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What should you use to color anime?

Anime coloring is an art that takes skill and the right tools. As an anime artist, choosing the correct coloring medium is crucial for bringing your drawings to life with vivid color. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of various coloring tools so you can determine which is best for your anime illustrations.

Traditional Coloring Tools

Let’s start with some traditional coloring tools that have stood the test of time:

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils contain pigmented cores encased in wood. They are available in a wide range of colors and work well for blending. Some pros of using colored pencils to color anime include:

  • Affordable and accessible
  • Easy to control the pressure and achieve different effects
  • Blendable for smooth gradients
  • Portable for coloring on the go

Some cons of colored pencils include:

  • Can require many layers to achieve bold, opaque colors
  • Leads can break easily under pressure
  • Coloring large areas can be time consuming
  • Harder to erase compared to graphite pencils


Markers contain ink soaked into nibs and provide intense, vivid color. Some pros of using markers for anime coloring:

  • Vibrant, solid colors perfect for anime’s bold style
  • Easy to blend and shade with marker brands like Copics or Prismacolor
  • Quick coloring for filling large areas
  • Wide range of colors and nib sizes available

Some cons of markers include:

  • Can bleed and spread on some paper types
  • Ink can fade over time
  • Nibs wear down and may need replacement
  • Can be messy if not handled carefully

Watercolor Paints

Watercolor paints contain pigments suspended in a water-soluble gum binder. They can create soft, blended effects. Some pros of watercolors for anime coloring:

  • Allow for soft, blended gradients perfect for shading
  • Translucent effect replicates airbrushed anime style
  • Portable pans or tubes for painting anywhere
  • Mixable to create a huge range of distinct hues

Some cons of watercolors include:

  • Can be tricky for precise control and details
  • Require patience as layers must dry between applications
  • Difficult to achieve rich, opaque colors
  • Paper may buckle or warp when wet

Digital Coloring Tools

Now let’s look at options for coloring anime digitally:

Drawing Tablets

Drawing tablets allow you to illustrate directly on a digital surface and are ideal for coloring anime digitally. Some pros of drawing tablets:

  • Mimic feeling of traditional drawing while working digitally
  • Pressure sensitivity for blending and shading
  • Connect to software like Photoshop with extensive color options
  • No consumables needed like paper or paint

Some cons of drawing tablets include:

  • Can have a learning curve for controlling brushes smoothly
  • Require a computer connection
  • Less portable than traditional media
  • May need replacement nibs and batteries for stylus

Display Tablets

Display tablets feature a screen you can draw directly on. Some pros of display tablets:

  • Allow you to draw while looking at the screen
  • Provide an intuitive, natural feel like traditional drawing
  • Show your drawing and colors instantly as you work
  • Come in a range of sizes for your needs

Some cons of display tablets:

  • More expensive than non-display drawing tablets
  • Larger sizes can be bulky and less portable
  • Require battery charging to stay powered
  • Emitted light can cause eye strain over time

Digital Art Software

Specialized digital art programs provide all the tools you need to color anime art digitally. Popular options include:

Software Key Features
Adobe Photoshop Industry standard with endless coloring tools and custom brushes
Clip Studio Paint Offers manga-specific tools for panel lines and toning
Corel Painter Mimics realistic paint, pens, and coloring media

Some general pros of digital art programs:

  • Provide endless color options and custom brushes
  • Make experimenting and editing easy
  • Mimic traditional media while offering digital conveniences
  • Allow you to save and export high resolution artwork

Potential cons to be aware of:

  • Can have steep learning curves
  • Subscription models can require ongoing payments
  • May need add-ons or paid brushes for best experience
  • Require sufficient computer processing power

Key Considerations

Now that we’ve explored a variety of coloring tools, let’s discuss some key factors to consider when deciding what to use for your anime illustrations:

Your Personal Preferences

Consider whether you prefer the tactile experience of traditional media or the flexibility and options of digital coloring. If you love the physical act of drawing, traditional tools may be more satisfying. If you want to easily experiment, undo mistakes, and share online, digital has advantages.

Portability Needs

If you want to color anime on the go, compact traditional options like colored pencils and watercolor pans work well. Larger digital tools like display tablets offer outstanding capabilities but are less portable. Assess your needs for coloring in different locations or while traveling.


Assess your available budget for acquiring coloring supplies. Basic colored pencils and markers are quite affordable. Advanced digital programs, specialized markers, and display tablets involve more significant upfront investment. Consider starting small and adding to your toolkit over time.

Learning Curve

Some coloring tools like basic markers have a low barrier to entry. But advanced digital art programs involve many tools to master. If you want to minimize a steep learning curve at the outset, begin with more intuitive traditional media.

Coloring Style

Think about your desired anime coloring style. Do you want soft watercolor effects or vivid marker gradients? Match your tools to the visual anime look you wish to achieve. Experiment to find which types of coloring media suit your creative vision.

Recommended Tool Pairings

While all the discussed tools can work independently, using certain combinations together unlocks enhanced potential. Here are some suggested pairings:

  • Colored pencils + markers: Use pencils for initial shading and details, then markers to fill in and intensify colors.
  • Watercolors + pens: Apply watercolor backgrounds and washes, then ink in clean black lines and details with pens.
  • Drawing tablet + Photoshop: Sketch on the tablet’s natural surface, then color and enhance in Photoshop’s versatile environment.
  • Markers + digital: Scan traditional marker art and optimize colors further in digital art software.

Experiment with combined techniques like these to discover your ideal anime coloring workflow.


Anime coloring is an open-ended art filled with possibilities. Whether you prefer traditional colored pencils or digital painting software, the most important thing is choosing tools aligned with your skills, preferences, and artistic vision. Mastering the use of your selected coloring media takes practice, so be patient with yourself as you learn. Relish the creative journey of bringing vivid anime worlds to life one color at a time. With so many excellent options available, you’re bound to find tools that unleash your unique talents as an anime artist.