Adult Coloring Books 1: An initial review

October 19, 2015 | 82 Comments


This current craze of Adult Colouring Books is getting so big that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I had to work out what it is all about, so over the last few weeks I have gotten hold of a few  popular titles and want to share a few thoughts with you… and more importantly, I would love to hear your opinions and ideas.

I haven’t actually started colouring in yet, but I have four books that I am going to review before starting. Those of you who regularly follow me will know that my work is very loose. I rarely draw neat oultines and find it impossible to stay within the lines when I am sketching, but with my architectural background I am able to do precise and neat work. So in reviewing these books I feel as if I have more of my architect’s hat on than my sketchers one!

Note: despite the American spelling of coloring in the title of this post, I am going to stick to the English version of colouring – with the ‘u’.

Ok – lets get going… this is a long post!


Walk into any bookstore in Sydney and you will easily be able to find a huge range of Adult Colouring Books. Dymocks has gone to full promotion mode… you can’t walk into the store without passing the display. Perfect for Christmas presents – hey?


Four out of the top 7 best sellers are colouring-in books – wow! I find that incredible!


In the city store, upstairs there is are two row with many many titles. I have decided to look at four titles and not bother with any of mandala – ‘mindfulness’ type books, instead focusing on the more illustrative ones – I am an Urban Sketcher after all!

I don’t have Johanna Basford’s first book “Secret Garden” (the No. 1 book). Because I was ordering online I didn’t want to risk getting a copy of the earlier edition with the thinner paper, so I have gone with her second book instead, Enchanted Forest.


One can easily see why her books are so popular – they are full of beautifully designed and carefully drawn illustrations.

There are no literal scenes in the Enchanted Forest – instead they are stylized fantastical illustrations.Gorgeous!


The book doesn’t open flat though, so colouring the double page spread would be difficult.


The second book I looked at, Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom, is in a similar style.


It is full of illustrations of animals, sometimes in a stylised environment, some with realistical outlines and others made up of floral motifs.


The line work is very precise in this book – in fact I feel a little too precise. The areas to colour in many places are very small (too small!) and the author states “you may find some parts of certain drawings are too detailed to colour in every tiny little section, and so you may choose to simply colour over the top of these areas”.

This might be ok for some of the textured areas but I am not sure what you do with these areas in the floral animals. I feel like the drawings were drawn large and scaled down too much for this size book. Also the line thickness is inconsistent across various pages, some are very fine and some are significantly thicker – something that doesn’t happen in Johanna Basford’s books.


Also in some places the ink details made the areas a little too black for my liking. I think in a colouring-in book there some be very clean and crisp shapes to add colour to and I don’t like shapes that are too heavy with inklines.


The third book, Secret Paris by Zoe de Las Cases is quite different in that it includes collection of objects and actual street scenes from Paris.


I rather like this mix of subject matter, however I am not overly excited by a lot of the linework in this book. Some reviews on Amazon say that they like the ‘hand drawn’ quality of this book… I am tempted to say that is ‘sloppily drawn’! Now I know that as a sketcher I have very loose lines, but if I am to get into colouring in books I want clearly defined shapes (this might be a personal preference… and I could possible change my mind after I tackle a few pages in this book). It is not so much the character of the linework that is a problem for me in this book as it is the inconsistency.


The object pages are fine – although there are some strange linewieght variations which I find a little bit odd.


The Paris scene pages however are rather disappointing, and these pages are the reason why I bought the book. There are so many shapes that are not defined – in a way that feels very hesitant – and there are many inconsistencies in the way objects are drawn. For example look at the windows in this scene – why aren’t they all drawn the same way?

Maybe I might change my opinion after I have done some colouring in (maybe???)  but right now, the book doesn’t inspire me to start.


The fourth book, Fantastic Cities by Steve McDonald is fantastic! Wow! this book has really gotten me excited and itching to start colouring in.  Of course the fact that I am an architect might have something to do with it as well!


Incredibly precise drawn city scenes and building drawings and a number of insanely head spinning city mandalas! The quality of these drawings is outstanding and I just love the fact that these are real scenes.


There are a few pages where I think the scale is a little two small and a few where I felt the line weight was too heavy but these might not be be issues for expert colouring-iners!


What I really like about this book is that you could render these to indicate light hitting these city scenes – they are real scenes not stylised illustrations.  In fact the examples on the inside cover  show this and at least one of the pages actually outlines shadow shapes.


It is nice to see two Australian buildings that I love (and have sketched) in the book. Flinders St Station and Newtown Post Office! Overall I was very impressed with this book!


I have a few more photos of books that I flicked through in Dymocks the other week. I wasn’t overally impressed by the linework in these books. Some of them look like bad trace of photos and very patchy line weights and scrappy cross hatching.

http://www.parkablogs.com/content/colouring-lion-city-william-sim

And finally, before I share a few general comments about colouring-in in general, I am wanting very much to get a copy of Colouring the Lion City by William Sim – one of my Singapore Urban Sketchers friends. This book looks great and here is a great review by Parka!

Ok…  

So what do I think of this latest colouring-in book craze?
– I think it is great that people are putting down their smart phones/tablets and doing something more tactile with pencil, pen and paper. And that they are creating beautiful coloured images
– I am interested in the whole meditative – art therapy angle that has been used to promote this. Is that a way to justify having a little bit of fun doing what is perceived as a childish activity? Is it a clever marketing push? I have read a few interesting articles that are critical of promoting colouring-in as ‘art therapy’. It might be relaxing, but something a little less precise (such as zentagles or loosening up exercises) might be more appropriate?
– I do worry a little bit about ‘perfection pressure’ which might be generated by these precise images. Why do adult colouring-in books have to be so ‘difficult’?
– I also worry about the obsessive, repetitive, time consuming nature of completing one of these books. If any of us has exisiting  problems with ‘ipad neck’ and wrist RSI issues, then this type of activity isn’t the best form of relaxation!
– Is the colouring-in community competitive? I have no idea about this, so would love to hear about what this community is like.

The bottom line for me is that I’m so glad I discovered the sketching community 9 years ago and am drawing (and colouring) my life using my own lines as the base, rather than getting obsessive about colouring in someone else’s lines. Yes, personality is expressed in the way you colour-in someone else images, but when you put down your own marks on the page there is really something special and unique about that!  I love that I am creating a narrative of my real life as it is, rather than escaping into a fantasy world. This ‘real life’ aspect of keeping a sketch journal of my life has helped me to be more content and to find beauty in my own hum-drum life. (Note: because of urban sketching, my old hum-drum life has changed into a much more exciting life. Sometimes I miss the quietness of the old days …sometimes!)

I hope that this colouring-in craze will lead to more people wanting to learn to draw for themselves….  

But is colouring-in a good lead in to this?  
 I worry that the precision and perfection that these books encourage will become a huge barrier for people wanting to start sketching.  The expectation of perfection is the first thing you have to let go of and learning to think visually has to do serious battle against stylised images of objects. (BTW these are important things that I look at in my Foundations course!)

Well, this has turned into a long post and I haven’t even mentioned HOW am I going to colour in!

What media am I going to use?
– I could use my water colour pencils, but am thinking that getting a set of my standard 10 colours in the Faber Castel Polychromos might be a good way to start.
– Or should I try pen? The Staedtler Triplus seem to be a popular choice… or gel pen (can’t see myself colouring doing that!)

I’m open to suggestions …so please let me know what you think I should test/use.

And yes, I will start sharpening my pencils! I somehow think that my pencils will need to have a new shape to tackle these books! My favourite WCP (Cobalt Green) agreed to pose from these photos to  give you a sense of scale.

Anyway, in closing… would love to hear your opinions and experiences with this new craze!

More posts in this series
Adult Coloring Books 2: Someone’s else lines, old insecurities and my style

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82 Comments

  • cassie - October 19, 2015 reply

    I have not tried any colouring books. I just want to say that I always admire your loose lines and drawing style. Your drawings stimulated me to pick up a pen to draw (a grown up without much drawing experience nor sketching skills). I wish I would keep sketching my life and making fun with watercolours just like you.

    thanks a lot for all your sharing in this website!

  • DK - October 19, 2015 reply

    I got fantastic cities, because I loved the artwork and I couldn't see myself entertained by mandelas and furry rabbits. I used watercolour to do them, no pencil or pen, The paper buckles a little, but not as much as with A standard moleskine. Relaxing? Perhaps I chose the wrong book for that, some of the pages in mine has hundreds of windows to colour in which I find taxing, not Relaxing. After the novelty of the first two wore off I can remember asking myself several times, "why am I doing this? , it's so much more satisfying to draw your own picture and colour/paint that in, rather than just using someone else's" feels like I'm only doing half the work and therefore getting half the satisfaction. BUT, the best part (and perhaps more selfishly) is that it might inspire others to pick up pencils, paint and pens and draw their own pictures, rather than just lay around on their phones and computers. That's the most inspiring part to it :-) other than that, just harmless fun, and great exposure for the artists making them, hope it's a fad that continues on

  • Liz Steel - October 19, 2015 reply

    wow! thanks everyone for the great comments! Great reading!
    I will try and respond to each of you soon.....

  • Adriana Gasparich - October 19, 2015 reply

    I just bought a coloring book at my recent visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Flowers and butterflies. I started coloring the first page with color pencils. It takes long time to see the final result! Since I'm so used to the use of watercolor painting in my sketches I felt frustrated vs the calm therapy it offers. Also I felt no connection whatsoever to the illustration and on top of that I don't feel comfortable making it public since the design is not mine! I feel this material for sale everywhere is ok for people who think cannot draw, but it is discouraging them from trying. What a shame.

  • Vicki - October 19, 2015 reply

    I think that colouring books might be good for mindfulness and for "doing" something as opposed to sitting on devices. I don't think they are for people who already participate in arty activities. I think the people who use them probably have not considered drawing their own pictures and maybe they never will. I bought one for my Mum, hoping that it will distract her from some of her health issues. I agree that some of the pictures are too complicated and may be off-putting.

  • Deborah - October 19, 2015 reply

    Like you, Liz, I thought what you showed us of Fantastic Cities by Steve Mcdonald looks fantastic. But apart from that, 3 thoughts: 1) Urban Sketching and colouring-in must be polar opposites (just look up the USk manifesto!). 2) Purely as a mindfulness exercise, colouring can be great; it has enormous value, is very relaxing, and is something quite distinct from the decision making and creative thought that make drawing so tiring. (I don't mean physically tiring! I share your concerns about RSI!) I think it's important not to confuse the two. And 3) some colouring books I've seen invite you to do some 'doodling' on parts of the page. Doodling is probably more likely to be a precursor to drawing than colouring is, so books like this might be more likely to encourage people to begin to draw - if they want to.

  • tutto a posto - October 19, 2015 reply

    My mom gave me an article about adult coloring books, so I ordered one for each of us. I tried to color with my Faber Castell Polychromes but I found it to be extremely tedious. I have "The Secret Garden" and don't think I will go back to it with only 1/4 of a page colored. My mom told me that she found it tedious as well. I thought maybe it was because I draw, knit, quilt, and embroider, which are much more creative than coloring, but when my mom reported the same experience I thought the space to color is too small. I actually got cramps in my hand.

    I just signed up for your Foundations course and am having a good time with it!

  • Sketching with Dogs - October 19, 2015 reply

    The Secret Paris one looks fantastic. I just got one called Tattoos, you can go crazy with the colour :)
    Lynne

  • Unknown - October 19, 2015 reply

    Thanks for this write-up. I've been intrigued and perplexed by this new trend, too, and appreciate your analysis of the actual art in these books, as well. Coloring books are definitely not for me, but I wonder if I should take advantage of it and make my own book of line drawings for OTHERS to color! :-) Ideally, I like to think it encourages non-artistic types to dabble in the visual/aesthetic realm and maybe gives them a shallow introduction to "making art" that they might not otherwise get, but at the same time, is it making a farce of true artistic creativity (a la pint-by-numbers or the painting party trend)? I guess this is tainted by my impression, too, that these books are often consumed by 30-something women (my peers, to be honest) who get together on a Tuesday evening after work with their girlfriends to sip wine, gossip, and color. I've always been adverse to those kinds of un-genuine fads though, so maybe it's just me. I feel like I want to distance myself from the coloring trend, but at the same time, I'm intrigued by the actual art in the books and the artists who are effectively distributing their work by turning it into templates for others to color. That, in itself, seems clever and unique.

  • Sarah Nichols - October 19, 2015 reply

    Hi Liz ...have just received one as a present from my granddaughter so will have to use it! Have had a little go....wondering if I was using up time when I shld be drawing or sketching which I have just started to do this year....as a compromise I make an effort to vary colour depth and also blend colours etc rather than just one colour one shape as I did when young...with a good audio book its quite pleasant and I am still keeping up my own drawing cos nothing beats that!

  • bosveldr - October 19, 2015 reply

    I'm afraid I never did enjoy colouring in - even as a child! Drawing is much more meaningful for me. But, each to his own.

  • Carolyn Miles - October 19, 2015 reply

    I'll be interested to see how you go colouring in Liz - I think it's going to drive you crazy!

  • Pilgrim - October 19, 2015 reply

    I had seen the books in a local education store last year, and started reading about it online months ago. Now a few relatives have started to express interest. I want to say, No! You'll miss the fun of drawing! It is so had to get people over that barrier of needing to be a Real Artist, to draw.
    I suggested Prismacolors to my cousin--just this weekend, for her entry into coloring books. It is a puzzle. I think it is a waste of perfectly good Faber Castell!

  • Lesley Jolly - October 19, 2015 reply

    Some stitching friends of mine use these books as patterns for embroidery. They do imaginative things with different stitches/threads colours and I think its the best use of them I've seen. Still don't get it though.

  • larry - October 19, 2015 reply

    This is the modern version of paint-by-number. Great for 'gosh, I wanna be creative on Saturday.' But like paint-by-number, it will always suffer from the lack of cachet in the art community and probably with the public at large. Once people realize that (I've already seen a couple pleas for respect for the art form) you can't get that when you rely upon someone else to do the drawing, this fad will die just like paint-by-number died.

    I agree with everything you've said, Liz and I think this has nothing to do with a road to learning to draw, though it might motivate some people to try I suppose. --- Larry

  • JOAN - October 19, 2015 reply

    I think coloring in has nothing whatsoever to do with drawing. Separate things. Drawing one's life experience is creative, coloring in is not. You're coloring in someone elses line work. Perhaps choosing the colors or media used might suggest creativity? Drawing is much more complex and in the end more satisfying because it comes from yourself, your inner being and how it views the world. Just my opinion. I do like the idea of using designs for embroidery or needle work projects.

  • Susie - October 19, 2015 reply

    Very cool to see what you think of this fad, craze, thingy.
    I bought 1 coloring book before I realized that Dover has free download sample pages you can print onto whatever paper you want, to color. I printed several, chose an easier, simpler page and got started. It drove me nuts.....it would have taken HOURS to finish, time I could spend on MY art.
    Every time I missed a line, got a color 'wrong', my inner critic had a field day, which I don't need.
    So, these might be OK for lots of people, but not for lots of others.
    And I wonder, how much of the sales of these books are driven by the whole idea of it, the "craze" factor, "I'm missing out if I don't get some and do them." ?
    Looking forward to your update!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Good points - it is certainly at the other end of the scale to urban sketching... but that doesn't mean I am dismissing it!
    Agree with your comments on doodling!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Yes - I think I would find it tedious too - but that would not be a surprise for anyone since I get bored with a sketch about 30 minutes!
    Glad you are enjoying Foundations!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    I am in two minds about the Secret Paris book- but it was the one I chose to start colouring in!
    more in Part 2.

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    go for it - make your own! I have been thinking about what would happen if I tried to make one- could anyone color in my loose lines.
    Interesting about the major demographic of these books... and the fad element. How to make this into something more for those people that love it and want to go to the next level.

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Great that you found a way to colouring... but nothing beats drawing for yourself!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Will have to check out those Dover downloads (Dover is the best!)
    Interesting about inner critic comments ... I am finding that my inner critic has a few new lines to throw at me... more in Part 2

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    yes drawing is more creative but also challenging... and in the end as a result of the challenges more rewarding! I hope this craze is a stepping stone for many people to produce their own art!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Hi Larry - Even though it is a completely different kettle-o-fish to drawing, my hope is that it will motivate people to try drawing their own images!!!!!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    I think you many will never get beyond these books - but my hope is that they do!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Yes - I worry that I would get frustrated... much prefer the spontaneity of watercolour!
    I DO hope these books don't discourage everyone from trying!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Yay! Great idea!!! I love it. As colouring book are all about COLOUR... lets look at this aspect

  • John Hopkirk - October 20, 2015 reply

    Im an artist and love sketching and painting, I also love colour and the study of it which brings me to what I probably would love most about these colouring books and that is the harmony plus shades of particular colours irrespective of what the picture/pattern is about, for example keeping all the colours in Autumnal colours (yellows, browns, moss greens, rust reds etc) and have light and shade within the shapes. I think I would get the most satisfaction by applying this method, Mmm I might just download a sample, print it out on light watercolour paper and give it a go.

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Ah! I hope they are a stepping stone for lots of people

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    I suppose most of the comments are from people who already sketch...so it does seem very strange for them to spend time colouring someone else's work. The comments in my Instagram feed were quite different!
    After writing this post I gave it a try and was a little surprised by a few things- stay tuned for Part 2!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    thanks Stella... and agree that I prefer to spend my time on my own drawings that are more meaningful to me!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    totally agree Tina!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    will be interesting to see how long it lasts.....hey?

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Agree!!!! I think the only way it would be relaxing rather than taxing would be if the cricket was on the TV!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    love this idea!!!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    After having a little dabble on one page, I have been surprised at how fun it is... stay tuned for part 2!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Ah! but who says I am going to stay within the lines????

  • Chrissy - October 20, 2015 reply

    I didn't enjoy coloring books as a kid.. I think because I still don't like crayons.. When I bought my first adult coloring book a few months ago I bought a HUGE box of crayons .. the one my mom would never let me get..I still hate them.. but now I have discovered beautiful art quality colored pencils.. that's a different thing entirely.. I'm hooked! I am a Johanna Basford a-holic. Can't wait to see what she does for us this year for Christmas. :)

  • Chrissy - October 20, 2015 reply

    You could color a gorgeous page, upload it to zazzle and have it on shirt :)

  • Cathy Dwyer - October 20, 2015 reply

    About 10 years ago I bought a kit that included a poster of line drawn, sylized jungle animals, trees and flowers. The kit came with an assortment of felt tip markers that I used to color in the shapes. For a while, I guess it satisfied my need to be creative but it wasn't until I started sketching that I realized what I really enjoyed. I'm sure coloring books are just the ticket for some people but I'm not tempted to buy them at all!

  • Martina Witjaksana - October 20, 2015 reply

    I'm surprised of so many comments comparing this activity with drawing/sketching, and also the implication that "colouring other people's work" is a lesser art. If knitting other people's designs and cooking other people's recipes don't compromise one's own creativity, why would coloring these books do? Is colouring a waste of time if the person doesn't get a sketchbook and start drawing right away? Drawing itself is also spontaneous or absobing or relaxing or stressing, and many times a source of frustration.
    On the other hand, I too find annoying this catering to the adult public through mindfulness and meditation. Reminds me to the "adult edition" of the Harry Potter series that were merely a cover swap (and precisely due to the idea that child hobbies are lesser).

  • MK Buike - October 20, 2015 reply

    Good idea! I'd much rather embroider something I could wear on a shirt or jacket than color in a page!

  • Stella - October 20, 2015 reply

    I was given "Secret Garden" as a present last Christmas, and like others here, I stopped after a quarter page because it seemed like such a waste of time when I could have been filling my sketchbook journal with my own art and improving my drawing skills! I am still a little puzzled by this craze and also presume that they fulfil a need for some people, but I'd rather continue with your Foundations course, Liz - life is too short for colouring in other people's illustrations!

  • MiataGrrl - October 20, 2015 reply

    One exciting thing about the coloring book craze is that it is giving some good illustrators a new avenue for book publishing. But in general, I think the audience of such books are people who think they can't draw, so they settle for coloring drawings made by others. If someone has the desire to draw, coloring will not satisfy it. If coloring is relaxing, then maybe it's like knitting is for many people: It's not that they need another scarf -- it's the activity of knitting that is important.

    Tina

  • smarkies - October 20, 2015 reply

    I agree with most of the comments here. Initially I was intrigued but then looking at the detail I figured it was not for me. I would prefer to work out something on my own and see the results (even though they may not be as professional looking!)
    I think this is a craze that will die down - it is currently capitalising on the need of people to destress a little and good marketing (I had an underwater colouring book with the same level of intricacy 20 years ago only that it did not look as polished :))

  • Chrissy - October 20, 2015 reply

    Yes I'm a Yank! Coloring = Colouring :)

  • Carmela - October 20, 2015 reply

    Liz--thanks for such a thoughtful and thorough review of coloring books. Great comments, too. I've seen them, of course, in local crafts stores, etc. But have not been tempted at all. I love to draw and the closest I've come to these coloring books is drawing and coloring ATCs (artist trading cards) using the my own version of the Zentangle (doodling) approach. I enjoyed the challenges of this 'craze' for a short time--not creative enough for me.

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    I have the memory that I didn't enjoy it much either and agree drawing is more meaningful

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    thanks Cassie... I am hoping to write more about sketching my life in the coming months

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    yes- I don't like crayons either and quality coloured pens are much better. Looking forward to her new book...and BTW I love that she is a Scottish lass!
    Not matter how it is spelt, colouring is fun!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    I think a lot of the latest 'crazes' can be useful as a stepping stone to what we really want to do! I hope this is the case with these colouring books!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    HI Wendy- this is great to hear. I do love Johanna's artwork.
    And yes, plenty of creativity in choosing colour and having fun!

  • Liz Steel - October 20, 2015 reply

    Hi Sockwidowmaker- thanks so much for your comments!

    This is only part 1 and certainly not a definitive comment on the whole coloring book movement. I was wanting to start a discussion ...by posing some questions and initial thoughts - not give my final judgment (after all I hadn't started coloring yet and was hoping for some suggestions as to what I should use!)

    It is interesting that most people who have commented are already drawing themselves - and I am fully aware that they are not the target audience!

    I do agree that it is a great way to create beautiful artwork without the pressure of having drawing skills..so I am far from dismissive of it! I also wasn't necessarily trying to make it compete with observational drawing -I was comparing it but not aiming to dismiss it! I do recognise it is its own artform! AND when I started to do a little colouring myself the other night found it heaps of fun (part 2 coming up)

    I am so glad that it helps you with your chronic pain- sadly for me it would be the worst kind of activity for my own pain (wrist and neck/shoulder!)

    And I am also glad that the colouring community is so supportive - I really wanted to know that. Sometimes when things become so main stream they can become a little impersonal.

    Finally, your comment has made me realise that I have to get at least one of the 'mindful' books for comparison - do you have a suggestion?

    Stay tuned for part 2 and 3... this could be a long series!

  • sockwidowmaker - October 20, 2015 reply

    I feel there are two types of colouring books, those like Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Animal Kingdom etc. and those that are more mindful and therapeutic. If you listen to an interview by Johanna Basford she actually says that her books are for those who perhaps can't draw themselves but still like to be creative with colour. It's these people that she targeted. She says it can be relaxing but to my knowledge has not got on the bandwagon of it being made for any other reason but enjoyment. I agree with Liz in one aspect and that it many books have been developed for mental therapy and as such has made it even more popular. Take these books out of the equation and then talk about the creative nature of colouring. There are many of us who find it enjoyable because we can't draw and always wanted too, but perhaps haven't got the patience or inclination to learn but feel by colouring in the more illustrative books enables us to be creative. We don't regard ourselves as artists per say, but there are many who enjoy colouring in the same illustrations and adding their own spin. An example is a picture of a large flower, nothing else and someone in the group of which I'm a member turned into a picture like Beauty and the Beast. This was definitely artistic. My final point is that many of the people who colour in these books have many other art and craft skills like tapestries, embroidery, scrapbooking, card making to mention but a few. There are also people like myself who suffer with chronic pain and find it helps take our mind off it. It's now not just about the colouring but also the camaraderie that I'd developed by joining a social media group where you find encouragement and support of like minded people from all over the world and make real friends. Perhaps,bin my opinion, Liz should have kept to the actual book review only than attempt anything else without research into the authors and what they were wanting to achieve.

  • Wendy - October 20, 2015 reply

    I can draw, but until I found Johanna Basford's books I had lost my motivation. Now I have started drawing again, and I still love to colour. The illustrations in the book are completely different to my own drawing style but I can apply my own techniques to colouring. The creativity with colouring comes from choosing and using colours. It's fascinating to see how different people colour the same design. I also knit and have never had the impression that knitting from a pattern is a lesser activity than producing my own designs. Of course, colouring is not for everybody but then, it's not compulsory.

  • KittyKwilter - October 21, 2015 reply

    You would think so, but then commercially digitized embroidery designs are extremely popular. I prefer free motion. Some people feel more comfortable with boundaries.

  • Helen from Hobart - October 21, 2015 reply

    I have Secret Garden. Took it on the endless flight from Australia to UK. Excellent for keeping hands occupied on plane, waiting for plane etc - anywhere I could not sew. On a trip to Canberra did it when the others were watching sport on TV and I wanted to be part of the group but not bore myself silly. Much more sociable than reading. Not something I would do every day, but fun to stop the twitches of enforced inactivity.

  • Wendy - October 21, 2015 reply

    Thank you for your reply Liz, I am looking forward to your next posts on this subject. I am also looking forward to seeing your choice of ten colours, as I and most of those I am in touch with regarding colouring are on a quest for ALL the colours!!

  • Liz Steel - October 21, 2015 reply

    HI Terry! there are a lot of comments aren't there! Certainly no need to read them all.
    Thanks for bringing up the challenging nature of choosing colour ... as believe it or not that is something I found when I started colouring in myself page... oh ah! what colour do I choose. More in Part 2!
    And I need to look into coloured pencils techniques more myself!

  • Terry Bauer - October 21, 2015 reply

    There are a lot of comments. I must be honest I only read a few. I do not know how to draw so coloring books are great. I started coloring about 5 years ago, coloring the color by number. They are fun because didn't have to worry about color combinations. I found those relaxing.

    I have the Secret Garden and other brand coloring books. Since I'm not an artist and don't know color combinations, it can be challenging. That leads to not being relaxing.

    There are people who know how to blend colors and they are beautiful. When I color it's just the plain old solid, one color covering an item. It turns out nice, but isn't "beautiful" compared to others. I do enjoy seeing other's coloring but I won't post my pictures even if I think they are nice.

  • Unknown - October 21, 2015 reply

    There are a lot of comments. I must be honest I only read a few. I do not know how to draw so coloring books are great. I started coloring about 5 years ago, coloring the color by number. They are fun because didn't have to worry about color combinations. I found those relaxing.

    I have the Secret Garden and other brand coloring books. Since I'm not an artist and don't know color combinations, it can be challenging. That leads to not being relaxing.

    There are people who know how to blend colors and they are beautiful. When I color it's just the plain old solid, one color covering an item. It turns out nice, but isn't "beautiful" compared to others. I do enjoy seeing other's coloring but I won't post my pictures even if I think they are nice.

  • Valleydale - October 22, 2015 reply

    I look forward to part 2 of your coloring book review, Liz. I too, was rather mystified by the concept of adult coloring books because I rather quickly grew bored with them as a child, and opted to draw my own images instead. I do love, love, love color, though, so I guess I can see the appeal of them for people who get excited by the prospect of producing great swaths of glorious color on a page without the mandate to draw something first. So many people have bought into the idea that drawing is "a gift" with which one is bestowed at birth, and that a relative few people are blessed with such. Having someone else do "the hard part" for them makes people feel the rest just might be doable. Everyone did, after all, color in coloring books when they were children, and has fond memories of hours of rainy day satisfaction indulging in the pastime.

    There is something to be said for the creative decision making process of color application; the push/pull of warm vs. cool, light vs. dark, muted vs. saturated color, etc. I could see experimenting with a mixture of non-wet media for a bit of added fun, such the use of glitter, metallic pens and foils, clear dimensional mediums that dry to a glossy, non-tacky finish. This kind of thing is something rubber stampers, scrap bookers and card makers have been doing quite happily for years now. I say more power to them. But, I can't see myself obtaining any amount of artistic satisfaction coloring someone else's images for more than a few minutes (if that!). I'm a drawer, a painter, and a sketcher of my own images, with all the exhilaration and inner critic induced self-throttling that comes with the territory. But like you, I hope these coloring books will act as training wheels for the artistically timid, and whet their appetite for more adventuresome forms of expression.

  • ColetteT - October 22, 2015 reply

    Hi Liz. I need art therapy due to suffering from a chronic pain condition and anxiety. I find colouring calms a racing mind down and gives it a playful focus. It takes me back to that 'me' time as a kid. Just being in my space - the moment. I actually like staying within the lines because it gives me a sense of containment. If I go outside a bit I turn it into shading. I have used my watercolour pencils with a damp brush. I like activating the colour with water.

  • mamancass4 - November 3, 2015 reply

    I received 2 of these books for my Birthday. I have done a few pages but the details are mind boggling. I have some verthin colored pencils which might work better. I have one book which is in the form of an agenda. I have colored in the pictures and on the agenda side I take notes about the color combinations. And when the need for speed gets to me I just charge in with watercolor washes and call it a day.

  • B - November 29, 2015 reply

    While I generally prefer sketching, I'm actually much more comfortable taking one of the pattern pages and just experimenting with colour mixes, usually to do something with the leftover mixes and splashes of paint in the mixing tray of my paint set. With patterns, it feels as if there's less pressure to be correct, or even paint everything, while still having opportunities to play around with how colours and paints work together, which I've been more reluctant to in an actual sketch when I'm trying to capture something.

    This does make me really appreciate sizing, though.

  • Debbie Eyre - December 8, 2015 reply

    Patterns for embroidery - what a good idea!

  • Fabiana - December 17, 2015 reply

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience!!!! I'm falling in love for these colouring books but they are new here in Italy and I can't find them in physical stores, to have a look before buying. So I'm looking for great reviews like yours.
    Love your blog!!

  • Wesmoms - December 20, 2015 reply

    Some of us just can't draw! And it isn't that I've not tried. I have. On my own and through 8+ years of school and other types of art class (after class and personal time, too). I just can't draw, but that aside, I'm not creative. I make photo journals, needlepoint, and crochet, but that's as "creative" as I get.
    I kind of dislike the facts that those who CAN draw (even if they aren't any good) and do other creative activities "put down" coloring books and those who use them. Just because someone is able to draw and/or be creative does not mean that every other person can be and should be, as well. But these types of people seem to think so, and I just don't understand that-in fact, it boggles my mind that people have these kind of expectations and judge others so harshly. Truthfully, I think many who use coloring books would LOVE to have a talent for drawing, painting, or other types of art. Just because one is filling in someone else's drawings with color, does that really make it not creative? Many people spend time planning the medium(s) to use, the colors to use, and where, and the shading. They may also do further drawings or designs within or around the design. To me, that IS being creative. One could argue that those who sketch are just as non creative as those who use a coloring book. Take someone who sketches a building they are looking at. They are sketching what they are seeing, perhaps copying it stone for stone and column for column. Where is the creativity in that? They aren't coming up with anything on their own. If you sketch a bunch of grapes or a bowl of fruit, you're copying what naturally occurs, so that could be considered not creative, as well. Again, you aren't coming up with anything on your own. Many people who paint, do needlework, paper crafts and other types of crafting do so from patterns or take their ideas from things they've seen, so that can't be creative or "arty" either. I can't help but feel sorry for your poor mum, and I hope you hide your disdain and judgement from her when you give her the coloring book you purchased. She must not be into "arty activities." I also wonder why you haven't encouraged her to draw her own pictures or do any other kind of "creative" activity. Surely, if you're going to judge and demean everyone else, your mum shouldn't be left out.
    Using adult coloring/activity books is a very good thing, from my point of view (as someone who doesn't have a creative bone in their body and as a health care professional). It allows an individual to relax, may help those who are impatient to work on developing patience, takes people away from phones/computers/tablets, may help those who are indecisive or have issues with decision making (you must choose the mediums, colors, etc)-and for those with health issues, may help with gross motor skills, fine motor control, concentration, and the finished drawing may even give one the feeling of accomplishment at seeing the final product.
    I encourage many of my patients, as do my colleagues who see mental health patients, to pick up a coloring/activity book and see if it is an activity they may be interested in. Many of my patients are strongly encouraged-as it is an activity that may provide the benefits of many therapies (physical and mental). I've found that many patients who need therapies, but won't do them for a variety of reasons, will use a coloring book. This oftentimes provides the much needed exercises/therapy, while not seeming like it.--(however, many (especially those who are younger and thus more impressionable) come across comments such as yours, and it can prove detrimental.)

  • Adult Coloring Books - December 20, 2015 reply

    Some Studies show that adults who color are smarter, I found in a blog post 4 reasons why coloring books make people who color smarter.
    Check the post if you want:
    http://adultcoloringbookszone.blogspot.com/2015/12/adult-coloring-books-make-you-smarter.html

  • Liz Steel - December 30, 2015 reply

    thanks Colette - so glad that it works for you! And as I discovered in part 2- it is a LOT of fun!

  • Liz Steel - December 30, 2015 reply

    thanks will look it up!

  • Liz Steel - December 30, 2015 reply

    Hi Westmons - thanks for your comments. I certainly don't ever want to 'put down' anyone who 'can't' draw and it is certainly not my plan to be dismissive of coloring books as they are a lot of fun and really great to get people doing something creative.
    Please don't put your photo jounals, needlework down as not being creative - they are!!!! Wow big time. Drawing is only one of many ways of expressing ourselves creatively and drawing is certainly not for everyone.
    I do believe that drawing is a skill that can be learnt like any other skill requiring eye and hand coordination, but there are lots of different ways of teaching, and ways of drawing... it is all about finding an approach that works for you.
    I am so pleased to hear about your patients - keep the good work up!

  • Jenz Bitz 'n' Bobs - January 5, 2016 reply

    Hi I love it it's very relaxing and gets me off my computer which I find more and more depressing. I don't think I can add you a page I've done I was trying to add it to the post. Jenny x

  • Janis - January 14, 2016 reply

    I own most of the books you reviewed and I must say that Fantastic Cities is my favorite to color! I just love travel and architecture so the theme is right up my alley and I love how big the pages are so no images that cover two pages (making them look disjointed). The paper also holds well to light washes of watercolor and have painted the Newtown Post Office and the cathedral in Instanbul with them. I like Enchanted Forest and Animal Kingdom as well but definitely need a break from coloring from these books as it gets so redundant! Like how many rabbits and owls do you need to color right? Lol. Btw, since you love architecture you'll probably enjoy Thomas Pavitte's 1000 dot-to-dot books especially the one that features buildings. Harbour Bridge is there as well as mahy others...do check it out! Not coloring though. Just need a quick drying pen that doesn't smudge.

  • Liz Steel - January 20, 2016 reply

    thanks! Will look up that book!!

  • Liz Steel - January 20, 2016 reply

    yes Jenny - I agree it is very relaxing and it is always good to get away from your computer!!

  • Liz Steel - January 20, 2016 reply

    thanks Janis- will look that up!

  • SayNoToGoogle... - January 20, 2016 reply

    For me, the tiny precision of most adult colouring patterns is a bit of a turn-off, but my daughter loves them. I've tried loose sketching, but with little satisfaction. Check out 'Britain to Colour' from UK-based WF Graham - the sketches are pretty well exactly what I would like to be able to do myself, and there are some other titles in the series. Unfortunately, it's not at all clear whether or not the series is still in production.

    I'm using a combination of coloured pencils and Staedtler Karat oil pastels and, so far, I'm enjoying the results.

  • SayNoToGoogle... - January 21, 2016 reply

    The 'Britain to Colour' books consist of coloured pencil sketches of iconic places in England, Scotland and Wales with a matching pencil outline opposite each one. I think they were produced before the start of the current fashion for adult colouring books and were intended to offer an alternative to jigsaw puzzles - I bought mine from an Ebay site which specialises in selling stuff for older people. I don't hesitate to modify the original colouring, and I have just added an entire mountain range to the background of an image of a herd of Scottish Highland cattle grazing in the wilderness!

    A very interesting colouring book project is "Amelia's Colourful Colouring Companion" - it's a limited edition which I bought for my daughter for christmas and the book itself is a thing of such beauty that I wish I had bought two - one to keep as it is, and the other to use as intended.

  • John Smith - January 25, 2016 reply

    I think that is a great idea !.

  • amandanicolebooks - February 1, 2016 reply

    I know this is a late comment but I find it so bizarre that there is a debate over coloring lol art in any form is still art. I love to draw, I like scraping, just random creations. I have a container of things I've collected, buttons, ribbons, papers, stamps etc and I open it stare at the things inside and grab what speaks to me. I also color! I love coloring books and I love others art just as much as my own. I think it's amazing to take another's piece of work and make it my own. There aren't any rules to coloring which forces creativity. Are you going to choose realistic colors? What kind of pressure would you use to change the colors with the same pencIL or media you are using? How are you interpreting the image in front of you?

    Art is art and I don't begin to declare which is "better" for someone or what people should be doing. It's just coloring, adding color to a black and white world. It can beautiful.

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