When you look at the bestseller lists, you’ll see quite a few colouring books for grown-ups. Who’s buying these books? I haven’t heard any of my friends talking about them. Plenty of people do, though – Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden has sold over ten million copies.
Colouring is incredibly therapeutic. It used to be prescribed by psychiatrists for de-stressing and relaxation so it’s very apposite for these current troubling times. Steve Coppins is a colouring book aficionado and gave me some advice.
Tips from a colouring book fan
Steve says: “My favourite colouring books are by Millie Marotta. Each one of her templates takes me about a week to fill in and there are about 50 templates to a book. I used pencils for the first book, but then moved to gel pens – the pencil leads of my cheaper pencils kept breaking. I’m thinking of going back to pencils; decent soft ones can produce great colours. The gel pens come in a mass of different colours and effects (metallic, glitter, pastel, neon) but you have to be careful to avoid the ones which leak through the paper. This means you can’t use the template on the back of the one you have just worked on.
I am not creative and I don’t have good hand to eye coordination so I’m not great at freehand drawing or painting. For me, having these templates is a godsend. Millie Marotta is a brilliant creator and I get to piggy back on her creativity.”
You can getf free downloads of Millie Marotta’s designs from her website.
Once you have completed a piece of artwork, you can repurpose it (for example by having it made into a cushion or tableware).
My first experience as an adult colourist was when I attended a Pattern Painting workshop devised by local artist Stephanie Wilkinson. She gave me a couple of good tips:
1 Buy yourself some Letraset Pro markers. You can get these from most reputable art shops. They’re pricey, but there is a very wide range of colours which are incredibly intense. If you look in the corner of my studio you’ll find my secret stash. Even going to the art shop to choose them is a treat (if you’re a colour buff like me).
2 Make sure the colours you choose have different tonal values. If you don’t know how to do this by eye, a good way to find out is to take a photo of the colour chart on your iPhone or iPad and then convert it to black and white. As you can see from the colour charts below, colours that may look very different, like red and green, often have the same tonal value.
There are different types of colouring books available; some have detailed illustrations and others are pattern-based. There’s a good article about the best books available here.
If you’re feeling adventurous, though, you can do as Steph does and have a go at Pattern Painting, which is colouring in with patterns rather than flat colour. She can draw from life, but the rest of us might prefer to take shapes from different imagery to create our own composition.
Use good-quality art paper so that the colours do not bleed, and sketch your image lightly with a pencil. The images that work best are simple ones.
Then, on a separate piece of paper, draw some little squares and experiment with shapes and colours. I made a Pinterest board of patterns that I liked before the workshop which you can see here. Once you are happy with your patterns, start colouring in. It’s not as easy as it sounds!
Stuck for inspiration? Have a look at some of Steph’s lovely work here. Her studio is in Church Road Teddington – prospective buyers are always welcome, or you can order prints from her website.
Postscript: I wrote this blog in 2015 but updated it in April 2020 – it’s particularly relevant for these lockdown days.
About the author
Annette Peppis leads the team at Peppis Designworks, a creative hub of established publishing industry experts who create books, branding, marketing material and design templates for leading publishers and businesses. Keep in touch by subscribing to her bi-monthly emails.