Cardmaking, Color All The Things With Sandy

4 Ways To Color…Which Medium Should I Choose?

There are many different ways to add color to stamped images…markers, watercolors and colored pencils to name a few. And it can be a little overwhelming to choose the right medium but we can help! Today Sandy Allnock will guide you through 4 of her favorite mediums, coloring the Essentials by Ellen Mondo Oak Leaf!

Hello coloring friends, it’s Sandy Allnock, here with 4 ways to color; have you ever wondered “Which should I choose?”

This is mainly created for those who have been afraid to try out coloring – or perhaps are just new crafters confused by all the options! I’ve included four mediums – my own favorites – but know that there are many many more. If you’re new, four is more than enough, right?

At the end of each section, I’ve included the basic supplies used in the video and the basic items you would actually need to purchase to get started.

Watch the video below or click HERE to see it on YouTube.

Copic Markers

Lots of the gorgeous projects shared all over the internet are colored with Copics. But are they right for you? What kinds of projects are they best for?

Copics are an alcohol marker, and they blend “like buttah” as I’ve been known to say!. The sketch Copics come in 358 colors (there are different sized bodies than sketch, but let’s not get confusing!), and the nibs are replaceable and inks are refillable—so once you buy a marker, it’s yours for life with a little maintenance!

However Copics are more expensive than other types of art supplies; buying them carefully in groups that blend well is important, so that you’ve got colors that play nicely together. I’ve assembled a nice chart that gives you some basic colors to try – just pick the groups for the kinds of images YOU like to color, and build your collection a few at a time. Ellen always has Copics at 25% off, too! Bonus!

Image source


There are a number of brands of watercolors – both artist and student-grade sets. I’m only going to discuss Daniel Smith here, because after years of trying to learn with student-grade paints, I’ve found my results to be SO much better with good paints and brushes and papers – so that’s what I’ll start you off with! While others can be good for dabbling, this section is for those who want to make a real go of it.

To get started with Daniel Smith paints, there are a few options that range in price and usability:

Dot charts—These are sets of colors made of dots of paint on watercolor paper, They’re meant to test out the colors and are listed with the color information; you can certainly use them for painting though! One dot of paint has a lot of pigment in it. They make everything from a full set of ALL the colors to my own little 24-color card (that one matches my current palette!) These can be used for swatching to see what colors you like best and can choose from them to buy tubes later.

Small sets—The 6 Essentials are a great start for someone who wants to learn how to mix colors; I have a video HERE all about using the 2 yellows, 2 reds, and 2 blues together. You can mix those colors on a white plate or tile from the hardware store instead of getting a palette; and you can save paints on that surface for your next session and just re-wet them to get started again. Daniel Smith also has some small sets that come WITH palettes, called half-pan sets; I find the Floral to be very nice, with its 6 colors and a bunch of empty pans that you can fill in with your own selection of colors. And yes I have a video on one of them HERE and the sets are all covered in THIS video.

Making your own palette—You can buy the tubes individually, either 15ml or 5ml, and create your own selection! I have the Schmincke palette with 24 half pans, and I made a video about how I did that HERE. Creating your own palette can get expensive – but you get LOTS of painting out of it, and I believe watercolor is cost-effective when compared with other supplies in the long run.

Other supplies needed—watercolor paper is essential! Hot press is the smooth kind, and works with other mediums. Cold press is most common and I find crafters work well with it. Rough is very highly textured and the paint moves beautifully, but some find it hard to work with – so I’d suggest waiting til you decide if you like texture of cold press first. You’ll also need a brush, and I can’t recommend highly enough getting a good one! The Silver brand’s Black Velvet series are AMAZING – and for a starting crafter, an 8 is nice so you can do some backgrounds as well as images. It has a nice point on it as well as a “belly” that holds enough water and paint to make backgrounds too.

Colored Pencil

I cut my art-teeth on colored pencils! Possibly literally if you ask my mom. Ha! But seriously, I studied art in college and my favorite prof was a children’s illustrator and turned me on to pencils, and I never turned back from that first love.

I always recommend people begin with colored pencils, too, as they’re something we’re used to – we write all day long so there’s no learning curve to how you hold a pencil. (How you USE a pencil, well that’s where the learning curve comes in!) My favorite two brands are Prismacolor and Polychromos; while both have their pros and cons, I find I can get the same kinds of results when coloring with them. Prismacolors have a 150 pencil range, and Polychromos are a 120 pencil range…both have a great selection of colors. If you’re into neon colors or if you use metallics a lot, Prismacolors are great; if you like an oil-based pencil vs wax-based, Polychromos are for you. I’m a both/and kind of gal myself, and can highly recommend either.

Maintenance on colored pencils – DO NOT DROP THEM. For someone klutzy like me, that’s important to know; dropping pencils can break leads, which means when you sharpen them, they’ll repeatedly break. You can heat them up by sitting them in a hot sunny windowsill to re-melt the pencil inside, sometimes, so try that before tossing a pencil out. Other than that – just use a good sharpener. I use an electric plus a hand-held one – the former for primary sharpening, and if I need a super super super pointy tip, one turn on a handheld can make that little point.

Watercolor Pencil

Possibly the best of all worlds, watercolor pencils have the ease of use of a pencil – and the fun of blending with water to take a step into watercolor! (Bonus – they can also be used just as pencils without blending!)

My favorite watercolor pencils are Albrecht Durer by Faber Castell; when applying water, the pigment just melts out beautifully and quickly! The color selection is wide, and happens to match Polychromos exactly! Though note that when water is applied, Albrecht Durer colors intensify much more than their non-water-soluble counterparts. As you add layers of color, you can keep blending more—the colors aren’t fully permanent when dry, so can be moved around and blended further.

Inktense pencils are ink, not watercolor – and they work mostly the same. They can be a little challenging to “melt” into ink at times – and may leave a granulated, textured pattern behind. Once they’re dry, they become 99% permanent – which means you can work right overtop of them with another layer of Inktense pencil without anything below that lifting up when it becomes wet again.

Stamping Tips

For new colorists, one thing you may want to keep in mind: pick up stamps with a heavy (thick) outline. That eliminates one source of frustration: coloring outside the lines! One medium can handle tiny stamps, and that would be regular colored pencils; they can be sharpened to a small point and can deal with tiny spots.

Remember, you can always combine different mediums, too. A Copic-colored stamp can have pencil added in the final coloring step to color in details like tiny buttons!

You may also have noticed that Lawn Fawn Jet Black ink has been listed in every category. That wasn’t a mistake! It is a waterproof ink and ALSO a Copic-friendly ink. One less thing to buy, right? Got to love it!

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  • Reply renee milner September 13, 2019 at 8:42 am

    Wow—thank you so much for sharing all of this terrific information; it’s very helpful and I’ve learned a lot! I also really appreciate seeing all the different looks you got with the different mediums for that stamp.

  • Reply sandyallnock September 13, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Glad it helped, Renee!

  • Reply Which art medium is best for what? | Sandy Allnock September 13, 2019 at 10:00 am

    […] the video for beginners: Go to Ellen’s blog post with LOTS of info HERE. Click HERE to see it on […]

  • Reply Janet Durbin September 13, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial! Great tips!

  • Reply waterhiker1 September 13, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Thank you so much for getting into the weeds of coloring techniques! I am a fan of watercolor and pencil from (ahem) decades ago – too! I keep seeing all these fantastic videos on using Copic markers but I just can’t budget the investment right now so you have restored my faith in the tried and true, beautiful and versatile use of watercolor and watercolor pencils. What a GREAT video!

    • Reply sandyallnock September 13, 2019 at 12:44 pm

      So glad it helped you! I love ALL the mediums so I’ll never say anyone “must” do one or another, LOL!

  • Reply Andre M. September 13, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    This is such an insightful video that highlights the pros and cons of these media based on the desired application. As a newbie to Copic markers and watercolours, I always appreciate anyone taking the time to explain how to get better results from our tools. Your work is fantastic and greatly appreciated.

  • Reply Bobby Hagen September 15, 2019 at 5:57 am

    I’m off to buy some hot press watercolor paper. I love my PolyChromos and Inktense pencils and I think they deserve to try it out. Thanks for the tutorial.

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