Who said coloring was just for kids? Grown-ups everywhere are joining in on the fun and for good reason—coloring books create a space for people to relax, let go of any anxieties, and practice mindfulness. They’re also a wonderful outlet to be creative and have fun! While kids use crayons to do their coloring, adults can take advantage of more sophisticated tools. From markers to brush pens to even watercolors, come along as we explore the fantastic world of adult coloring supplies.
Textured paper vs smooth paper.
Whether coloring on a book or printed looseleaf sheets, consider a paper’s weight and texture. Thick heavy sheets can handle ink and sometimes watercolor paint, while thin paper is more delicate and suited for tools like colored pencils. The texture of the paper also affects how a tool performs. Generally, smooth paper is better for most coloring tools, but there are some (like thick markers and watercolors) that work beautifully on textured paper.
Brush pens, colored pencils, markers, and gel pens are all convenient tools for coloring.
It’s easy to get lost in a reverie of coloring, but these elusive moments are often short-lived in our fast-paced world. If you’re sneaking in coloring sessions between appointments, use tools that can be put away quickly such as markers and colored pencils. Those who can dedicate more time to coloring can consider tools that are more involved, like watercolor paints.
Colored pencils offer a huge range of colors.
We love having a rainbow of colors at our fingertips—having just the right colors can help elevate the coloring experience. Color range varies depending on the brand and type of tool. Markers, gel pens, and brush pens offer a wide array of colors and finishes, including metallic and glitter. Colored pencils provide a similar spectrum of colors but with less variety in finishes. Of course, tools can be mixed and matched to get the color and finish desired.
Use metallic gel pens to give coloring pages a nice sheen.
The same page can be colored in variety of ways. Are you looking to channel Monet or Picasso? For a soft, Monet-esque look, colored pencils and watercolors are ideal. If something louder is preferred, markers and gel pens pack a bold Picasso-like punch. Metallic or glitter pens are great to use as a finishing touch for adding accents and highlights that provide more depth to a coloring page.
By far the most popular among all adult coloring tools, markers provide a vibrant array of colors with saturated, opaque coverage. Easy to pull out and put away, they’re great for impromptu coloring sessions. Use them on thicker coloring books or single pages as they have a higher likelihood of showing through to the other side.
Top Choice: Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Marker Pens
Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Marker Pens
We’re smitten with the cute octagonal shape and bright orange body of the Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner. The tips are rounded, providing a nice shape for natural, even shading. There are 30 vivid shades to choose from including neon colors that are sure to satisfy every color craving. They won’t bleed through the paper unless an area is colored over multiple times.
(For a more pointed tip, we recommend going with the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.)
Runner Up: Shachihata Artline Blox Pens
Shachihata Artline Blox Pens
These playful Artline Blox pens are the epitome of fun! The pen bodies double as building blocks that can be snapped together in various ways. This not only makes them easy to store, it also makes them entertaining to use. Although the color range is not as extensive as the Stabilo Fineliners, they perform similarly.
Erasable Option: Pilot FriXion Colors Erasable Markers
Pilot FriXion Markers
The Pilot FriXion markers are a godsend for those of us who can’t seem to color within the lines. Featuring patented FriXion ink, the markers erase cleanly so you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. Be careful about where the coloring books are stored though—the ink may disappear in hot conditions. Check out our FriXion article for more on these fascinating pens.
Pair With: Fantastic Coloring Books
Fantastic Structures: A Coloring Book of Amazing Buildings Real and Imagined – Steve McDonald
We love using our fineliner markers in this series of coloring books. The Fantastic Coloring Books feature many intricate designs and illustrations of buildings, cityscapes, architecture and more. Fine-tipped markers are perfect for getting into the little nooks and crannies of windows, corners, and other details. There are illustrations on both sides–luckily, the pages are nice and thick, so there is no bleed-through from the markers.
Colored Pencil Recommendations
There’s no alternative to the artistic, sketch-like look that colored pencils produce. They offer a broad color range, allowing for different types of looks from muted to vibrant to everything in between. Use them on their side for textured shading or on their point for detail work. Colored pencils are better on smooth paper as they don’t glide as well on textured paper, resulting in unsightly gaps and white spaces.
Top Choice: Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils
Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils
These artist-preferred silky-smooth colored pencils are a pleasure to use. The soft cores dispense rich color consistently with the slightest bit of pressure. Adjust the intensity of the color by pressing down harder or softer. With 72 colors at your disposal, you’ll never want for color.
Runner Up: Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils
The Irojiten pencils are works of art in themselves with their pleasant white body and color-coded ends. Slightly harder than the Prismacolor pencils, what sets this line apart is the unique color offerings. We love the fluorescent pencils in particular, but they also have subdued and grayscale tones to choose from.
Watercolor Option: Derwent Inktense Pencils
Derwent Inktense Pencils
Who knew that colored pencils could double as watercolors? These specialty pencils deliver intense, almost inky color when hit with water. You can also use them as paints by grabbing color directly from the tips with a water brush. Pair these pencils with thick paper, especially when using them as watercolors.
Pair With: Birdtopia
This gorgeous coloring book is an avian paradise brimming with a diverse collection of tropical and woodland birds as well as other animal friends. The pages are colored a subtle cream hue, while the illustrations are in white, indicating where you should color. Some of the pages are already inked with lovely, vibrant shading. This shading effect is best replicated with colored pencils, which is our preferred tool of choice for Birdtopia.
Tombow Mono Zero Precision Eraser – 2.3 mm
Tombow Mono Zero Precision Erasers: Depending on the color and pencil, the pigment from colored pencils may not be completely erased. However, erasers are still useful for cleaning up messy lines, lightening a color, or creating highlights. We like the Tombow Mono Zero Eraser as it comes in a convenient pencil form, perfect for getting into the nooks and crannies of coloring book’s printed patterns.
Uni Color Pencil Sharpener
Uni Color Pencil Sharpener: It’s also useful to have a dedicated colored pencil sharpener handy as normal pencil sharpeners may be too harsh. The Uni Color Pencil Sharpener sharpens the softer leads cleanly and efficiently. Its cute, convenient shape makes it easy to store and carry around.
Gel Pen Recommendations
Gel pens deliver vibrant color precisely without bleed-through and offer a variety of finishes in one product line. They work on a wide range of papers and are easy to pull out and put away. Some gel inks are formulated to stand out on dark paper and over dark inks, which is great for adding accents and other details. Gel ink can run out quickly, so we advise against using them on large coloring sheets.
Top Choice: Uni-ball Signo Gel Pens
Uni-ball Signo Gel Pens – UM-100
The Signo pens are our go-to choice for their smooth ink and nice range of pigmented colors. They color without skipping or streaking. The metallic colors under the UM-100 line are particularly good and have an intense sheen if you’re looking to add a bit of shine to the coloring page. See our guide to the Signo pens here.
Runner Up: Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pens
Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pens
As with the Signo, coloring with the Sarasa gel pens is a smooth, pleasant experience. A lovely Milk line is available that gives a coloring page a sweet pastel look. We especially enjoy the sturdy binder clip when we carry them around in our book or pocket. For more information on the Sarasa, see our guide here.
Most Finishes: Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens
Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens
We can’t mention gel pens without acknowledging these classics—the Gelly Rolls have the most impressive line up in terms of finishes, including matte, fluorescent, and metallic. There’s even a glittery Stardust line that gives any coloring piece a beautiful sparkle. These viscous inks are slow to dry so be sure to allow the ink to dry completely before closing the book. To see the whole line up, check out our Gelly Roll guide here.
Pair With: The Coloring Book of Mindfulness
The Coloring Book of Mindfulness
With an emphasis on de-stressing from the hustle and bustle of daily life, the Mindfulness coloring book is a gateway to hours of peaceful coloring. It features dozens of elaborate illustrations of flowers, trees, and animals, along with inspiring and contemplative quotes on mindfulness. Gel pens are perfect for filling in all the intricate details in this coloring book.
Brush Pen Recommendations
Stretch your artistic muscles when coloring with brush pens! Advanced color-ers will enjoy these as their flexible tips move fluidly between thin and thick lines, providing space for artistic expression. The vibrant colors blend easily and have good coverage. Brush pens are suitable on most papers with little to no bleed-through.
Top Choice: Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Tombow Dual Brush Pens
These double-sided brush pens feature an incredible amount of colors: 51 plus a color blender, to be exact. The brush tip can be used to color in large areas and the fine bullet tip is great for adding details or getting into small spaces. The colorless blender helps colors meld into each other for a seamless, blended finish.
Runner Up: Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens
Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens
Artists may appreciate the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens as they have a synthetic bristle tip that is reminiscent of a paint brush. Use them alone or with a water brush to create different effects. They work well on most papers alone, but if used as watercolors, be sure to pair with a heavy paper.
Glitter Option: Kuretake Zig Wink of Stella Glitter Brush Pens
Kuretake Zig Wink of Stella
Having a page full of glitter may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are definitely occasions that call for a bit of sparkle and shine. Use these glittery brush pens to create subtle highlights or a full glitzy overlay on the coloring page.
Pair With: Floribunda: A Flower Coloring Book
Floribunda: A Flower Coloring Book
Floribunda is a work of art. The visually stunning illustrations are printed on one side of thick, high-quality cardstock, suitable for a wide range of media. It takes inky brush pens beautifully–the paper doesn’t pill or buckle. The pages are easily removed for display or other crafting projects, perfect for showing off your coloring skills to friends and family.
While watercolors may not be the traditional choice for coloring, they give coloring pages a romantic, fine art look and feel. Don’t use watercolors on regular coloring books; a heavier, watercolor paper is needed to handle the high water content. Watercolors take more time than other tools since dry time and clean up time need to be factored in. For more on watercolor supplies, check out our guide here.
Top Choice: Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors
Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors
We love painting with the bright colors of the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors. Available in single pans or palettes, these paints are smooth and blendable. Just the lightest touch of a water brush is enough to get rich, pigmented color. Metallic shades are also available in individual pans or as part of the 36-color palette.
Runner Up: Akashiya Japanese Gansai Watercolor Palette Box
Akashiya Gansai Watercolor Palette
The Akashiya Gansai watercolors feature a deeper tone than the Kuretake, allowing it to provide more depth to a coloring piece. Even the metallic colors are darker than their Kuretake counterparts. Only offered as a pre-made palette, it’s ideal for those who can’t be bothered to pick out individual pans.
Metallic Option: FineTec Artist Mica Watercolors
FineTec Artist Mica Watercolors
For even more glitz and glamour, these FineTec watercolors give off an intense sheen that’s perfect for shimmery accents. Add depth and dimension to a coloring page with just a few strokes of metallic color.
Pair With: Pepin Artist’s Coloring Books
Pepin Artist’s Coloring Books
It would be a shame to use anything but watercolors on this 180 gsm acid-free, artist-quality paper. The high-quality paper can withstand moderate water use without wrinkling or fraying. These Pepin Artist’s Coloring Books feature exquisite images printed in a subtle light gray, which virtually disappear after you color them in. A variety of styles and prints are available, from still life to Japanese designs. Postcard versions are also available.
Black Liner Recommendations
For those who can’t be confined to pre-printed coloring pages, fill up blank pages with your own creation using black liners. These pens are also great for adding extra artwork to existing coloring books or pages. The best black liners are archival and can be colored over with other tools without smudging or moving.
Top Choice: Sakura Pigma Micron Drawing Pens
Sakura Pigma Micron Drawing Pens
If we were to ever create a coloring book, the Sakura Pigma Micron would be our weapon of choice. Featuring extremely dark archival ink, it is available in various tip sizes to create the perfect coloring page. After the ink dries, you can use any of the tools mentioned above without fear of smearing or lifting.
Runner Up: Staedtler Pigment Liners Marker Pens
Staedtler Pigment Liners
Another fantastic liner is the Staedtler Pigment Liner. Like the Sakura Pigma Microns, it is archival and won’t smudge under other coloring tools—plus it’s the favorite drawing pen of Johanna Basford (the illustrator behind the famous Secret Garden coloring book)!
Budget Option: Uni Pin Pens
Uni Pin Pens
We’ve seen Johanna use this budget-friendly option for fine, detail work. The Uni Pin pen features an incredibly thin tip that’s best used slowly to allow the ink to flow smoothly. Four tip sizes are available, giving you ample choice for line variation.
Pair With: Johanna Basford Coloring Books
Johanna Basford left ample space in her iconic coloring books for artists to explore their own imagination. You can create your own designs in between her whimsical drawings using a black liner. Sketch them out first with a blue or gray mechanical pencil, then outline them with the black liner and erase the pencil marks. After you finish, use any of the other tools to color in your masterpiece!
Sonic Nano Pita Protractor
Sonic Nano Pita Non-Slip Reversible Protractor: A good protractor helps create curves, keep uniform angles, and much more. The Sonic Protractor is non-slip, preventing lines from becoming uneven and crooked.
Kyoei Orions Grid Rulers
Kyoei Orions Grid Rulers: This ruler is transparent and gridded, which not only allows you to see the lines that have already been made, it also helps line them up perfectly.
Johanna Basford and the Rise of Adult Coloring
Before adult coloring was a trend, Johanna Basford was approached by her publishers to create a children’s coloring book. She countered with a then unusual proposal: a coloring book for adults. Johanna was confident that her idea would have an audience as several of her clients had previously quipped with her that they’d enjoy coloring in her work. Her publishers weren’t so sure, but eventually relented.
Little did they know, a worldwide phenomenon was about to explode. Johanna’s first title, Secret Garden, quickly sold out on its first run. People were charmed by Johanna’s whimsical artwork and the nostalgia they felt while coloring. Articles came out about the therapeutic nature of coloring and the importance of mindfulness, further propelling the popularity of adult coloring books.
Now there are a variety of books on the market by different illustrators that cater to diverse audiences. We’re excited that adults have wholeheartedly embraced this trend that celebrates the analog things we love—pens, pencils, and paper. Have you caught the adult coloring bug? What’s your preferred tool of choice? Let us know in the comments below!
Adult Coloring Supplies Recommendations
|Product||Type||Paper Pairing||Color Range||Finish||Tone|
|Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Marker Pens||Marker||Smooth||30 colors||Matte||Bright|
|Shachihata Artline Blox Pens||Marker||Smooth||18 colors||Matte||Bright|
|Pilot FriXion Colors Erasable Markers||Marker||Smooth||24 colors||Matte||Muted|
|Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils||Colored Pencil||Smooth||72 colors||Matte||Pastel to Bright|
|Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils||Colored Pencil||Smooth||90 colors||Matte||Pastel to Neon|
|Derwent Inktense Pencils||Colored Pencil||Smooth, Textured||36 colors||Matte||Deep to Light|
|Uni-ball Signo Gel Pens||Gel Pen||Smooth||29 colors||Matte, Metallic, Glitter||Pastel to Bright|
|Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pens||Gel Pen||Smooth||42 colors||Matte, Metallic, Glitter||Pastel to Bright|
|Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens||Gel Pen||Smooth||87 colors||Matte, Metallic, Glitter, Shadow, Raised||Pastel to Neon|
|Tombow Dual Brush Pens||Brush Pen||Smooth, Textured||51 colors||Matte||Pastel to Bright|
|Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens||Brush Pen||Smooth, Textured||20 colors||Matte||Bright|
|Kuretake Zig Wink of Stella Glitter Brush Pens||Brush Pen||Smooth, Textured||16 colors||Glitter||Muted|
|Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors||Watercolor||Textured||36 colors||Matte, Metallic||Bright|
|Akashiya Japanese Gansai Watercolor Palette Box||Watercolor||Textured||24 colors||Matte, Metallic||Deep|
|FineTec Artist Mica Watercolors||Watercolor||Textured||12 colors||Metallic||Bright|
|Sakura Pigma Micron Drawing Pens||Drawing Pen||Smooth||14 color||Matte||Bright|
|Staedtler Pigment Liners Marker Pens||Drawing Pen||Smooth||1 color||Matte||Deep|
|Uni Pin Pens||Drawing Pen||Smooth||2 color||Matte||Deep|
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JetPens Adult Coloring Book Set
Still not sure what to try? You can’t go wrong with the classics. Our Adult Coloring Book Set includes Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and 25 Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Markers, which are perfect for filling in the intricate and wondrous illustrations.