Weapons Of Choice.

Busy start to the weekend with my daughter having surgery on her shoulder last Friday.  We’re finally back at home relaxing and recovering.  I have a few jobs to get done today but I hope to spend a chunk of my time working in ‘Enchanted Forest’ by Johanna Basford to get it ready for a video review.  In the meantime I thought I’d give you a tour of my preferred art colouring supplies.

Most of these items I have owned for a long time, pre-dating the Colouring craze, so I’m pretty familiar with them.  The exceptions being the Tombows, the Micador pencils and the Smiggles gel pens.  These are pretty much all I use to colour with.  I also own a lot of Copic markers (don’t ask lol) but Copics are alcohol markers and will bleed through everything.  Most of my books are double sided so I would have to sacrifice the picture on the other side to use them and I really want to avoid doing that.  So the Copics are being rested at the moment.

So here is what I like to use…



A quick run down for the interested…

Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.  I bought this pack of 30 from OfficeWorks for $30, which is a pretty good price in Australia.  These are a bunch of fun and great for little detailed and fussy work.  They can bleed through some types of paper though so you will need to test them on a back page of your book before committing to them.  Lovely colour range although a few of the pens are very similar in colour.

Stabilo Fineliners. The 20 pack with the cool stand up packaging.  I also own another five colours that did not come with this set.  Same story as the Staedtlers but the colours are a little more brighter and richer.  The nibs are a little harder as well but that doesn’t make much difference.  I wouldn’t use these to cover large area but i have other techniques for using these that I hope to demonstrate to you in a later post and Youtube video.

Prismacolors.  A U.S. brand of pencils now made in Mexico.  Very rich colour from these very soft pencils. I like them a lot but they are not my favourite.  Some papers work very well with them.  It’s more difficult to get softer shading with them because they do lay down a lot of colour.  Also sharpening them can be an act in frustration as the soft cores break easily and you can often purchase a pencil only to find the core is shattered all the way through.  This happens with about half the open stock I’ve purchased.  The tinned set… so far so good with only two pencils with core problems.  Have a really good sharp pencil sharpener on hand or learn to carve your pencils sharp with a knife.  I use these ones in Animorphia as I find the paper in that book is a little more smooth and these pencils layer best on it.

Faber Castell Polychromos.  THESE are my favourites.  German made pencils, not to be confused with their line of watercolour pencils which are also brilliant. Beautiful colours that lay down well, shading and blending are a dream.  Multiple layers create to deep, interesting and bold colours. They sharpen well and hold a good point for a long time.  There are 120 pencil colours in the range but I only have the 36 set and a pencil roll with about another 30 colours in it.  The majority of my coloured pencil work are done with these.  Love these pencils.  Love love love them.  Drooling over their 120 sets but definitely outside of my budget.  Ah… one day.

Derwent Intense.  If you want bright, bright colour then here are your bad boys!  These pencils come from England.  Almost all of my The Magical City pictures are done with these.  They come in 72 colours but again I have only the 36 set and ten other colours bought open stock.  These lay down like crayons in texture and feel and look a bit dark and dull and then you add water and the colour explodes!  that’s because these are NOT water colours.  Their cores are actually made of acrylic ink.  This gives them their other property which is permanence.  Once dry they can’t be reactivated which makes them perfect for glazing (laying one colour over another) techniques.  I use a Kuretaki aquabrush to activate them although you can use a paintbrush or anything else to apply water.  I recommend an aquabrush for convenience though.  Also, because they are so dark and intense, I keep about ten Faber Castell water colour pencils, the Albrecht Durer ones, in lighter shades of blue and skin tones to use with them.MicadorColouRush

Micador ColouRush.  So with all these high end pencils what is a kids budget brand doing in here?.. WELL!  the simple answer is… I LOVE THEM!.  Do not discount all kids and budget pencils as rubbish.  Some of them are very good and can be an excellent choice for those on a tight budget.  I have tried several different types of budget pencils:  Faber Castell Classics, Crayola, Monte Marte (another Australian brand),a really low end marketed as FunStuff, Derwent’s Academic and Staedtler Noris Club.  Although noticeably different from Artist quality high end pencils all of them can be useful to varying degrees.  I found Noris Club and Academics the hardest pencils and my least favourite.  They don’t blend very well and even with multiple layers the colours remain light and unsatisfying. Crayola, Monte Marte and Classics are all pretty good for budget pencils and the ColouRush my out and out favourite which I happily use along side my Polychromos.  In general with budget, kids pencils it may take more time, skill and layering to get good results but this can be done.  As stated I am particularly impressed with Micador ColouRush… so much so that I have them sorted into their own pencil wrap to carry them around in so I can colour on the go without carting around my big expensive sets. They lay down colour and blend very well as you can see from the picture above.  Micador is an Australian brand so may not be available as retail overseas.

A word of warning though… there are coloured pencils out there that are absolute rubbish.  You wouldn’t give them to children for fear of putting them off coloured pencils for life.  These horrid things are usually brand-less and come in colouring packs that may contain multiple art media and or, kids colouring books or may be bought alone under a cheapo brand name.  Almost no pigment, hard cores and lacking basic colour choices.  Do not buy these.  They are rubbish and need to be binned!

Tombows.  These are my latest additions.  I won’t go into them as I recently did a review of them on this blog.  Only to say that I’m still loving them and I’m experimenting with water and different colour mixing and shading techniques with them.  Will keep you posted.

Faber Castell Connector Pens.  These pens are everywhere in almost every shop that sells colouring stuff.  One can only imagine the fortune these must have made for Faber Castell.  I like them.  They are great budget kids colouring textas (markers for non-Aussies) that deliver gorgeous bright colours and last a long time.  The set in the photo are about ten years old and so far I have replaced only two pens.  I’m lucky enough to live near an OfficeWorks that stock a lot of the range as open stock so I can do this.  These guys are just fun.  This pack of 60 replaced an anniversary pack of 100 I gave to my kids to colour with.  (So sad… so many colours I can’t replace.)  They are great for small to medium sized areas.  They do not blend well so are better off for ‘cell’ shading techniques. (More about that in a latter blog post.)  Not so good for colouring large areas because over lapping the pens causes dark lines of denser pigment although this varies with the paper used.  I love using these in Animorphia with all those little cartoon characters and objects to colour.  The only coloured marker I’ve had bleed through in that book is the bright scarlet red… no idea why… but this is only faint so it doesn’t bother me.  These pens will bleed through some pages so again you need to test them on a back page before you commit a picture to them.

Smiggles and other types of gel pens.  I’ve only shown my Smiggles set of 30 gel pens in the photo (because they have such a nice, handy carry case) but… confession time…I have a WHOLE lot of other gel pens.  I have Itsy Bitsy budget ones from Reject, a local discount shop, and the big blue tin case of 50 that can be purchased on line or at Cosco for other Aussies.  Also a bunch of individually bought ones and a super cheap pack of 24 which were $3 from Kmart.  The quality varies with each individual pen.  Some are scratchy, some flow a little too fast, most are pretty good.  You have to test each one out as they will vary a lot, even in the same pack. I love them for heavily patterned pictures and mandalas as does my daughter.  They are also good for highlights on pictures coloured with other media.  Beware… some of them have thin barrels and will run out quickly.


  1. Nichola Feeney

    Hi Peta,

    I’ve been swithering (Scottish word there) about buying Prismacolors due to the breakage problem. They’re not sold in shops here so I’d have to order them online, Amazon most likely, but I’d be worried about the postie delivering them and breakage when they hit the doormat.

    Anyway, I heard a tip which you might already be familiar with that if you leave the ones with a shattered core on a windowsill on the warmest side of your house, the core will soften. Once you’ve given this a chance to happen, remove them and leave them in a cool place to harden up again. (NOT the fridge or they’ll become brittle.)

    My weapons of choice are Polychromos (24 tin), Derwent Inktense (both of these I blame you for, as your videos inspired me to treat myself!!), Crayola Supertips felt pens and Sharpies, which I only use on one-sided colouring books for obvious reasons!


  2. Jocelyn

    Hello Peta,

    I thoroughly enjoy your videos and your blog! Thank you for all of your tips and information.

    It would be nice to know the exact colors and type of pencils you use in each video. I’m so new at this enjoyable past time, I am trying to copy some of your pages into the same books that I own, to hone my technique’s. I purchased a set of Faber-Castell Polychromos on your recommendation, I LOVE THEM!!! Thank You!

    I have decided to add a set of Derwent Inktense as well. I noticed that Amazon carries Derwent and Reeves Derwent. The tins are different, but still have the red Derwent logo. Hmmmmm. I wrote to the Derwent co, inquiringly. This was their response..
    Thank you for your email regarding Reeves Derwent.
    We have looked into this and it looks like they are just a supplier in America. Some of the pictures they have are older pictures and not of our recent packaging.
    We suggest that you buy direct from Derwent on Amazon, this way you know you will be getting Derwent products.

    This was interesting, just thought I’d pass the info along In case anyone else inquires.

    Thanks again for sharing your love of coloring.


  3. Marsha Stone

    Of all the “techniques and how-to” videos I’ve come across thus far, yours are bar none, the best! You are clear, to the point, and your descriptions are easy to understand for those amateur colonists among us! A million thank you for spending time and effort sharing with the world!

  4. Stuart Thomson

    I love your reviews they are perfect. Am a newbie to the wonderful world of colouring pencils and I really need to freeze my credit card…especially after purchasing the Polychromos, I succumbed and it’s all your fault! Faker Castell need need to sponsor you!!! They really are fabulous though, a cut above the others. And noticeable even to a beginner. They are pretty expensive, but after months of trawling the Internet for deals I found the best deal for the 120 set at “TheArtshop.com.au” here in Australia. Postage is a flat fee of $9.90. Thought I’d mention it here for anyone who might want to take advantage of the price.

  5. Matilda

    Recently discovered your videos after discovering inktense pencils. I am completely new to colour I have only been good in pencil and black and white photography before (I am 35)and I am so excited. Your reviews are very useful and your tutorials are spectacular (Though I sadly see a lot more purchases in my future and you are totally to blame!) everything you show you describe and give information so detailed and exact that it makes everything you do perfectly achievable (obviously with time but the starting attempts are pretty damn good thanks to you).

    Anyway ill stop gushing and ask my question…

    What colour Albrecht Durer pencils do you have to compliment your Inktense set? I don’t have access to an art shop so I cant really go and stare at the pencils but I totally agree with you and think I need some skin tones and lighter blues for skys.

    Thanks in advance and keep doing what you are doing (if you have time 😀 ) because its great 🙂


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