Improve your Coloring: how bad color palettes Ruin good coloring

Great coloring projects have little to do with talent. What you admire isn't someone's Copic Marker or colored pencil skills, you're looking at the color! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

Do you wish for Talent?

"I wish I could color like that artist on YouTube!"

All adult colorers have coloring heroes, inspirational Copic Marker or colored pencil geniuses whom we'd gladly trade places with. We love the look of their coloring projects and oh man, if only we had that kind of skill!

We'd give anything to be that talented, to be kissed by the coloring gods.

Talent. We chalk it up to talent. "That person is talented."

But you're wrong.

It's not the talent you admire.

It's the color.

What you love in someone else's coloring usually has nothing to do with how well they rub markers on paper.

What you admire is their use of color.


color is far more important than technical skill!

Great coloring projects have little to do with talent. What you admire isn't someone's Copic Marker or colored pencil skills, you're looking at the color! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

It's all about presentation. The package.

Coloring heroes have a look, a style that we identify with.

Style has nothing to do with talent.

What you admire is their color usage.

You could have all the talent in the world and yet if you're choosing the wrong colors for your projects, it's all worthless.

Years of coloring classes, tutorials, practice... perfect flicks and flawless blending... it's all for naught if you don't understand how to use color.

Good coloring is no match for bad color.

Heck, even GREAT coloring is no match for mediocre color.



Here's the good news!

Awesome color sense is not some mystical talent bestowed by the angels at your birth.

We can all learn to use color better, no matter where you're starting from, no matter how long you've been coloring.

But first, we need to identify the mistakes you're currently making, the bad color choices that are getting in your way, ruining the look of your best coloring.


Mistake #1: grabbing markers as you need them

Do you plan your project ahead of time or do you just start coloring?

Do you choose Copic Markers as you need them? Why the lack of planning kills your adult coloring projects. No amount of talent and coloring skill can overcome bad color choices! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

What you should do and what you actually do are two different things.

You know in your heart you should plan ahead, deciding what colors to use on every element before you even pick up a marker.

But darn it, the coloring part is so much more fun!

Plus, most folks get a little lost and confused during the planning process.

Too many options with no perfect answers. We procrastinate making the decision about what colors to use on the bird house or on the third flower from the right until we actually get to that part of the project because it's too hard to think about it early.

Some stamps are simple. It's okay to fly blind when you're coloring a simple smiling cartoon sandwich.

But more and more, we are seeing amazingly complex coloring images; especially in the digital stamp world where line-artists are free to draw anything without worry about how well it can be reproduced in rubber. Digital stamps mean freedom and originality but they also create coloring conundrums.

A flower bouquet stamp might have 15 or more elements to it. If you only grab markers as you need them, you might end up using 15 different blending combinations on one stamp. That's at least 45 markers!

That's nuts!

And no matter how well you use all 45 markers, when you're done, it won't look cohesive or professional. Talent won't dig you out of this jam.

Grab-n-go color selection leads to confusing, disjointed, and childish projects with no theme or style.

Basically, one big mess.


Mistake #2: your favorite colors

I love red. I also really like aqua and I'm a big fan of yellow.

Do you use the same Copic blending combinations over and over? Your favorite colors may be ruining your amazing coloring projects! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

You love your favorite colors. You want to use them every chance you get!

But stop and think: how long would you spend on my website here if every project was red, aqua, and yellow?

Zzzzzzzzzz... snooze-fest!

Wait! This warning isn't just about your favorite colors.

Copic fans have favorite blending combinations too... either we love the look of the blend or we love the feel of blend.

I'm guilty of this too. I'm not normally a fan of Chartreuse but I use YG03 all the time because it's so much fun to watch that marker blend with anything it touches! YG03 is freakin' amazing!

People start using Copic Markers or colored pencils because they "love color" but then they limit themselves to little tiny color ranges and just a few blending combinations.

Color ruts are boring to look at.

Sure, you're having fun but your viewers are not.


Mistake #3: no neutrals

So you've got a darling little stamp of a cottage with cute little window boxes filled with flowers.

You color the cottage blue, the window boxes red, the grass is green, the flowers are yellow and pink and turquoise and purple...

Color, color, color! But it's too much!

Beautiful coloring is about more than skill or talent. Do you make good use of neutral colored Copic Markers and colored pencils? | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

Every image needs breathing room- a place for the eye to rest.

Too much color makes it hard for your viewers to focus on any single object in the image.

If you don't give people a focal point, they'll give up and move on.

Neutrals on the other hand, are a place for the eye to rest.

White, gray, taupe, even pale blues or aqua... they're a calm little oasis to help you appreciate the brighter colors.

Remember when I mentioned the need for a focal point? That's the most important object in the stamp; where the color, texture, and detail should go. The other elements are of lesser value and they're great locations for neutral resting zones.

Plus, neutrals add sophistication.

Do you remember Lisa Frank from the 1980's? It was a teeny-bopper tweenish girl thing, right?

Mature adults were not Lisa Frank customers and yet I know a bunch of over 50 women who color this way.

And they wonder why they hate their own coloring? Yikes.

Beautiful coloring is about more than skill or talent. Do you use a wide variety of values with your Copic Markers and colored pencils? | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

Mistake #4: No value variety

Do you only use Copics that end in a 4 or less?

Or are you a big fan of the number 8s?

That last number on a Copic Marker indicates the value or potency of the color. If you look at the markers you've used on a project and everything ends in almost the same number, you've got a value problem.

Too much of a good thing is not good.

Professional and polished looking projects have a wide range of values.

Every project should contain a few markers from every last number.

In "Created to Create" show here, the daffodils have last numbers ranging from 5 to 1. The aqua runs from 5 to 9. The darkest violet is a 9 and the lightest brown is a 0. I've used every last number except an 8.


Be a jedi, find the value balance.


Mistake #5: Gigantic value contrast

Now I know, I just got done telling you to use every last number ever made...

and now I'm telling you the opposite?

Hold on, this'll make sense after I explain it.

Hey, if you can work 12 Copic Markers into a blending combination, that's awesome... but are you killing your coloring by using too many markers? | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

There are a few tutorial bloggers who love to use really large blending combinations. So maybe their blond hair recipe calls for 6 markers with a value span running from 000 to 9. The pink shirt on the blonde girl runs from 0 to 8, her blue skirt runs 2 to 9, and her skin might be 0000 to 7. 

Every object in the image is an extreme range of contrasts from super light to super dark.

Lots of values equals lots of balance, right?'


When everything is high contrast, it all mushes together into a color hurricane.

High contrast everywhere cancels out the value balance.

Your viewers can't find the focal point, they can't detect the edges of some objects, they can't focus on the details, they can't read the sentiment.

Sure, it's amazing that someone can squeeze 12 markers into blonde hair but just because you can do it doesn't mean you should do it.

And if you can do it, don't do it everywhere.


Mistake #6: everything is zero

Hold on, this one is going to kick a bunch of you in the butt.


But it has to be said.

Copic has multiple color families, like RV, R, BG, or V. Inside each family are multiple groups. I'm talking about the first number on the marker this time, not the last number.

No amount of Copic Marker coloring skill can overcome bad color choices! Do your projects have a weird glow? Stop using those zeros! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

R01 has something in common with Y01, B01, G01, and every other marker that starts with a 0. The 0 groups are all very bright and clean colors. Pure yellow, pure red, pure purple.

They're very pretty colors which is why they appeal to lots of people. They're also simple and straightforward which makes beginners feel safe.

0s are clean but they're also artificial.

Look at Y02. I mean really look. Go swatch that marker out on a piece of paper. It glows! Now do you see that same vibration in B04? Check out the dayglow on YG01 and then look at V06.

I don't know if Copic adds florescence to the 0 inks but most of them feel like I'm using a textbook highlighter.

It'll be a cold day in heck before you see me using any of the F markers and frankly, RV04 is just as bad. I own it but sure I ain't usin' it!

I know, some of this is taste. I like my colors a little more muted and muddy but even the glow-bugs have to admit that you can't color everything neon.

I'm not saying to pitch all your 0 groups but I would caution you against using too many in the same image.

A little vibrancy is great but making your viewers wince or reach for their sunglasses isn't exactly what you intended, right?


Want to learn more about creating beautiful color palettes?

Like how to use a color wheel and some simple kindergarten level math to create perfectly balanced, cohesive, and professional looking color palettes...

Every single time for every stamp you own and every stamp you'll ever own?

Join me for a fun Color Palette lesson at Patreon!

Sorry, this class has expired. For the current list of Vanilla Livestream classes, please see here.

Vanilla Livestream online challenge lessons for Copic Markers and colored pencils. Learn to create your own unique and professional looking color palettes... for every stamp you own! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

What is Vanilla Live-Stream?

It's a live broadcast- just like the evening news but with me instead of the creepy weather guy in a toupee...

Vanilla Livestream online challenge lessons for Copic Markers and colored pencils. Learn to create your own unique and professional looking color palettes... for every stamp you own! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

We'll have fun coloring with lots of Copics!

This is just like my local intermediate & advanced level coloring classes, but online!

I'll walk you through my creation process, discussing the ins and outs of the coloring project. We always cover a bunch of artsy tips and tricks which you can apply to tons of other projects.

There's even a live chat feed so that you can ask questions and I'll answer live.

Every month, we tackle a new art technique or creative process, helping you develop your artistic skills and realism!

Can't attend live?

Not a problem!

All livestreams are recorded and available to members immediately after each broadcast for replay. You can watch six months worth of recorded sessions, replaying them as many times as you need to understand the lesson and finish the project.

Hey, that's something you definitely can't do in my live class!


20% off Created to Create

Created to Create.jpeg

Marcella Hawley, the amazing artist at Power Poppy is giving all my Patreon members 20% off the class digital stamp! It's an instant download from; just print it to a Copic safe paper and color along with me!

Want to know more about how this class works?

Want the project supply list and lesson info?


june Live-Stream:

You must be an enrolled at to participate

Sorry, this class has expired. For the current list of Vanilla Livestream classes, please see here.

Lesson: How to choose perfect color palettes for any image and then how to apply your palette wisely

Stamp: Created to Create by Power Poppy

Medium: Copic Marker and Prismacolor Soft-Core Pencils

Skill Level: Intermediate through advanced colorers. Once you can blend Copics smoothly with confidence, you're ready to join us! No drawing skills necessary.

Vanilla Livestream online challenge lessons for Copic Markers and colored pencils. Learn to create your own unique and professional looking color palettes... for every stamp you own! | | #copic #coloredpencil #coloringtips #adultcoloring

Join me online for a lesson that will change the way you color!

Plus, it'll be fun!


Supplies used in "Created to Create":

(partial list, contains affiliate links to Amazon and Dick Blick)

Vanilla Arts Company is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for use to earn fees by linking to