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Adult Coloring Supplies (Books, Pens & Markers) You Need to Get Started

Do you need a new hobby? Are you looking for a way to relax and unwind after a busy day? In recent years, adults have been turning to a pastime from their childhood to help ease the day’s stresses: coloring.

Scientific evidence shows that coloring can be a great way to help adults relax. The Cleveland Clinic notes that coloring gives you something to focus on, which helps quiet the brain. It also gets you to turn your attention away from yourself.

Plus, coloring is pretty low-stakes. If your work involves many high-pressure situations, having a hobby that’s difficult to mess up and doesn’t put a lot of demands on you can be good for balance.

It doesn’t take much to get started with coloring as a hobby. The only art supplies you need are something to color and something to color with. As you get more and more into the hobby, you can start spending more on your supplies and experimenting with different media and types of designs.

Best Adult Coloring Supplies

When you’re just getting started with adult coloring, just get pencils or markers and a few coloring books. If you find coloring helps you relax, and you have the budget to spend more, you can start getting fancy with your supplies.

1. Coloring Books

You can’t get into coloring without something to color. Coloring books for grown-ups tend to feature more intricate designs, such as mandalas, compared to books designed for children. If the patterns or pictures you’re coloring are too easy, you’ll quickly get bored.

When you’re a beginner, it can be worthwhile to get free printable coloring pages to get an idea of what you like to color and what doesn’t appeal to you. Just Color has more than 1,500 printable pages in a variety of designs and patterns.

You can also check out coloring books with rave reviews on Amazon. “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book for Adults” has a nearly 5-star rating with more than 10,000 reviews. The “Coloring Book for Adults: Relaxation” also has a nearly 5-star rating and thousands of reviews.

If you like a little humor with your stress-relief, you can color in your favorite swear words. “A Swear Word Coloring Book for Adults” has more than 10,000 reviews and a rating near 5 stars.

A more peaceful option is to color in images from your favorite Disney films. More than 15,000 people have reviewed the “Disney Dreams Collection” coloring book, giving it nearly a 5-star rating.

2. Colored Pencils

Although crayons might be the instrument of choice for children who color, most adults prefer to use colored pencils, pens, or markers. Crayons’ size and shape can make it difficult to color in small areas or do detailed work.

Colored pencils come in two main varieties: oil-based and wax-based. Wax-based pencils are good for beginners because they’re easier to handle. If you’re just getting started, a good set to try is Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. They’re smooth and deeply pigmented and cost just a little over $1 per pencil if you buy the 12-pack.

As you get more into coloring, you might decide to spring for a set of oil-based pencils. Oil-based pencils blend more easily than wax-based ones, but there’s a learning curve when handling them. It’s very easy to put down too much color with an oil-based pencil, and they smear more readily.

A tin of 12 Faber Castell Polychromos oil-based pencils costs nearly twice as much as the Prismacolor Premier. But if you’re ready to up your coloring game, it can be worth it.

3. Markers

There are generally two camps in the adult coloring word: the colored pencil camp and the markers camp. Some people are convinced they’ll be a colored pencil person only to try markers and realize they prefer using them. So it’s worth trying out both to see which medium you like most.

The best art markers blend well and won’t bleed through the pages of adult coloring books. The rest is a matter of personal preference. You might want fine-point markers with a single tip or dual-tip markers, which have a fine tip and a thicker one. Some markers are refillable and have replaceable nibs, giving them a practically unlimited life.

If you’re just dipping your toes into coloring, a good marker set to start with is the Crayola Fine Line 40-count set. It costs more than a basic pack of Crayola markers you might buy for your kids’ art class but a lot less than other markers meant for adults.

These markers have vivid colors and a good selection of hues. They also have a relatively long life. Note: Crayola markers can dispense ink heavily, so use a light hand when coloring with them.

If you want to spend a bit more on markers or are looking for a brush tip, try Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pens. The markers don’t bleed through paper, and they dry to be completely smudge-proof.

Looking for the Rolls-Royce of markers? You need the Copic Ciao set. Copic markers are refillable, and you can replace the nibs if they become damaged. The ink is alcohol-based, so it causes less damage to paper than water-based ink. It’s also acid-free, so it won’t wear down the page over time. Copic markers easily cost about 10 times as much as Crayolas, so they’re only worth getting if you know you’re going to be into coloring for a while.

4. Gel Pens

Let’s not forget about the gel pen camp of colorists. While the colored pencil people and the markers folks are squaring off, team gel pen is coloring away in a corner. Gel pens have a much thinner tip than most markers, making them an excellent tool to use for fine detail work. They also color smoothly, thanks to their liquid ink.

Plus, they’re available in tons of fun colors, including metallic and glitter options, as well as primary and pastel colors. The liquid ink tends to take longer to dry than markers, making them suitable for blending too.

If you want lots of gel pens for a small price, the Fineliner color pen set is a good place to start. It contains 60 pens in a range of colors, including metallics and bright colors. Note: The pens come in a metal case, which isn’t ideal for gel pens, so be sure to store them standing upright.

If you’re sure you’re on team gel pen and are ready to spend a bit more, consider the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner 20 pack. The pens come in a box you can stand upright on your desk to keep the tips from getting gummy. The Staedtler Fineliner pens have a Dry Safe feature, which keeps them from drying up even if you forget to replace the cap.

Want some more unique color options? Sakura Gelly Roll is credited with introducing gel ink pens to the market. The brand is known for producing lots of vibrant colors, including a set of metallic, glittery ink pens.

5. Pencil Sharpener

All colored pencils need sharpening eventually. Either the tip of the pencil breaks off, or it dulls from use. You may have been sharpening pencils since kindergarten, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to sharpen your colored pencils. And some types of sharpeners are better than others for colored pencils.

Your best bet is to get a small, handheld sharpener, like the Maped 2-hole classic sharpener. It’s inexpensive and has openings for standard-size pencils and thicker coloring tools, such as charcoal. An electric sharpener or a crank-style sharpener is likely to chew up your pencils and isn’t worth the extra cost or hassle.

Using a handheld sharpener gives you the most control. You can tell if you’re using too much pressure, so you can avoid oversharpening your pencils.

Keep two things in mind when using a handheld sharpener. First, the blade must be sharp. A dull blade won’t sharpen well and is more likely to chew up or break your pencil.

The other is the method you use to sharpen the pencil. Turn the sharpener while holding the pencil still. If you turn the pencil, you end up putting much more pressure on it, which can damage it.

6. Erasers

You can use erasers to lighten color in a particular area or clean up your work as you near the end.

Like markers, the type of eraser you use is a matter of personal preference. Some colorists love kneadable erasers, which let you lift excess color off of the page. Others prefer erasers in the shape of a pen, such as the Tombow mono eraser. The Tombow eraser is similar in size and shape to a pencil line, making it easier to remove errant lines or marks.

7. Pencil Extender

The more you use and sharpen colored pencils, the smaller they get. At some point, they get so small they aren’t comfortable to hold in your hand. That’s where a pencil extender comes in handy. A pencil extender helps you get the most out of your colored pencils by making them long enough to hold in your hand once again.

When choosing a pencil extender, look for one that securely attaches to your pencil and has a comfortable grip. The Derwent pencil extender set contains two extenders, one for standard-size pencils (up to 7 mm) and one for thicker pencils. The extenders screw onto the end of your pencils, gripping them securely. They also have a soft coating on the barrel that makes them comfortable to hold in your hand.

8. Blenders

When you’re ready to take your coloring to the next level, invest in blending tools, which let you soften edges between colors or create an ombre effect. You can also use blenders for layering colors.

If you use colored pencils, you’ll want a blending pencil, such as the Prismacolor colorless blender pencil. It has the same soft core you’ll find in Prismacolor colored pencils but is clear, so it doesn’t change the color of your work. This blender pencil does a good job of removing white areas from your coloring pages, creating smoother, more deeply pigmented work.

A marker blender is an alcohol-based marker without ink. You can use it to fade color into the page or lighten a color that’s too dark. Some people put the blender on the page before coloring with a marker to create a lighter shade. A blender marker isn’t meant for blending different colors, however.

Copic has a colorless blender that works with its markers. Crayola has also introduced a line of markers that work with a colorless blender. The Crayola set can be a good choice if you want to play around with blending before shelling out for a pricier set of markers and a separate blender.

9. Carrying Case and Organizer

Your coloring pencils or markers might come in their own carrying case, but you’ll also want somewhere to stash coloring accessories, like erasers and sharpeners. The LIHIT LAB zipper pen case is compact and portable and has room to store pencils, markers, and accessories securely. It also comes in a variety of colors.

To store coloring supplies on a desk, choose a divided organizer, such as the mDesign storage organizer caddy, which has six sections for all your coloring supplies. This organizer is ideal for gel pen storage as it will keep the pens upright.

The bigger your coloring stash gets, the bigger your storage options will need to be. The four-drawer artist’s storage box has plenty of room for all your supplies. Plus, it looks attractive.

10. Color Theory and Tutorial Books

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. As you get more into coloring, whether for fun or stress relief, you might find you’re more interested in color theory and how colors work together. Josef Albers is considered the master of color theory. His book “Interaction of Color” is a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about color and art in general.

If you want more practical coloring advice, check out the “New Guide to Coloring.” It’s designed for colorists of all levels, including beginners, and will teach you the basics of blending, layering, and shading.

As you build your skills as a colorist, “Color Workshop” can be worth a read. It contains tips for creating artistic effects with color.

Final Word

Whether it’s something you do just for fun or to earn some extra cash, starting a new hobby is always an excellent excuse to learn and grow.

While you might be excited to jump into coloring, it’s wise to start small. Buy only what you need and go with the more affordable choices first. If you find you enjoy coloring, you can upgrade to higher-quality pencils or markers and start laying out some serious cash on coloring books and other gear.

Amy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia, PA. Her interest in personal finance and budgeting began when she was earning an MFA in theater, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country (Brooklyn, NY) on a student's budget. You can read more of her work on her website, Amy E. Freeman.