Coloring books for adults started to make the headlines of most international news sources around the middle of 2015, but it was not really an overnight sensation. They’re also called “coloring books for grown-ups”, and first blipped on Google.com’s radar as a therapeutic activity already back in December of 2010. Rumor has it that the French got very enthusiastic about coloring books as far back as 2008 – which in Internet terms, certainly is a long time ago!
In 2015, the tidal wave hit. The UK’s Guardian newspaper, USA Today and The New York Times all had stories that focused on this new trend. CNN announced that adult coloring books was to be find on the top places on the bestseller lists, and not so long after that, Entertainment Weekly advised readers to “dust off your crayons: Adult coloring books are here.”
Johanna Basfordʼs did reach global with “Secret Garden”, and contributed to bring adult coloring books into the public consciousness. Those were followed by Lost Ocean and Enchanted Forest – with emphasis on “inky” adventures and quests. These weren’t any ordinary coloring books: they promised a extraordinary exploration of design and illustration, and they delivered.
Why did adults start coloring?
So, how come the sudden interest in adult coloring books? And why now? It seems like coloring helps relieve stress, and we are all living in a time of great stress. With continious changes in our roles and how we view ourselves in the world, and the frantic pace of technology development it’s probably no surprise that a mindful, meditative task that centres on repetitive movements helps relieve stress. Of course, it could also be attributed to the fact that a lot of people wish they could paint or draw and exquisitely illustrated coloring books allow them to mimic painting and drawing with attractive results.
The back and forth motion of coloring engages both sides of the brain, while turning off the part of the brain responsible for situational awareness (the frontal lobe). This goes some way to explaining why it can be so relaxing.
When we consider some of the idea’s roots in Buddhist culture, where monks were known to draw mandalas with colored sand, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that coloring relieves stress. When the monks comleted the image in the sand it is removed, a symbol for the transitory nature of existence.
Mandalas still is one of the most popular coloring images, as they are intricate in nature and present the opportunity to interpret the colors in an individual way. Other popular images include cityscapes, buildings, plants, flowers and animals.
Coloring books aren’t limited to those on sale for consumption, but are a fun way to create something you can share with friends and family or even publish and sell online.
If you are shopping for coloring books for yourself, Walmart, Target and Amazon have a great selection online that allow for price comparison. Some craft fairs will also stock a limited amount. Other, more specialized online stores are Dover Publications and Etsy.
If you are left with any doubt as to how WIDESPREAD this trend has become, look no further than the fact that the UK’s premier TV broadcaster, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) have launched a coloring book based on one of their longest running shows, Doctor Who. Marvel have also a series of coloring books in preparation.
If you want to create your own coloring book or collecting coloring pages is not as difficult as it may seem. To get going, you can choose to either hand draw your images, or you could use software to create them.
To make an illustration on a piece of paper by hand drawing is the simplest way to create a coloring page. Grab a Sharpie and draw. For hand drawn images you will need a little talent, unfortunately! Simple and repeated patterns can be very fun to color too, so don’t feel put off if you want to hand draw. You’ll get better by practicing.
Most people who want to create very complex images will welcome the possibility to use software. Regarding software to create designs for your coloring book pages, there’s no shortage of both free and paid options to use.
Paint.net is free and probably the easiest to learn. There are much less graphic manipulation options available than with other wellknown programs like Photoshop, but that actually works in its favor. The learning curve is short and there are a lot of tutorials online. You’ll be creating like a pro in no time. One important thing to note is that there are a number of plugins available for Paint.net that greatly extend its functionality. One of the best if you want to create mandalas is the kaleidoscope plugin.
GIMP is the open source comparable of Photoshop. It’s considered a tough tool to learn, and although it is advertised as the “free Photoshop” the two programs are different. If you can spend time learning, then GIMP is a excellent alternative to the highly priced Adobe product.
Adobe Photoshop is a software program that needs no further introduction. It’s the best known graphics manipulation program there is – to the point that it has found a place in the English language as a verb – “that was Photoshopped.” It does cost a lot of money, and isn’t easy to learn and master. It’s not necessarily more effective than the free alternatives for image creation.
Adobe Illustrator creates vector images – which are images that can be resized without any quality loss. This is important for creating images that don’t become blurry and pixelated when adjusted to the size of your page.
The free, open source alternative to Illustrator is Inkscape. It is a highly powerful tool, and if your only need is to create a vector from an ordinary graphic, it is the only program you need.
Kaleidoscope Kreator is a piece of desktop software that does just one thing – creates kaleidoscopes from the images you want to use. This may sound limited, but with some practice you can create some increadible mandala images from basic line art
ColorMandala.com is the online version of Kaleidoscope Kreator – it’s free and its only purpose is to create mandalas. It takes a little more effort to get to grips with than Kaleidoscope Kreator but the results are worth it.
Sumopaint is a powerful online tool that creates great mandalas. It also has a number of Photoshop tools and can be used free of charge.
iPiccy is a less well known free tool with great options. Make sure to enable local storage when using it for full effectiveness. Among the standard array of features are the ability to create photo collages and pencil drawings from your own images. Just click the magic wand icon to choose your desired effects.
Public Domain Images
Don’t be confused by the plethora of different usage terms bandied about regarding royalty free images. There is only one type of image you can 100% definitely use to create your artwork: public domain images. Anything in the public domain means its copyright has expired or the original creator of the item has donated it to the public domain. Either way, you may use public domain material in any way you wish – to use as is, remix it, adapt or improve it, and all for personal or commercial use.
There are great free images at OpenClipart.org, or if you wish to explore further, visit Wikipedia:
Online images can look amazing – until you try to fit them to the page you wish to print them. As stated above, the primary importance of your coloring book creation is vectorization – without it, the tiny pixels that make up your image will blur and become indistinct when printed out or published in book format.
Creating a vector image from a normal one isn’t difficult and a simple Google search will show you how to do it with Inkscape or Illustrator. There are even online tools that will do it for you.
Got your vectorized images? Next we need to add them to a page or book.
You can easily create a coloring page from a Word or equivalent office document, and printing it out in PDF format. If you haven’t used office software in a while, you will need to know that Open Office is no longer supported, so if you need a free, open source office suite, you can get one at LibreOffice.
Check the margins of your document and make sure they are minimal so that there is more space available for your image, and that images are “in front of text” under the Text Wrapping option in the picture format tab. In Word you can find the tab very quickly, just by double clicking on the image.
Another option for printing off coloring pages is to go to Pinterest.com and search for “coloring pages for adults”. The result will be a huge collection that varies in quality, but many of the coloring pages shared there will be just as effective as creating your own.
Publishing Your Work
Createspace.com, Amazon’s free print on demand service, allows coloring book creator upload their work in Word or PDF format and put their coloring books in Amazon’s online book store for sale. It’s a great way to create your own book and maybe make some money from it too!
While printing a coloring page out for your own use doesn’t need to strictly adhere to best practices for image resolution, you will get a much better and more satisfying experience by adhering to them. When publishing your own book, these are a necessity.
Image resolution should be 300-400dpi. DPI stands for “dots per inch” and a higher density of dots in the image means they are less pixelated when the image is expanded – even though we initially create vector images, at some point they will be saved as Jpeg or PNG files, so it’s important to understand the role of dpi.
Size your images to fit the page. CreateSpace allows for a number of different page sizes. Make sure that the illustration you are adding to the page fits it correctly.
Choosing 1 bit monochrome as your color option will ensure a nicely visible outline – choose this option in your graphics program when exporting the illustration.
What tools do you need for coloring? As you may imagine, crayons aren’t necessarily the go-to coloring implements for adults. With such intricate designs and illustrations, it’s necessary to take your choice of coloring utensils more seriously.
Many people favor one tool over the other. They’ll swear by a particular sort of pencil or crayon. Others will use many different pens, pencils and crayons. There’s only what gets your liking that guides in this decision. If you are a purist, you may chose to utilize only one coloring tool, while others may prefer to mix and match their coloring supplies.
Gel pens are pens that has a coloring within a water based gel. They don’t require the same kind of effort as a ballpoint pen when they’re moved across a paper. The result is a smooth flow of ink, and they can be used within smaller spaces thanks to having a finer nib than those found on many other coloring supplies.
Pencils, they come in many different sizes, shapes and colors. The biggest advantage of a coloring pencil is probably that it won’t dry up. Practice with coloring pencils will get result, as they are one of the more easy-going choices. Colors allows for blending and the shading effects that are possible just can’t be duplicated with most other sorts of ink-based pens or markers.
Crayons will bring up the memory of kid’s coloring books – those pictures with a mess of color, most of outside the line instead of inside! They can be used for adult coloring books, provided the area is large enough. The best use of them is where outlines are large enough to blend in the colors. Crayons has the one big disadvantage in that the coloring can wear off on other pages.
Markers come in many different shapes, sizes and very importantly; quality. Different price points brings different results and while there are a variety of very budget-friendly markers available, it’s recommended to spend some money on quality.
There are two markers that stand out above all the others because they’r professional.
Sharpies; a fine point marker, available singly or as a set. They come in very striking colors but they don’t have softer tones like pastels. Sharpies are incredibly popular, since their finer coloring point gives a much greater control than regular markers.
Copics; come in a wide variety of colors that can be blended together. This isn’t a the case with standard markers and it’s probably what makes Copics stand out. They also have two different tips, allowing for great control. It’s also possible to purchase Copic markers one by one, which is another massive advantage as you can build your collection on a budget and of only the colors you will use instead of being loaded with markers that will never get used because they came in a pack.
There are other options, such as Fineliner pens, but the effort required to use them in most ways outweighs their effectiveness. If you stick with the suggestions above you will have no problem putting together a collection of artist’s supplies for any kind of coloring page or book.
The most difficult part of coloring for many people is the background. Pay special attention when buying a coloring book that there is a definite outline to follow if you are unsure about blending techniques. Think ahead when choosing what to color with, as different sizes and shapes can be better served with different coloring supplies.
Coloring is fun, and connecting and sharing with other artistic people is even more fun. Don’t just color your page or book and leave it there to gather dust! Scan it in to your computer, or photograph it with your smart phone and share it with others. Right now there are vibrant communities springing up on social media where you will find lots of others who are keen to share their results.
You can see what designs others have found
Get recommendations for books and supplies
Share your own pictures
Discover new techniques
Learn how to use different software
to get you started, here are some of the most popular social media groups:
Each group will have its own dynamics, and while Facebook and Google Plus are great for sharing tips and tricks about actual coloring techniques, Pinterest is a great place to find inspiration. Don’t forget to spend some time ensuring the correct size and dpi when printing from Pinterest for your own use.