“What art supply should I use for coloring?” is the second question a new colorist asks — right after answering their first question, “Hm, should I start coloring?” with “Yes!” There are markers, colored pencils, crayons, pastels, paints and more to choose from. It can be a tough decision, especially if you’ve got limited funds to invest in your new hobby. Here’s a little ditty to help you decide whether to pick up some markers to use with your adult coloring books and pages.
The pros of coloring with markers
Bright colors: Markers typically lay really bright, solid color onto the page. Dry supplies like colored pencils and crayons can end up looking relatively washed out.
Consistent application: Because markers rely on a consistent flow of ink, the color they put down is similarly consistent. You can depend on even the moderately cheap ones to put down ink in a consistent shade.
Low tension: Markers won’t tempt you to press down hard to get those bright, vibrant colors. They’re a great choice for colorists who tire easily, are prone to hand cramping, or suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.
Constant precision: Markers don’t need to be sharpened. As long as you don’t press down hard with them, their felty points should stay nice and precise for a long time.
Durable: Dry coloring supplies like colored pencils and crayons are delicate. Colored pencil lead can break even inside the wood of the pencil, ruining the whole pencil, and crayons can snap into little pieces if you’re not careful. Their inky counterparts are much more durable than this.
The cons of coloring with markers
Less color variety: A package of markers often has fewer colors for the same price as a package of colored pencils. You can get a lot of color variation by layering colored pencils and crayons, but it’s not so easy to do this with markers.
Layering trouble: Since the ink always goes on bright and dark, there’s little room left on the page to add another color on top without either darkening the color too much or causing the paper to pile and tear. Most of the time you’ll have to stick with the colors you’re given without the ability to create more.
Bleed-through and cross-bleeding: Most markers, excepting some of the more pricy brands and those with notations on the package, are likely to bleed through your page. This makes them a poor choice for coloring books since they could ruin the line art on the reverse of the page and sometimes even the next page too. You’ll also need to be careful about coloring printable pages with markers, since inkjet printer ink is susceptible to smudging when dampened. Laser printed and photocopied pages are marker-safe, though.
Cross-contamination: Unless the owner is practically obsessive-compulsive about it, every yellow marker ends up with a black tip. This sort of cross-contamination comes from coloring with a light color over top of a darker color — or even next to a darker color, unless you color with such precision that your tip never touches the other color while still managing not to leave any white space. Not only can your lighter markers accidentally drag a darker color into a light space, the cross-contamination can carry over to the next project. Watch out!
Indellible: It’s not easy to fix a mistake with markers. Dry pigments can be erased or at least scraped away a bit, but once you’ve markered, you’re stuck with it. You’ll need white-out to remove a mark, but white-out doesn’t carry marker very well and will probably show on your finished product. In short, you’ll need to get pretty creative to fix any mistakes.
Sudden death: Markers don’t go out with a bang or with a whimper — they just go out. Usually right in the middle of a coloring job. If you’re lucky, the color will start to fade a bit to warn you it’s about to die, but you won’t have much time. In any case, you’d benefit from having a backup of the same color.
One more tip
Don’t buy the cheapest markers you can find. They’re more likely to dry up faster and put color down inconsistently. Don’t get super expensive professional artist markers either, as you may end up paying for features you’re not even interested in using. If you’re just starting out as a colorist, start with a set of markers that’s a grade or two above the bottom of the barrel. Choose the middle path. You’ll get a good representation of markers to experiment with, and if it turns out you don’t like markers as much as other supplies there will be no need for regret.