other article, https://hubpages.com/drawing/Alternative-Adult-Col... There are many kinds out there, that feature many topics. Check your local bookstore (e.g. Barnes and Noble), art supply store (Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc), or online.
Please note that watercolor coloring books tend to have thicker pages than regular coloring books to withstand getting wet, so keep a lookout for such books.
Willis52 on September 14, 2018:
I like to know of more water color books
Mary Wickison from USA on March 07, 2018:
I've never heard of some of these things. Pencil extenders are a great idea. Although I've never used a blending pencil, I can see how advantageous they would be.
Interesting article about an activity that has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years.
RTalloni on March 06, 2018:
Thanks very much for this post. Rounding out knowledge on coloring tools, it includes some great tips. I look forward to putting these supplies together for my grands.
Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on March 06, 2018:
Omg. I'm so excited at the discovery of some of these amazing tools. I'm quite artsy and crafty and I hadn't heard of half of these. My amazon wish list has shot up! Thanks for such an informative hub.