In search of coloring supplies or just curious about what’s out there? Use the links above to jump to a section or just scroll down the list below. My personal favorites (because I have and use them regularly) are marked with a ❤️. If there isn’t a heart, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a great product⏤it simply means I don’t have that particular product, or use it frequently enough in my own artwork to have an opinion one way or the other.
Art supplies are very personal⏤what works for one person may not for another⏤so never be afraid to experiment and if you like something (despite what others say) use it! Fortunately, you can always order a few single pencils, pens or paints to try before committing to a full set from websites like Blick. Also, if a brand or product is not listed here, either I am not familiar with it, or it is one of many new or off-brands (or re-brands) that have been flooding the market recently (especially on Amazon). If there is there a product you would like to see listed (or reviewed in a blog post if I have the product), please drop me a line.
I will be updating this list on occasion (and adding more information), so check back and / or feel free to bookmark this page as a reference.
Disclosure: Please note that as a Blick affiliate, I may receive a small commission on purchases through links to Blick. This will not affect the price of your products, or your shopping experience, but it can help support my small art business. So thank you in advance!
Colored pencil blenders blend colors together to achieve smoother gradients (and can get rid of white specks on textured papers) but blenders can also burnish your colorings. Burnishing uses more pressure which can actually flatten the texture of the paper and “lock in” your colors. Once a coloring is burnished, it is very difficult to add additional layers of pencil on top and it gives the coloring a more intense (saturated) and often shiny appearance (depending on the tool you use to burnish). A blender can take the form of a stick, brush (for pastels especially), pencil, stump, tortillion, powder or liquid (a solvent). You can even use a simple cotton swab to blend colors.
There are so many pencil brands on the market today it’s almost impossible to keep up with them all. I am including the most popular (recognized, easy to find, tried and true) pencils, and will likely add more as time goes on. Colored pencils typically have a wood case with a colored core made of a blend of waxes, oils, pigments and other ingredients. Many pencils are marketed as predominantly wax or predominantly oil (and people do have their own preferences) but in reality, all colored pencils contain both waxes and oils in varying degrees. So for example, if you have tried a brand marketed as an oil pencil and didn’t like it, don’t be quick to write off all oil pencils. Student-grade pencils are less expensive due to lower quality pigments and they are not lightfast. Artist or professional quality pencils are made with much higher quality pigments and binders and are lightfast (which means they won’t, or are a lot less likely to, fade over time). If you are coloring just for fun, the lightfast rating of a pencil is not that important. If you want your colored pencil work to last, then opt for pencils that have a higher lightfast rating. If you are interested in learning more about lightfastness related to colored pencils, visit the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA).
Crayons come in different shapes, but most are shorter than pencils (about finger length) and wider in diameter. Kids’ Crayola crayons usually come to mind, but there are artist grade crayons and pigment sticks as well. Most are wax-based but some include clay, charcoal and chalk. While some crayons are water-resistant (those that are wax-based), others are water-soluble such as Faber-Castell Gelatos.
|❤️ Bambino Clay Crayons (my review)||Conté à Paris Crayons|
|Caran d’Ache Neocolor I Wax Pastels||Faber-Castell Gelatos|
|Caran d’Ache Swisscolor Wax Pastels||Prang Poster Pastellos|
Though there is some overlap with markers and paint pens, illustration and technical pens are generally more finely-tipped and are used for detail work (as opposed to filling in larger areas). Some are (W) (water-based and not permanent) while others are permanent (P) (even if they are water-based due to the inks used), and some are considered water resistant (WR). Pay attention to the tip size⏤many are distinguished numerically as shown below in millimeters for the Rapidiograph pen nibs. Others (like the Faber-Castell Pitt pens) use XS, S, F, M, B (brush) and SB (small brush) to signify size. Most manufacturers with include photos of pen tips sizes on their websites. Some sets of pens have only black ink while others include colors.
Ink generally falls into two categories: permanent (P) and impermanent or washable (W) and is made from a variety of ingredients (primarily water or alcohol) in addition to pigments. There is also acrylic ink which can be thinned with water but, once dry, is permanent (AP). Other inks are considered water-resistant (WR) when dry. Once dry, permanent inks will not smear, smudge or bleed, even if you use other inks or watercolors on top of them. Inks can be used in special brushes and pens, and can even be dabbed, painted or splattered onto paper.
Markers are typically washable and soluble (W: water-based) or permanent (A: alcohol-based) and come in a wide variety of tip, brush or nib styles. Alcohol-based markers can be readily blended and are mostly lightfast. Water-based markers are usually less expensive, but because they don’t blend as well as alcohol markers, coloring can look streaky and may fade over time. Water-based markers are typically non-toxic and do not smell strong like alcohol markers do. There are also India ink-based markers (I) (such as the waterproof Pitt Pens by Faber-Castell). All markers tend to bleed through paper, so always use a protective sheet under your coloring to protect the surface or pages underneath. Some marker sets come with a colorless blender.
Paint pens contain pigmented liquid in a barrel or reservoir that usually includes a small metal ball that rattles around. The ball helps to keep the paint from settling and helps it flow more smoothly. These pens should always be gently shaken before each use and they should always be stored horizontally with the caps securely tightened. Most paint pens can be used on a variety of surfaces including fabric, glass, paper and plastic and can be found with a variety of tip sizes. I tend to use them mainly for small details, lettering or embellishing.
|Decocolor Paint Markers |
|Spectrum Noir Acrylic Paint Markers |
|❤️ Derwent Paint Pens |
(permanent waterbased ink)
|Sakura Pen-Touch Paint Markers |
(archival ink, waterproof)
|Karin Pigment Decobrush Markers |
|❤️ Sakura Soufflé 3-D Paint Pens |
(water-based, dried permanent)
|❤️ Ranger Dylusions Paint Pens |
|Uni Posca Paint Markers |
|Spectrum Noir Sparkle Glitter Brush Pen |
|❤️ Zeyar Paint Pens |
(water-based, permanent, waterproof ink)
While colored pencils are made with a wax/oil binder that contains pigment, pastel pencils consist of pure pigment (with the addition of some binder) encased in wood. They are not as messy as traditional pastel sticks (which don’t have a casing) but they still smudge and blend beautifully, are a bit sturdier to hold, and offer the artist more control. They can work well for details since they are easy to sharpen, but since they smudge so easily, artwork should be treated with a spray fixative (which can change the colors so use with caution) or placed under glass for protection.
Not your traditional paintbrush! The waterbrush has a reservoir that holds water so all you have to do is squeeze the barrel or push a button to release the water while painting. Some use a plunger mechanism to push water through the barrel and most all of them have a small sponge between the barrel and the brush to help regulate the flow of water. Waterbrushes allow you to paint on the go (without having to carry a separate water container) and they include a cap that protects the brush bristles (or fiber tip) which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
|Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle Waterbrush |
(push button & plunger)
|❤️ Niji Waterbrush (squeeze)|
|Derwent Push Button Waterbrushes|
(push button & plunger)
|❤️ Pentel Aquash Water Brushes (squeeze)|
|Faber-Castell Water Brush |
(push button & plunger)
|❤️ Sakura Koi Water Brush (squeeze)|
|❤️ Kuretake ZIG BrusH2O Water Brush (squeeze)||❤️ Tombow Water Brushes (squeeze)|
|Molotow Aqua Squeeze Brush Pens (squeeze)|
Watercolors are mostly translucent and consist primarily of pigments blended with a water soluble binder (typically gum arabic). Other ingredients may be added to help the paints perform better and even extend their life. Higher quality watercolors are rated for lightfastness and many are labeled as transparent (you can see through them), semi-transparent, semi-opaque or opaque (difficult to see through). Watercolors can be hard and dry (often called “pans” and half-pans) which dissolve in water, or they can come in liquid form inside tubes or bottles that can then be further diluted with water.
|Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor||Rembrandt Artists’ Watercolor Tubes|
|❤️ Derwent Inktense Paint Pans||Sennelier French Artists’ Watercolor|
|Grumbacher Academy Watercolor||Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor|
|Holbein Artists’ Watercolor|
Watercolor pencils resemble colored pencils at first glance, and you can use them just like a colored pencil, but what makes them different is their ability to dissolve with water. The core of the pencil contains a water soluble binder in addition to pigments, so when you wet your colors with a brush, they spread and become more translucent. There are many techniques to explore when using watercolor pencils and they work best on watercolor paper, though many colorists use them successfully on other types of paper as well. They can also work well (once dry) with colored pencils. Watercolor crayons are very similar to watercolor pencils in that their colors dissolve with water, but they are different in size and shape.
These iridescent specialty paints are becoming very popular with colorists, and for now, I am only listing a few watercolor mica, holographic and pearlescent paints. Pearlescent paints have a fine shimmer or glow, while mica paints tend to have an even more reflective, intense shimmer. Holographic watercolors are glittery and you can see the flecks or flakes of mica (which can be natural or synthetic) in the paint itself. These paints can come in a variety of forms including pans, half pans, tubes and bottles. Handmade watercolors (including micas and holographics) are wonderfully fun, and as many of you know, I am absolutely in love with the micas made by Karen Spencer.
|❤️ Karen Spencer Handmade Mica & Holographic Watercolors||Finetec Artist Mica Watercolor|
|Niji Pearlescent Watercolor|
For now, this category includes an extra tool I have had my eye on for a long time (but have not tried yet). For those coloring addicts with expendable income, check out the heated Icarus Painting Board which can be used under colored pencils, artist crayons and oil pastels to help blend and manipulate your wax-based colors. If any of you have tried this board, I would love to hear about your experience!
Finally, a shameless plug for The Ruby Charm Colors Big Book of Color Charts which I designed especially for coloring book fans, but can also be useful for anyone who loves pencils and other related art supplies. To learn more about this book and see the full list of color charts included in the book, click here.