Where should I start with adult coloring?
January 27, 2016 5:58 AM   Subscribe

I've got a notion to get into coloring (because I don't have enough hobbies that I already neglect) and I have just become completely overwhelmed by choice on where to begin.

This is supposed to be fun right? But I'm paralysed with choice so if anyone can just give me a recommended list I'd appreciate it. Or maybe what I need is a kick up the butt to snap out of it and just randomly put stuff in my basket and get started. But from previous hobbies I know having the right materials can really effect the experience (and save money in the long run), thus the indecision.

What book(s) to start with:
I like the Johanna Basford books (Enchanted Forest, Secret Garden) AND Millie Marotta's (Animal Kingdom, Tropical Wonderland) but I don't know which one to get. They are not too expensive so I could buy several, but that seems a bit extreme and also some of the reviews say that the paper quality is inconsistent on some of them. I would think the paper should be bright white, but then I read a review saying that the a more yellow version had better quality paper that didn't bleed through as much.

What coloring tools:
Based on this thread, Prismacolours seem to be the way to go for pencils but they are so expensive on Amazon UK (£38 vs $38). Is there somewhere else online where they are cheaper? Or an offline art store in London I should go?

Personally I'd like something vibrant, so I'm also thinking markers or pens? Staedtler seem to a popular choice, but is it the right choice? I also like gel pens. Is that even a good idea for coloring?
posted by like_neon to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Or maybe what I need is a kick up the butt to snap out of it and just randomly put stuff in my basket and get started.

Yeah, I think you have the right idea here. It's coloring. Just do it. If you're not sure what you want, just pick something that you like at random. Or, hell, start with a cheap kid's book and kid's (crayola or something) pencils/gel pens/markers/crayons/whatever and upgrade as you identify what you enjoy.

If you're not already sure you love coloring and love pencils, you really don't need to be buying £40 Prismacolours.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:29 AM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

This seems like something that a local art supply shop would be great for. I've gone into them before for things like this saying "I'm not a pro, just looking to have some fun with materials that are of a better quality than are available at the big box store, what do you recommend?" I've done that in a bunch of places and always had a good experience.

I did a really similar thing with coloring books and finally went for it a few weeks ago with Prismacolors and Lost Ocean. I'm pretty happy that I just picked something and started playing. Personally I really like the ability to shade and blend, and the decreased visibility of slipups with the pencils.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:32 AM on January 27, 2016

Waaaaay overthinking this.

The cheap Laurentian or Crayola pencils are pretty decent and will still satisfy your colouring urge just fine. Markers aren't going to be as nice - easier to screw up, they dry out, you can't try to blend colours, and they will bleed through a page, etc. Gel pens suck.

Just pick up one book for now. When you've coloured most of it and feel like you're going strong on the colouring kick, let yourself buy one more.
posted by lizbunny at 6:35 AM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

I highly recommend Dover's line of coloring (or colouring) books, which you can find on Amazon. They have loads of different designs to choose from that are less detailed and fiddly than the Joanna Basford books, which as a beginner I found very frustrating and definitely not relaxing. They are also rather inexpensive, so you won't spend a lot seeing if you like it or not initially. I think colored pencil or even crayons are the medium to work in; markers tend to bleed through the page. Derwent makes a line of pencils that aren't as deliciously creamy as Prismacolor, but are quite nice and certainly serviceable. Most importantly, have fun with this! It is meant to be a stress *reliever,* not a stress *inducer.*
posted by Otter_Handler at 6:49 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Several years ago I felt like coloring so bought a very cheap dinosaur coloring book for children and, well, I already had a box of crayola crayons because that's just the kind of guy I am but had I not I would have gone out and bought a box of crayons. And then I colored for a few days until I didn't feel like coloring any more.

Total investment somewhere in the ballpark of $2 plus the book came with a sweet page of dinosaur stickers.

You're way overthinking this. Just get some whatever stuff and see if you even enjoy it, and then treat yo self in a few weeks with some fancy shit if it's a hobby you want to keep up.
posted by phunniemee at 6:52 AM on January 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is supposed to be a return to the simple joys of childhood to reduce the anxiety of your adult life! Buy these three things and stop worrying. If you sober up and hate it, no big deal. Level up as the need arises.

Crayola supertips markers, the big 50 pen set, $7.99 at Target
American Girl Design by Me, cute fun designs, easy and surprisingly satisfying, $12 at Amazon
Jose Cuervo Ready to Drink Strawberry Lime Margarita, $16 at the liquor store
posted by apparently at 6:55 AM on January 27, 2016 [15 favorites]

If you want vibrant colours from pencils, you could try pastel pencils. I just bought a set of 24 Stabilo CarbOthello pencils from Amazon UK for just under £20 (not including P+P); they are more expensive in art shops but not that much more. (I just got them off Amazon because I couldn't find a single shop that sold them in the city I live in... Only in a smaller city that I'd have to take the train to get to!)

Otherwise, Crayola pencils and student-quality Faber-Castell pencils (the ones that come in a big red packet with a picture of a castle on the front) should do just fine for your needs. If you shop around you can get 36 Crayola pencils for around £5-7 and the Faber-Castells for about the same price or a little more.
posted by Rissa at 6:58 AM on January 27, 2016

I like the Dover stained class coloring books, colored with markers.

(But really, markers/colored pencils and coloring books are cheap. Just buy some and see if you like it.)

There are also lots of fun apps for coloring. I've been playing with pigment, just on their free pages. It's pretty nice---I like their "color in the lines" feature, although it's weird that there doesn't seem to be an eraser.
posted by leahwrenn at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I switch between Crayola colored pencils and Staedtler markers.

My sister turned me on to Vive Le Color! books. What's nice is that they're smaller (about 7" square) and have a hard cardboard backing. The drawings are pretty detailed, though, and even with a Staedtler fine-line marker, you go outside the lines pretty easily, even with a single straight line.
posted by Lucinda at 7:18 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I got the Koh-I-Noor pencils to start. They were pretty cheap for a box of 24, and they're good quality. Once I got more into it, I switched to the Faber Castell Polychromos pencils; I like them way better than the Prismacolors, which I find too soft.

Nthing the Dover books, too.
posted by holborne at 7:25 AM on January 27, 2016

Best answer: There are a lot of sample pages online and I think if I were feeling this level of indecision I'd go to some of the pages of the books you like and print a few out? I made a set of sample pages that we used at VT ComicCon when I was tabling for the VT Library Association which is mostly female superheroes but has some of these pages. Feel free to download it here. And I second the Crayola supertips, unless you really want pencils for some reason, you get really vibrant results with markers and those are easy to hold and inexpensive to try out. I think gel pens would be a little fiddley unless you were doing something with really fine lines.
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 AM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion to use a kids' coloring book. I personally find it more satisfying because the simple illustrations mean you can actually complete a page within one sitting, plus there's a greater amount of white space for you to mess around with shading and different colors. I have yet to actually color in a full page of the adult coloring book I got, because the designs are so intricate. This has made coloring in this book not as fun for me. I get stressed over the fact that I started something that I can't finish within a reasonable amount of time. (But that's just me.)
posted by dean_deen at 8:01 AM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Pintrest is full of free coloring pages, although ironically I've had better results printing them out on our color printer than a b&w laser printer. I found my current project on a free page somewhere. But this only works if you have access to a decent printer.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:07 AM on January 27, 2016

This may not necessarily apply to your situation, as I'm sure you're not wanting to go out and spend a ton of money just to color, but for any others reading now or in the future-- a really cool advantage of the new iPad Pro + Apple Pencil combination is their art capabilities (including coloring!). I admit I pretty much bought them solely for use as an art tool and wow am I ever head over heels ridiculously in love. So. Much. Art. Joy.! There's a free coloring app called Pigment that is super fun which comes loaded with lots of pictures to color.

In non-tech coloring, I would definitely recommend Prismacolor art pencils. They're like smooth butter and so soothing to color with. The Prismacolor art markers (not illustration markers - haven't tried those) are good, too, but I find they're not as versatile when coloring and can easily bleed when the paper isn't thick enough. Since you like gel pens, I think I understand the feel you want -- I would recommend either some good colored pencils or art pens, like those Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens. Happy coloring!
posted by lock sock and barrel at 8:57 AM on January 27, 2016

They sell an adult coloring book and colored pencils at Kroger. Just pick that up to start with. If you like it, buy another book when you're done with the first.

You don't have to buy $700 worth of top notch supplies to do every hobby, especially when you're just starting out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:09 AM on January 27, 2016

Forget everything marketed as an "adult coloring book" and get a bunch of Dover ones with art and subjects you like. The mythical beasts book is A+++++.
posted by babelfish at 9:17 AM on January 27, 2016

Response by poster: Metafilter is so amazing, thanks you guys! Ironically, I feel like everyone's given me more to think about, but it's actually a good thing because it's all coming from a place of knowledge. I know I could have just randomly dived in, but I wanted it to be an informed diving if that makes sense?

I've marked a few best answers just to mark the direction I'm going, but thought I'd share some details as to why I selected those (because everyone's answer is good!)

- I am actually very interested in the super intricate designs. I can see how they can be not relaxing for some, but one of my numerous hobbies is nail art and concentrating on tiny, intricate, detail coloring is definitely something that relaxes me (and at least I can use my dominant hand the whole time). And based on my knitting hobby and fair isle knitting I love thinking about and experimenting with color combinations.
- The Dover stained glass books look gorgeous but they are actually the same price or even more expensive than the Basford and Marotta books in the UK. They are going on the wishlist for sure.
- I actually did start coloring in an app (Colorfy) and realised I wanted to move to a more tactile experience, thus this question.
- That dropbox link is great, that owl is exactly the type of thing I would love to color!
- The Abrams Vive le Color is perfect! Book and tools all in one and all available on Amazon UK (for quite a markup from US, but as an overall price not too bad)!

Thanks, everyone! I am sure I will refer back to this link later when I want to expand on this new hobby.
posted by like_neon at 10:00 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh god, I just went through my overstuffed "craft box" and found a set of Faber-Castell coloring pencils and charcoal pencils (lolwhut?) I think I have... issues... Well at least that's half the kit already sorted!
posted by like_neon at 10:25 AM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

ms scruss picked up a pack of cheap-ish Staedtler Noris colouring pencils (“Exclusive Johanna Basford Edition”, fwiw) in Glasgow airport on the way back home over Christmas. They are bright, non-crumbly, sharpen smoothly, and we fight over them for our art projects. Other decent European brands include Caran d'Ache (their cheaper ranges are not great), Stabilo and Lyra (tho Lyra's colouring pencils tend to be rather muted in colour). Don't get watercolour (aquarelle) pencils unless you know that you're going to use a water wash - and that the stock the book is printed on can take wet media. Used dry, watercolour pencils are quite faint.

Some of Pepin's books are very detailed, and they make postcard colouring books that can take watercolour and gouache.
posted by scruss at 11:53 AM on January 27, 2016

I like to color while relaxing in an easy chair rather than sitting upright at a table. So I gently remove the page I want to work on from the book and place it in a clipboard. I prefer the clipboards with a low profile clip.

I started with a set of 20 Crayola colored pencils and another set of Crayola markers. I expected to use the pencils most of the time and the markers rarely. But I was surprised how much more I like using the markers. My next purchase will be a set of very fine tip markers. Also using a clipboard prevents any problems with bleed-thru.
posted by marsha56 at 12:28 PM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I teach a Chicago History class and I have my students (seniors in high school) color Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows pages. The designs are really intricate for the most part. It's published by Dover.
posted by Hop123 at 6:10 PM on January 27, 2016

If you like knitting Fair Isle, this!

I got my mom the Dover William Morris coloring book for Christmas and it's very intricate.
posted by clavicle at 6:36 PM on January 27, 2016

Going a step or two up from Crayolas is totally worth it. I have a mishmash of brands and the Crayolas just look faded and feel scratchy compared to the art store pencils.

Prismacolor has a cheaper line of "Scholar" pencils that has gotten good reviews, if you're OK with crappy packaging. I haven't tried them yet (only seen them available online so far) but they're waiting in my Amazon cart.
posted by yeahlikethat at 7:23 PM on January 27, 2016

The Smithsonian Libraries has created a free downloadable coloring booklet featuring items in their collections, available as a pdf toward the bottom of the page here. The Biodiversity Heritage Library also has one: link to pdf. They also have a collection on Flickr and Pinterest.

You might also be interested in the Feb. 1 - 5 event led by the New York Academy of Medicine inviting people to download images from library and cultural institution collections and share them on social media using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections ; info. here. Here also is the New York Academy of Medicine free coloring book: link to pdf.
posted by gudrun at 9:20 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

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