What is an adult coloring book?


At the time of writing this article (August 2015), a quarter of the twenty best-selling books on Amazon are coloring books. So what is an adult coloring book and how come they are currently outselling top fiction authors with new releases like EL James and Paula Hawkins?

Adult coloring books are, quite simply, adult coloring books. Like children’s coloring books, they are filled with outline illustrations designed to be filled in with colored pencils, markers, crayons, or whatever other medium you want to use.

What’s in an adult coloring book?

The main difference between adult and children’s color books is that the adult versions generally feature less youthful images and designs. Instead of superheroes, barnyard animals, and TV characters, the adult coloring pages in books are usually filled with:

  • elements of the natural world, such as trees, flowers, leaves, gardens, animals, and insects;

  • Geometric designs;

  • psychedelic patterns;

  • repeating “wallpaper” patterns;

  • cities and buildings;

  • anatomical drawings;

  • goddesses, angels and mermaids;

  • mandalas; and

  • Celtic designs.

There are also many ‘theme’ specific books available, featuring various themes such as cars, steampunk designs, and Art Nouveau patterns.

Why are they so popular?

A Scottish illustrator named Johanna Basford published a coloring book called Secret Garden in 2013, with pages of beautiful hand-illustrated ink drawings. The New York Times reported in March that a Korean pop star named Kim Ki-bum posted a photograph on Instagram of a “ delicately colored floral pattern ” of Secret Garden. At the time, Ki-bum had 1.8 million followers on Instagram. The post went viral and helped ignite the craze.

The rise in popularity of books reportedly has a lot to do with relaxation and stress relief for adults. Many adults who use the books report that they find the repetitive and low-stress nature of coloring to be comforting, relaxing, and a way to de-stress away from the pressures of life and work.

Among the other benefits of adult coloring in the books, they also claim to enjoy recapturing childhood nostalgia by participating in an activity generally reserved for children. It takes people to a simpler time and can also be a way for parents to connect and bond with their children by sitting down to color with them. Of course, many parents have been happily coloring children’s books for years, but now they have options that are not limited to Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob Squarepants.

In short, adult coloring appears to be a growing hobby that allows adults to relax and disconnect from the stress in their lives by engaging in a hands-on activity that involves minimal commitment and maximum nostalgia.

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