So you want to start colouring? Don’t know where to start? Then this is the post for you!
Adult colouring has well and truly taken off since the craze was kick-started in April 2015 and it’s currently showing no signs of stopping. New books are arriving on Amazon every day and artists and illustrators all over the world are jumping on the band wagon and offering up their drawings ready for you to add your personal touch of colour to. There are some stunning books on the market and some that really aren’t so great. The market is becoming very saturated and I can imagine that for those of you who are just entering the world of adult colouring, this must be very daunting and impossible to know where to even begin! So here is where you need to start, what you need to know and where to get your colouring goodies from so that you can get started as quickly as possible. For those of you that are new to my blog, you can read more about me and my colouring journey here.
Pens or Pencils
So, let’s get you started on your adult colouring journey. The first thing you need to think about is whether you want to colour with pens or pencils. There are a number of different types of each to help you narrow down further but firstly you need to decide whether you want pens, pencils or both. The pros of pencils are that mostly they’re erasable or at least partially erasable so if you make a mistake it’s not the end of the world. They can be used to shade and blend and give more depth to pictures. They don’t bleed so you can use them on single-sided and double-sided books without any issues. The cons are that they’re fairly tough on your joints so you’re better sticking to pens if you have joint problems or pain, they’re also very time-consuming to use if you’re wanting to create impressive effects. The pros of pens are that they’re really vibrant, quicker to use, easier on your hands, come in a range of nib sizes for different sized areas on the page, and you don’t have to blend or shade, you can just colour in blocks. The major con with pens is that they bleed, some bleed sideways over the lines, some bleed through the paper (or shadow, where you can clearly see the coloured sections on the reverse of the page without it fully bleeding through), and this is often a big problem in double-sided books, they’re also much harder to blend and shade with and they’re more expensive and run out faster. Once you’ve decided on pens or pencils (or both), you’re ready to decide which type you want.
Pencils are usually made of wax (like Crayola, and any pencils your kids or you will have used at school and growing up) or oil. Everyone has their own preference, some like wax, I’m a huge fan of oil, and others seem to get on well with both. If you can get to an art shop then I’d suggest trying out some of each to decide which you prefer, if you’re unable to attend a shop then the following info will hopefully help. Within the wax and oil-based pencil brands are harder and softer pencils. If you have any joint problems or issues with grip etc then you need a soft pencil (look out for this description in reviews). I have poor grip and achy joints in my hands and I tried various brands of wax-based pencils and just couldn’t get on with them, I found them hard, sticky and very difficult to get vibrant colour without having to press really hard. Others have had much better experiences with wax-based pencils than me and as I said before, it’s unfortunately entirely down to personal preference. Oil-based pencils are generally a bit pricier but in my opinon they’re well worth the money because they’re so much easier to use and much softer and more vibrant with less pressure needed.
If you’re wanting wax-based pencils then the budget option is often Crayola coloured pencils, the mid to high range that I’d recommend would be Derwent Coloursoft which I’ll review at a later date and these are highly blendable, vibrant and come in up to 72 beautiful colours. I would also recommend the Staedtler Ergosoft Coloured Pencils which come in 24 colours and are very easy to use and vibrant. The artist’s grade, high-end price option is Prismacolor Premiers which are the Marmite of the pencil world, people either love them and create stunning pieces of art with them or hate them because of the wax bloom that builds up and the lead breaking which these pencils are notorious for, I’ve never used these so I can’t vouch for them, they are often used beautifully, but there are major issues with people sharpening inches off them trying to just get a point to colour with!
If you’re after oil-based pencils then there isn’t really a budget option but the most cost-effective and cheapest are the Marco Raffine pencils which I’ve reviewed here. There are plenty of mid to high range pencils and my recommendation would be the Lyra Rembrandt Polycolors which I received just yesterday which are available in 70 colours and seem to work beautifully. The artist’s grade high-end pencils with a price tag to match are the Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils which are pricey but as the proud owner of the full set, they’re worth every penny and truly are the crème de la crème of the pencil world. When choosing pencils, have a think about whether you’re wanting to just colour in blocks or whether you’re wanting to blend and shade and create artist’s style work, if you’re wanting the former then definitely stick to the low-end pencils because they’re ideal for that, whereas if you’re wanting to blend and shade then I’d opt for the mid or high-end pencils. The majority of colouring and the effects you can create are based on talent and practice rather than tools. I’ve seen amazing work coloured with Crayolas and some fairly dodgy work created with Polychromos pencils so if you can’t afford a pricey set, don’t despair, just get practising! It’s easier to create good effects with pricier pencils because they’re better made and easier to use but it really is mostly about talent and the best way to learn is to practice and to look on YouTube for tutorials, that’s where I’ve learnt all of my techniques from!
If pencils aren’t for you and you want to venture into the inky world of pens instead then this is the section for you. Broadly speaking, pens are broken down into water-based ink and alcohol based ink.
Alcohol pens ALWAYS bleed. Unless you’re using super thick card they will bleed through the paper so you will be limited to books that only have images printed on one side or you’ll have to sacrifice half of the pictures to bleed-through. That being said, alcohol pens are very popular within the adult colouring world but a word of warning, they smell very strongly of solvent and if you have issues with headaches or migraines you might want to avoid them or colour in short bursts, near a window! Alcohol-based pens are more versatile than water-based pens because they can be layered and blended, either with each other on the page using similar shades, or using a clear blending pen (most brands sell these separately). Alcohol markers come with a significant price tag and the cheapest are usually unbranded permanent markers which can be found in the UK in stores like Poundland and The Works. The low to mid range are Sharpies and these come in a multitude of set sizes and colours and are world-renowned for their quality. Most others are mid to high or high-end prices and these include Spectrum Noir, Promarker and Copic. I don’t use alcohol markers because I suffer from migraines, often induced by environmental stimuli, so if you’re interested in using them I’d suggest searching for other reviews online, there are plenty of great ones to be found so that you can invest in the right set for you.
Water-based pens are my personal favourites. I love colouring in pencil but when I’m colouring because I’m anxious or colouring just for me, I love nothing more than to get out my water-based fineliners and just get colouring! Water-based pens come in a huge variety of nib thicknesses and you need to bear in mind the size of the spaces you’ll be colouring when purchasing pens – there’s no point getting chunky felt-tips (markers) if you’re planning on using really intricate books because you’ll ruin them.
Fineliners are usually 0.3 or 0.4 mm’s and they’re ideal for small spaces and intricate parts. They are available all over the place and the cheapest are usually own-brand sets from UK shops like Poundland, The Works, WHSmiths and most major supermarkets, the mid-high range sets that I’ve found to be best are the Stabilo Point 88 fineliners which I’ve reviewed here and the Staedtler Triplus fineliners which I’ve reviewed here.
Water-based Fibre-tips/Felt Pens
Alongside these are water-based markers/ felt/fibre-tip pens which have a huge variety of shape and size nibs and are used for colouring larger areas. They are often a bit streaky, especially if you colour over the same spot twice and the cheaper they are, the streakier they usually are. There are hundreds of brands that do low-range sets for kids and adults but there aren’t any I’d recommend because they’re so streaky. My advice would be to invest in a mid-range set of Staedtler Triplus Fibre-tips (reviewed by me here), or Stabilo 68 Fibre-tips (review coming soon) because they’re much less streaky, last for ages and they are colour-matched with the fineliner sets so you can seamlessly colour small and large areas of the same picture with different pens. For high-end water-based markers I’ve heard great things about the Tombow Dual Brush Pens and the Faber-Castell Pitt Pens but I’ve not had the budget to try these out yet so be sure to test them in an art shop or buy a single pen first to test out and see what you want to invest in.
Now you’ve decided what you’re going to colour with, you need to decide what you’re going to colour! The first thing to decide is whether it has to be single-sided or whether the colouring medium you’ve chosen will allow you to use double-sided books. If you’ve opted for alcohol markers then it must be single-sided, water-based pens you’ll want single-sided or thick paged double-sided and for pencils you can use any book you like. Paper quality is only an issue for water-based pens where it needs to be thick if it’s double-sided and pencils where you want a bit of texture (known as tooth – the grooves and textures in the paper that stop it being smooth and flat) if you’re wanting to blend and shade because you need to build up layers and the tooth allows you to do that. Shiny or incredibly smooth paper makes using pencils very difficult and if it’s waxy then steer clear of using anything other than alcohol markers because nothing else will stick, it’ll simply wipe off. After narrowing down the printing and paper quality, you then want to decide on what content you’re interested in – fantasy, people, animals, nature, patterns, abstract, scenes, mandalas, etc. There are so many books on the market now that you won’t find it difficult to find a book that fits all of these criteria, even if you want really niche content like rats, dragons or shoes.
Finally, you want to think about your health which is a huge part of why I review colouring books and if you’re a reader of my blog already you’ll know, a huge part of each review I write. Whether you’re physically or mentally ill, your condition may affect your ability to colour and therefore your ability to enjoy a particular book. Things to bear in mind are whether your condition fluctuates, whether you have good vision, whether you have good fine motor control, whether the content of the book’s images may affect your mood in any way, whether your concentration levels alter, and what level of intricacy and detail you can handle. This might sound like a lot but in every review I write I describe all of these aspects so you can find books that will suit your level of functioning and ability so that you don’t get a book that’s so basic you get bored, or so intricate that it increases your levels of panic. You can find all of the reviews I’ve written in alphabetical order here and product reviews are at the bottom of that list, and I’ve grouped them into intricacy levels here.
One last thing I feel I really ought to make you aware of is that adult colouring is highly addictive. You may go into it thinking that you’ll buy just one book and one pack of pens, that’s how we all started, but trust me, it’ll never be enough and you’ll end up always chasing the next release and that next colouring fix. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fabulous addiction and one that I’m personally quite proud of as I survey my ever-growing collection of pens and pencils and bookshelf that is full to bursting, but nonetheless, it is addictive and you quickly feel that you have to collect books and seek out the perfect colouring pencil. Check out my pre-order list here for all of the books I’m pining for that are being released over the next few months!
I really hope this post will have helped explain the basics to all of the new people joining the adult colouring world who were unsure where to start. If you can’t find what you’re looking for or would like specific help finding books or colouring mediums to suit you then please don’t hesitate to contact me by clicking here and filling out the contact form and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I like nothing more than matching people up to their ideal colouring books and mediums and the more specific you are, the easier it is. I’ve reviewed over 90 books and products so far and the number is rising weekly and on top of all of those, I’m aware of a great deal more books and products and have read countless reviews from others so I can hopefully point you in the right direction even if I’ve not reviewed the item myself. Last but not least, please do follow me in some way so that you can be kept updated with new blog posts, reviews, and colouring news etc. Links to everything are down the right-hand side of this page or you can click here to find me on Twitter, or click here for Facebook, or you can follow my blog via email at the top right of this page.
Where to Buy
Adult colouring books and colouring mediums can be found in most book, art and craft shops and can also be found in a host of places online. My favourite places to order books from are Amazon UK and Book Depository who do free shipping worldwide and links to both of these can be found on every review I post. To get you started here are the links to their adult colouring book sections.
Amazon UK – Amazon Adult Colouring Books
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/adult-colouring-books/?a_aid=colouringitmom