Adding colour to your project is probably the most fun part! This page will give you a brief overview of the different ways to colour your images, backgrounds and other elements of your card making. For more in-depth tuition, you can find online colouring classes linked here.
Please bear in mind that I am only a dabbler in these arts myself! I enjoy having fun at my table splashing colours about, and using the results in fun card layouts.
For ink and foam storage solutions, you can check out my Ink Storage in my craft room.
Ink Blending Tools
There are many different blending tools and brushes available for inking, blending, painting, stencilling – it really comes down to availability and what suits your personal style.
I personally like the Tim Holtz round mini blending tool with little foam pads that attach to the velcro, and the little foam daubers that fit on the end of my finger. These have a low price point compared with the blending brushes which have hit the market – very similar to makeup brushes, so you might find a bargain in your local cosmetic aisles to try before committing to a set designed for crafters. The blending brushes make it easier to lay down light layers of colour and get a softer look in the end result.
A spray bottle or mini spritzer will also give you fun results with your inking. You can use water on its own, or add shimmer with mica powders such as Perfect Pearls.
The Tim Holtz spray bottle to the left has a nozzle that if you squeeze the sprayer gently, you get large droplets. If you squeeze the sprayer all the way in you get a fine mist.
Tim Holtz Distress Range
Tim Holtz released his range of Distress Inks in 2005 (well before I became a paper crafter!) and they have fast become a staple of the craft room. There are more than 60 colours in the range – with new ones being added periodically. They come in large pads, mini pads, and little bottles of Reinkers. Plus, there are Distress Crayons and markers to match, Spray Stains, and there have been embossing powders also. In the last couple of years, Tim has released the Distress Oxides in the large ink pad along with Reinkers and Sprays.
Distress inks are a dye based ink – this means the ink is transparent and dries quickly. They react with water in fun ways and can be used with a lot of different techniques.
Distress Oxide is an opaque pigment ink. The main difference between Oxides and Distress Inks is that dye inks are transparent, Oxides (pigment/dye hybrid) are not which means you can build colour up in layers. Oxides are fantastic to use on darker coloured cardstocks, and because they have a longer drying time, they blend absolutely beautifully. There is a rich, chalky like finish, but this ‘chalk’ does not rub off onto your fingers. The reaction with water is a fun thing to watch.
For help with choosing colour combinations for your projects – please visit my library of Distress Ink & Oxide Colour Combinations. You can select the main colour you want to use and a list (with photos) of possible combinations will come up for your reference. Please note this is being continually added to!
Tim Holtz has Creative Chemistry classes which I have linked here, along with other links to crafters using the Distress range of products.
Dye Ink Pads & Liquid Watercolour
Stamping with coloured ink pads has always been popular. You can use your coloured ink pads for many other techniques too. Often, inks are available in both full size pads and mini ink cubes. Starting off with the mini ink cubes is an economical way to collect a range of colours and learn which colours and brands you prefer.
Most of the ink pads on the market have refills available, and there are techniques especially for liquid watercolour that refills can be used for as well.
Alcohol Ink Markers
There are a variety of alcohol markers on the market. Copic markers are made in Japan, and were originally intended for architects and graphic designers. They have become a favourite of crafters worldwide, and other varieties of alcohol markers have also become available in recent years – Altenew, Stampin’ Up!, Spectrum Noir, and Promarkers by Winsor and Newton are just a few of the alcohol markers available in NZ today.
Most markers have dual tips – a brush marker at one end and a chisel or a bullet tip at the other. The brush marker tip is easiest to blend with, whilst the chisel puts down more colour at one time for larger areas.
The main difference between an alcohol marker and your ordinary felt marker is the ink. Felt markers are dye inks. Alcohol markers are designed to blend to create a smooth coloured surface, giving a more professional look to the finished image.
Copic Markers are available in Ciao (smaller barrel), Sketch (larger oval barrel), Original (square barrel) and refills. Copic Sketch are the markers most crafters use, and there is a complete range of 358 colours. You do not need ALL the colours though! The main thing is collecting colour blends that you like in sets of three or four – light, medium and dark.
Copic markers have a numbering system consisting of a letter followed by 2 or 3 numbers. The letter indicates the colour family (B = Blue, E = Earth, YG = Yellow Green etc). The first number is the saturation of colour – the lower numbers are considered ‘clean’ and the higher numbers have a more grey tone to the colour. The last number tells you how light or dark the colour is – 0 being the lightest, 9 being the darkest. An ideal blend set would contain 3-4 markers, one from the 0-3 (lightest or highlight), one from 4-6 (midtone or true colour) and one from 7-9 (darkest or shadow). Example, Y11, Y15, Y17 is a great yellow blend where you can get highlights, midtones and shadow in your colouring.
The Ciao range is not available in the full range of Copic colours, but they still use the exact same numbering and colour system as the Sketch, and are refillable. These are ideal for starting out, as they have a cheaper price point because of the smaller barrel. The fact that you can refill these markers makes them a great investment. You can fill any gaps with Sketch, as they have exactly the same numbering.
Other Alcohol Markers
Promarkers do not have a numbering system, each marker is named by colour such as Bluebell, Magenta, Terracotta etc. There are colour charts available which list them in their blending families – this is very helpful and I will link to one here. Kit and Clowder also have charts for Promarkers.
Stampin Up! markers were introduced in 2017/18 and made to match their existing inks and cardstocks. As new colours are released, so are new Stampin’ Blends to match. They come in packs of two (light and dark), so it will pay to keep a colour chart to build up your ideal blends.
I know there are other alcohol markers out there, but I have not tried them out for myself. Copics, Promarkers and Stampin’ Up! markers are readily available on the NZ market, which I why I have chosen to recommend them here.
These types of markers do take a lot of practice! With them, you can learn to colour skin tones, hair and fur, gold and other metal effects, florals and nature textures. I will link here to classes and tutorials available online, both free and paid subscriptions.
Classic watercoloring using palettes is popular and there are watercolour sets made especially for crafters. Serious watercolour artists might prefer the higher quality of the Daniel Smith watercolours – however these are expensive!
For crafters like us, a simple watercolour palette does not need to be particularly expensive. I actually like to use the watercolour powders (detailed below) or the distress inks as my watercolours – I just smoosh the colours I want on my work surface, spritz with water and use a paintbrush to mix and pick up colour.
Here is an example of an Altenew Watercolour Pan Set – a great range of colours and the lid acts as a palette for mixing colours, and also keeps the dust off your paints.
The smaller Watercolour Pan Set available from Uniquely Creative – this has all the primary colours and is a great travel size, excellent for portability.
Watercolour markers are very versatile and forgiving! They blend well on cardstock such as Bristol as well as watercolour paper. You can use them on their own simply as markers, or you can use an aqua pen to draw out the colour to get depth and shading.
An aqua pen is a worthy investment, and they are not very expensive. You can purchase them singly, or in little sets of different size brushes. Fill the barrel with water which then flows through the brush tip, much like a paintbrush. To change to a different colour that you’re working with, simply ‘scribble’ the brush out on a scrap paper or a rag until there is no colour left on it.
You aren’t limited to just water with watercolour markers – shimmer pens such as the Nuvo Glitter Gloss to the left, and Wink of Stella are water based and you can use them in the same way as the aqua pen above. Draw out the colour put down by the marker with a shimmer pen, and you get a beautiful shimmery layer on top of your colouring.
There are new watercolour markers available on the New Zealand market! Meetu at Krafters Cart has brought in the Karin Brushmarkers, and WOW, these are beautiful to use. They are very pigmented and have a small brush tip. There are different size boxes of markers available to suit different budgets. I splashed out on the Mega box, including the Neon colours (birthday treat!), so keep an eye on my Pinterest or other social media for cards made using these markers.
A fun product on the market are watercolour powders. These are intense coloured powders, which are activated with water. I happen to have the Ken Oliver ColorBurst and Nuvo Shimmer Powders in my craft room. I use them a lot – they make creating backgrounds very quick and easy, with fun results!
The intended way to use them is to sprinkle the powder onto watercolour cardstock and spritz or spray with water. You could use a paintbrush if you don’t have a spray bottle. Or, you can spray/paint the cardstock with water first and then sprinkle the powders – watch the colours move, it’s quite fascinating!
I like to heat emboss a background stamp (or a bunch of smaller stamps to create a background) and then use the watercolour powders on it.
You can have a fun session making a bunch of colourful backgrounds and save them for future projects – I have a little box full of these sorts of backgrounds ready to use on a card when inspiration strikes.
Many crafters like to use Coloured Pencils to colour their images. They look very striking on Kraft cardstock. This is not a product I’m experienced with myself, but Faber Castell Prismacolor Pencils and Polychromos are the popular choices.
Both types of pencil are available at Gordon Harris either singly, or in sets. Kit and Clowder have free blank colour charts for both pencils.
Colouring Classes and Tutorials are listed here.
Articles in Best of the Basics Series:
Adhesives Cardstock Ink – Stamping Die Cutting Machines/Trimmers Heat Embossing Colour Handy Tools