Are you lost and not sure what art supplies to use for coloring your coloring books?
In this extensive article (2,500+ words!) I do a personal review of 5 coloring products.
The products under review are:
- Prismacolor Premier
- Prismacolor Art Stix
- Prismacolor Verithin
- Prismacolor Watercolor
- Prismacolor Colorless Blender
For each product, I will explain what it is best used for and how you can combine them to achieve the best results.
Next to reviewing these 5 Prismacolor products, I will also give you coloring tips & tutorials to increase your coloring skills! How is that? 😉
One of the greatest things about Prismacolor products is the way colors match across the different types of coloring and drawing instruments.
In this review, I will discuss the following 5 products:
|1. Prismacolor Premier pencils are still my all time favorite colored pencil. Smooth, soft, easily blended and rich, they give a look and feel of their own that can’t quite be matched by anything else. They’re now available in 150 colors. My set is larger than that with over a dozen discontinued colors, because I stocked up whenever a color was dropped.|
|2. Prismacolor Art Stix come in 48 colors. They’re square, long narrow sticks of Prismacolor Premier core material without the wood case. They’re useful for blocking in large areas with the sides or with an edge of the square point. Small details are easily worked in with the corners of the square stick. If you prefer crayons or pastels, Art Stix can substitute for pencils entirely.|
|3. Prismacolor Verithin colored pencils come in 36 matching colors, but are harder and hold a sharp point. They’re still much richer in color than cheap colored pencils and can get into very fine details as well as create linear details within an area.|
|4. Prismacolor Watercolor pencils come in 36 colors. They share the sweet soft texture of Prismacolor Premier yet they’re watersoluble. Solvent effects used with Prismacolor Premier can be done with plain water. They’re good for underpainting to keep white specks from coming up in a color area or for a watercolor look laid in with a pencil and washed. They can be used dry and substituted for Prismacolor Premier. These might be the most versatile tool in the lineup.|
|5. Prismacolor Colorless Blender is a Prismacolor Premier pencil minus the pigment. It’s just the wax binder and allows burnishing, blending and shading out a light application of a dark color into a smooth pale version of it. They will save your colored pencils by helping them stretch farther as well as blending out those pesky white specks.|
Sample Coloring Page
For copyright reasons, I didn’t use my current Art Nouveau Animal Designs coloring book but drew out a couple of garden flowers into a coloring design. It lays out reasonably well on an 8 1/2” x 11” page with some space around it, though if I were to put it in a book I might combine it with an upper right corner design.
I chose paper similar to the paper in coloring books in order to get similar effects with wet techniques. See this article for more information of what paper to use for printing coloring pages. My first layer is just to cover the background with light cool colors that push it back into the distance. I decided to vary them, you could use dark colors or use anything you like.
Background in Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils
I used Prismacolor Watercolor pencils for this, creating a smooth tonal layer. Light pressure, overlapping strokes and deliberate variations to let it get a little jazzy. If you prefer a perfectly smooth gradient, light tonal layers will do that. Dry, it looks exactly the way a first layer would using Prismacolor Premier.
Prismacolor Watercolor pencils have the same sweet texture as Prismacolor Premier
Unlike many colored pencils artists, I like to use the side of the point to cover larger areas with wider soft strokes and to let the point wear down in creating smooth tonal layers. Many great artists prefer sharpening pencils often and using only the tip carefully. Your choice of technique, but if you’re lazy like me, practice will give smooth layers and light textures with a blunt pencil.
Colors are Non Photo Blue, True Blue, Parrot Green and Lilac. Parrot green is mostly at the bottom, Lilac to the upper left and lower right, True Blue toward the top shading down to hint at a sky gradient. I worked with the tip around the flowers, but let it wear down naturally at a slight angle. This creates a chisel tip so later tiny details can just be done by turning the pencil.
Next step is to wash the background. Washed areas can be left as washes to give a watercolor look or used as underpainting. Sometimes a contrasting texture can be beautiful on a coloring page.
For best effects washing on paper that’s not watercolor paper, wet a round watercolor brush and squeeze it nearly dry. If you’re more used to using a flat, same thing. Use the brush you’re most familiar with for maximum control.
These are the most versatile art supplies of the lot. You can leave this dry, then put spatters or drips on it to stand out and create texture. Or wash gently with a nearly dry brush to get a smooth effect. Put something as a barrier under the page so the water won’t go all the way through, if it’s clean cardboard or a couple of sheets of card stock it can also help reduce cockling.
The best way to prevent cockling is to print your coloring design on watercolor paper.
Any plain paper will have some cockling, the question is how much and how well it can be reduced.
I washed it with a large watercolor brush and tried a sponge texture that I wasn’t happy with. My colors are too light and soft for special effects like spatters and drips. This was designed to be an underpainting with a layer over it in Art Stix. So let’s just dry this with a heavy book and a layer of paper towel to blot it.
Cover Broad Areas with Art Six
Prismacolor Art Stix are interesting. They go on fast and work well for covering large areas, the square tip worn down to chisel is great for establishing broad flat tones or gradated tones.
I remember distinctly when Prismacolor first came out with the Colorless Blender. Until then I did burnishing with white and light colors. That’s what I turned to in the background of this page, over the washed underpainting. The heavy strokes with the tips of the Art Stix helped reduce and flatten out some of the cockling from the wet stage.
Heavy burnishing with the white Art Stix stick helped to smooth the page and give it an all over waxy feel. You can also scribble designs in white and wash over them with wet washes to get a permanent resist if you’re jazzing up plain areas of background.
As with semi-hard pastels, you can break the sticks and use them on their sides for a broad stroke. I don’t because the 1/4” wide block is wide enough for the scale of letter size and smaller works I do in colored pencils and for coloring. What I like about them is that like any kind of woodless colored pencil, they really don’t wear down very fast compared to wood cased pencils.
Art Stix are great for those colors you use up fast over very large areas. Such as White or Cream for burnishing. Lilac isn’t in the Art Stix range, so I lost one of my favorite very light burnishing colors.
Here’s the background finished, colored, burnished and lightened with the White stick. I substituted a light pink with a light blue over it for the Lilac and used some medium value purples lightly in some areas without pressing hard, then blended with heavy burnishing in White. Net result, a blurred pastel colored background for stronger contrasts and much more detail in the flowers and leaves.
This is not a step by step demo as such. In coloring, the design is already there. Work on any area or stage you feel like first, with the exception of any washed or wet effects going in before dry ones it can go in any order.
Prismacolor Verithin – Great for Details, Especially Linear Ones.
In the crosshatched design of the centers, I added a little more complexity with Prismacolor Verithins. A dark purple V in the bottom of each diamond and a dot in the center created a more complex pattern, then another layer of Orange over it and some Goldenrod over all made each little diamond shine and seem dimensional. Finally I shaded the entire flower center with Dark Brown. Because the Verithins are harder and less pigmented than Prismacolor Premier, the later layer is more transparent and gives a subtler effect.
From there I used a dark green Verithin to shade some leaves and mark the lines for veins in the large ones. A dark blue-violet worked for strengthening the lines at the top of the coneflower petals.
We’re ready for Prismacolor Premier!
These are the cream of all coloring pencils. The softest texture, richest color, largest color range of any brand. They play well with others and still have a unique sweet texture much smoother than any other. I’ve loved these pencils since I was sixteen years old.
Back then, the range was only 72 and no one had created a colorless blender, but they were the best colored pencils I’d ever found. They far outstripped my previous favorites for strength of color and blending ability – a set of 36 Verithins!
Today my full range fills not one but two 120 color Global Classic leather cases because 150 unique colors plus way over a dozen discontinued colors slopped over into the second case. i just stashed my Verithins and Art Stix in the second case with them to keep all my Prismacolors except the Watercolor Pencils in one place.
Sketched in lines and some shading on the coneflower petals in Black Grape, Parma Violet and Mulberry, taking advantage of the big Premier range to get some richness and variety in the color.
Next layer, I shaded smoothly over all the petals with Lavender and burnished with Grayed Lavender. This knocked out most of the previous shading, but covered well and gave close to the color I wanted for these flowers.
Combine colors that are close to each other for a richer effect
So I got out Black Raspberry to add some extra shading over that burnished layer. The point wobbled as soon as I made a stroke. Uh oh. Internal breakage.
I put my pencil in the microwave for 20 seconds. At worst, I’ll still lose that point, at best the wax core softened and sealed letting me use it as if it hadn’t broken. The paint on the middle of the pencil bubbled a little but the point seems solid. Let’s see how it works on the paper.
Well, that didn’t work. The point held for a half dozen strokes and fell out. It might work for deep internal breakage but it wasn’t enough when the point was already falling out. Didn’t hurt the pencil either so it’s all good. I finished by lightening some highlights with Deco Pink and darkening shading wtth the Mulberry.
I’ll handle the greenery a bit simpler, but use a variety of greens and golds in it to give some depth with shading. There’s plenty of room for variety in greenery. You can shade some leaves darker than others, make smaller ones brighter and lighter, add tips or spots of rust or gold as if they were chewed by bugs or sun burnt.
I made the leaves of the snapdragons a little brighter and yellower, the coneflower leaves a little more muted and bluer. Using the darks first to shade and then burnishing over them with the lightest color gives a richer result and enhances those subtle differences. For real pop on any green leaves or red, orange or yellow elements, burnish with bright canary yellow. That will make any reds or greens more intense.
Color it your way
The snapdragons in the photo I drew from were white with yellow, but I also love some that are golden-orange and hot pink. They’ll make a nice bright contrast to the purple coneflowers.
I’ve seen many variations on snapdragons, but they’re among my favorites. A little Beige Putty in the most shadowed areas helped the brighter areas come forward. Overall, I like how the page came out.
- Final results using all of my Prismacolor products together on the same page. It’s not really necessary to underpaint with Prismacolor Watercolor, though if printed on watercolor paper it can be a gorgeous effect for backgrounds or under dry work. The combination of Verithin hard colored pencils for fine details, Art Stix on broad areas and Prismacolor Premier for complex forms and rich layering turned out great.
- Any of these products can be used on their own. Used dry, the 36 Prismacolor Watercolor are a lot like working with Prismacolor Premier. I finished off going over all the foliage and flowers and stems with the Prismacolor Colorless Blender, which deepened the color and smoothed all the shaded transitions even where I’d used lighter colors over darks.
Some tips in general:
- Colored pencils are translucent, so I like to put in darks first, lay successively lighter colors over them and finish with the lightest. The colorless blender is wonderful and will enrich any area, even one done in Verithins or Art Stix. I buy those by the dozen, they also save wear and tear on the colors.
- Be aware of your “hand.” Artists with a light hand can get many layers with harder colored pencils like Verithins and sometimes more delicate shading. I have a heavy hand so I love using the softer, smudgier texture of Prismacolor Premier. Burnish firmly with a lot of pressure to blend, but keep strokes parallel to an edge you want to keep clean. Soft blurred edges are easy to create with a colorless blender.
Have fun and enjoy coloring with Prismacolor products!
All are high quality, pigment rich artist grade materials worthy of your best books and if you’re printing a design onto cold press watercolor paper, framing and hanging.
What are your favorite art supplies? Let me know in the comments below.