Adult coloring books have really hit it off recently and it has become somewhat of a meditative hobby for most of us to have a break from everyday life.
If you look at the best sellers on Amazon in recent years adult coloring books have topped the charts multiple times. If you’re as into it as we’ve become then you’ll want to step up your coloring game from the happy meal coloring pencils you found at the bottom of your handbag.
Markers are a great way to bump up the quality of any of your masterpieces but it’s not as simple as running to the closest Walmart or Michaels (if you’re lucky) and grabbing the hard tipped bucket of 100 different colors.
These cheaper markers are usually lower and are almost always the reason for oversaturation and paper tearing.
There’s a whole world out there of different markers, the type of tip, the type of ink, the shape of the marker, the pigment quality, and even the blending ability (yes this is possible with some markers).
The other thing you’ll want to take into consideration is the quality of the paper that the ink is being applied to. The normal coloring book will use a standard paper at around 100 gsm. These are fine for coloring pencils but you’ll have a bad case of ink bleed if you want to use markers.
The more premium adult coloring books will have higher quality paper at around 120 to 150 gsm. You’ll want to aim for a minimum of 150 gsm or 180 microns. This weight of paper can handle a decent amount of ink before you see any protrusion.
For the best results, a watercolor coloring book with a weight of around 200 gsm will work best. The increase in thickness will protect the next pages.
If you don’t want to spend a couple of extra bucks getting a new book and you already have one laying around, then don’t worry there’s a quick trick that we use to stop the effects of the ink bleed.
Place a piece of greaseproof paper underneath the page that you’re coloring. You might get some bleed on the underside of the page but it won’t be able to penetrate through to the next few pages.
In a Rush?
Are you rearing to get the coloring book started and you just don’t have the tools yet? Not to worry, we’ve got our top pick for you right here with just a few reasons why we love it.
Copic Marker 12-Piece Sketch Basic Set
Copic markers are usually regarded as the best in the industry. They are fairly costly but they offer professional level coloring abilities to anyone with a bit of a passion for their art.
- The 12-piece set gives you basic necessary colors.
- Alcohol based pigment allows you to blend all colors endlessly.
- The patented Copic brush tips feel smooth and allow for detail normally not achievable.
- The Broad tip is great for covering large areas or getting clean lines.
- The markers come in a clear carrying/storage case.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
The industry standard for amazing quality markers starts and ends with Copic. They have created the best markers currently available and they know it.
Copic markers are not by any means cheap but they offer a coloring experience that is not attainable in any other art media.
These markers are designed and manufactured in Japan and hold all of the high standards you’d expect from a Japanese product.
They were initially developed for the Japanese manga industry which, if you’ve ever seen a single panel, you’ll know they have great color application and accuracy.
The construction of the pens is extremely high quality and these are made to last you a lifetime. Every part is replaceable and the ink is refillable.
You aren’t buying markers that are disposable you’re investing in a tool you can use for years to come.
Copic inks are alcohol based and extremely vibrant and smooth, the pigment inside the alcohol is distributed so evenly you won’t find a need to apply more than one coat.
Alcohol based inks are completely different from the standard water based inks you may be used to from standard, lower quality markers.
Alcohol based inks are easy to blend, you can apply as many different colors on top of each other and with a little work, they will fuse to create whichever resultant color you were aiming for.
This type of ink affects the paper much less than water based markers. You will be able to apply multitudes more ink to the page before the paper fibers are destroyed. The ink also dries acid free meaning that it is non reactive.
As we stated before the open time on this ink is limitless so you can revisit pieces from years ago and re-wet them to add more.
Unlike most permanent markers, like sharpies, these markers are completely non toxic and free from any harmful chemicals.
You’ll also notice that the ink has no discernable or irritating smell. You’ll be able to use them for hours without having to worry about an odor or opening a window.
The brush tip that comes included with these markers is market leading. They have been designed to act as a high quality brush would without fraying or splitting.
These tips deliver the alcohol based ink smoothly to the page without breaks, the uniformity you can achieve is second to none.
High levels of detail and extremely thin lines are achievable with these depending on which part of the brush tip you use.
If you apply less pressure and allow the tip to glide along the page then you can achieve extremely fine lines. The brush tip also allows you to easily blend colors as you normally would with paint application.
The broad tip is a harder flat tip that is great for drawing straight edges and covering larger surfaces.
Both tips are highly durable but after some use can become frayed or slightly worn, you can easily replace these tips which is also how you would refill the ink into the marker.
The markers are quite long but have a smooth oblong hand feel to them. They are extremely comfortable to use for hours on end and the hard plastic will last you years.
Some artists are still using Copic markers they purchased over 25 years ago!
The markers come in a hard plastic carrying case that you can easily use as storage. This is great if you didn’t want to spend anything extra on a carrying pouch or storage shelf.
- Years of experience and high Japanese standards have produced a market leading marker.
- The alcohol based ink can be blended, is non toxic and permanent and can be worked years later.
- The Copic Super Brush Nib is second to none in its ink application, flexibility, versatility and blending ability.
- The ink, brush nib and broad tip are all replaceable so you can guarantee longevity.
- The markers are comfortable to use for extended periods of time without discomfort.
- This set is fairly costly for only 12 colors.
For this entrant, we’re actually putting 2 separate sets from the same line. The Illustrator markers from Spectrum noir have been called dethroners because of their quality in comparison to Copic.
These markers are much more cost effective compared to Copic markers but you do lose some quality with that price reduction. That is not to say these are low quality markers. These are some of the best markers we have used which is why they are on our list.
The reason we’re putting 2 sets of these markers on the list is simply because of the color options. Spectrum noir doesn't offer a 12-piece set like Copic so you’ll need the 2 separate 6-piece sets to make up a decent color base.
You do however get a marker that wasn’t available in the Copic set that proves to be an indispensable tool when you use it, the colorless blender. The other thing to note is that the 2 separate sets combined are still around half the cost of the Copic markers.
The Illustrator markers use an alcohol based ink similar to Copic, the ink quality is slightly lower due to the lower quality pigment used.
All this means for normal usage, is that you may need to apply a second coat of ink for the most even color coverage.
The colorless blender is great for desaturating an area and gives a watercolor effect when you saturate the page with the blender.
Spectrum Noir has opted for a 2 nib design but has decided on a brush tip and super-fine tip as opposed to a broad tip. This is where you’ll notice the biggest difference between Copic markers and the Illustrator markers.
The brush tips are lower quality in this marker, they are completely usable and still a huge improvement over standard hard tips.
The brush tip has a very good ink flow and decent flexibility but it doesn’t stand up well to pressure.
You can control the ink perfectly with the nib but you’ll have to demonstrate more restraint as the tip of the brush tends to fray. If you have a light touch then you won’t even notice the fraying.
The brush tip compliments the ink fairly well in that it blends the ink without any effort and really works well to saturate the page without damaging the paper fibers. The super-fine tip is good for detailing and moderate line work.
Overall the nibs are fairly good quality and work well to place the ink accurately and effectively.
The pens are designed with an uneven hexagonal barrel that is fairly comfortable to use but only fits your hand in 2 orientations.
The sharp edges of the hexagon can rub into your hand if you hold the marker wrong. Holding it correctly, you can use these markers for hours without noticing.
Not unlike the Copic markers you can replace the ink and nibs to extend the life of your pens, we’ve found that you can get at least 5 years out of these with regular nib replacement and refilling.
- The high quality alcohol based inks are easy to blend and lay down easily.
- The brush tip and super-fine nib combo offer decent coverage and detailing options.
- The replaceable ink and brush tips make these markers last years.
- The uneven hexagonal barrel is comfortable to use for hours.
- The brush tip is flexible and versatile and feels like a paintbrush.
- You have to get 2 sets to make up for enough color options.
The next set of markers on our list is from everyone’s favorite crayon manufacturer Crayola. This set of 16 markers oddly has a color count of 32.
Crayola has achieved this by making each end of the dual tipped pens a different color.
The brush tip will be one color and the ultra-fine tip will be a slightly more or slightly less saturated color.
These markers more closely resemble the standard markers you’re used to using.
The ink is water based which means a couple of different things.
Firstly the inks will not blend like the alcohol based inks we’ve already seen and secondly they’re more likely to oversaturate the paper fibers and create a mushy mess.
You might be asking why we’d recommend these then. Well, these markers are still extremely capable.
The water based ink means you’ll have to be more cautious when laying down your ink but if you have one of the watercolor books we recommended then this won’t even be an issue for you.
The ink goes down fairly evenly although it can seem a bit saturated, this is what you’ll find with most water based inks.
The brush tip is sturdy enough to cover larger areas with color but as with the Illustrator markers you may have to practice restraint in using these so as not to fray the tip.
The ultra-fine tip is ideal for detailing but each tip is a slightly different color so we’d recommend finishing/detailing with the same tip so as not to mix colors.
The pens are more reminiscent of standard thinner pens and therefore will be as comfortable as any smaller pen is to use.
The whole set comes in an aesthetically pleasing tin storage case that works well for storage.
- This set is much more cost effective.
- You get a larger selection of colors to use.
- The brush tip is high quality and lays down the water based ink effectively.
- Because of the different tips these pens are great for not only coloring but also for writing and lettering.
- The Crayola colors and standards are evident in this set.
- The different colors on either side of each pen make it more difficult to detail your work.
This 24-set marker set from Aenart is similar to the Crayola set we’ve just looked at but instead of having 16 pens with 2 different colors each, this set has only 24 colors but 2 ways of applying that color per pen.
In this way they are similar to the alcohol markers from Spectrum Noir and Copic. The major difference is in the fine tip that Aenart has used.
The Brush tip is very high quality and precise enough to use for professional calligraphy and the water based ink is extremely vibrant and lays down easily and evenly.
You still won’t get any blending out of this ink but with such vibrant colors you can just lay a couple of colors on top of each other for tonal variation.
The fine tip is the finest tip we’ve seen so far at only 0.4mm these tips are perfect for line work and detailing. If you enjoy crosshatch coloring or shading then this is the set for you.
The barrels of the markers are slightly chunkier than you may be used to but they will still be completely comfortable to use for extended periods of time.
- The amount of colors you get with this set is enough for most pieces.
- The high quality brush tip can be used to cover large areas or do calligraphy.
- The 0.4mm fine tip is small enough for extreme detailing, not taking or even line work.
- The body of the pens is comfortable enough for extended use.
- If you don’t have a high quality paper this ink will bleed through very easily and damage the paper.
The final set on our list is another alcohol based ink set from Caliart.
These markers are much more cost effective compared to the other 2 on our list, this set of 40 markers cost roughly the same as 1 6-piece set from Spectrum noir.
The quality difference in the ink is definitely notable but for the price difference these markers are more than adequate for a novice artist who wants the benefits of alcohol based ink without having to spend an arm and a leg.
The biggest sacrifice you’ll make going for these markers is the nib type. You don’t get a brush tip on either end of these pens, instead Caliart has opted for a broad tip and a 0.7mm fine tip.
You’ll be able to color your coloring books with these without any issues and it will still feel hugely better than using the cheaper felt tip pens. The nibs are effective at laying down the ink evenly and effectively.
As with any alcohol based ink you’ll be able to blend any of the colors in this set but with 40 different colors you may not even need to.
The body of the pens is very similar to the Copic markers except without that extra ergonomic shape you get from the much more expensive pens.
- You get all of the benefits of alcohol based ink for water based ink prices.
- The fine tip and broad tip are effective at laying down even and vibrant color.
- The color coded caps make it easy to choose your color without moving the pens.
- The thick shape and large internal cavity give you plenty of ink to use while still being comfortable to hold.
- Because these nibs aren’t replaceable and the ink isn’t refillable you’ll have to dispose of these markers once they’re dried out.
Best Markers for Adult Coloring Books Buying Guide
Using those cheap dollar store markers for your beautiful bespoke coloring book will get the job done but they will never garner the same results as using a dedicated set of purposefully designed coloring markers.
By simply upping your standard of coloring supplies you’ll begin to find your inner Michelangelo or Da Vinci, as long as it’s not your inner Van Gogh you’ll be completely fine.
There are 2 main types of coloring markers out there right now, those are water based markers and alcohol based markers. Most felt-tip pens and cheaper markers are water based; they are therefore water soluble and don’t have much stain resistance or blending ability.
Alcohol markers have largely been adopted by most professional illustrators and artists because of their superior quality. We would always recommend choosing an alcohol based marker but they may not always fit into your budget as they are normally more effective.
The other thing to consider is the number of colors or color making abilities. In most watercolor paint sets you’ll normally see between 10-12 different colors because out of these colors you can blend them to make other colors.
The same applies with high quality alcohol based markers so you don’t always need a huge selection of markers but it does make things easier. This is especially true with water based markers as you have little to no blending abilities.
The marker you choose will need a good quality nib to apply the ink to the paper. Our top recommendation for nibs is almost always to have a combination of a brush tip with either a fine tip or broad tip.
With a brush tip you’re mostly covered for all coloring needs but you’ll get some utility out of a fine tip when detailing and a broad tip when coloring edges or large areas.
The shape of the pen also matters, if you’re like us and can spend hours on end coloring you'll want your markers to be comfortable in the hand.
The worst thing is when you get into a flow with your coloring and your hand starts to cramp from the strain. Make sure the pens you choose have taken ergonomics into consideration and you’ll be going for hours.
Once you’ve chosen your markers you’ll be coloring in style, make sure to take breaks and store your markers correctly and you’ll have usable art supplies for years to come.