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Adult Coloring: Tips for Artists

Updated on October 6, 2015
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I am Diane Brown, an artist and illustrator living in Texas. I enjoy all phases of the creative process. Enjoy!

There is no denying the popularity of adult coloring

Adult coloring groups have sprung up all over the country.
Adult coloring groups have sprung up all over the country. | Source

The Adult Coloring Phenomenon: How Can Artists Capitalize?

The adult coloring hobby has taken the country by storm! Adult coloring books are flying off the shelves with numerous new titles being added daily. As an artist, you may be asking yourself, "How can I ride this trend and improve my bottom line?"

This article will endeavor to give some solid tips on ways to increase your notoriety, gain positive publicity, and increase your income as an artist with little to no cost to you.

1. Create Interesting, Engaging Line Drawings

The first requirement needed for you to make money in the world of adult coloring is to create attractive, complex images suitable for a coloring sheet geared toward a grown-up audience. Your style of art must jibe with the demands of this market. Adults who enjoy coloring want a level of accuracy (for representational subjects) and intricacy that is over and above what is traditionally seen in coloring books for children. This is not to say that a certain level of whimsy is not welcome, however. If your work currently includes a high level of detail, it will be easy for you to begin to create coloring sheets geared toward the adult coloring genre.

It is important that you avail yourself of examples of adult coloring imagery to see what kinds of images are popular. This is not meant to encourage you to mimic what is already available, but more to introduce you to the type and style of illustrations that are currently in demand in this market.

An Example Coloring Sheet

This is a coloring sheet I created from a drawing I did for one of my watercolor paintings.
This is a coloring sheet I created from a drawing I did for one of my watercolor paintings. | Source

• Give it a Rest!

While I just said it's important for your image to have a lot of detail, it's also important that you don't go overboard here. If you pile on too much intricate detail, the actual subject of your drawing may get "lost" or hard to recognize. The same principles that apply to your art (composition, line quality, perspective, center of interest, etc.) still apply to images created for adult coloring. While your audience revels in lots of fun pattern and detail, they will want parts of the sheet to remain clear and free from overly busy visual clutter. The eye (and person coloring) needs areas of rest.

• Keep it Classy

When you are ready to present your drawings to the adult coloring world, make sure you put your best foot forward. Give your work the quality materials it deserves. Choose a heavy weight, acid-free paper. It would be best if the paper you choose has a slight degree of texture, known as tooth. This will allow the colored pencil or other coloring medium to adhere more deeply to the paper giving a richer color application. You will also need to make sure the paper you choose is not overly absorbent. Your customers will be mortified if their markers soak into the paper and flow outside the intended area for color. Another consideration is the paper's acceptability for use through the printer you will be using to copy your images. Try several types of paper to find one suitable for its intended use.

2. Find an Audience - A Community Coloring Event

Once you have created your images for coloring, it's time to get them "out there" in the public eye. As an artist, you need to get your work in front of potential customers. One way to do this is to host a coloring party at a local venue using copies of your original work as the coloring sheets. It should be relatively easy to find a local business or community center (coffee shops, libraries, bookstores) who would welcome an organized coloring event at their location. The business will welcome potential customers at their store, and they recognize the power of this type event to build their own client base at the same time you are building your own.

Once you find your venue for your coloring party, it's time to publicize it. The business that will be hosting your event will likely publicize it as a way to draw in customers. This benefits both the hosting location and you. You must do your part by spreading the word to your contacts as well. Posting the details of the event (perhaps with an image you will have available to color at your event) on facebook, twitter, etc. will help get your party started. It would be good for you to have a method of collecting RSVPs to help you figure out how many copies of your artwork, how much coloring media, etc. you will need. You can suggest participants bring their own colored pencils, markers, etc., but it's a good idea to provide these for people to borrow as well.

Just a word here about your role at the coloring event: if at all possible, resist any urge you may have to "teach" at these gatherings. The underlying point of the coloring experience is stress reduction and relaxation. Do not insert any kind of expectations on the product each individual will come up with. Do, of course, give advice if it is requested, but also make sure you assert that there is no right or wrong way to do this activity. In the same vein, I would not show any finished (colored) examples of your sheets. This encourages people to copy your example, which is contrary to the creative spirit that should permeate an event like this.

As a part of this coloring party plan, you should determine what you will charge each participant. You need to determine the fee you will charge to help you cover all of the costs associated with creating the coloring sheets and allow yourself a profit. Your time and talent involved in creating the images for your coloring sheets is substantial, and you deserve to be paid for your work.

***Warning! Make sure the coloring sheets you provide at the coloring event described above (or any other marketing plan you devise) are your original works and not something copied from already published sources. It would be a serious case of copyright infringement if you were to use someone else's work in a for-profit venture.****

3. Protect Yourself

This warning above leads to another important tip if you are trying to enter the adult coloring market as an artist. Make sure you sign all of your original work before you present it to the world in any format. The straightforward, graphic nature of these coloring images make them easily copied and stolen for another person's unethical use. You have a right use the images you create solely for the purposes you determine. It's also very important that you include a "watermark" on your digital images before you publish them on the internet. Granted, these markings won't necessarily dissuade everyone from making unauthorized use of your images, but it will serve as a disincentive to many.

4. Find an Audience - Sell Your Images to Individuals

Another way to get your coloring sheets out in the market is for you to sell them directly to customers. There are any number of ways to sell your work online. Having an Etsy store, for example, is a great, low cost way to sell coloring sheets. Again, calculate your costs (materials and postage/shipping) and make sure you set your prices appropriately. Also make certain you are offering a quality product to justify your price. Make sure your potential buyer is aware of the value your coloring sheets represent. Tout the fact that the imagery you are selling is ORIGINAL ARTWORK and that it is printed on high quality, acid-free paper. These two characteristics along with your attractive and engaging drawings will ensure your buyers will be pleased with their purchases from you.

You may also approach local art clubs, art supply stores, or galleries to see if they would be willing to display and sell your wares at their establishments. You may also consider selling your sheets to groups who will host coloring events themselves, or who may wish to give them to their customers as a gift.

Another Example


5. Offer Coloring Sheets in Different Formats

You may be able to extend your client base for your coloring images by offering your drawings in various sizes and shapes. Many people would like to have a practical use for their coloring hobby, so it may be wise to offer your drawings as greeting cards, bookmarks, or even posters. This will help you make sales to a greater circle of potential clients. I have even heard of a company offering coloring wallpaper! There is no limit to the possibilities. Be careful, though, that you don't overextend in different formats until you see you have a solid market.

6. Seasonal and Holiday

Creating and selling seasonal and holiday imagery is another way to garner a wider audience and make sales. Be sure to have your drawings done early. You will need time to get your sheets ready and market them to your clients. You also have to consider that the person buying a holiday sheet, for example, may want to give their colored sheet as a gift or greeting. If you are hoping to sell a Christmas coloring sheet, you should probably have it ready to sell in September or October. This will allow the end user time to get their coloring done in time to send it to someone special and make it in time for Christmas.

Of course, Christmas isn't the only holiday that can be represented by your coloring art. Halloween and Easter conjure up all kinds of subjects that would be perfect for adult coloring sheets.

A Holiday Coloring Page

This is an example of an engaging holiday coloring sheet for adults
This is an example of an engaging holiday coloring sheet for adults | Source

7. Publish Your Own Adult Coloring Book

This tip is a bit extreme. You will need to have many quality drawings prepared in order to consider this option. It will also require a considerable monetary investment if you are thinking about self publishing your coloring book. Making this opportunity work will demand a high level of commitment, so as best you can be sure that this route will end up being a profitable one for you before you begin. Doing research online on the subject of self publishing may be a way to start.

Another possibility is to query publishers with the idea that they will publish your work. This is a complex and demanding effort, which is probably a subject for another article. As with self publishing, it would be helpful to do research on how best to approach publishers with your ideas and art.

Getting a coloring book published is a grand notion, and I wouldn't discourage you from attempting it. It would be wise, however, to start on a smaller scale and test market your work locally before you make the leap to publishing.

A Look at the Coloring Book Market

A display at our local art supply store.  You can see the market is booming, so competition in this arena will be stiff.
A display at our local art supply store. You can see the market is booming, so competition in this arena will be stiff. | Source


As an artist, I'm thrilled that the hobby of adult coloring has gained traction and is enjoying such immense popularity. This activity is allowing people like me to tap into a market that at this point knows no bounds.

I hope you found these tips helpful as you try to enter into this fast-growing market. Create good art and work hard to find ways to get your drawings into the marketplace. It may require patience and persistence, but this coloring phenomenon has created lots of room for artists who wish to participate.

I hope you will consider trying your hand at creating images for coloring by adults. It has been a rewarding process for me, even though I'm just beginning to explore the possibilities. As artists, we serve our community by giving them opportunities to connect with their intuitive, creative selves through our work. This particular type of work extends that connection into a collaboration between the artist and the end user. What better role could an artist play?


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