adult coloring capabilities
*This article has been updated for accuracy in May 2020

Tools for your inner artist – from pencils to color advice

I am one of millions of adults who find the intricate and beautiful new adult coloring books fun and relaxing. Need reasons to color as an adult? To list just a few, it helps us practice mindfulness, it engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain in balance, it strengthens the area of the brain that is responsible for organizing and problem-solving and it is soothing. I am underwhelmed, however, by my sense of color and shading and have a lot to learn about coloring supplies and techniques.

Let’s start with the supplies:

I love going to art supply stores but quickly overwhelmed by all the options. I do know that there are coloring tools way beyond crayons, and that colored pencils or pens look to be more controllable and precise.

Pencils – If you think pencils are the best for you, make sure you keep them sharpened to color detailed and small spaces, and to shade well. A recommended sharpener is the Faber-Castel Trio sharpener that accommodates different sizes. $6.86.

adult-coloring-skills-faber-castel-sharpenerPencils are versatile and forgiving – more so than pens. Don’t press too hard because you might get too strong a color and break the point. If you start out lightly you can gauge the strength of color you want. Pencils also allow you to blend colors more easily than pens do. A recommended brand is Prismacolor. They come in 48, 72, 132 or 150 packs, starting at $29.47.

adult-coloring-skills-prismacolor-pencilsThere are also watercolor pencils for the watercolor effect. Prismacolor are good watercolor pencils as are Cray-Pas, $20.45 for a set of 50 and Derwent Inktense Pencils, $129.00 for a set of 72 pencils.

adult-coloring-skills-derwent-intense-pencilsPens and markers – Pens can be applied over a pencil to add a color detail. They are also great for adding colors that pop. Test your pens on the paper first to make sure they won’t bleed. Alcohol-based pens tend to bleed so avoid those. Get pens with a fine point. For beginners, the Dual Brush Pens are recommended because they have both a fine point and a flexible brush tip for coloring large areas. A 10-pack of primary colors has 9 color pens and one blender pen, $14.99. The other popular pen set is the Pentel Color Pen set of 36. These pens are water-based vivid colors with a fine tip. $19.99.

adult-coloring-skills-dual-brush-pensadult-coloring-skills-pentel-color-pen-setChoosing colors

  • If you are like me and uncertain about choosing colors that go together, I am very fond of a color blog called Design Seeds. It’s really fun to play with – choose a color and up will come an enormous collection of different palettes using that color. Choose the one you like the best and that fits with whatever you are coloring.
  • Cool colors – blue, green, purple – are calming.
  • Warm colors – red, orange, yellow – are energizing
  • Pastels and pale tints are soft and soothing


Coloring Tips:

  • Work from the outside in
  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Don’t press too hard if you are using pencils – build up the color instead
  • Read ASE’s article on color
  • Color the large areas first
  • Check out this Pinterest board called Coloring Techniques
  • Play with the direction of your strokes

Note: Surprise your hostess with a coloring book with some pencils as a thank you gift. They make a nice reward for finishing exams or  a thoughtful present for someone who might be laid up for a while.