Choosing the right medium

Choosing the right medium

You want to color, but you’re asking yourself, “What should I use to color this design?”  There are many options to choose for a medium, and even within mediums there are differences. With the overwhelming selection coming to the market, it can be hard to choose the best option for your needs.  If you’re like me, your coloring area looks a little like this:

IMG_7881Oh dear! That’s a LOT of choices! Hopefully, I can help make the process easier, with some things to consider when deciding on a medium.

Sometimes our choices are dependent on a particular book or page, and sometimes the decision has more to do with what feels best, or what you’re able to do without hurting yourself.  I hope to provide a little insight for these different scenarios.

When choosing the medium for a particular book, printed page, or project I find it helpful to consider the following:

  • Is the image double-sided?
A frog I colored from “Color Me Your Way” by PJC Smart. I used colored pencil for the frog, plant and butterfly, and pastels for the background.

If the coloring book or page has designs on both sides of the paper, it is important to select a medium that will allow the page to be colored without ruining the image on the reverse side.  Color pencils, pastels, crayons and water based markers are least likely to cause any color transfer or bleed.   Keep in mind pressing too hard with a color pencil can affect the image on the reverse side, as the indents on the page may show.

If the book is not double-sided, you have more options as there is less chance of contaminating another page.  If you opt to use markers I would suggest using a piece of paper between the pages to protect the opposite page as sometimes the bleed through can be extensive depending on the thickness of paper.

  • Thickness of paper

Speaking of thickness, if the paper is on the thin side, crayons and color pencils tend to work the best.  Water based markers may be okay as well, but I would test it out before using them on a favorite drawing or book.  Keep in mind the darkest colors of any medium may show through thin pages.

Watercolor pencils add texture to this fun gnome design by ChromaTomes that was included in our April issue.

The thicker the page, the more options you have when it comes to coloring.  Color pencils,  crayons, and water based markers with a light hand will work in most adult coloring books.  I would caution against using alcohol based markers unless you have thicker paper. Even then, as mentioned above, use a blank sheet of paper behind the image to protect the design on the next page.

Water color pencils can be used in coloring books with thicker paper as well, just take care with the amount of water you use, and be aware there is a good chance the paper will buckle a little.  Whatever you choose, I recommend doing a little test to see how it will work with the coloring book or other media you have chosen.

  • Image choice

The level of detail is something to consider when deciding which medium would work best for the image.  If there are a lot of tiny details, I prefer to use color pencils or fine liners.  It can be difficult to get into the tight areas with regular markers or crayons.

  • Purpose

There are many good reasons to color.   I talk to different people around the world, and everyone has their own reason why they took up coloring.   The most common are:  stress and/or anxiety relief, practicing to improve skills,  learning new techniques, or for the simple joy of putting color on paper.   Whatever your reason may be, there is something special about bringing a beautiful picture to life with a touch of color.

With markers, it was easy to get lost in the patterns of this design from “Color Me Happy” by Lacy Mucklow, Illustrated by Angela Porter.

Sometimes the choice of medium is dependent on mood, circumstance, or physical ability.  For people with certain conditions or injuries, coloring can be painful.  Some mediums are less taxing than others. Markers glide easily and lay down a vibrant color without having to press or hold on too hard.  Gel pens are another medium that work well for someone who struggles with pain in their hands/arms while coloring.

  • Time

When time is of the essence it is good to factor in set up and clean up time into the decision.  It is really easy  to grab color pencils or markers and a book to lay down some funky color in a short period of time.  With markers, you can lay color very quickly and that in itself can provide a form of “instant” gratification.  It is satisfying to get beautiful results without taxing the mind or body.

When there is a little more time on hand, It can be fun to get  creative with backgrounds, or to dabble with various media and supplies including watercolors and pastels.

Other times, it is nice to grab a marker and lose oneself with intense focus on an  intricate pattern of a mandala or in the detailed leaves of a forest.   Hours can slip by when you are in a meditative type trance, focusing on nothing but the page and colors.

The sky is the limit and I hope you will experiment with different options to find what works best for you in any given situation.



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