Do you ever sit and color with your kids and secretly enjoy it? Wish you had more challenging designs to color? You aren’t alone. Coloring is the new craze for adults. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll want to check out this list of coloring books for adults.
When I was a kid, I always loved to draw and color. My mom would sit and join us sometimes too, but more often than not, we’d keep ourselves occupied at the kitchen table while she cooked. When I got older, the coloring books disappeared and there just wasn’t a whole lot of time for drawing or doodling. But then my daughter came along and my world became a whole lot brighter! She LOVES to draw and color and I get to sit with her and do it too! Then we order out because I spent time coloring instead of cooking. 🙂
I know my mom is excited about Em’s love of art too. When we go to visit my parents back in MA, she has a work area already prepared just for Em (and those who want to join her). She sets up a card table in the dining room, which is the hub of her house since her kitchen is tiny. And she has it stocked up with crayons, colored pencils, blank paper and coloring books.
I know, especially as adults, we can be intimidated by a blank sheet of paper. Even if we loved to draw when younger, we can get rusty and lose that creative spark. But coloring is different. Yeah, you have to make a decision on what color to use where, but other than that, you can just put crayon (or pencil or marker) to paper and see that swath of color emerge. When I color, a calm comes over me. It is a very relaxing activity, very zen-like. My mother joins in now more often than when I was young, and she thoroughly enjoys it too. In fact, everyone in the house loves to sit down with Em (or not!) and color for a bit.
When we all first started coloring again, we were using Em’s coloring books or printables from the web, which began with the simple animals and objects, then Dora and Caillou, and now princesses and fairies and Barbie. But when Em was maybe 4 years old, my brother gave her some more advanced coloring books. She likes to use them, but I think we adults like them even more. We often photocopy them so we can all have a chance to color some of our favorite designs. I’ve found some more advanced printables online too.
It seems we aren’t the only ones who have rediscovered this childhood activity. According to a recent article on Gizmodo, there have been coloring books in Amazon’s Top 100 book list, even reaching the top 10. Is it a trend? I hope so!
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Before I steer you towards some of our favorite coloring books, I want to talk about what you’ll be using to color your masterpieces. While your kids may have a tub full of Crayolas and the cheapo ones you get at restaurants, these aren’t going to cut it. The more advanced designs are smaller and you won’t have the control you need with those little stubby things. Also, the color just isn’t very smooth. If you still like the idea of crayons, try twistable crayons. They are a bit like a mechanical pencil, with a crayon-like “lead” you twist to expose more. The “lead” is harder than a normal crayon. These are so smooth and come in great colors. They are also easier for holding in adult hands. My daughter loves them too, but for the little ones you have to watch they don’t extend the crayon too far it breaks.
For even finer control, you’ll want to move away from crayons and go to colored pencils. We love the twistable pencils for their smooth colors and you don’t need a pencil sharpener. If you go with traditional colored pencils, there are so many choices. While you can have nice results with a cheap set of 12 colors, you may want to consider upgrading to these Prismacolor pencils, which have a nice soft texture, great for blending, and in the particular set I link to, 72, yes 72 colors to choose from! This kit is a bit pricey, but it’s a great investment that will last a long time. My daughter got a set of these Faber-Castell metallic colored pencils with a fairy coloring kit last year and we love them. In the right light they add just a bit a shimmer for a nice effect.
Another option are markers. The colors are so much more vivid and vibrant! You won’t be able to get the same variations in shading as you would with pencils or blend colors as easily (unless you use a blender marker). When buying markers, you can opt for the “bullet” tip, where you can draw with the pen near vertical to use the tip for a finer line, or slant the pen to use the side for a fat line. Unfortunately, the tip often isn’t pointed enough for really fine lines. And if you share these with your kids, they always seem to apply more force than an elephant and flatten out those tips even more. The better option is a double-sided pen, with a fine tip on one side and fat on the other, or two separate sets of pens. Right now, I’ve been using Sharpie ultra-fine point markers, with the corresponding “fat” ones. They are economical, and if you think you might want to put your creations on display, you’ll want a permanent ink that won’t fade. If you want to get a higher quality set, Prismacolor has the set for you. They have a 24-, 48-, and even 72-marker sets! (It’s on my wish list.) I’ve bought individual Prismacolor markers for specific projects and loved them.
Now that we have our coloring medium, here is a list of coloring books where you can use ’em!
Color Me Calm: 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation (A Zen Coloring Book) by Lacy Mucklow. This one is guaranteed to relax you. There are different themed sections in the book, such as water scenes, geometric pattern, flora & fauna… something for everyone and any mood.
Zolocolor! Toodle-oo Doodle-oo by Byron Glaser & Sandra Higashi. This is one of a series of coloring/doodling books by this duo. We’ve made lots of photocopies of some of the designs out of this one. Very whimsical. Some are very sparse, inviting you to “fill in the blank,” while some are very detailed. After you color for a while, you may feel creative enough to try adding your own touch to the plainer ones. You’ll love it!
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford. This is the one referenced in the Gizmodo article. I don’t have it yet. This would make a great gift (hint hint). This same author also has Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book.
Outside the Lines: An Artists’ Coloring Book for Giant Imaginations by Souris Hong-Porretta. Here is one for you contemporary art lovers out there. This coloring book is huge, with illustrations from more than 100 contemporary artists. It’s beautiful, it’s educational, it’s unique. Leave it on your coffee table with some pens and share with your guests. I would love to find something like this in a waiting room to pass the time!
Mystical Mandala Coloring Book (Dover Design Coloring Books) by Albera Hutchinson. For those of you wanting a little more symmetry. Beautiful mandala designs all will enjoy!
Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns (Sacred Mandala Designs and Patterns Coloring Books for Adults) (Volume 28) by Lilt Kids Coloring Books (ironic). The best part about this book is that it comes with a free printable PDF version, so you can color them again and again! We like to all work on the same one and see how different they come out, but all beautiful.
Dover Creative Haven Art Nouveau Animal Designs Coloring Book (Creative Haven Coloring Books) by Marty Noble. If you want to get more back to nature, try these animal designs inspired by art nouveau masters. You’ll have your own masterpieces when you’ve finished these. There are several other nature-theme coloring books by Creative Haven you should check out.
Paisley Designs Coloring Book (Dover Design Coloring Books) by Marty Noble. Some love paisley, some hate it. If you love it, check this one out. Even if you don’t usually love it, these are not your run-of-the-mill paisleys, and in some of them, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the paisley pattern buried in there. All are beautiful!
Flower Designs Coloring Book (Volume 1) by Jenean Morrison. If flowers are more your style, this book has 50 amazing designs to color for all skill levels. My daughter loves this one. Whenever I start one she wants to join in and color it with me.
Pattern and Design Coloring Book (Volume 1) by Jeanean Morrison. By the same author as the above book, this book brings you 50 patterns that are more repetitive than others. The author is well-known for creating artwork for wallpaper, rugs, fabric, and stationery, and her coloring book reflects this. If you like her style, she has other coloring books you may enjoy.
Creative Haven Entangled Coloring Book (Creative Haven Coloring Books) by Dr. Angela Porter. Okay, I’ve added a bonus #11. Are you familiar with Zentangle? If so, you’ll love these 31 Zentangle-inspired patterns. If you aren’t familiar with it, you don’t know what you are missing! Google it and you’ll see. You’ll be sucked in for hours. That’s why I left this book for last!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of adult coloring books. If you haven’t gotten the coloring bug yet, you really should try it!
If you’ve already caught the bug, do you have others to add to this list? Leave a comment and let us know!
If you want individual pages to color, check out my freebie coloring pages for download.
New to coloring and want to know where to start? Check out my intro to coloring media types.
And I now have some of my own creations for sale on Etsy! Check out my shop!