Best Gel Pens for Coloring

What is a Gel Pen – How to Use Gel Pens

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Being creative is fun and helps to relieve stress, but for many, it should also be easy to do. This is where coloring pens come into play as they are effortless to use, and you can produce some amazing results. Another advantage is that gel pens are for both younger kids and adults. Since there are so many options available for the best color gel pens, we are going to help you learn all about these wonderful pens and how to choose the best one for your purposes.



What is a Gel Pen?

First, let us learn a few noteworthy historical facts about gel pens. For instance, did you know that the first gel pen was produced in 1984 by a Japanese corporation known as Sakura Color Products? These types of gel pens then came to America later during the 1980s and were then known as Gelly Roll pens. Crayola then also began producing their own gel pens. However, they focused on the younger market and created more fun and sparkly gel pens for kids, which were easy to use.

Metallic Gel Pens

So, what are colored gel pens? These pens are water-based, which makes them safe to use and non-toxic. A much better choice for children compared to the alcohol-based pen varieties. They also combine the features present in both rollerball and ballpoint pens. The water-based ink contains powder pigments and has a slightly thicker consistency compared to other types of ink. The ink provides an opaque color with a higher ratio of pigment that allows the colors to stand out on a page. The thicker consistency of the ink also helps to prevent smudging, but still allows for a smooth writing or drawing experience.

The gel pens are quite versatile and can be used for anything from writing or note-taking to gel pens for adult coloring books and other art projects. The ink flows smoothly without you having to apply a lot of pressure. This makes the pens comfortable to use over long periods, without causing your hand to cramp. Since you have nice control over the pens, you can easily use them for finer details, and applying only one layer of color is usually enough.

Many of the products today also dry faster, so they do not smudge easily and will not bleed through the paper.


Types of Gel Pens

Gel pens are, therefore, a great option if you enjoy the smooth application and vibrant colors. There are many color gel pen sets available on the market today. The pens come in a variety of opalescent colors and types that include the following.

  • Pastel gel pens
  • Metallic gel pens
  • Fluorescent or neon colors
  • Glitter gel pens
  • Regular black and blue gel pens
  • Two-swirl combination gel pens

The metallic, as well as glitter gel pens, are quite popular, especially amongst children who like sparkly things, so these are included in many of the color gel pens sets. The glitter gel pens will show up rather nicely on darker paper. Most of the pens are designed for comfort and have a rubber grip for even more comfort and control. Another type of pen is the white gel pen. This type of gel pen is great for using on darker or even black paper. You can also use the pen to add highlights to your previous color application once it has dried. You might have to experiment with different brands of white gel pens, as many do not perform the same way on black or darker paper, and some may be better than others.

Color Gel Pens Set

You can also get a clear glitter gel pen, which can add some shine to some of your finished coloring projects. They not only work over gel pens but can also be used over markers as well as colored pencils. You can even use it with your white gel pen to add some sparkle to your highlights. The design of the pen is similar to other ink pens in that they consist of a barrel, which contains the mechanism for writing as well as the cap, and the reservoir where the ink is stored. The pen barrels can come in different designs and sizes, for example, a rubber grip. The nib sizes also come in different sizes ranging from fine to medium, or 0.18 mm to 1.5 mm.

We have already mentioned that the consistency of gel pens is slightly thicker than your average ink pen. However, some brands make gel pens that have a more liquid consistency or a “wetter ink”. These will more than likely bleed through thin paper and smudge, but many use them to blend colors, which you can do with your fingers or even a brush.

You will have to make sure you read up on the product you want to buy for this feature, which brings us to what you need to look for when it comes to buying the best gel pens for coloring.



What are Glitter Gel Pens?

The very first gel pen was manufactured by a Japanese company known as the Sakura Color Products Corporation. Their ‘Gelly Roll’ pens have become an extremely popular choice for many over the years. Today, many other brands sell sparkly gel pens and they come in many colors as well as types. Many of the gel pens come with refills and offer other options besides glitter.

For example, white, black, metallic, and neon colors. Most of the glitter gel pens use a rollerball that dispenses the water-based gel. The glitter is suspended in the gel, this makes it easier to work with and a lot less messy. Most of you know that working with glitter can be problematic, as it gets everywhere and weeks later you still find glitter in places you thought were clean. This is why the glitter pens are a great alternative, no mess, no fuss but you still have all the fun.

The roller-ball pens also provide better control and glide evenly and smoothly over paper.  This makes it easier to draw and color finer details. Also, the sparkle pen gives a burst of color and works great on darker surfaces. Kids just love the sparkly gel pens, as they are non-toxic and extremely easy to use. There are many options and brands available today, each offering something different. You might find one glitter gel pens set offers more glitter than another, or the colors might be different. Some might have a gold glitter pen or a combination of glitter and neon colors. You will have to choose the best glitter pens for your project.

gold glitter pen

The best gel pens for coloring will go onto paper smoothly and offer vibrant colors. The application is effortless and is usually much easier than when using a colored pencil. The gel pens also do not bleed through the paper as much as the felt tip pens and can be used on thin paper. As mentioned, gel pens can be used on their own, or to add highlights to your drawings and designs. Some ideas for using the best glitter pens include:

  • Adult coloring books
  • Making greeting cards
  • Invitations
  • Journaling
  • Scrapbooking
  • Illustrations
  • Letters and notes


Pros and Cons for Glitter Gel Pens

Glitter gel pens are a great way to add that special touch to your special designs, or just a fun way of coloring in. Whatever you use the sparkly gel pens for, you are sure to create something unique. However, with all things you do have your advantages and disadvantages. Thankfully, when it comes to the best gel pens for coloring, they are fun to use, and the pros far outweigh any cons.


  • They are fun to use for the whole family
  • Non-toxic
  • Offers smooth, easy, and controlled application
  • None to minimal bleeding through the paper
  • Many vibrant colors available
  • Affordable
  • Comfortable to use


  • Some glitter options may not work on darker surfaces
  • Various glitter pens should not be used for coloring
  • Only some products are refillable
  • Some tend to smear
  • Not for everyday writing
  • Pens might need a shake to unclog tips



Other Types of Glitter Pens

Besides the glitter gel pens, there are also a few other glitter pen options including glitter paint pens, glitter glue, and metallic pens. The metallic gel pens are usually a combination of the gel pens and metallic colors that come in the gel pen set. All of these pens can be applied to paper and cardboard. However, the glue and paint options can be used on other surfaces. Choosing which one is the best glitter pens, will depend on what you want to do.


Glitter Paint Pens

The paint pens use acrylic paints combined with glitter as well as various color pigments. These glitter pens are perfect for adding a little sparkle to surfaces besides paper. For example, rock painting, which has become an extremely popular craft. However, if you do use the pens on an item that is going outside, it is a good idea to add a sealant coat as the acrylic paint can be washed away. We have a separate tutorial on how to seal glitter. A few more examples for where glitter paint pens can be used include:

  • Canvas
  • Ceramics
  • Terracotta
  • Decorate a pair of shoes
  • Fabrics
  • Wood

The glitter paint pens are perfect for outlines, highlights, and in areas where you want a little sparkle. The colors could fade over time and can be left in the sun. The glitter paint pens are liquid and will, therefore, flow more quickly than the gel pens. For this reason, you can also use the pens to paint and color with, not only just adding highlights


  • Safe and easy to use
  • Comes in a variety of colors
  • Acrylic paint is easy to clean up
  • Will not fade
  • Can be used for outdoor projects


  • For outdoor projects, a sealant is needed as it is not waterproof
  • Works best on surfaces other than paper

glitter gel pens


Glitter Glue Pens

As the name states, it is liquid glue with glitter. These are great for kids to use on their school projects and giving a little extra bling to greeting cards. These come in more of a tube or pen shape that has a fine tip for easier application. This helps to regulate the glue that you want to use for your project. Glitter glue is affordable and easy to use for crafting projects. You do not use glitter glue for coloring or an entire project, it is used more for adding a little extra to what you are working on.

The glitter glue does require time to dry after using it, maybe even a full day before it dries thoroughly. Touching the glue before it dries, will cause smudging. However, once dry it becomes hard and permanent. Also, use it sparingly to avoid it from saturating the paper and ruining the project. You might want to take the lid off and use a long stick or the end of a paintbrush to mix the glue and glitter before using it, so you do not just get a big blob of glue. Can be applied to metal, fabric, wood and lots more.


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy and safe to use for kids
  • A lot of different colors available
  • Provides a textured effect
  • You can use on many surfaces, not just paper


  • Should only be used for adding accents to craft projects
  • Cannot color with the glue
  • Takes a long time to dry
  • Can smudge before it dries

glitter gel pens set



Purchasing the Best Color Gel Pens

There are many brands and options when it comes to gel pens from cheap gel pens for coloring to your more expensive metallic gel pens and more. So, what pens do you choose? The best option would be to select a pen that best meets your needs. The most obvious factor to consider is how much you are prepared to spend. Then you must think about if you need an entire set or only a few pens. What type and colors do you need? Also, you should be aware that some gel pens are not meant for coloring, like an all-black set, or other pens that might bleed through your paper, which is why you should stay with coloring pens instead of note-taking pens. Below are a few more factors to look at.

Gel Pens for Adult Coloring Books


Colored Gel Pens

There are many colors available when it comes to gel pens, so there is sure to be something for every creative project. The vibrant colors can help to produce some amazing and colorful results for any do-it-yourself project including things like greeting cards or gel pens for adult coloring books for stress relief. As mentioned, you have a choice in different types of gel pens from metallic gel pens to glitter gel pens, each of which is available in a variety of colors.

Many of the color gel pen sets also come with white gel pens for added effects and highlights.

There are also pens like the swirl gel pens that have a combination of colors that mix when drawing, creating an interesting blend of unique colors. Some color gel pens sets have one hundred pens or more, while others provide other color combinations and a few pens in a set. There are also sets that come with refills for convenience if you use your pens a lot. The color gel pens you choose should also have a reputation for not smearing or bleeding through the paper. The gel pens should also not be prone to getting clogged or drying up fast. So, read up on the gel pens you are looking for to see what the reviews say before purchasing, as gel pens can be a bit on the expensive side, and you do not want to waste your money.

Pastel Coloring Pens


Gel Pen Tip Features

There are mainly two designs when it comes to pen tips and that is your retractable and standard pens. The standard pens simply have removable caps on the tips, which you need to replace once you are finished with using the pens. The retractable pen is where the tip pulls back into the barrel, and you need to click the pen to expose the tip. The main purpose of both is to make sure the pen does not dry out. The main advantage of a retractable pen is that you cannot lose the cap and you only need one hand to click the pen, whereas you most probably need two hands to remove a cap.

Cheap Gel Pens for Coloring

Then you also have different size tips available from fine to medium size, the fine tip can do more detailed effects and is used for more precision work. The medium tips are more for things like shading or filling larger areas with color. A more common fine tip size would be your 0.7 mm, which is great for coloring books. Then, of course, you get up to 1.5 mm tips, the 0.8 to 0.1 mm being the two that are more popular tip sizes. These medium tip sizes are best for a variety of tasks from coloring to drawing as well as writing.


Gel Pens Featuring Comfort Grips

Since drawing or writing can take some time and should be a calming and relaxing experience, a pen should provide comfort for extended use. You do not want your hands cramping or becoming tired when using your gel pens. Also, people with conditions like arthritis can find it more comfortable to draw or write if the pen design is right. Some pens come with a rubber grip or some kind of soft cushioning where the pens are gripped the most. Those who are allergic to latex, also have latex-free options.

The pen barrel design itself might also be contoured or have added thickness to promote a comfortable grip.


Storage and Packaging

Many of the gel pens come in packaging that can also be used as storage containers. These containers can come in clear packaging so that the pens are displayed clearly and help you organize your pens properly. This is especially true for the larger sets, which need to be organized so you can find the pen you are looking for quickly. Many of the storage containers like the fabric pen holders have zippers or the more durable PVC containers may snap open and closed, all of which can help when traveling with your pens.

Best Color Gel Pens



How to Use Coloring Pens

Coloring pens are easy to use, and you simply need to practice a little to get various techniques right. Many of the pens remain wet on the page and can smudge, however, many brands are quick-drying, solving this type of problem. Although, some want the wet application to create certain effects with blending colors or creating a gradient of colors. Many of the gel pens say that they do not bleed through paper, however, it is always better to opt for a thicker paper that ensures no ink sinks through. This is important as many coloring books have pictures on both sides of the paper. Gel pens can be used in many ways, below are a few examples.

  • You can use gel pens to color entire pages with vibrant colors instead of marker pens.
  • Create an outline first so you can color with more precision.
  • Gel pens, like the white color, can be used to add highlights. You can also use gel pens to add texture or accents to a page that has already been colored with a pencil.
  • You can also create shade and depth to pencil drawings. You can use drawing techniques like cross-hatching, stippling, or other different stroke techniques.
  • Glitter pens are a favorite for many and can add a bit of sparkle to any design.

Glitter Gel Pens

  • As mentioned, you can blend colors while they are still wet. When first doing this, it is best to test out the pens on a sample page to see how the ink responds. You may even like to try using a brush for this.
  • Color your design in pencil, then do an outline with gel pens and use a brush to bring the ink over onto the pencil drawing. This should create a watercolor-like effect.
  • The fine point gel pens are great for more intricate designs.
  • You can try and revive a gel pen by firmly tapping the tip onto the paper and drawing in circles until the ink begins to flow again.
  • Sometimes bubbles occur, which can hinder the flow of ink. Try to gently knock the pen on your palm to remove the bubbles.
  • When it comes to storage, some recommend keeping the pens vertical with the tips up. The caps should also always be kept on or the pen retracted when not in use.
  • However, some also say to store gel pens horizontally for the long term and vertically if you do not have the space and you are going to be using the pens often.


Tips and Ideas for Using Colored Gel Pens

When working with gel pens or any other marker or pen, it is best to always have some sample or spare paper handy to test your pens on before using them. If the pen does not seem to be working, gently tap on the paper to get it started. Below are a few more helpful suggestions for using gel pens.

  • Store pens in color groups for easy access, so you will not have to go looking for colors you want.
  • Make sure to store the gel pens in a cool and dark place as things like sunlight can cause the pigments in the ink to fade over time.
  • If the pen packaging does not work for storage, you can purchase a storage container, or simply use jars or something like a make-up organizer to store and keep your pens in.
  • You can combine your gel pens with pencils as well as markers to create interesting results.
  • If you are a beginner, maybe start with gel pens that are quick-drying before attempting to blend or use other techniques.

Colored Gel Pens

  • Use different types of gel pens for contrast or other effects. For example, first, use a glitter pen, then an opaque gel pen to dampen the sparkle a bit.
  • When using more than one color, remember to start with dark colors and move on to light colors.
  • Use your gel pens within one to two years of purchasing them.
  • Try using a damp towel to remove any dried ink from the tip of the pen.


Drawing and writing with colored gel pens can be fun, relaxing, and rewarding. You can do many things with gel pens, from scrapbooking to doodling and coloring. The only problem is finding the right gel pens for you. We hope we have made it a little easier for you to choose the best gel pen for your creative project.



Frequently Asked Questions


Do Gel Pens Bleed Through Paper?

Many of the gel pens should not seep or bleed through the paper like other inks, as the gel ink is thicker. However, this is also influenced by the type of paper you are using. If it is thin paper, it is not guaranteed that the gel ink will not seep through. Some brands are also wetter or less viscous, which can bleed through paper but can be used for blending. Many brands also state they have faster drying times and will not bleed through paper.


Can Gel Pens Dry Out?

Yes, gel pens can dry out, especially if the caps are not on properly or the pen is not retracted. If the tips are exposed for too long, the ink can dry out. So, always make sure the caps are on properly when you are not using the pens.


What Can You Use Gel Pens For?

Gel pens are quite versatile and can be used for almost any design project. They are extremely popular with adult coloring enthusiasts but can be used for doodling, drawing, writing, notebooks, journaling, decorative lettering, and much more. The gel pens can also be used together with pencils and other media to add extra flare.


Are Gel Pens Expensive?

Yes, gel pens can be more costly than other coloring pens. This is because the ink is slightly thicker and can contain more pigment. The ink also writes more smoothly and should last longer. However, there are many good quality, budget-friendly color gel pen sets available.


How Fast Does It Take the Gel Ink to Dry?

The ink in a gel pen does not dry as fast as the ink in a ballpoint pen. This might cause some problems with smudging, however, there are fast drying pens available. Also, it can depend on the quality or type of paper involved. In general, it should take about 20 to 30 seconds, or sometimes more, for the ink to dry.

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