Getting Started

So, you’ve discovered adult coloring and you want to know what you need to get started. Well, first off of course you’ll need some adult coloring books. There are many different types out there for all tastes and skill levels.

Coloring Books

Books are a personal preference and while some people might love one, other’s might not. Try to pick books that interest you and inspire you to color in them. There are many flip through videos of books that you can find on YouTube or on Amazon under the books listing where the reviews are. People will also show some of the pictures from inside the book if you want to see what’s in it before you buy.

Coloring Tools

The next thing to consider is coloring tools. There are so many things you can use to color with. Of course, you have the usual colored pencils, markers, gel pens, paints, watercolor pencils and crayons. Colored Pencils There are four different types of colored pencils.

  • Oil based,
  • wax based,
  • watercolor
  • and pastel.

They have different uses, and can work differently depending on the type of softness/hardness of the lead along with the lightfastness and durability. I will be doing an in-depth post on this and the differences between different brands, types, prices, and how they work later. For now, here are the basics. Both oil and wax based colored pencils contain wax. Oil pencils contain more oil in the binding materials then the wax ones do. There are also different grades of pencils.

  • Novice grade,
  • scholastic grade
  • and artist/professional grade.

Novice Level Pencils

Novice level are the type of pencils you would find in a dollar/department store or like you used in grade school.

Scholastic Level Pencils

Scholastic level are a step up from the novice grade with a bit better quality making them easier to use and achieve better results but with less pigmentation than artists grade. You can achieve great results with them it will just take time and effort learning different techniques to achieve it.

Professional Level Pencils

Artist/Professional level are pencils used by artists due to their bendability and lightfastness. There are both oil and wax based ones which work very differently. These tend to be found mostly in art stores or on Amazon and are quite costly depending on brand and type. Some like Prismacolor have come down in price compared to what they cost last year but are still high end and expensive for the average budget. While these are wonderful pencils to have if you can afford them, they are not a necessity as you can achieve beautiful results using more affordable types it just takes time, patience and skill. It can be achieved and there are many tutorials on YouTube that reflect this.

Wax Based Colored Pencils

Most common are the wax based ones which can be easily found in most stores. Wax pencils come in different qualities and the prices will reflect this. You can get student grade pencil crayons for as low as $1 at the dollar store, where artist grades can cost you into the $100’s. Waxed based pencils are generally more durable than oil due to their harder cores, unless using a soft-core pencil such as Prismacolor Premiers.  They also come with a much bigger color selection then oil and are much easier to find. The biggest complaint about wax pencils is wax bloom. Wax bloom occurs naturally when using waxed based pencils because over time the material settles and the wax binder rises to the top causing a white film to appear. To remove wax bloom, you can just wipe it away or spray it with a fixative to seal it in and prevent air from touching it.

Oil Based Colored Pencils

Oil based pencils are designed for professional artists as opposed to hobby colorists hence the much higher price tag. They are favored over wax by some because they are very smooth and both layer and blend better than wax based without having the wax bloom. They are less durable than wax ones because they dispense color and coverage with such ease even with one stroke. But again, oil based pencils are classified as ‘specialized’ for artists. Using them is not the same as using a wax based ones. It takes time and patience to learn how to use them properly. The reason I say this is because oil based pencils feel hard when applying but the color goes on very easily/creamy and easily smears as well. Also because of how it dispenses color it doesn’t require as many layers as wax does and they blend without having to use blending pencils/markers/fixatives.  These pencils are made for professional artists, therefore the cost is higher. They are not your average purchase and can be quite the investment. If you are new to coloring and/or on a budget I would recommend starting with waxed based pencils over oil, unless you can find a reasonably priced brand. There are a few, but not many. I will get into this more later.

Water Color Pencils

Watercolor pencils are water soluble giving you the ability to color with them like a colored pencil then use a paint brush with some water to spread the color giving a watercolor effect. These can work wonderfully to create some great artwork but there are some downfalls to them. On regular coloring book papers, it can cause the paper to buckle as you’re making it wet. It is best to use them on watercolor paper that is specifically made for this type of colouring. Even cardstock can buckle if you use too much water. The key here is limited use of water.


Markers come in two types, alcohol and water based. Alcohol markers tend to be permanent markers and work better than water based ones. Alcohol markers dry faster and when you layer colors they don’t mix as water based ones do. They’re cost compared to water based ones is a lot more expensive, especially the professional artist’s brands.

Water Based Markers

Water based can be found almost anywhere. They are the typical markers you can find at dollar stores, Walmart, and most stores. Alcohol ones can be harder to find, in particular the professional artist quality brands, and the markers tend to bleed a lot more.  While water based ones don’t bleed as much I highly recommend testing them first as they can bleed through and if your page isn’t thick or one sided it could ruin the page behind it.

Gel Pens

Gel pens have been very popular in the past for writing, but now they are even more popular with adult colorists. There are so many different brands and types of gel pens and their costs can vary. The thing with gel pens is you must wait for them to dry, if you don’t they can smear and ruin the page you’re coloring. They come in regular inks, metallic, glitter, neon and pastel colors. There are also swirl mixes but this gives you no control on what color comes out so while great for writing, I personally don’t like them much for coloring unless you’re not looking for specific colors and want a mix. Blending with gel pens can be done but not easily. It takes time and patience to learn the techniques to do so. Gel pens don’t normally bleed though if you use light strokes but on thinner paper can do so as well as leaving shadowing on the page behind it, so you’ll want to test them out first. Also with gel pens you can run into some that skip, leave streaks or come out in blobs which can cause problems.  


Pastels both oil and chalk pastels can be wonderful to use in your coloring books but can be messy and you should use a fixative to seal it in after using. Most people use chalk pastels for backgrounds on pages. Oils are not used very often. There is less control of placement with both making them okay for backgrounds but not so good for coloring in your picture unless using pastel pencils which give you much more control but are quite costly.  


Eyeshadows have become very popular with adult colorist for doing backgrounds. I’ve some people do whole pages with them, although it would take a lot of time to do so. You can use makeup/paint brushes, Q-tips or sponges to apply it but you must use a fixative to seal it in so it doesn’t come off on other pages or fades. It can be quite fun but also very messy. You can find lots of pallets with a huge variety of colors at dollar stores which is where most colorists are purchasing them from. Also for your expired products, now you have something to do with them when you can’t use them on your face any more.  


Crayons of course can be used for coloring, but they’re harder to use than other methods in adult coloring books that tend to have a lot of fine detail as they don’t sharpen to a fine enough point. They can however be used for backgrounds or larger areas. As well, they tend to leave a lot of whitespace which you would need to use a blending solvent, stomp or blender to help you get rid of those.


Paint, both watercolor and acrylic have been used for adult coloring, because of the wetness of it you would need to use special paper or treat the paper in the book you are coloring before you use paint to avoid buckling of the paper. Oil paint is used on canvases so unless you are purchasing pre-printed canvas designs I wouldn’t recommend it for books.

Additional Tools

Blenders, solvents and fixatives are also used in adult coloring to help with blending and sealing in your coloring when using items like pastels and eyeshadows. There are colorless blending pencils and markers that work the same as the pencils/markers do only it blends the colors without adding any color. Do note that this is something you should do when you’re done the picture or area as I have found with blending pencils it’s hard to add more layers after using them. Personally, I like using the blender markers better than the pencils as with it being wet it blends much better, and it can be used on pencils. I will discuss this and show examples in the future when reviewing different mediums to show how they work.