Coloring Books for Adults are Popular , but Where Do You Fit In?


Coloring books, once a favorite pastime for children, have captivated adults around the world. Regardless of what you feel about this phenomenon, coloring books for adults have pushed their way to bestseller status, among the top 20 books across all genres.

Where did this adult coloring book craze begin?

In 2013, UK-based Scottish artist and illustrator Johanna Basford convinced her editor to let her create a coloring book for adults instead of children as they had requested. Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book was her first and sold over a million copies.

Following her success, adult coloring book sales from many publishers exploded at online retailers, as well as brick and mortar hobby, art supply, fabric and discount stores.   (I recently saw the Lonely Planet coloring book in my local Automobile Club.) Popular series such as Outlander, Dr. Who, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter were soon publishing their own themed coloring books. Even serious artworks like Thomas Kinkade now have coloring books inviting us to try our version of these popular art pieces.

Coloring for adults is not new. In the early 20th century, noted psychologist Carl G. Jüng had his patients color mandalas, geometric designs that have their origin in India.

Then there were the coloring books of the 1960’s that made fun of an array of social concerns such as  J.F.Kennedy, the red scare, mental illness and  communists.

“Dover Publications, founded in 1941 publishing reissues, created their first coloring book for adults , Antique Automobiles Antique Automobiles Coloring Book, in 1970,”said Vice President of Marketing, Kristine Anderson in a phone conversation.


What helped the 21st century coloring book sales skyrocket?

Noticing a growing interest in coloring books,  Dover created a new line, Creative Haven, in 2012. This  series has over 100 titles with themes ranging from mandalas to fashion. In 2015 Dover declared August 2nd  National Coloring Book Day and encouraged colorists to host coloring parties. One of those coloring book party hosts was Chicago resident Mary-Winters-Myers.

Seeing the growing interest among other colorists, Mary started a public Facebook group,,  in January 2015 and published her own coloring book, Dragons, Knots, Bots and More!, in April 2015.

By April the membership of her Facebook group had grown to 300.  She was interviewed for an NBC nightly News story on coloring, and even though her segment didn’t get aired, 175 people a day began flocking to her Facebook group quickly taking her membership to 17,000. At last count her group has 43,262 members.

Social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest helped to fuel the flames of the coloring book trend. As groups gather in local neighborhood coffee shops, libraries, parks and any venue with space for tables and chairs, colorists are gathering and later framing and displaying their work.

What is beneficial about coloring books for adults?

Coloring relieves stress and lessens anxiety.

Lucy Fyles, former UK psychiatric inpatient nursing assistant, for example, was seeking comfort for her own severe anxiety disorder. She discovered that focusing on creative activities calmed and relieved her anxiety.  While working with psychiatric patients, she saw that they enjoyed using coloring books.  Now housebound, she reviews adult coloring books from her blog

As the trend has continued, filling in pretty designs with owls, cats, and mandalas just doesn’t do it for everybody. That’s why coloring books with swear words shot to the top of the online coloring book sales.


Coloring promotes co-creation with the artist.

In a Yahoo News article, Canadian artist Steve McDonald  talks about moving from fabulous cityscapes in art galleries to coloring books.  It was the urging of his children that caused him to embrace creating coloring books as a way to get colorists to become co-creators. Instead of creating just one piece of art to hang in a gallery, he is reaching people around the world.

Coloring promotes wellness by helping people loosen up.

Colorado resident Tammi Hoerner earned a degree in graphic design but started a career as a wellness coach instead. After writing her print book Lessons for Mom Positive Living – Attainable Wellness for Modern Moms she searched for tools to help her clients laugh, play and have fun.  The result are two complementary coloring books.

What is harmful about coloring books for adults?

Coloring masquerades as psychotherapy or art therapy.

Everyone is not convinced of the healing benefits of adult coloring. In a June 13, 2015 Psychology Today article,  ” Are You Having a Relationship with an Adult Coloring Book?” Cathy Malchiodi, art therapist and psychotherapist,  believes coloring creates mindfulness, relieves stress, and compares to art therapy.  She said, “While I have no doubt that many colorists “feel better” after a session with a coloring book and even a group coloring fest, it is not art therapy by any definition.”

Coloring distracts us from facing the real world problems.

Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason,” looks to the bible line, ‘When I was a child, I thought as a child, but as an adult, I put away childish things,’  to support her belief that coloring books promote escapism and keep us from facing the world around us.

Coloring mandalas unknowingly lures Christians into New Age practices.

In the The Last Hiker, the blogger warns Christians that coloring mandalas is dangerous.  She asks ” . . .is it about spiritual hosts of wickedness sneaking mandalas into our homes and into our subconscious minds?. Sh. .Is it really about recreation or is it New Age evangelism?

Coloring patterns and designs created by others is not true art.

Even though coloring book creators promise you don’t have to stay within the lines, purists believe that true art is created on a blank sheet or canvas using the imagination of the artist and his favorite tools.

Now it’s your turn to confess where you stand on the coloring book trend. Where do you fit in? Tell us in the comments if you see coloring as beneficial or harmful.