The best colouring books for adults and what to look out for


Did you ever play with the Anti-Colouring Book as a child? It encouraged you to invent some bits yourself and colour in the rest. So a page with the outline of a spaceship might say: “Oh no! Aliens forgot to build a control room in their spaceship! Can you help?” Uh… yeah, you could help. You were no doubt acutely aware that their control room needed a big pulsing brain and the rest, as they say, is history…

Now lots of us are discovering colouring books for adults. Colouring in can be absorbing and fun, and has played its part in art therapy activities for years on account of its therapeutic value (and we’re fond of art exercises here at Mooky Towers). You may already love colouring in books. If you haven’t picked up a felt tip pen in ages, where do you begin?

Questions to ask when comparing adult colouring book reviews:

  • How intricate/absorbing are the designs?
  • How thick is the paper? (this is because thick paper stops your colours bleeding through, or your lovely design getting ripped if you’re using sharp pencils or pens)
  • Is the paper of good, smudge-free quality?
  • Are the designs printed on one side only? (you don’t want ink from your pens to bleed onto another would-be design on the back, rendering it useless)
  • Are the pages perforated? (it’s just a nice touch if you want to cut out your pics and frame them or otherwise give them love)
  • Does it come with a PDF? (this is rare, but it’s a nice extra to have a PDF of designs so that you can colour them in more than once)

Some of the best adult colouring books:

Enchanted Forest – Inky Quest and Colouring Book


What they’re saying about it:

“I got my copy of this book in a local book store and I’m so glad I did. You start off with a map of the forest and every page has you exploring that forest in the look out for special tablets with symbols on them so you can unlock the castle door at the end. The end of the book has a wonderful hidden section where you have to unfold the pages to view what’s behind the hidden door…” – The Happy Meerkat

Creative Haven Colouring Books
Owls, Fanciful Faces, Entangled, Steampunk Fashions & more


What they’re saying about it:

I was amazed at how relaxing the process was. The first drawing in the (Steampunk) book is incredibly detailed and I’ve spent roughly 10 hours colouring it with a zen like absorption. The most stressful thing about the process is figuring out that it doesn’t matter what colour you use in that space, it’ll be fine. ” – Quwintessa Starber

Outside the Lines – an Artist’s Colouring Book for Giant Imaginations


What they’re saying about it:

Fun book to keep on my coffee table and have guests colour in. Every picture is done by a different artist and the styles vary widely. Would have enjoyed if pages were able to be torn out, and a few of the pictures can’t really be coloured in… otherwise great! It’s relaxing to come home and color, even as an adult!” – Kat

Tatoos à colorier


What they’re saying about it:

“This was the second grown up book I bought and I was attracted to [the] cover as it looks amazing, the actual in the flesh cover is just stunning. I know this is French but as it’s a colouring in book it doesn’t really matter. The designs range from intricate peacocks and skulls to the more traditional Mum tattoos!” – HRoss

The Art Therapy Anti-stress Colouring Book


What they’re saying about it:

“Absolutely having the best time ever colouring this in. Which might explain why I’m single.Also, you might want to invest in some fine tipped decent felt tips because some of the patterns have exceptionally intricate parts to them and your general bog standard pens are far too large. Even if you try do a kinda half lazy attempt it’s still a good few hours per picture minimum meaning you’ve got a LOT of hours of entertainment in just one book.” – Joanne

Balance (Angie Grace’s Extreme Stress Menders Vol. 1)


What they’re saying about it:

“As a newbie when it comes to grown up colouring, I am very, very impressed with this book. The quality of designs, the standard of the paper and the general beauty of the book has not been beaten by anything else I have seen. I love it! The pictures are printed on one side of the paper only and it is easy to insert if you use pens which bleed through to the next page, but I’ve seen no evidence of this whatsoever with the pens I use.” – Angela

Why do adults love colouring books, anyway?

Adult colouring books are safe. Sometimes the world needs a little safe.

Life could do with a little slowing down now and then, a little less focus on achievement. Lots of people rag on us to do stuff, and all too often we’re ragging on ourselves. Setting some time aside to colour things in means you’re just having a bit of a doodle, there’s no pressure to create great art or complete a finished project or anything wearying like that.

There’s the safety of the lines, too. Lines can be nice. It’s nice to set some boundaries now and then. Anyway, as adults we’re old enough to know that all sorts of weird stuff that can happen in between the lines if you’ve got the right pens and you’re in the mood. Giving yourself a little time to let off steam, just for fun, with no pressure and no agenda. Hooray.

They’re arts and crafts for everyone, not just arts and crafters.

These colouring books are a nice way of getting round that feeling of ‘not being creative enough’, whether it’s due to energy levels or lack of time or varying confidence or all sorts of things. Let’s face it, sometimes you’re not feeling full-power on the creative front. Whatever your reasons, maybe you don’t really want to learn how to make a cute felt cupcake keyring or make your own glitter jam, amazing though these pursuits obviously are. Whatever your reasons, when the world asks you if you’d like to learn how sell your things on Etsy you have to say sorry, world. Not today…

Adult colouring books are arts and crafts for everyone. They are inclusive. You don’t have to be an Instagram star with the artistic merit of Frida Kahlo and the manual dexterity of a velociraptor to pick up your nearest colouring book or page and get stuck in. If you’ve got some pens you like and five minutes to spare, you can just be you.

Adult colouring books are… for adults

Adults who have the full use of their hands are usually more dextrous and agile with their hands than children, and also their brains are often more developed, and thus they can handle more intricate patterns. Adults can also, on the whole, spend longer at a task before boredom sets in.

And thus, you end up with an increasing number of colouring books that grownups will enjoy – ones with intricate patterns, and more pages to fill in, and sophisticated designs, and all that. You get books with grown-up designs based on tattoos and sugar skulls and dark fairytales and owls, because everyone likes owls. You name it, there’ll soon be a colouring book about it.

And there’s money in them hills, so there’ll be books of increasingly high quality to appeal to seasoned colourers with specialised tastes and grown-up money to spend. There’ll also be books of increasingly low quality, from publishers looking to make a bit of easy cash from a trend. All you need is some pictures whose artists are more velociraptor and less Frida Kahlo and you don’t even need to think up any words. Print them shoddily on cheap paper and you’re done! Making a rubbish colouring book takes barely any time at all, and you’ll get loads of profit until the reviews start coming in!

There’s earnest discussion about how adults are increasingly reverting to entertainments initially reserved for kids and teenagers, like comics and YA fiction and (partly thanks to Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden) colouring in. There’s media talk about colouring in being a trend, and how do we feel about trends anyway? Are we scared of liking trends in case we like them a nanosecond too late and everyone points at us with their trend-dowsing fingers and laughs? Is that how we feel? Are we honestly that scared of trends, and if so, then could it be that they – like giant spiders – are more scared of us?

Here at Mookychick, we’re listening to all that. We’re also enjoying the talk of people who love to colour and are getting together for meetups to colour in Dora the Explorer something fierce:

Colouring the feelings away. #mindfulnesscolouringbook #mindfulcolouring #arttherapy #coloringbook #antistress

A photo posted by Leanna Ritchot (@leannaritchot) on Apr 10, 2015 at 10:34pm PDT