If you are like most avid colorists, you’ve got a coveted collection of coloring books on your shelf or a stack of your favorites displayed on your coloring desk. Maybe you’re as crazy as me, and you’ve got a whole shelf dedicated to them! However far along with your coloring addiction you are, I think we can all agree — sometimes, you just want to try an artist’s work out with a free coloring page before you invest in a whole book. Or, perhaps you prefer to purchase individual coloring pages from artists on Etsy or elsewhere, so you know exactly what you are getting. In either of these cases, it’s a huge help to know the best way to print your coloring pages to avoid smudged lines, patchy ink or other issues.
The detailed guide below delves into burning questions colorists have about printing, such as what type of printer is best for printing coloring pages, what paper to use for coloring pages, and when professional printing might just be the best idea.
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For those colors which you wish to be beautiful, always first prepare a pure white ground. – Leonardo da Vinci
Which is better for printing coloring pages: inkjet or laser printing?
Figuring out how to print coloring pages starts with determining which kind of printer will give you the best results.
Laser printers are the best kind of printer for printing coloring pages, though at the outset they can be more expensive than inkjet printers. Here are several reasons why laser printers reign supreme:
- Ink won’t smear: Laser printers use dry toner and a heat process to lay down permanent ink, making them ideal especially if you are planning to color with markers. Even colored pencils can smear inkjet lines, especially when blending.
- Sharper lines: If you have a high-resolution coloring page to print, the results usually look better with a laser printer.
- Long term affordability: Laser printer toner cartridges can be quite pricy, but print many more pages than inkjet cartridges do before requiring replacement.
- Quieter, faster printing: If you print many coloring pages, a laser printer will be much faster and produce less noise than an inkjet printer.
Almost any business or community center where you could go to print documents, such as a copy center at an office supply store or even your local library, will have laser printers available. Prices vary to print your documents this way, but usually they range from ten to thirty cents per black and white page. If you are unsure if the printers available are inkjet or laser printers, just ask someone working in the print center and they can help you.
If you plan on printing many coloring pages, it may be more convenient and economical for you to invest in a high-quality laser printer rather than heading to the library anytime you want to print a page. You can usually purchase decent monochrome laser printers for $60 to $100 online. Be sure to buy a laser printer with a flat feed, as these can generally accommodate thicker kinds of paper, and research recommended paper weights before purchasing. The Brother HL-L2300D is currently the top-rated monochrome laser printer on Amazon.
Stuck with an inkjet printer? You can get more mileage (and less smudging) out of your printer by allowing the page to fully dry before coloring. Instead of printing and starting to color, print your pages 24 to 48 hours ahead of time to allow the ink to fully set.
What is the best paper for printing coloring pages?
The best paper for printing your coloring pages depends on several factors. Regular copy paper doesn’t usually make for the ideal coloring experience, though, because the paper is too thin for markers and doesn’t have enough tooth to get the best effects with colored pencils. So what paper should you print your coloring pages on?
Most Affordable Printer Paper for Coloring with Colored Pencils: 65lb Cardstock
If you plan to color with dry media only, such as colored pencils, pastels, crayons, or chalk pencils, a light cardstock is probably all you need. A 65lb cardstock works in pretty much any printer, even those without a flat feed, and is very affordable. If you are familiar with CreateSpace paper, this paper is a similar quality. Markers will bleed and buckle the paper, so I would not recommend them for use with this paper.
Best Printer Paper for Coloring with Colored Pencils: 110lb Cardstock
If you want to incorporate some more advanced colored pencil techniques, such as blending or using solvents, you will want a heavier cardstock. You will also need a heavier cardstock for slightly wet media, such as gel pens, some markers, and maybe watercolor pencils if you are VERY conservative about the amount of water you use. For these purposes, 110lb cardstock has a great level of sturdiness that still prints well in most printers with a flat feed. I would not recommend this paper for artists’ markers (such as Copics or Prismacolor markers), since this paper is too toothy, or straight up watercolors, since this is not watercolor paper.
Best Printer Paper for Coloring with Copics: Classic Crest 110lb Cardstock
Want to use premium alcohol-based markers to color your pages, such as Copics, Prismacolors, or others? Then you need a thick, very smooth, and non-coated cardstock like Classic Crest. This paper comes highly recommended from card-makers and artists.
Best Printer Paper for Coloring with Watercolors: Canson Watercolor Pad
Want to color with watercolors or watercolor pencils? You’ll get the best experience with actual watercolor paper — as long as your printer can actually accommodate it. A flat feed is a must with super thick paper, such as watercolor paper. Many colorists who print on watercolor use student-grade watercolor paper sold in pads, such as Canson. If your printer can’t accept 9×12” sheets, you will need to cut the paper down to letter size.
Creative Idea for Printing Colored Pages: Brown Kraft Paper
Don’t be afraid to think a little outside the box when it comes to printing your coloring pages! Check out the incredible pop of colors that colorist Dove Broadfoot achieved by printing a page out on brown kraft paper:
What resolution do you need to print a page for coloring purposes?
Nothing makes me go cross-eyed faster than fuzzy lines on my coloring pages. If you want crisp lines, you need to make sure the resolution of the page you are printing is high enough.
First, a quick note about free coloring pages. Sometimes artists offer up a free page or two as a sample from a coloring book. They hope that if you enjoy the free page, you will go on to buy their book. These free pages are legally obtained and usually very high quality. However, if you do not know the true source of a free page, and/or it prints out at a very low quality, there is a good chance it was stolen. Don’t perpetuate the stealing and distribution of illegal artwork — it hurts the same artists whose work you love to color! If you see a stolen coloring page being passed around a coloring group you are in, be sure to report it to the group’s admin.
The standard minimum resolution for printing coloring pages is 300 PPI. PPI stands for pixels per inch, and refers to the number of computer pixels that would be printed per square inch of a printed page. Your average US letter coloring page must be 2550 pixels wide by 3300 pixels tall to print at 300 PPI — divide both of those numbers by 300 PPI, and you get 8.5 x 11 inches, the standard size of US letter paper.
Most of the time, you don’t need to worry about resolution; if you are obtaining legal coloring pages, the artist has already figured this out for you. But this can help diagnose the issue if your page is printing out blurry.
When is professional printing the best option?
Everyone’s situation is different. In your particular case, or for the particular project you are working on, professional printing of your coloring pages may be the most cost-effective or highest-quality option.
As I’ve already mentioned, if you do not have a printer and do not have the funds to buy one, or just don’t see yourself printing often enough to make it worth it, you can take advantage of professional printing for everyday coloring pages. The only downside to this is that many places do not allow you to choose higher quality paper, or only have a few options as far as cardstock. These thicker types of paper can in turn increase the price.
Another situation where professional printing may make the most sense is if your printer cannot accommodate the size or thickness of the paper you’d like to use. Many colorists have discovered the hard way that their printer can’t handle watercolor paper, when it gets horribly jammed up inside.
At the end of the day, enjoying your daily dose of coloring depends greatly on your needs and overall budget. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to enjoy clean, crisp lines and avoid smudging. Figuring out the best way to print coloring pages is as easy as combining the right printer with the right paper for your choice of materials.