When to Color with Pencil and When to Color with Pen
By Dana Hinders
Once you've selected the perfect adult coloring book, you'll need to decide what to color with. Colored pencils and gel pens are both very popular, but each offers unique properties that can be useful depending upon the effects that you wish to achieve.
5 Factors to Consider Before You Start Your Next Project
Although some colorists prefer to work exclusively in one media, there are good reasons to consider switching back and forth between gel pens and colored pencils.
- Range of Colors
Both colored pencils and gel pens come in a wide range of colors. However, gel pens also offer metallic and glitter options that can be used to add dimension to your work. For this reason, they are often preferred by people who enjoy coloring mandalas and other abstract designs.
Another advantage of gel pens is that they can apply intense colors with a minimal amount of effort. With colored pencils, greater pressure is needed to build up a bold layer of color. This can be difficult to accomplish if you suffer from carpal tunnel or other hand and wrist related issues.
- Blending Colors
Both gel pens and colored pencils can be blended to some extent, but the results you'll achieve will differ.
With colored pencils, you can blend using a colorless blender pencil, Vaseline, or baby oil. This takes practice, but very realistic images can be colored using these techniques.
Gel pens can be subtly blended by overlapping lighter colors with darker colors to create a graduated effect. A small amount of water can also be used with gel pens to create a watercolor like blended effect.
- Ease of Use
If you're trying to cover a large area, colored pencils will likely be easier to use. However, if you are working with fine and very detailed images, gel pens give you precise control without the need for constant sharpening.
Some colorists like to scan an image and enhance their work using image editing software. In this case, gel pens are preferable. The bold strokes of a gel pen are easier for a scanner to detect than the marks of a colored pencil.
- Ability to Correct Mistakes
If you're worried about the accuracy of your coloring, colored pencils are the preferred choice. While you can't erase colored pencils with a standard pencil eraser, it is possible to correct mistakes with a specialized art eraser. In comparison, gel pens require you to be accurate in coloring the first time around.
- Preferred Type of Coloring Books
Although the majority of coloring books on the market are printed single sided, there are still some that are printed as double sided pages. Colored pencils will work better in these types of books. While gel pens won't necessarily bleed through double sided pages, they may create "ghosting" lines on the back side.
There Are No Limits
The best thing about the adult coloring craze is that there are no rules. You can color your favorite images however you choose. Work with gel pens one day, choose colored pencils the next, or combine the two together to create a completely unique look for your next project.
Example photos are colored pages from OrnaMENTALs Feel Good Words To-Go: 50 Portable Feel Good Words to Color and Bring Cheer by Sue Chastain.
Understanding the Color Wheel: Complementary Color Guide
By Dana Hinders
Have you ever started a new coloring project and found yourself unable to choose the perfect colors to start your picture? If so, you might want to try a complementary color scheme.
Basic Complementary Color Schemes
Complementary colors are two colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. (If you don't already have a color wheel, it's well worth picking one up at your local art supply store or on Amazon. This is an inexpensive reference for all sorts of creative endeavors.)
There are three basic complementary color schemes:
- Blue and orange
- Red and green
- Yellow and purple
Complementary colors get their name because one is warm and the other is cool. When placed next to each other, they each make the other appear more intense. In color theory, this principle is known as simultaneous contrast.
Mandalas are great for experimenting with color schemes because there are no rules. You aren’t bound by the idea that grass needs to be green or that the sun should be yellow, which leaves you with unlimited options.
In the example below, blue is the cool color and orange is the warm color. However, using metallic gel pens gives the design a bit of shimmer.
Using Complementary Color Schemes with Tints, Tones, and Shades
Complementary color schemes can also include tints, tones, and shades.
- Tints are made by mixing colors with white.
- Tones are made by mixing colors with gray.
- Shades are made by mixing colors with black.
Tints, tones, and shades give you an endless array number of variations on a simple complementary color scheme. For example, red and green make most people think of Christmas. However, add a bit of white to these colors and you get a pink and mint green color scheme that makes you think of springtime. Add black and you have a maroon and hunter green color scheme with a preppy and fashionable feel. Add gray and you get a dusty rose or marsala and mossy green or olive, giving your adult coloring book page a subtle and sophisticated look.
If you have a large collection of coloring supplies, it might be helpful to sort everything by color so you can see at a glance what tints, tones, and shades you have available. Some people like to go every further and create a reference book of color swatches. If you do this, leave a section in the back of your book so you can record your favorite color combinations as you work.
Making Your Colors Pop with Neutrals
When you mix together any two complementary colors, you get a neutral.
- Mixing red and green gives you a warm brown.
- Mixing yellow and violet gives you a warm gray.
- Mixing blue and orange gives you a cool brown.
Although you can't really mix gel pens, markers, or colored pencils, you can apply this principle to your adult coloring book pages by adding a few neutral accents to your design. Using Art-n-Fly's glitter or metallic gel pens works especially well for this purpose.
In the example below, a bright yellow, purple glitter, and silver metallic gel pen add flair to a simple mandala design with a complementary color scheme.
All example photos were created using pages from Stress Less Coloring: Mandalas by Jim Gogarty.
4 Gel Pen Techniques to Use in Your Adult Coloring Books
By Dana Hinders
In addition to making your to-do list a little more colorful, gel pens are fabulous tools for adding a personal touch to your favorite adult coloring book pages. You can simply use them to color in solid areas, but experimenting with new techniques can be a fun way to challenge yourself as a colorist.
- Add Texture with Cross Hatching and Stippling
This is a great technique to try if you're a beginner, because there's no real risk involved. If you don't like the look, just color over top of your textured areas like you normally would and nobody will ever know the difference.
Cross hatching means you're making tiny grids with intersecting sets of parallel lines. The closer together the lines are, the darker your colored image will appear. Stippling is just a fancy way of saying you're creating a pattern using lots of tiny dots. Place the dots closer together for darker areas of color and further apart for lighter colors.
The example below uses orange glitter stippling for the inner portion of the flower and red glitter cross hatching for the outer layer.
- Blend Your Gel Pens
Blending gel pens requires a little bit of trial and error, but can result in some interesting effects on otherwise simple patterns. For this technique, you want to use two different brands of gel pens. Pick one with a really "wet" ink, such as the Sakura Gelly Roll Pens. You'll also need one with a "dry" ink, such as the Art-n-Fly gel pens. (If you use two pens with very “wet” ink, you’re likely to end up with lots of smears instead of the pretty blended effect you crave.)
Start with the "wet" color, then color your "dry" pen over top of the edge of the shaded area and into the next section of your design. Repeat as necessary until you've achieved the desired effect.
The example below uses two different shades of Art-n-Fly green gel glitter pens and a dark green Sakura Gelly Roll pen. The result is reminiscent of a tie dye t-shirt, with flecks of glitter if you tilt the paper at a certain angle.
- Paint with Gel Pens
Did you know that you can paint with your gel pens? Start coloring with your darkest gel pen, then blend the area with a wet paintbrush so the color slowly fades away. If you don’t have actual paintbrushes, an extra makeup brush works just fine!
If you're going to try this technique for an entire page, it's best to use a coloring book with thick paper or a free printable printed on cardstock. Otherwise, the water can cause your paper to buckle.
- Combine with Markers
When it comes to adult coloring books, you don't need to limit yourself to just one medium. Combining your gel pens with markers can create some interesting effects.
The example below uses dark Bic Mark-It markers and Art-n-Fly's metallic gel pens in silver, blue, and pink. Selected areas have cross hatching, stippling, or highlighting drawn with the gel pens over the top of the dried marker area. The contrast between the dark markers and the metallic gel pens adds pizzazz to an otherwise simple design.
All example photos were created using pages from Stress Less Coloring: Flower Patterns. This book is part of the Stress Less Coloring series from Adams Media.
How To Color Skin Tones With Colored Pencils In 5 Easy Steps
By Heather Scroggins
I have a confession to make. Just a couple months ago, I was afraid to complete coloring pages with people in them. Superstition? Nope - I just had no idea how to color their skin to make it look nice.
I'm a marker girl at heart and don't use colored pencils very often. But to achieve realistic-looking skin tones in just a few easy steps, colored pencils have become my go-to medium. With just 2-4 colored pencils and a secret ingredient, you can do it too!
That secret ingredient is a blending pencil, or blender. I have found my results are good with both wax-based as well as oil-based colored pencils.
Step one: Using medium pressure and coloring in small circles, lay down the base layer using your main skin tone (your lightest color).
Step two: Add layers of the same color one on top of the other until you achieve the shade you want.
Step three: Using your blending pencil and fairly firm pressure, "color" over the shape you just filled in. Since it is colorless, you won't actually be adding color. What you will do is fill in the tiny holes and grooves that make up the paper's texture, giving the skin a smooth, even appearance. Make sure the point on the blending pencil isn't too sharp, so you don't make dents in your paper.
Step four: Now it is time to bring the person to life with shading. Using a color approximately 2-3 shades darker than your skin tone, add lines and shadows where they would normally fall if you were looking at a photograph: the chin, décolletage, the crook of an elbow. Then choose a pink or rose shade for cheek highlights. I use the side of my colored pencil, rather than the point, to add color to cheeks. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Step five: With gentle pressure, go over your shading and highlighting with your blending pencil, and you're done! [Expert tip: use these same techniques to add texture and dimension to clothing, vegetation, etc. in the pictures you complete.]
I hope this short tutorial helps you conquer your fear of coloring skin tones, and opens up a whole new world of coloring fun. If you like the picture in the example photos, check it out in My Besties Fluffys Coloring Book by Sherri Ann Baldy.
Vibrant Pencil Shading Techniques
by Anisa A. Claire
Want to take your coloring to the next level? Make your picture pop with vibrant color shading using these nine steps.
Before we start, let’s quickly cover the tools you’ll need…
- Picture with medium size coloring spaces
- Two light (or bright) colored pencils in the same color family
- One medium colored pencil in a color family close to the first two pencils
- One dark colored pencil in the same color family as the third pencil
- Colorless blending pencil
- Pencil sharpener
The brand of your colored pencils, blender and pencil sharpener don’t particularly matter. It is slightly easier to blend with softer pencils, but by no means impossible to do with hard lead pencils. So, don’t fret if your budget doesn’t allow for the more expensive brands because you can still learn to color like a pro with the less expensive ones.
The reason you want medium to large spaces is because you need space to work. Small to tiny spaces don’t leave much room for multi-color shading techniques.
If you’re using the same color combination as this article, the lightest color is light yellow.With your lightest colored pencil, color a small section in the center of the section you chose. Apply a decent amount of pressure in uneven strokes. The more even your strokes are, the more difficult it will be to create a natural-looking blend.
For this article, the second color used was dark yellow. Remember, though, you don’t need to use the same brand or colors to get the same effect.Now, take your second pencil in the same color family and work your way outward from the light color. Bring the dark color on top of the lighter color a little bit, but don’t totally cover the lighter yellow. As in the previous step, apply a decent amount of pressure in uneven strokes.
The third color used in this article was a medium orange.With your third color, continue working outward and going over the previous color just a touch. Apply a good amount of pressure in uneven strokes and make sure to leave a similar size space for your fourth color.
The fourth color should be significantly darker than the first three colors you used. In this case, the color is a dark orange/red. This color will meet up with the outline of the space you’re working in and it will also go on top of the last color a little bit. Again, apply some pressure while coloring.
This time, your uneven strokes will only be on the side going into the previous color. The side meeting the outline you’ll want to keep it even/inside the black line.
At this point, you’ll notice the space looks a little bit messy. Don’t fret. It should look like that because the next few steps are what pull the whole look together.
Using your colorless blender, start on the second color (dark yellow) and pull it into the first color (light yellow) using sideways strokes. Then, go to the third color (medium orange) and pull it into the second color with the same sideways strokes. Be careful not to pull the medium orange into the light yellow too much. You don’t need much pressure to pull the colors in. Finally, pull the darkest color (orange/red) into the third color (medium orange). Again, you don’t want to pull too much of the darkest color (orange/red) into the second color (dark yellow) and you don’t want to pull any of the darkest color into the lightest color.
If you accidentally pull the dark color too far in, don’t panic. You can rub some of it out in the final step.
Now that you’ve pulled all the colors over each other from lightest to darkest using sideways strokes, you want to work your way around in the same steps going up and down (the opposite direction of what you’ve already done).
The reason you’re using opposite strokes is to smooth out the pull lines you just created in the last step.
***IMPORTANT*** When you head back into the light area, make sure you wipe the tip of your colorless blender. If you don’t wipe the tip of your blender, you’ll end up smearing the darkest color all over your light interior.
At this point, you should notice the transition between colors in your shaded section looking quite smooth. To polish it a little more, rub your colorless blender over the entire surface of the area in the same fashion as you would if you were filling the space with one color.
Start from the darkest color and work your way in, making sure to wipe your tip as you approach the lightest color. Color from all different directions to work out any remaining stroke marks.
You’re almost finished! As a last step, go over the edges of the section again with your darkest color. Don’t work in much, though. Now you’re basically darkening the outline to sharpen the contrast a bit.
Finally, take your colorless blender and lightly go over the outline you just applied. You won’t be pulling it into the next color this time, though. This is simply to smooth out the dark edges a little bit.
That’s it. Now you know how to shade vibrant colors in nine simple steps. The more you practice this technique, the easier and less time-consuming it will become. Soon enough, you’ll be able to create this look without even thinking about it.
Play around with different colors to find your favorite combinations. The trick is to stay in compatible color families.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial!