What to use for Coloring

Prismacolor Color Pencils
July 2015 Mandala of the Month
July 2015 Mandala of the Month

One of the most popular questions people ask me is “what do you use to color your mandalas with?” Followed by “what do you recommend we use for coloring?

I usually start my reply with “it depends.”

  • Are you new to coloring? Just testing it out to see if you like it? Or have you been coloring for a while?
  • What’s your budget?
  • What kind of paper are you coloring on?
  • Do you want tighter control or do you want it to be a litter looser?
  • Will you be coloring in different locations (ie. traveling or bringing it with you wherever you go)? Or will you be coloring pretty much in one location?

All of these factor into what will work best for you for coloring.

I put together this preliminary list of products by medium. The brands with an * are ones that I currently use. The brands with an # are ones I used to use on a regular basis and may still use on occasion.

While I am an affiliate of Amazon, the links are mainly provided so that you can quickly/easily find more information about each of the products I list.

Check back once in a while as I will be updating this list as I use and add more products to my toy box.

Neocolor I Caron D'AcheCRAYONS

  • PROS: portable, very little clean up involved, easy to color a broad area with, great for backgrounds
  • CONS: waxy, little pigment/color (depending on the brand), more challenging for detail work, sharpening them can get messy
  • SURFACE: regular paper, art drawing paper, mixed media paper, illustration board, etc


  • Crayola – least expensive, beginner quality, better for kids
  • Prang – moderately priced, better color, better for grown ups
  • Neocolor I Crayons by Caran d’Ache – artist quality, rich colors, more expensive, easier to color with
  • Conté * – artist quality, rich colors, more expensive, easier to color with

Prismacolor Color PencilsCOLOR PENCILS

  • PROS: portable, very little clean up required, great for detail work as well as for broader areas, great for backgrounds and fine details
  • CONS: can be a little stressful on your hand, need good hand control for detail work, need to sharpen the tips often, sharpening the pencils can get messy; poor quality pencils are usually hard to sharpen
  • SURFACE: regular paper (unless you do heavy pressured coloring), most any kind of art paper (drawing, watercolor, mixed media, etc)


  • Crayola – least expensive, beginner quality, better for kids, challenging to blend colors well, more chalky
  • Prang – good price, better blending capabilities, good color quality, great starter pencils for grown ups
  • Koh-I-Noor * Woodless – moderately priced, better quality color, good blending, better-than-starter pencils
  • Prismacolor Scholar – similar quality and value to the Koh-I-Noors
  • Prismacolor * – artist quality, great colors, wonderful blending capabilities, more expensive
  • Polychromos by Faber Castel * – artist quality, great colors, wonderful blending capabilities, more expensive


  • Copic MarkersPROS: portable, more flexibility, much faster to color with, blend well (depending on the brand), variety of tips (depending on the brand), easier to use and hold; great for both backgrounds and foregrounds; no need to sharpen
  • CONS: can be messy, some tend to bleed on the paper (depending on the marker and/or the paper)
  • SURFACE: heavyweight paper/art paper (with care), mixed media, watercolor paper, marker designated paper


  • Crayola – least expensive, beginner quality, better for kids, comes in broad and fine tips
  • Prang – good price, decent quality, good color, some blending capabilities, comes in conical (broader) and fine tips, good colors
  • Pentel # – good price, good quality, some blending capabilities, medium-sized and fine tips, nice colors
  • Sharpies * – felt tip permanent markers, similar quality to Pentels, regular and fine tips
  • Tombows # – higher quality, water-based colors, great blending capabilities, dural tips (brush and fine), more expensive (first serious brand of markers I used…really like them…feels more like I’m painting instead of coloring)
  • Zig Memory Systems – Writer # – artist quality, water-based pigment, acid-free, lightfast, long-lasting, dual tips (fine and broad), more expensive
  • Prismacolor # – artist quality, alcohol-based ink, dual tips (fine and chisel), more expensive, best used on marker quality paper
  • Letraset – Promarkers # – artist quality, alcohol-based ink, acid free, quick drying, great blending capabilities, dual tips (fine & broad), wide range of colors, more expensive, best used on marker quality paper
  • Copic * – artist quality, top of the line, alcohol-based, refillable, great blending, great selection of colors, much more expensive, comes with dual tips (interchangeable with a variety of tips they offer), best used on marker quality paper


  • Sakura Gel PensPROS: allows more flexibility with detail work, great for doodling, fine lines, broader range of special effects (glitter, glaze, metallic, neon, etc), some work on both light and dark paper, best used for adding details over other media
  • CONS: tend to wear out faster (depending on the brand), requires some hand control, some are cheaply made with sensitive tips and can damage or clog easily…save you money and by good quality gel pens
  • SURFACES: most regular and artist quality paper, marker paper, might be difficult to control on rough surface watercolor paper

BRANDS: (here I’m only listing the brands that I use and that I know work well, listed in order by most used to lesser used)

  • Sakura * – They make a variety of gel pen and marker styles: glitter, metallic, neon, permapague, microns, etc. All have worked well for me and I tend to use them the most; high quality, very good colors, more expensive. Their white marker will show up on top of other colors…just make sure the area is dry before using the white.
  • Slicci by Pentel * – I LOVE these fine tip metallic pens! smooth, great colors, write well, more expensive
  • Copic Multiliner SP * – black pigment ink in a variety of sizes; these are great for pen & ink styled coloring, refillable, changeable nibs, expensive (well worth it!). If you want to experiment with pen & ink, start with the Sakura Microns.
  • Yasutomo Gel Xtreme * – very nice metallic pens, nice fine lines, good colors
  • Sarget Glitter Pens * – moderately priced, good quality, nice colors
  • Staedtler Ball 432 * – These are ball point pens in a variety of colors; nice to draw with, good colors, inexpensive

How about you? What do you like to use?

Feel free to share your favorites and why in the comments below.

Happy Coloring!

joyfully, Maureen
The Mandala Lady