A Guide to Choosing the Right Coloring Supplies: From Crayons to Colored Pencils

Hey there, art lovers! Ever wondered how the right coloring tools can elevate your creative journey? Coloring is more than just a casual hobby; it’s a form of expression, a stress-reliever, and even a profession for some. This guide aims to delve deep into the world of coloring supplies, offering you valuable insights on how to choose the right ones for your needs.

Types of Coloring Supplies

Before diving into the nitty-gritty, let’s skim through the types of coloring supplies we’ll be discussing:

  • Crayons
  • Colored Pencils
  • Markers
  • Watercolors
  • Pastels


Crayons have long been a staple in art supplies for children, but they also offer unique advantages and limitations for artists of all ages. On the plus side, crayons are incredibly user-friendly. Their simple, straightforward design makes them accessible to everyone, from toddlers making their first scribbles to adults exploring artistic outlets. They are portable and require no additional tools or water, unlike paints, making them ideal for on-the-go creativity. The relative hardness of the crayon wax allows for both fine and broad strokes, offering a range of expressive possibilities. Moreover, crayons come in a myriad of colors, and the quality has improved significantly over the years, with some brands even offering washable or water-soluble options.

Another benefit is their affordability. Crayons are generally cheaper than many other art mediums, making them accessible to people on a budget. They are also non-toxic, so parents don’t have to worry about young children putting them in their mouths. Crayons are durable, too. Unlike markers, which can dry out, or colored pencils that can break, crayons can last a very long time and endure a fair amount of abuse. They are also versatile, capable of being melted down to create different forms of art or to be used for rubbings, teaching children about textures and shapes in an interactive manner.

However, crayons are not without their limitations. One of the most significant drawbacks is the lack of precision they offer. The bulky tip makes it challenging to color intricate designs or execute detailed drawings, limiting their utility for more complex art projects. Another issue is the waxy texture, which can create a sort of “film” on the surface of the paper. This can make layering colors or creating gradients difficult, and it can sometimes result in a less professional finish compared to other mediums like watercolor or colored pencils. Moreover, the wax can create a resist, making it difficult to apply other media on top of it, such as ink or paint, limiting mixed-media applications.

Crayons also have a limited range of textures and effects they can produce. Unlike paint, which can be manipulated to create different textures, or charcoal, which can produce a range of tones and depths, crayons have a relatively flat appearance. Additionally, high-quality art crayons can be expensive, negating one of their primary benefits. Finally, although they are non-toxic, crayons are not environmentally friendly. Most are made of paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. They are also not biodegradable and contribute to waste, especially given the frequency with which they are discarded.

In conclusion, crayons offer an array of benefits such as ease of use, affordability, and versatility, making them an excellent choice for casual art and craft projects. However, they also have inherent limitations like less precision, a waxy texture, and environmental concerns that can make them less suitable for more serious artistic endeavors. Therefore, while crayons are an excellent introduction to the world of color and expression, they may not fulfill the needs of every project or artist.

  • Ease of Use: Crayons are user-friendly, making them ideal for beginners and kids.
  • Affordability: They’re generally cheaper than most other coloring supplies.
  • Wax-Based: Allows for interesting layering techniques.
  • Limited Precision: Not the best for intricate detailing.
  • Fragility: They can break or melt easily.
Top Brands
  • Crayola: Known for its non-toxic materials.
  • Faber-Castell: Offers a more premium experience.

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are a versatile and popular medium for artists and hobbyists alike, offering a blend of control, range, and potential for detail that few other coloring tools can match. One of their most significant advantages is the level of precision they afford. The pointed tip of a colored pencil allows for meticulous detailing, making it possible to create intricate designs and realistic textures. Whether you’re adding subtle gradients or crafting fine lines, colored pencils offer a level of control that is hard to achieve with other coloring tools like crayons or markers. This makes them an excellent choice for more complex and detailed art projects, including portraiture and landscape drawings.

Another benefit is the range and depth of colors available. High-quality colored pencils can be found in a wide variety of hues, and many artists appreciate the ability to blend these colors directly on the paper to create new shades or gradients. Some brands offer pencils with multiple colors in a single lead, further expanding the possibilities for blending and shading. Additionally, colored pencils are excellent for layering, allowing artists to build up color gradually. This enables a level of depth and complexity in the artwork that is challenging to achieve with other mediums.

Colored pencils are also relatively mess-free. Unlike paints, which require water, brushes, and a palette, colored pencils are a self-contained medium. This makes them ideal for on-the-go art projects or for those who have limited workspace. They are also easily correctable; mistakes can often be erased or worked over, offering a forgiving learning curve for beginners. Moreover, they are relatively long-lasting, especially when used with high-quality, acid-free paper, ensuring that artworks remain vibrant over time.

However, colored pencils are not without their limitations. One of the most significant drawbacks is the time and effort required to fill large areas with color. Unlike markers or watercolor, which can quickly cover expansive regions, coloring large areas with pencil can be time-consuming and may lead to hand fatigue. They also require regular sharpening to maintain the tip’s precision, which can result in waste and frequent interruptions during the coloring process. High-quality colored pencils, particularly those with richer pigments and better blendability, can also be quite expensive, making them less accessible for some artists.

Another limitation is the difficulty in achieving certain textures and effects. While colored pencils are excellent for creating a smooth, detailed finish, they struggle to replicate the fluidity of watercolors or the bold, flat expanses of color achievable with markers. They also can’t be easily mixed like paint, meaning you’re generally restricted to the colors available in your pencil set, although layering and blending can mitigate this to some extent. Lastly, while many colored pencils are marketed as being erasable, the reality is that darker hues and heavy layering can be challenging to remove entirely, making mistakes potentially more permanent than with other media.

In summary, colored pencils offer a high degree of precision and a wide range of coloring possibilities, making them a favored choice for detailed and complex artworks. However, they can be time-consuming for filling large areas, require regular sharpening, and may be costly for high-quality options. The medium also has limitations in texture and blending compared to more fluid or expansive coloring options like paints or markers. Despite these drawbacks, the versatility and control offered by colored pencils make them a valuable tool in any artist’s arsenal.

  • High Precision: Great for detailed work.
  • Blendability: You can create a range of shades and tones.
  • Wide Color Spectrum: Many brands offer extensive color options.
  • Cost: Quality colored pencils can be expensive.
  • Maintenance: They require regular sharpening.
Top Brands
  • Prismacolor: Offers soft cores for smooth blending.
  • Derwent: Known for its professional-grade pencils.


Markers are a popular medium for coloring, offering a range of benefits and limitations that make them suitable for specific types of art projects. One of the most notable advantages of markers is the speed and ease with which they can be used to fill large areas with vibrant, uniform color. Unlike colored pencils, which can be time-consuming for covering expansive spaces, markers allow for quick application, making them ideal for artists who want to complete their projects in a shorter amount of time. This attribute makes markers particularly popular for graphic design, cartooning, and other forms of illustrative art.

Another significant benefit is the wide variety of types and styles available. Whether you prefer alcohol-based markers, which are known for their vibrant colors and blendability, or water-based markers, which are easier to control and less prone to bleeding, there’s likely a marker that fits your specific needs. Markers also come in various tip shapes and sizes, from fine points for detailed work to broad tips for covering large areas, providing artists with a range of expressive possibilities. Some markers even offer dual tips, one fine and one broad, giving artists more versatility in a single tool.

Additionally, markers are portable and require no additional accessories like brushes or palettes. This makes them an excellent choice for on-the-go artists or those who have limited workspace. High-quality markers are also often refillable and have replaceable tips, making them a more sustainable and long-lasting option than disposable alternatives. The immediate drying time is another advantage, as it reduces the risk of smudging, a common issue with other mediums like ink or paint.

However, markers are not without their limitations. One of the most significant drawbacks is the cost, especially for high-quality, professional-grade markers. While cheaper options are available, they often lack the vibrancy and longevity of their more expensive counterparts. Another limitation is the permanence of the medium. Once applied, most markers are not erasable, making mistakes difficult to correct. This lack of forgiveness can be intimidating for beginners and may not be suitable for projects that require a lot of experimentation and revision.

Markers can also bleed through paper, especially if it’s not thick or specially designed for marker use. This can limit the types of paper you can use and may require additional preparation, such as placing a barrier sheet beneath your working page. The ink in markers can also dry out if not properly capped, reducing their lifespan and leading to inconsistent color application. Furthermore, while alcohol-based markers are excellent for blending, water-based markers typically do not offer the same capability, making gradients and shading more challenging to achieve.

In summary, markers offer a quick and convenient way to add vibrant, consistent color to art projects, with a variety of types and styles to suit different needs. However, they can be expensive, unforgiving of mistakes, and may require specific types of paper to prevent bleeding. Despite these limitations, the efficiency and range of expressive possibilities make markers a valuable tool for many artists, from professionals to hobbyists. Whether used for detailed illustrations or bold, graphic designs, markers have a unique set of characteristics that can both enhance and constrain your artistic endeavors.

  • Quick Drying: Ideal for fast-paced sketching.
  • Variety in Tip Sizes: From fine to broad tips.
  • Vibrant Colors: Markers offer strong, bold colors.
  • Bleeding: They can bleed through paper.
  • Permanence: Mistakes are hard to correct.
Top Brands
  • Copic: Widely used by professionals.
  • Sharpie: Offers a range of affordable options.


Watercolors offer a unique set of advantages and challenges that make them a distinct choice for coloring and artistic expression. One of the most prominent benefits of watercolors is their versatility. The medium allows for a wide range of techniques, from wet-on-wet application for soft, diffused effects to dry brushing for more textural and detailed elements. The ability to layer transparent washes enables artists to build up complexity and depth in their work, offering an almost infinite range of hues and tones. This layering technique also allows for easy correction and modification, as new layers can be applied over old ones to adjust colors or add details.

Another advantage is the fluid nature of watercolors, which can produce spontaneous and organic effects. When used with wet paper, watercolors can bloom and spread in unpredictable ways, capturing a sense of movement and life that is difficult to achieve with more controlled mediums like colored pencils or markers. This quality lends itself well to subjects like landscapes, skies, and bodies of water, where the natural blending and gradation can evoke a sense of realism and atmosphere.

Watercolors are also relatively easy to clean up and require minimal supplies, making them convenient for artists who may not have a dedicated workspace. The paints are generally non-toxic and easy to handle, making them suitable for artists of all ages. Additionally, watercolor paintings tend to be lightfast and durable when properly cared for, resisting fading over time better than many other coloring mediums.

However, watercolors also present a set of unique challenges that can make them difficult to master. One of the primary limitations is the need for control over the water-to-pigment ratio. Too much water can dilute colors and lead to muddy, washed-out paintings, while too little water can result in harsh, unblended lines. This delicate balance often requires practice and experience to get right. The absorbent nature of watercolor paper can also make it unforgiving of mistakes; once the paint is applied, it’s challenging to remove or correct, especially with darker colors.

Another drawback is the cost and quality of the necessary supplies. High-quality watercolor paper and paints can be expensive, and using cheaper alternatives often leads to inferior results. Paper quality is particularly important, as low-quality papers can warp or deteriorate when wet, ruining the artwork. Additionally, while watercolors are excellent for blending and layering, they are less suited for producing the fine, detailed lines that can be achieved with mediums like ink or colored pencils. This can make them a poor choice for projects that require intricate detailing or bold, graphic styles.

In summary, watercolors offer a versatile and expressive medium for coloring that allows for a wide range of techniques and effects. However, they also require a high degree of control and skill, as well as quality supplies, to produce the best results. The medium is well-suited for projects that benefit from its unique blending and layering capabilities but may be less appropriate for works that require fine detail or bold, flat expanses of color. Despite these challenges, the beauty and depth achievable with watercolors make them a rewarding choice for many artists, both amateur and professional.

  • Blendability: Easy to mix and create gradients.
  • Lightfastness: Resists fading over time.
  • Portability: Watercolor sets are easy to carry.
  • Steep Learning Curve: Requires skill to master.
  • Paper Requirements: Special paper needed for best results.
Top Brands
  • Winsor & Newton: Professional-grade watercolors.
  • Daniel Smith: Known for its vibrant pigments.


Pastels occupy a unique place in the art world, offering a blend of benefits and limitations that cater to specific artistic needs and styles. One of the most striking advantages of using pastels is the immediacy and intensity of color they provide. Unlike other mediums that require mixing or layering to achieve the desired hue, pastels deliver vibrant, saturated color straight from the stick, allowing artists to create bold, impactful works with relative ease. This makes pastels particularly well-suited for capturing the nuances of light and shadow, as well as for creating vivid, expressive compositions.

Another benefit is the tactile nature of the medium. Working with pastels is a hands-on experience that allows artists to engage directly with their materials, offering a sense of control and intimacy that can be both satisfying and creatively liberating. The physicality of applying pastel to paper also allows for a wide range of textures and techniques, from soft, blended transitions to crisp, defined lines. This versatility makes pastels suitable for a variety of artistic styles, from impressionistic landscapes to detailed portraits.

Pastels are also relatively low-maintenance. They don’t require any solvents, brushes, or palettes, making setup and cleanup simple and straightforward. This also makes them a portable and convenient option for artists who like to work on location or who have limited studio space. Moreover, because they are a dry medium, pastels don’t require drying time, allowing artists to work quickly and make adjustments on the fly.

However, this convenience comes with its own set of challenges. One of the most significant limitations of pastels is their fragility. Both the sticks themselves and the finished artworks are susceptible to smudging, breaking, and deterioration. This means that pastel works often require special handling, including immediate framing under glass, to preserve their integrity over time. The softness of the medium also makes it difficult to achieve fine, intricate details, limiting its suitability for certain types of artwork.

Another drawback is the issue of dust. Pastels produce a fine powder that can be messy and, in some cases, pose a health risk if inhaled over extended periods. This necessitates a well-ventilated work area and may require artists to take additional safety precautions such as wearing a mask. Additionally, high-quality pastels and pastel paper can be expensive, making it a less accessible medium for some artists. Cheaper alternatives are available, but they often lack the color intensity and blendability of professional-grade materials, which can limit the quality of the finished work.

In summary, pastels offer a range of benefits including vibrant color, textural versatility, and convenience, making them a compelling choice for many artists. However, they also come with significant limitations, such as their fragility, the risk of dust, and the difficulty of achieving fine details. These challenges can make pastels a less suitable option for certain types of work, but for projects that can capitalize on their unique strengths, they offer a rewarding and expressive medium that is well worth exploring.

  • Rich Texture: Creates a unique, textured finish.
  • No Drying Time: Quick and convenient to use.
  • Highly Blendable: Easy to mix colors.
  • Fragility: Soft pastels can break easily.
  • Messy: Can create a lot of dust.
Top Brands
  • Sennelier: Offers luxurious, soft pastels.
  • Mungyo: A budget-friendly option.

Choosing Based on Skill Level

Selecting the right coloring supplies can significantly impact the artistic process and the quality of the finished work, and one crucial factor in making this decision is the artist’s skill level. For beginners, simplicity and ease of use are often the most important considerations. Crayons or colored pencils can be ideal starting points because they require minimal setup, are generally inexpensive, and offer a forgiving learning curve. Crayons are particularly suitable for young children who are still developing their motor skills, as they are chunky and easy to grip. Colored pencils provide a bit more control and are excellent for learning the basics of shading and color mixing, making them a logical next step for budding artists.

As skill levels progress, artists may find that they crave more control and a broader range of techniques than these basic mediums can provide. This is where markers and watercolors can come into play. Markers offer vibrant, consistent color and are available in various tip sizes for different applications. They are excellent for illustrative work and projects that require bold, consistent hues. However, they can be less forgiving of mistakes and may require a more steady hand, making them better suited for intermediate artists. Watercolors, on the other hand, are versatile and offer a wide range of textural possibilities, but they demand a good understanding of water-to-paint ratios and can be unforgiving of errors. Therefore, they are often best suited for those with some experience and a willingness to experiment.

For advanced artists, the world of coloring supplies opens up even further. High-quality pastels, oil paints, and specialized drawing inks become more relevant options as the artist’s skill set expands. Pastels, for example, offer intense color and a unique, hands-on application process but require a level of expertise in blending and layering to unlock their full potential. Oils provide a depth and richness of color that is hard to achieve with other mediums but demand a deep understanding of blending, layering, and even chemistry, as well as a significant investment in both time and materials. Inks, often used in combination with other mediums, offer unparalleled precision but require a steady hand and a deep understanding of line weight and flow.

Cost is another factor that varies with skill level. Beginners may be well-served with budget-friendly options, but as one progresses, the quality of materials can make a significant difference in the finished product. Investing in high-quality paper, for example, can offer a better absorption rate and durability, enhancing the longevity and appearance of the artwork. Similarly, professional-grade colors in any medium generally offer higher pigment concentrations, providing richer, more vibrant results.

In summary, the right coloring supplies can differ dramatically based on the artist’s skill level. Beginners may prioritize ease of use and cost-effectiveness, opting for crayons or colored pencils. Intermediate artists may venture into markers and watercolors for greater control and versatility. Advanced artists, in contrast, might opt for higher-quality, specialized materials like pastels, oils, or inks that offer nuanced control and professional-grade results. Understanding your skill level and the demands of your chosen project is key to making an informed choice, ensuring that your tools enhance rather than hinder your artistic expression.

For Beginners

  • Crayons and basic colored pencils are an excellent starting point.

For Intermediate Users

  • Watercolors and quality markers can add complexity to your art.

For Advanced Users

  • Pastels and high-end colored pencils offer professional-level results.

Additional Supplies

  • Types of Paper: Your choice can impact your final artwork.
  • Erasers and Sharpeners: Opt for quality to avoid frustration.

Environmental Considerations

  • Brands like Eco-Crayon and Eco-Pencil offer sustainable options.

Budget Considerations

  • Balance between quality and cost is crucial.

Online vs In-Store Shopping

  • Each has its pros and cons; consider what’s most important for you.

Safety Precautions

  • Always check for non-toxic labels, especially for kids.

Maintenance Tips

  • Proper storage and cleaning can extend the life of your supplies.


The world of coloring supplies is vast and exciting. With this detailed guide, you’re now equipped to make informed choices that will truly serve your artistic pursuits. Happy coloring!


  1. What are the safest coloring supplies for kids?
    • Non-toxic crayons and watercolors are generally safe.
  2. Can I blend different types of coloring supplies?
    • Yes, but always test first on a scrap piece of paper.
  3. Is it worth splurging on high-end brands?
    • If you’re serious about your art, investing in quality supplies can be beneficial.
  4. What are some eco-friendly coloring supply brands?
    • Eco-Crayon and Eco-Pencil are good starting points.
  5. How should I store my coloring supplies?
    • A well-organized art box with separate compartments is ideal.

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