Must Haves for Adult Colouring … or should that be Lust Haves?

After seeing a few friends tentatively posting their adult coloring endeavors and with a passion to find a way to de-device in the evenings after a long day in front of my Mac, I decided a few Friday’s ago to go and buy my first adult coloring book and some pencils and markers and give it a go.

I bought a selection of things and pretty rapidly realized that not all colored pencils are created equally! I also realized that the self limiting belief I’d had about not being able to express myself artistically on paper was just that – an UNTRUE self limiting belief.

In the very few weeks I’ve been coloring, I’ve devoured information from everywhere, watched hours of YouTube clips learning techniques and spent many more hours, and considerable money, experimenting. I’m loving this new passion and have set myself the lofty goal of being able to draw a relatively good landscape by the time we go on holiday overseas next year for my bestie’s 40th birthday celebrations … We’re thinking Croatia and Turkey!

So for those who want to start, or have started but aren’t loving your tools … Here are some lust haves …

Before I get onto the list it’s important to note that everyone has different styles … And that that is what makes this so interesting … There’s no right or wrong … Do whatever you want and whatever makes you happy … Some people like sheer wispy color and others bold and vibrant color … Some love thick outlines and some thin … Some love pencils and some markers … Some color flat colors and some blend everything … So appreciate what everyone else is doing … If you want to learn new skills, do so … But give yourself permission to scribble untidily if that’s the mood you’re in … This is YOUR expression, own it.

My personal coloring style and preferences dictate what I love and hate in the list below so bear that in mind … I love intense and vibrant colors and seamless blending so these choices are geared towards that … I also am voracious in terms of learning and knowledge and research everything I tackle extensively and I’m pathological about sharing my passions so, without further ado here’s my list …

Must (Lust) haves for adult coloring

Colored Pencils

You get what you pay for in this arena and if you pay peanuts you usually get monkeys! Having said that there are certainly some entry level products you may want to try before dropping a lot of cash on more expensive pencils.

Good budget brands to try:
BIC – I bought a 12 set called Tropicolors when I first started and they became the only pencils I used in the beginning because their color was lovely and vibrant and I managed to shade with them. Price currently R29 for 24! So really reasonable!
BIC Pencils on
Crayola – these are probably the most widely used entry level pencil and I’ve seen some pretty gorgeous pics that have been colored in with them on coloring groups, so although I haven’t personally tried them, I’ve added these to the list to try. Price currently R82 for 24 – slightly more than the BICs but still very reasonable.
Crayola Pencils on

All of the following were coloured with my cheap entry level pencils and markers.

Once the bug has bitten and you start seeing some of the gorgeous things being done by others on Facebook groups, etc … You might want to invest in a set of better quality pencils to further your creative endeavors. Unfortunately in South Africa our choices are fairly limited and what you’ll find locally, even in high end art shops, are not necessarily the best for you. In these cases, Amazon is your friend!
Best brands to invest in:

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils are widely touted as the best of the best in terms of colored pencils. They are wax-based and incredibly soft – you don’t need to apply any pressure on the page and the color just flows on. You can do incredible blending and layer colors with them. There is a downside … Because they are so soft, you go through them very quickly, and the cores can break easily if sharpened incorrectly or dropped, etc. They are an American brand, manufactured in Mexico and although you can order them locally on some websites, it’s far cheaper to order from Amazon even with import duties and shipping. A 24 set of these is going to cost you about R456 including fees and shipping. Give serious thought to whether you want only 24 colours when ordering – I orders 48 and love them so much I really wish I had got the 150. They come in sets of 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 96, 132, 150. Most people seem to go with 48, 72 or 150.
Prismacolor Premiers on Amazon

Colouring after I received my Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Pencils

There are a couple of top brands you can find locally – I encourage you to go to an art shop that has open samples to try before you buy if possible as they are more pricey.

Derwent Coloursoft Coloured Pencils are a UK brand – they also have a soft core range which is wax based. A set of these will cost you about R595 from Amazon but you can price them locally at art shops as well.
Derwent Coloursoft Pencils on Amazon

Something I have purchased however is a set of their Derwent Inktense Watercolour Pencils – these go onto the page like a normal color pencil, but you add water and a paintbrush and they turn into paint. They can also be used on fabrics, etc and are permanent. So definitely a fun one to try. I bought a set of 12 at an art shop for under R200.
Derwent Inktense Watercolour Pencils on Amazon

Faber Castell Polychromos – these are probably the second most used high end pencils after Prismacolors … They’re a German brand you can find locally and people swear by. They are oil based. The 24 set is R559 locally.
Faber Castell Polychromos on


There are so many choices out there for markers – I haven’t played extensively – and I very much doubt I will buy more than I have now … I bought a set of Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners when I first started and love the way these work.  The one thing you have to watch out for is bleeding – especially if your colouring book is printed double sided, you may have bleed through and lose the ability to use the other side of the page – so do a test on an unimportant page or copy pages onto paper and colour/draw those with markers.  If you’re interested in more information regarding markers, google Copic markers – a lot of colourists use these extensively.
Stabilo Fineliners on

Sharpeners – do’s and don’ts

If you’re going to buy high end pencils, you don’t want to throw money down the drain with breaking leads … This can largely be avoided by sharpening correctly – yes, this is the one thing I’ll say does have a right way and a wrong way and you’ll be surprised to hear you’re probably doing it wrong. Here’s a YouTube clip on the right way! In a nutshell – make sure your sharpener is extremely sharp, swap hands and turn the sharpener, not the pencil!
The correct method to sharpen pencils (YouTube)


We all go out the lines accidentally sometimes … And you may find that if you’re using top end pencils, your regular eraser just won’t do the trick. In this case an electric eraser is the business … You can find the Derwent one in local art shops.
Derwent Battery Operated Eraser on Amazon

Blending or Burnishing


Abstract colouring featuring lots of blending from one colour to another

One of the techniques you may find yourself wanting to learn is blending or burnishing – I love blending – and there are many many ways to try out blending. Below are some tools to do this.

Prismacolor Colorless Blending Pencil – this is probably the easiest way – Prismacolor do a colorless blender pencil which I use extensively – you can also use a white (or any lighter color) pencil to do this as well. This will cost you about R164 for a set of 2 on Amazon.
Prismacolor Colorless Blending Pencil on Amazon

Stubs/Tortillions – these are compressed rolled up paper stubs which can be used dry as a manual blender or burnisher or can be used with some kind of solvent to blend or burnish – different methods have different effects.  You’ll find these in any art shop.

Solvents – Mineral Spirits (Turpentine) and Baby Oil are examples of solvents worth trying here but there are loads more you can try as well just Youtube and Google.

Paintbrush and Water – if you buy any watercolor pencils you’ll need a collection of paintbrushes and a water container – I keep little bottles with solvent and water with my colouring stuff so I don’t have to get setup every time.

Other items you may need

Pastels – these are absolutely wonderful for doing backgrounds – especially if you have expensive soft pencils and you don’t want to chew through a few of them doing huge backgrounds.

Cotton Wool Pads – for blending pastels and mopping up extra water when using Watercolour pencils.

Stanley Knife – great to cut pages out your colouring books or to shave pastel shavings onto your page for blending. You can also sharpen your pencils with this if you’re brave enough to try the technique.

Shaving Brush – soft pencils tend to leave little pencil shavings on your page which can smudge, these are a great way to clear the shavings off your page without smudging.

Fixative Spray – if you use pencil and pastels and you want to save or frame your art, you’ll need a fixative spray to “seal” your colors.

Example of my lap desk with a clip on lamp attached for comfortable and light colouring

Example of my lap desk with a clip on lamp attached for comfortable and light colouring

Lap Desk – if you color for relaxation, you may want to do so on the couch rather than at a desk … Some people use a clipboard to do this … I prefer a lapdesk so I can put my whole book on the lap desk, move it around, etc.

Clip-on Light – if you color in the evenings, you will need good lighting … With a lapdesk I recommend a clip on lamp with a flexible neck and very bright bulb.

Frames! – buy yourself a selection of frames to display your proudest items in your home or office – it’s a great way to bring the relaxation vibes into your office!

Coloring Books – OMG – you can go totally mental here – there are SO many options!!! Go browse and pick one you think you’ll enjoy colouring.  Things to be aware of or look for – if you’re planning to do lots of colouring with markers – look for single sided colouring books to accommodate bleeding.  Another cool feature are perforated pages so you can remove the pages from the book to colour or frame afterwards.

Art / Drawing Paper / Pads – look for thicker papers and boards to do this (especially if you want to experiment with Watercolor Pencils and solvent and markers – these can either warp or bleed through thinner papers.  You’ll find this at any art store or CNA or stationary shop.

And finally … some homework if you want to learn a few techniques or explore more …

YouTube Clips

Comparison Prismacolor vs Derwent YouTube clip

Prismacolor vs Polychromos YouTube clip

How to draw an apple with Prismacolor – great to demonstrate shading and burnishing – YouTube clip

Shading with Pastels YouTube clip

Shading with pastels using scraping technique YouTube clip

Blending techniques – blending pencils, solvents, etc. YouTube clip


  1. Donna from MyOBT on November 6, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Really very helpful article. I especially loved seeing samples of your work with each option. Thank you!

  2. Tammy on December 18, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Great article. Thanks! What colouring book are you using in your December 10 Instagram post, please?