By Christine Song

Surprisingly Fun Ways to Color with Gel Pens


Gel pens add sparkle, depth, and texture to any coloring page.

Looking for a little sparkle?

There are so many ways you can color with colored pencils, but if you’re looking to try something with a little more depth and flair, color with gel pens instead.

Coloring with gel pens is a fun alternative that has the added benefit of really making your artwork stand out. 

Plus, taking time to decompress and relax by purposely setting aside time to color or draw is really beneficial for you; it forces you to slow down and tap into your creative side by thinking about what colors to use where and methodically coloring in the lines. The process can be very calming and therapeutic, and it’s a great downtime activity that you could do with others or while you’re hanging out alone at home. 

But instead of just coloring with whatever you have on hand, why not use one of the best pens out there for coloring? Gel pens are perfect for using in your coloring book, decorating your pages, bullet journaling, or just customizing your planner in your free time.

Why are gel pens perfect for coloring?

The ink that makes a gel pen what it is, is nearly the same ink that is used in a rollerball or ballpoint pen. But the pigments used to make gel ink are thicker than other inks, resulting in the stronger colors. 

The vibrancy of gel pen colors comes from suspending the thick and opaque pigment in water. The ink is otherwise delivered in the same way as ballpoints and rollerballs. 

Gel pens require longer drying time, but give you a strong line that doesn’t feather or bleed (because pigmented ink doesn’t soak through like dye). This makes it a perfect pen to use for coloring books because you don’t have to worry about the sheets below being ruined. 

Coloring looks best when you vary lighter tones with bold lines and strong colors -- and that’s what a gel pen delivers. For really detailed coloring designs, a gel pen can also deliver fine lines with the right technique. 

With gel pens, you have so many fun color options to choose from, you won’t get bored coloring with the same colors over and over again because of all the combinations and variations you can come up with. Plus gel pens come in a beautiful array of colors including sparkly, opalescent, metallic, and glitter options. 

And lucky for you, gel pen ink is archival, fade resistant, waterproof, chemical proof/non-toxic, and washes off clothes and skin more easily than non-gel, oil based inks. 

However, be prepared for longer drying time to avoid unnecessary smudges, as well the problem of replacing your gel pens more frequently than other coloring tools; because the ink rolls so smoothly, the ink distributes more heavily and uses more ink with each use. 

Your artistic skills can really take shape and form though with a gel pen and that’s why we love them for coloring!

4 ways to use your gel pen for coloring

If you’ve never colored with a gel pen before, you may not realize the wide array of options they allow you. Here are 4 ways you can use gel pens to color and bring your pages to life. 

  1. Find fun ways to use color. Before you commit to your coloring page, try each of your pens out on scratch paper to see how it looks. Test out different color combinations to see what they look like next to each other or mixed together.
  2. Embrace and enhance smudges. Remember, gel pens need time to dry because the ink flows so quickly and easily. But that also means you can use the ink to paint. You can use a small paintbrush to draw the ink away from where it’s pooled so you have a fading effect. Or blend two colors to create shading; you’ll get a gradient effect that will look lovely. The best way to do this is to use a wetter gel pen and pair it with a dryer gel pen. Start with the wet, then use the dry. 
  3. Create contrast and special effects by using glittery, metallic, or white colored gel pens throughout your coloring. For example, use glittery pens to trace or color in fine lines around an object to make it stand out. Or use a matte gel pen on top of a glitter gel pen to dampen the intensity of the glitter. 
  4. Use different strokes. Try hatching or stippling by creating little lines or dots within the drawing. The closer the lines are, the darker the color will appear. You can even combine gel pens with other tools like markers or crayons to create contrast. Color in the lines with little circles, short strokes, long strokes, or diagonal strokes too!

Our favorite gel pens 

Because you have a big selection of gel pens to choose from, we recommend the ones below especially for coloring. (For a complete list of the pens and pencils we recommend for coloring in the Ink+Volt Inspirational Coloring Book, check out this list.)

  1. Gelly Roll Dark Metallic 5-Pack offers colors with a reflective sheen and dark metallic finish, including sepia, burgundy, hunter green, blue/black, and black.
  2. The Gelly Roll Galaxy Stardust 6-Pack delivers a “galaxy of glittering colors” in rose-star, sky-star, lime-star, purple-star, golden-star, and red-star. 
  3. For a really bright and bold look, use the Gelly Roll Moonlight 10-Pack; it comes in fluorescent yellow, orange, vermilion, pink, green, red, rose, purple, green, and blue.
  4. If you want a subtle scent when you’re coloring with your gel pens, the OOLY Yummy Yummy Scented Glitter Gel Pen is perfect. It comes in 12 sparkly and vibrant colors: purple, red, pink, yellow, silver, grey, orange, sky blue, blue, lime, green, and brass.
  5. Looking for a two-toned effect? The Gelly Roll Silver Shadow 5-Pack writes in a silver metallic ink, but is outlined in a different color. It’s magic!

The best part about gel pens is that while they are great for coloring, they also add flair to your calendar, planner, or journaling. Find the colors that work for you and your coloring book and color to your heart’s content. 

Happy coloring and have fun!