The number of colors you want to map

The number of colors you want to map

While lots of folks may be happy with 12 colors, there are those of us that would just rather have like 150. Or 352. That's why I recommend a few different brands that offer a variety of color ranges. If you have a local art store, it's a great place to go and check colors out, try pens, and chat up the artsy employees who can help you find the right thing for coloring in your map aka work of art.

And as it’s your work of art, you can have as few or as many colors as you damn well please. 

Whatever colors you choose, at least one will be required if you want to map something. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at a lovely black and white drawing—which is fine, if that makes you happy.


For the rest of us mappers, choose whatever colors and number of colors you want. You don’t have to think about it too much unless you want to. I am a person who wants to, so a few tips below.

Test the colors out on the material you choose; for posters, you can also get a Color Tester, like the one above, which will allow you to test a whole bunch of shades and how they look together. 

Below is a sampling of ProMarker colors I tested on the back of my canvas, which I encourage you to do as well. There's plenty of space on the back of even the smallest canvas to test colors and combos.


As a matter of personal preference, I like to choose colors in odd numbers like 3, 5, 7 because there is some part of my brain that thinks this is better than 2, 4, or 6. There may or may not be an art theory that supports this belief.

When coloring a map with swirls that are divisible by 10, I enjoy using 10 colors because it makes it easier for me to count how many I’ve colored in. I may be the only person who cares about this, but I still often choose 10 colors.

One brilliant soul commented that he would like to map how he felt as he accomplished the action for each swirl and would assign colors to represent his emotions as a way to see how he was feeling over the course of his goal tracking. Totally optional and totally rad. Just one way to approach it.

If you have a special brain like I do and hate the idea of swirls of the same color touching, I recommend using more than 7 colors. I burn a lot of calories (not really) trying to make sure that my colors don’t touch too closely together. Again, this is just part of my charm and totally unnecessary.

Please let me know how your color choosing goes and feel free to tag on social with #mapcolors if you’re game.