Forget about the idea that colouring books are for kids. In a busy world, increasingly dominated by time spent in front of screens, grown ups are turning to the soothing art of colouring in. But the books we're talking about are not reminiscent of the freebie colouring sheets handed out at chain restaurants that we remember from our childhoods. These are intricately designed books, some created specifically to help you de-stress and focus the mind.
But does it work? Can we really find relief in colouring carefully in between the lines? Hephzibah Kaplan, director at the London Art Therapy Centre thinks so.
“When choosing a colouring-in book with more complex or abstract images the convention is generally to keep different colours within different lines. This requires a relaxed focus where the outline is containing and the mark-making repetitive and smooth. So a bit like repeating a mantra where repetition is a means to relaxation, colouring-in is also a type of mediation.”
She added: “Meditation, whether secular or otherwise, has known benefits to mind, body and spirit. When focusing deeply on a simple yet safe task, other anxieties become less present, less pervasive.”
Bearing that in mind(fulness), here is our pick of the best books, sure to get you feeling calm and relaxed after a stressful day.
The books were chosen for their creativity, the quality of the illustrations and paper and how effectively they met with with any promise to keep us in a calm, focused, stress-free zone.
1. Enchanted Forest: An Inky Adventure & Colouring Book: £5, amazon
This is the follow-up to Johanna Basford's mega-successful Secret Garden ((over one million copies sold and counting), and for our money, it's even better than her first effort. Drawings of woodland creatures and greenery are super-detailed and the top-quality paper means pens won't bleed through. The really beautiful, imaginative illustrations are the stars of the show here, but some colourers will like the quest part; readers must find nine symbols hidden throughout the book in order to "unlock" the castle gate at the end. If you like this one, her next book , an ocean-themed work, is out in October.
2. Calming Colouring Nature Patterns by Graham Leslie McCallum: £7 amazon
You get 96 pages of nature-inspired patterns here - the likes of leaves, petals, trees and landscapes - by artist and designer Graham McCallum. The thick, good-quality pages are filled edge to edge with designs that get increasingly complex as you work through them. If leaves aren't you thing, McCallum also has another pattern volume with drawings to colour from a wider range of influences.
3. The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons: £4, amazon
This little book is handily pocket-sized, so you can pop it in your work bag for the commute. Emma Farrarons is a French illustrator based in London with a background in textile design. You can see the influence of fabric pattern repeat on some of her drawings, which range from simple tessellating geometric designs to more intricate waves and floral-inspired shapes. Emma's latest book, featuring more nature-themed patterns, is out at the end of September.
4. The Time Garden by Daria Song: £5, amazon
If you find patterns too repetitive, The Time Garden is an intricately drawn story by Korean artist Daria Song that starts with a Narnia-esque cuckoo clock and moves through page-upon-page of magical landscapes, drawn in superb detail. The cover's also colourable and there's a 'to/from' page, making this one a fab gift.
5. Tropical Wonderland: A Colouring Book Adventure: £4, amazon
Animal Kingdom has sold over 500,000 copies and been translated into 19 languages. The appeal of her work is the intricate drawings that really immerse you in the world she's created. In the case of this new book, that's pages full of exotic creatures from parrots to plant life. The artwork's exceptional and the paper's top quality. There's space to add your own details if you're feeling particularly creative, too.
6. Animorphia by Kerby Rosanes: £7, amazon
Animorphia goes one step beyond just colouring in, and involves a search element to it as well. You’re given a key at the beginning of the book, full of small objects and weird creatures to spot within the out-there animal-themed illustrations, which range from swordfish to big cats. There's also spare space for you to complete pictures with your own doodlings.
7. Dream Cities by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick: £5, amazon
Inspired by the likes of Moscow, Paris and the illustrators' home, London, this book presents some worlds you'll half recognise and other more fantastical cityscapes to colour in and make your own. The paper's heavy duty so pens won't bleed through and East London-based designers Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick have included a little treasure hunt of extra images within their exceptionally detailed illustrations for you to find.
8. Fill Me In by Moose Allain: £10, amazon
Lauded as ‘not just a book, but a paper playground’, Fill-Me-In makes a change from some of the more ornate, pattern-focused colouring-in books. Put together by artist and cartoonist Moose Allain, the book kicks off in space, but then flies all over his haphazard galaxy, featuring little people and creatures in all sorts of scenes to either be coloured-in or finished-off. As an added bonus, it’s signed and doodled by the author himself.
9. The Creative Colouring Book for Grown Ups by Various: £8, amazon
Here's another pocket-sized book for colouring on the go. It has a flexible spine, so unlike some of the bigger, chunkier books, you can get right into the centre, leaving no patches uncoloured. There are 100 detailed patterns to get stuck into.
10. Field Guide: Creatures Great and Small by Lucy Engelman: £11, amazon
Technically, this is a colouring book and a 'field guide', so as well as 35 pages of animals - ranging from butterflies to bears - it gives you facts about the featured creatures and a colouring guide to tell you what they look like in the real world. Of course, if you prefer, you can just freestyle. The pages tear out too so you can display your artwork when you're done.
11. Cats: 70 Designs To Help You De-Stress: £8, amazon
What is more chill than colouring in cats? In this book there are 70 intricate, feline-inspired designs to be filled in. It’s just a bit bigger than A5 so be prepared for fine, detailed colouring. When you’re done, we like the fact that all the sheets in this book are detachable, so if you happen to design a particularly chic kitty, you can whip it out and display it.
12. Colour Me Good Eddie Redmayne by Mel Elliot: £8, amazon
From Mel Elliot, the artist who brought us Taylor Swift and Benedict Cumberbatch colouring comes an Eddie Redmayne-dedicated tome. Colour in the Les Mis star as you see fit, or be guided by Elliot’s funny captions. Sample line on a simple illustration of the actor looking suave in a tux: “Eddie is fast running out of awards to win…so design him a new one.” This is probably one for Redmayniacs only but it’s worth checking out Elliot's other books if you’re looking for a fun gift.
For detailed, intricate nature-themed illustrations with a few extras, Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest is a winner. If you're after something creative that you can learn a bit from while you're colouring, Field Guide: Creatures Great and Small is a good choice. Moose Allain's Fill-Me-In book stands out for its is randomness and brings something a bit different to the colouring book table.
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