coloring tips

10 rules of coloring

choosing colors

adding depth

colored pencils

water/c pencils

markers & pens



ART of COLORING® is my registered mark for coloring products: coloring books and coloring art prints. I am continuously working on adding more to the gallery... Please feel free to send me suggestions and comments. My Coloring art prints and coloring books are available on Amazon.

I put together some general coloring suggestions.

There are few differences in you approach when you color a design in your coloring book or coloring an art print. Choose one of the following pages for more specifics:

coloring books

Sets of 24 (8.5"x11") original designs and patterns for coloring with markers, jell pens, and colored pencils.

coloring tips


coloring art prints

Sets of 3 (12"x18") prints of my original drawings on acid-free watercolor paper. Suitable for all art media - including watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, inks, markers, or a combination of the above.

coloring tips



coming soon

coloring tips



General coloring tips

Before you start coloring - choose a technique, medium, and coloring style.
I put together some general coloring recommendations from an artist's perspective. I realize, that adult coloring phenomena is a great stress relieve technique. I see articles, that say that don't worry about your color choices, just go with a flow, relax and enjoy the process. What I am saying, is if you put in just a little more effort, then coloring process will raise to a different level, and in addition to meditation and relaxation, you will also get a feeling of satisfaction, when your coloring pages will look more professional an "put together". What's wrong with that?

10 rules of coloring

1. Choosing the right tools

Please note - below are the art supplies that I personally use and have an opinion about.

Colored pencils

Choose good ones! Look for a professional grade.

Quality pencils are easy to blend and mix. The colors are more vibrant, and there are more color choices.

Important factor when choosing colored pencils is the price.

Prismacolor Colored Pencils

Good pencils are expensive, but once you try quality pencils, you'll never go back to cheaper ones (sorry, Crayola...)

I like Prismacolor Premier (soft pencils, rich vibrant colors, great for mixing colors and blending) or Verathin (harder pencils, not as intense color, great for coloring small details). 

Start with buying the smallest set and see if you like working with the pencils, then you can buy more colors.

And, please, keep them sharp!!!

Also, think of getting some extras, like a blending pencil - a colorless pencil that is used to blend the strokes.

colored pencils basics


You might need a few different sets of markers for your coloring needs. There are many types of marker sets out there: water-based, alcohol-based, and solvent-based; they have different tips, and serve different purposes.

Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

You will probably would want to experiment with them. A good starting point is to go to an art supply store - they often have one sample there for you to try.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pen Sets

Sharpie Ultra-Fine Point Marker

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen


The markers come in different color palettes - bright colors, basic colors, neutral colors, metallics, etc. Some markers tend to "bleed" through the paper - so before coloring in a book - try them on a scrap paper.

markers and pens basics


Pens come in different types and colors. They work great for detailed work and decorative effect. I like to use them as an add-on to other media.

Make your own color guide - the ink usually looks different from what it appears on the pen cap.

Do not overuse gel pens with glitter.

I like to use metallic jell pens - they are a great alternative to metallic markers, that tend to bleed through paper.

markers and pens basics

Watercolor paints

Select a set of watercolor paints. A 12-color set is a great starting point. Most sets have a good selection of basic colors you’ll need for transparent watercolor painting. Rarely (or never) use the white paint that is included in most cake or tube color sets. It’s opaque. It will make your watercolors loose their transparency, which is the quality you use watercolors to start with.

Yarka St. Petersburg Professional Watercolor Pans

Start by using “academic” or “student” grade watercolors until you feel like it is time to move on to “artist” grade watercolor supplies.

My personal favorite brands are "Yarka" or "St.Petersburg". These are Russian brands, but they are available here in art supply stores and Amazon. The paints come in different sets at different prices. They still use traditional pigments, the colors are vibrant and just an joy to work with.

watercolors basics

Acrylic paints

Buying acrylic paint when you're a beginner can seem as a difficult task - there are so many different brands, colors, and variations to choose from...

What you need to remember, is that you need to have at least 5 colors: Blue, Red, Yellow, White, and Black. You can mix any other color just by mixing these paints in different proportions.

Liquitex Basics Acrylic Colors

Like with watercolors, choose a "student" grade paint set first. Then, gradually move to "professional" quality paints - they are more expensive for a reason. Professional paints do not fade as easy over time, they have more color choices, etc.

acrylics basics


First of all, choosing a brush depends on the media you are going to use.

There are different brushes for watercolors and acrylics. There are many brush guides out there, but here are some suggestions if you are just starting:

watercolor brushes:

These brushes have the ability to hold water (and paint) by having a fatter belly and thinner hair.

Da Vinci Russian Red Sable Watercolor Brushes

Round brushes: Their shape makes them suitable for small details and delicate lines, but also for broader strokes and washes. Round brushes are my choice foe washes and long, continuous strokes.

Good brushes are made of a high quality hair, like Kolinsky sable, it will be best put to use in the form of a round brush. If you find sable too expensive, try a synthetic or combination round brush.

Flat brushes (also known as "one-strokes") aren't as versatile as round brushes, but they're useful for both washes and strong linear strokes. They're available in sable but for most artists it's fine to save money by going with another natural hair or synthetic fiber. Flat brushes are my first choice for "coloring inside the lines" - they make nice, sharp edges.

Also consider getting detail brushes.

acrylics brushes:

Brushes, that are used to paint with acrylics (or oils) are made of thicker hair, the bristles are more firm. The task that they have to perform is not to hold water, but to hold a thicker paint. Can use natural or synthetic hair.

Robert Simmons Titanium Brushes

Flat brushes are still my choice for coloring in. They make a good job filling spaces, edging the outlines, etc.

Filbert brushes - are a combination of flat and round brushes. They have round edges and are great for blending.

Round brushes - use for outlining, detailed work, filling in small areas, long thin-to-thick-to-thin strokes.

2. Where to start?

Your starting point depends on the particular image and your coloring approach.

Here are some thoughts::

1. If you are coloring a design with mostly solid colors, that is purely decorative and does not require extra shading techniques - you can start at any area that appeals to you. I like to start with a background color, but that is not always the case.

After all, this type of coloring is purely therapeutic - so go ahead and break all the rules!

2. If you are working on a more advanced coloring project that requires more complex coloring and shading techniques, like realistic shading,

I would start with one of the elements that are a focal point of the composition, or positioned in the central part of the design. If you are afraid to start with more challenging element - start with a part of it, that is not as intimidating. Like in this example - you can start with a leaf instead of the whole flower.

Starting with a background might be the easiest part to start with, but keep in mind that the colors of the design should work with the background colors.

So I would wait until my design is done, and then work on choosing the right color for the background...

or can work on the elements and the background at the same time, especially, if there is little of the background and the colors work together.

3. If you decide to color a scenery or a landscape - start with the sky or the foreground. Why?

Sky will set the mood and the color scheme for the rest of the drawing.

Foreground will set the tonal value of the drawing, especially if you want to achieve a contrast between light and shadows.

3. Working with colors

Be easy on the backgrounds. Remember - they are here to support your main elements, not to distract from them. So don't make your design compete for attention with the background. That means - if your background has a lot of details - might be a good idea to color them in similar colors....

Color is the most emotional element of art.

Compare the three images - the only difference between these images is the choice of colors.

Selecting colors and color schemes can literally affect your mood.

Cool colors like blue, green and purple have a calming effect. Use them to literally chill out.

Warm colors like red, orange and yellow are pepper-uppers. Try them when you want to brighten a bad mood.

Bright colors are energizing, so turn to them when you want a little inner lift.

Dark colors carry a relaxing energy and can be used to ratchet down an overactive mind.

Pastels and light tints communicate softness and help soothe the soul.

Read more about colors here.

7. Trying colors

Always have a piece of scrap paper available when coloring.

Very often the actual color of a pen, marker or pencil does not exactly match the color it produces. It might be lighter, darker, or brighter than you expect it to be.

Use the same scrap paper to see how the colors work together before you use them in your design.

24 colors prismacolor chart:

blank chart:

prismacolor chart

Another good idea is to make yourself a color chart of the materials that you use.

Try layering the colors in your chart - to see hat it looks like when you apply multiple layers of the color. This will make a difference when you use markers and watercolors.

Note: some materials change colors when dry - acrylics become darker, watercolors and tempera - get a bit lighter.

4. Shading, blending, and mixing

When shading, especially with colored pencils, always use small strokes - they are easier to control.

To add an interest to your design - try to blend 2 or 3 colors inside each area (shape). It does not necessarily have to be a dimensional shading, but it will make design look more decorative.

This technique works better with colored pencils and paints. You can try it with markers or even gel pens, but experiment with them first.

Try the color combinations on a scrap paper.

Get the right tools for blending - there are colorless pencils and markers out there, that specifically designed for blending. When working with colored pencils, use the lighter color as a blender.

Also consider other techniques - like using baby oil to blend colored pencils, or use watercolor colored pencils.

5. Staying inside the lines

Do we really need to stay inside the lines?

Depends on your goals.

If you want to develop skills, to exercise eye-hand coordination, to calm down then - yes.

From artistic point of view - not necessary. This can add some liveliness to the design.

6. Bleeding through

Use different sets of markers when coloring for a larger color palette.

Some alcohol-based and most solvent-based markers and pens bleed through paper.

Try them on a scrap paper.

Place a piece of paper under your design so it protects your next coloring page.

8. Edging

To stay within the lines when coloring I would recommend to start with outlining the edges. Then color in the rest of the area.

Note: keep in mind that when you are using some markers, color gets darker where the strokes overlap.

When working with colored pencils - start coloring at the edge and continue shading into the shape.

9. Leaving blank space

White is also a color.

Why not use it in the design if it works?

10. Mixed media

Feel free to combine different coloring media in one project.

I like to combine pencil drawings with watercolor background, with metallic jell-pens for accents, etc.

Just have fun! Nobody is looking or judging!


Choosing colors

Color is the way we see light reflected from a surface or refracted through a prism.

Colors that we see in nature are reflections of light on the surfaces around us.
For example: a green surface absorbs all visible light except green:

All colors are arranged in a spectrum. This arrangement is called Color Wheel.

We use Color Wheel to choose Color Schemes.

Color scheme is a set of colors (color combination) that is used in a design or an artwork to achieve certain goals.
Color schemes are used to create style, appeal, and an aesthetic feeling.

Below are the basic color schemes:

monochromatic - variations (shades and tones) of just one color analogous - variations of 3-4 similar colors - colors that are next to each other in the color wheel complementary - variations of the opposite colors
triadic (split 1) - variations of any 3 colors that are separated by one color in the color wheel triadic (split 2) - variations of any 3 colors that are separated by two colors in the color wheel triadic (split 3) - variations of any 3 colors that are evenly spaced in the color wheel

You can achieve different effects by choosing different color schemes for your design.

For example:

Complimentary color scheme is a unique one - there is a trick with complimentary colors that you need to know:

  • When complimentary colors are placed next to each other - they "complement" each other and make each other look their brightest and most vibrant.
  • When tame colors are mixed with each other - they "kill" each others vibrancy and become brown!!!

Knowing complimentary colors is helpful when you want to emphasize something or create a contrast.

There are also variations of this scheme, like split complimentary color scheme - where instead of using a direct opposite color, you can use the two colors right next to it.

Adding depth to coloring (3-D)

To color a shape with a three-dimensional effect - you need to understand how light reflects off a surface of an object, and then follow a simple four-step coloring technique.

When light hits an object, it bounces off it - this is how we see colors, the light also bounces off the surrounding objects and reflects off all surfaces.

Think about how light is reflected from a surface that is facing a light source, making that area appear lighter. Usually these areas are the highest or most prominent. Areas that are further away from the light source are darker. Determining where a light source is enables you to know where to add shading.
Take a look at the Chiaroscuro effect:

  1. Highlight is the lightest area of an object. This is where direct light hits the surface.
  2. Light - as the surface curves, it does not get as much light, so value becomes slightly darker.
  3. Shadow - once the surface curves away from the light source, it does not receive any direct light, but it does get some indirect light from the surroundings - that's why it is not completely black.
  4. Reflected light is light that is bounced off the surfaces (surroundings), making the value slightly lighter.
  5. Cast shadow is the darkest value, but further it is from the object - lighter it gets.

Use chiaroscuro shading pattern when coloring. It can be applied to any form. When you shade (color) objects that are not placed into any surrounding space (illustration of a flower, design, etc) - you can skip the reflected light area as there are no surface to bounce the light off, there will not be a drop shadow either for the same reason. But you definitely need to have the main three: highlight, light, shadow.

oval/crescent shaped pattern
rectangular shaped pattern
triangular shaped pattern

cube, prism, and pyramid: highlight (1) gets direct light and is lightest at the area of biggest contrast; light (2) gets light "at an angle"; shadow (3) does not get any light and is the darkest next to the area of biggest contrast; reflected light (4) gets bounced light; drop shadow (5) is the darkest next to the object.

Any complex form can be broken down into basic shapes. Once you understand the technique, you can apply the steps to any part of your design.

Each color has its dark and light variations.

Use these variations to shape the object that you are coloring.

Same rule applies to colored pencils - you can add volume to any shape that you are coloring!

More information is here.

helpful links

color wheel color schemes ART 101 Op-design coloring your mood colored pencils (lesson)  



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