Alcohol Markers for Coloring: Options for Various Budgets

I initially resisted alcohol markers, even though so many colorists raved about them.  I didn’t like the way Sharpies smelled, and thought they were all like that.  I found a small set of Bic Mark Its and they had much less strong odor, so I got their largest set.  They blended well and I liked the results.  No streaks like I got with water based markers, and different colors blended well into each other.  The paper didn’t pill and the colors were nice and bright.  I colored this page (from my book Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Encouragement, also available as an electronic download) with Bic Mark Its:Colored with Bic Mark Its Alcohol Markers The largest Bic Mark Its set was only 36 colors, and I loved the way they blended, but I wanted more range to work with.  After asking around and doing some research, I decided to try a small set of Spectrum Noir markers.  Like Copics (which are very expensive) Spectrum Noir  markers are dual tipped, refillable, and you can replace their nibs – but they are a more affordable price point than Copics.  Like Copics, they have a large color range (more than 200), you can buy them individually, in small sets of six or sets of 24.  The sets do not overlap, so you can build up your collection slowly over time without buying duplicates.  So I tried a small set.  And I really loved them!  It had so many colors to choose from and they also blended beautifully.  This page (from my book Simple Mandalas, also available as an electronic download) was colored with Spectrum Noir markers:Colored with Spectrum Noir Markers from book Simple MandalasI’m slowly building up my collection of Spectrum Noir markers.  They have expanded what I can do with markers and there are a lot of colors to choose from.  But I was left with a small budget set with limited colors, and a high end set with lots of color choices, but nothing in between for everyday coloring.   So I tried one of the mid range alcohol marker sets, the Sketch Set of 80 Alcohol Markers by Arrtx.  They have a good range of colors and they blend well.  They have numbers and this is what the colors look like sorted by number: Arrtx Sketch Markers 80 ColorsOf course, to be able to use them, I spent some time sorting them into colors and made a new color chart.  Arrtx Sketch Alcohol Markers Sorted by ColorAs you can see, they have a decent range of colors in the pinks, reds, blues, greens, and browns.  The only thing they seemed to be a little short on are purples/violets.  I used them to color the page below (from my book Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Encouragement, also available as an electronic download.) They were juicy (not one dry marker in the batch – I have heard that has been an issue with markers in this price range) they also blend well, and they come in a handy carrying case with labels on top so they are easy to store or take with you.   They are also dual tipped – have a broad tip and a fine tip. They are not refillable.  I recommend them as a good set of mid range markers for coloring.  I also made the color chart above into an electronic download for anyone who’d like to use it.  It’s available with my other electronic downloads. Arrtx Sketch Markers Set of 80 with color chartThe paper you use makes a big difference for alcohol markers.  Some paper, like office paper, is more likely to bleed outside the lines.  I color in the books with alcohol markers and they work fine, but whenever I print out or copy pages for coloring, if I’m using markers, I choose Georgia Pacific Premium Cardstock, in white, 110 lbs.  If you look closely, this paper has two sides: one is smooth (ideal for markers) and one that is lightly more textured, I use that side for pencils, or for markers with accents or additional shading in pencil (always add after the marker is completely dry!)  Remember to store your alcohol markers on their sides so they will last longer, especially these dual tip ones, otherwise one end will have too much ink and the other will be dry.  For the Arrtx makers, I just zip the case closed and set it on its side when I am finished using them.  And of course, alcohol markers bleed through paper, even cardstock, so always have an extra 2-3 sheets of paper behind whatever you are working on to avoid any permanent marker stains.

31 Rocks – Rock Painting Challenge

I have been enjoying doing some rock painting lately and thought it would be fun to have a challenge to do a little rock painting on a regular basis for a month.  I thought for October it would be fun to paint 31 rocks in 31 days.  If you want to participate in the challenge or finish the challenge, post your rocks any time!  You can either post using the hashtag, or post your rock in the comments for that day’s rock on the #31Rocks Facebook page. To see each day’s rock click on the photos tab.31Rocks Rock Painting Challenge Paint a Rock a Day in October

Here are the rules for the 31 Rocks Challenge:

-Paint a rock
-Share it online with the hashtag #31rocks
-Repeat every day in October (if it works better with your schedule,  you can post your rocks every other day or even once a week, just figure out which span works better for you, stick to it, and share away!)

That’s all there is to it!  I don’t have prompts or themes because I want everyone to participate as they are able and to paint or draw whatever they want on their rocks.  If you don’t feel like doing something specific that day, paint a rock anyway.   I have listed a few ideas for people who don’t want to draw or want to do simple abstract work at the end of this post.  There are more on the 31rocks Facebook page and I will be adding a couple pages with ideas too, so check back.

Are you new to rock painting?  Here are some beginner tips

If you’re new to this rock painting thing, here are some tips I’ve picked up since I started, and some ideas for supplies if you are looking to get started.

Where to find rocks:

If there isn’t a ready source of rocks near you like a beach, river, or even your own yard, you can buy rocks inexpensively at your local craft store, dollar store, or home improvement store.  I buy bags of large landscape rocks from the garden section of my local home improvement store.  Do not take rocks from businesses, nature preserves, or your neighbor’s yard – don’t be that person!

How to prepare rocks for painting:

Wash your rocks.  If they are particularly grimy give them a soak in water.  Then brush them while wet with a brush and soap if you’d like.  Rinse and let dry completely either in the sun or a dry spot.  Some people like to seal their rocks with gesso and add a layer of solid color or white acrylic before getting started.  Some like to paint on the rock as it is.

Paint, Markers, other supplies:

I used a variety of things to paint rocks, many were supplies I already had around the house!  Here are some of the supplies I use.  This is by no means mandatory or an exhaustive list, but just a starting point if you don’t know where to start.  I added links to make them easy to find and save you time.

Sharpie Twin Tip Permanent Marker Fine/Ultra FineWorks great for outlining and for writing on back of rocks if you will be signing or leaving them for someone to find.Sharpie Twin Tip

Acrylic Paint – the best value here would be a set of paints for crafts.  I went to my local craft store and picked up a few colors I liked but then I needed to get more – so you might consider just going ahead and getting a whole set, it’ll cost less in the long run.  Craft Paints

Palette – I use a simple plastic palette to hold my paints, but don’t have to buy something if you don’t have it already, you could also use a ceramic plate.

Paintbrushes – I use a set of these inexpensive brushes pictured below.  If you want to get something with more variety of tools, you could get one of these sets  another idea for brushes and tools is further below.  If you are willing to invest a little more on a good set of brushes, these are good for detailCrayola Paintbrushes

Sharpie Metallic Permanent Markers – These work great on dark and gray rocks.  When I use them on white rocks I outline with black.Sharpie Metallic Markers

Bic Mark-Its Permanent Markers – I use these on smooth white rocks.   You could use Sharpies as well – these make for some quick rocks.  The colors are not as vibrant as acrylic paints, but they do show.  They do wear off easily if not sealed.  The little cactus rock near the top of this page is done with Bic Mark-Its on a smooth white rock.Bic Mark Its

If you will be doing detailed drawings, Faber-Castell Pitt pens might be better than the sharpie.  They are permanent ink and come in a variety of widths and nibs, including brush nibs.  They are also available in color for more fun designs.  Faber Castell Pitt Pens

I also have used a white paint marker in my experiments with it seems to work best directly on rocks.  When I used it on top of acrylic paint to add details, I had mixed results.

Gold or silver paint adds a very nice touch to your rocks, they look particularly nice added to the mix in poured paint rocks.

I have also tried dotting with glitter glue, which gives rocks a bejeweled look.  This one is not for perfectionists as it is very hard to get glue dots to make perfect circles.  But if you’re OK with less than perfect dots, it’s fun to try.  This glue is not waterproof, so the rock will definitely need to be sealed.

Once you are finished painting your rocks, it’s time to protect your work.  A coat or two of varnish are good.  You can brush on or spray varnish, I use matte, brush-on varnish,  but you can use glossy varnish if you want your finished rocks to be shiny.  These brush on varnishes work best on acrylic paint.  If you are using markers, chalk markers,  gel pens, or pens, spray varnish is your best bet to avoid smearing your designs.  Please be safe and use it outdoors only.   Several thin layers work best.  Some folks recommend a thin layer of Mod Podge first then add sealant after the Mod Podge dries to keep the pens from running, but some people report smearing with that as well.  Some people seal their rocks with Mod Podge – but that seems to work best for indoor only rocks.   I tried several ways, and the glossy varnish above seemed to work best.

I have a copy of the book Art on the Rocks.  I like it because it has instruction from three different artists, so there’s a variety of methods and styles.

The supplies below are on my wish list, but I have not tried them yet.

Uni Posca Paint Marker Pens – These look great because they are paint pens so it’s like having nice opaque acrylic paint with the convenience of a pen.Posca Paint Pens for Rock Painting

If you are looking for a higher quality set of acrylic paints, this set has a nice range of colors.

I have seen some rocks decorated with chalk markers.  They turn out bright!  But remember to seal them with spray sealant so they don’t run when they get wet.

My children love color shift paint.  They call it bug paint after the shiny color shifting beetles they’ve seen.  It would make for some neat rocks!

Some people use nail art tools to do detail work on their rocks or to make those cool dotted designs. Alternate Rock Painting Tools

Some people have reported using gel pens on their rocks.  Also these white gel pens for white only designs or to add details.  I have not tried yet but when I do I’ll update here.  I’ve also heard of people using acrylic ink and dip pens, the type used for calligraphy.

On a Budget?  Don’t want to draw things?  Some ideas:

Are you on a budget?  The supplies I posted at the beginning of this article were the lowest budget ones I could find but you don’t have to buy supplies.  You can use masking tape and old nail polish on your rocks to make some bold modern colorblock rocks.  Also, you don’t need all the supplies above.  Until recently all I used to decorate rocks was my set of Bic Mark-Its!  You could do paint or marker or metallic sharpies rather than all of them.  I do recommend at least one black pen, though, it does make outlining much easier.

You can also try the colorblock with regular paint instead of nail polish.  Or marble two or more colors of either paint or nail polish together using a toothpick.  Just bear in mind that this technique could get a little messy.  Protect your work surfaces accordingly.  Another way to do colorblock rocks is to partially dip them in paint or acrylic ink and let them dry, then dip again at a different angle or leave as is.  You can add decorations or writing with a Sharpie or a metallic Sharpie after they dry.  My children have even added glitter glue to their stones – that’s where I got the idea to try it!  They are not afraid to experiment with media.  Check the challenge Facebook Page for other ideas both for media and for abstract no-drawing-required rocks.

A final word about the challenge and where to post:

The biggest takeaway here is that this is supposed to be a fun challenge!  Rock painting is great for a challenge because there isn’t any need to be artsy or perfect.  And rocks are small so they don’t take too much time to finish.  Enjoy the challenge! As for what to do with your rocks – they make perfect RAOKs (Random Acts of Kindness) – check the 31 Rocks Facebook page throughout the challenge for ideas!

There is a Facebook page set up for the event, and we’ll be also be posting with the #31Rocks hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!  I can’t wait to see your rocks this October!31 Rpcks Challege

Colorist Showcase: Shawn Hallenbeck

One of the most enjoyable parts of being a coloring book author is seeing colorists put so much talent into coloring the pages I publish.  It truly adds meaning to the work I do and I wanted to share some of this wonderful work I see, so I will be featuring colorists on this blog on a regular basis in my Colorist Showcase series.  Today’s featured colorist is Shawn Hallenbeck.  She is an amazing colorist who is equally talented with line art and grayscale coloring pages.  She makes magic with Spectrum Noir markers – her shading and palette choices are simply amazing!  Seeing her work always lifts my spirits.  I was very happy when she agreed to share about her coloring journey with us.

Arthur Rackham's Fairies and Nymphs colored by Shawn Hallenbeck

How did you get into adult coloring books?
I’ve been coloring since I could hold a crayon. I really couldn’t find any good “adult” coloring books until the early 80’s. I really appreciated when the coloring craze hit, because now there’s a plethora of “adult” coloring books!  As far as how I got into the Coloring Groups on Facebook, my goddaughter gave me an Adult Sweary Coloring book for Christmas 2016 that had a link to the artist’s Facebook group, and the rest is history!

What are your main reasons for coloring?
It’s a form of meditation for me.

What are some of your favorite genres/types of coloring books/pages to color?
I like to color text and simpler designs (short attention span).

Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Thanks colored by Shawn HallenbeckDo you have any favorite supplies/tools?
All of them! I do love my Spectrum Noir sparkle pens.

Are there any coloring techniques that you have recently learned or that you’re particularly excited about? None that are recent, but I’m always learning!

Do you have any particular colors/palettes you like to use when you color?
Yes, I’m a sucker for hot pink, orange, and yellow together. Also, purple, aqua blue, and lime green!

Artful Flowers colored by Shawn HallenbeckAre there any supplies or techniques you would like to try someday?
I’d like to try some Caran D’ache and/or Holbein pencils, and watercolor techniques.

Do you prefer to color in coloring books or print out your pages? If so, do you have any particular paper you prefer?
It depends on the quality of the paper in the book & the medium that I’m using to color that page. If I’m using colored pencils, standard coloring book paper usually works for me. I also, cut the pages out of the books, I find it difficult to color in the book.
As far as preferred papers, I usually go for a 65lb cardstock.

Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Encouragement colored by Shawn HallenbeckDo you have any tips or advice to anyone who just discovered Adult Coloring?
If you want to improve on your techniques, there are tons of informative videos on Youtube
You do NOT need expensive supplies! Learn techniques first. If you don’t, it won’t matter how many supplies you buy/own!
Do NOT compare your coloring to anyone else’s!
Don’t be afraid to share your work in the coloring groups.
Don’t be afraid to screw up!
Markers bleed through the paper, it’s what they are supposed to do!
Most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Thanks colored by Shawn HallenbeckThat is wonderful advice!  Thank you so much Shawn for taking the time to share some of your experience with coloring and your gorgeous colored pages.

Stay tuned for more Featured colorists in the near future!


Colroring Gifts: Gifts of Thanks colored by Shawn Hallenbeck

Simple Kaleidoscopes colored by Shawn Hallenbeck