What To Use For Colouring

When faced with a colouring page, a child will pick up anything that’s in front of them to colour. They don’t worry about waxy vs creamy colouring pencils or alcohol-based vs water-based markers. If it colours, and it’s there, they’ll use it.

As grown-ups starting to colour again, we’re a little bit more hesitant. We ask a lot more questions: What do we use to colour? What are the best brands to use? How do we use these colouring tools?

They’re all good and valid questions. We would need several posts to address these questions at Paper Boat Publishing’s blog.

For now, we thought it would be good to share what we have learnt and know so far. We will then update this post as we find more information to share. So, do bookmark this page and come back for future reference. You can also subscribe to our blog for updates.

What's Your Favourite Colouring Tool or Medium?

How do you choose the best colouring tool or medium?

Currently, there are several colouring tools available, with dozens of brands for each type.  Here, we’ll give you an overview of different colouring tools and what we think of them. Especially in relation to Paper Boat Publishing’s colouring books and journals.

But, ultimately:  Choosing a colouring tool or medium is a matter of personal preference. Test or borrow a friend’s colouring set to see if it’s something you’d like. Go to art shops and see if they have testers/samples. Start with something inexpensive while you’re trying to figure out what you enjoy colouring with the most. And, just experiment and have fun!

Please note: When we mention brand names, we will  be rating them with $ signs, based on cost ($ is cheapest, $$ is mid-range, and $$$ is expensive/professional range).

Colour Pencils

Colour pencils are our personal colouring favourite at Paper Boat Publishing. We love the ease and practicality of colour pencils. You can start light and build layers to create interest and depth in the designs that you’re colouring. And, you can achieve good results, even when using some inexpensive brands.

However, some people find it hard to work with the cheaper variety pencils, as many of them don’t colour as well as professional or artist grade colour pencils. And, it can take a while to bring out the vibrancy of images with colour pencils.

There are different types of colour pencils that usually come in student and artist or professional grade: regular colour pencils, watercolour pencils, and oil-based colour pencils.

From our experience, any brand of colour pencils would work with our books/journals. It just depends on what effect you’re trying to achieve (subtle, vibrant, simple, etc).

Also, when using watercolour pencils, it is always best to go easy on the water. Just wet your brush enough to moisten the surface of your paper and spread the colour. Too much water would lessen the vibrancy of your colour and make it difficult to manage. And, it can possibly damage your paper too.

Some of our favourite colour pencil brands include: Crayola Colour Pencils ($), Faber Castell Polychromos ($$$), Prismacolor Premier ($$$), Derwent Inktense ($$$)

Also recommended: Crayola Twistable Pencils ($), Faber Castell Classic ($), Marco Eco-Plus Oil-based Colour Pencils ($$)

Some colour pencils that have been recommended by others but we haven’t tested yet: Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Pencils ($$), Marco Raffine Oil-based Colour Pencils ($$), Prismacolor Scholar ($$)


Markers are great for colouring. They’re vibrant and they can give you a lot of coverage quicker than colour pencils.

However, there are challenges when colouring with markers. The biggest one is ‘bleed through’. That’s when the marker’s ink bleeds through the paper. If you’re colouring double-sided colouring books (pictures are on both sides of the pages), then you’re bound to render one of the pictures unusable, unless the paper of the book you’re using is extra thick.

Paper Boat Publishing’s colouring books/journals are single-sided only, with light-medium weight paper. Our guided journals are usually double-sided, also with light-medium weight paper. So, it’s important to make sure that the markers you use are compatible to avoid disappointment.

Also, it must be noted that there are two types of markers available: alcohol-based markers and water-based markers. Basically, alcohol-based markers have their colours/dye/pigment suspended in alcohol, instead of water. This means that they are not water-soluble so they are permanent and may be used on various surfaces. Water-based markers use water-soluble inks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are washable. You have to check the particular marker set if they are washable.

Also, another important tip: When using markers to colour, make sure to put a piece of paper or cardstock between the page you’re colouring and the next page. This is to protect the next design, in case your marker bleeds through. And, try not to go over the same part of the design too many times to avoid paper damage/bleedthrough.

Some recommended brands of markers for colouring: Crayola  Supertips($), Crayola Metallic Markers ($), Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen ($$), Tombow Dual Brush Pens ($$$), Crayola Pip Squeaks ($)

These are markers that some people like to use in colouring but are NOT* recommended for use with our books/journals: Sharpie Permanent Markers ($), Bic MarkIts ($), Copic Sketch ($$$), Copic Ciao ($$$)

Here are other brands that people like to use but we cannot guarantee (yet) if they would be okay to use with our books/journals: Chameleon Pens ($$$), Faber Castell Connector Pens ($), Prismacolor Brush Tip Markers ($$)

Tip: If you wish to use markers, we suggest you copy the design/s you like on to cardstock and then colour. But, please note that the copyright of these designs remain with the artist. Use your copies for just personal purposes. Do not distribute without permission. And, please share only coloured images on social media, with credit to the artist. 

*You can still use them in the colouring books, but the ink will be bleed through the pages. So, please make sure to put cardstock or a sheet of paper between the pages to protect the design on the next page. Since the journals are double-sided, these markers won’t work well in them. 


Fineliners are markers with a finer tip. They’re great to use for going into those tiny details that you can find in several colouring books for adults. Unlike your regular markers, however, they don’t give as much coverage.

When choosing fineliners, remember that they come in either alcohol-based or water-based varieties as well. Typically, alcohol-based markers bleed through more than water-based ones. So, we often recommend water-based markers for colouring-in, especially with our books/journals.

As always, make sure you test your colouring tools/medium in a ‘safer’ area first before colouring the designs in the book. And, avoid ‘overcolouring’ a section to prevent paper damage/bleedthrough.

Recommended brands: Staedtler TriPlus Fineliners ($), Sharpie Fine ($)

Some brands recommended by others, but we haven’t tested them on our books yet: Stabilo Fineliner Pens ($), Artline Fineliners 200, 210 or 220 ($)

Gel Pens

A lot of people really love colouring with gel pens. And, it’s completely understandable!

Gel pens are fun and smooth. And, best of all, they come in funky colours – including neons, pastels, and metallic.

Colouring with gel pens, however, have some down sides. We won’t go through all of them in this post, but one of the biggest challenges when using gel pens to colour is making sure that the ink doesn’t smear. Gel pens take a little longer to dry, so the colourist need to be very careful. Also, if you colour a lot, you might use up your gel pens very quickly.

Recommended brand: Coloured Gel Pens in Zip Lock Bag from Kmart ($)

Other available but untested brands include: Sakura Gelly Roll Pens ($$),  Point N’ Line/Gel N’ Roll ($)

Wax Crayons

These are the regular crayons that everyone uses from kindergarten. They’re always winners when it comes to colouring. They’re great, especially if you prefer colouring simple designs. The challenge with using them is that they become difficult to use when colouring intricate patterns, which are typical in many colouring books for adults. And, it can also be challenging to build depth.

To make the most out of colouring with wax crayons, try to sharpen the ends of your crayons and just use them on bigger areas of the designs.

You might also be interested to know that some crayons are watersoluble, so that can also add a new dimension in to your colouring practice should you decide to use them with water.

Nearly all wax crayons should work with colouring. However, here are some recommended brands: Crayola ($), Caran D’Ache  Necolour II Watersoluble ($$$), Faber Castell Erasable Crayons ($)

Other Colouring Tools

There are many other colouring medium or tools that you can use, depending on what you’re trying to achieve and what kind of materials you’re working with. Some people have reported using watercolours, acrylic inks, paint pens, oil pastels, soft pastels, Pan Pastels ($$$), highlighters, coloured ballpoint pens, and even make-up (eyeshadow, blush) and nail polish.

While soft pastels, Pan Pastels, and make-up would work nicely on the pages of our colouring books/guided journals, please note that these colouring tools have loose pigment (colour). So, you might need to use some kind of fixative to avoid smearing of the pigment.

If you have other favourite colouring tools/medium that you love, please share them in the comments section. We would especially appreciate hearing from those using Paper Boat Publishing books.

If you’re still hunting for your favourite colouring tool/medium, we hope you’d find one that you love soon.

Have fun colouring!

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