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Too Cool for School! 10 Incredible Coloring Books for Adults

Updated on May 1, 2014

Color outside the lines with a creative gift choice

In a complicated world, coloring books for adults bring back one of the simplest pleasures of childhood.

I was a coloring nut as a kid.  A blank page was sort of intimidating, but within the confines of an illustration I'd play with wild color combos, cross-hatching, patterns like stripes and checks and polkadots.  You couldn't tear me away from coloring books until they were finished.

Time passed, and the crayons were, naturally, pushed aside for school, work, dating--all that good stuff.  But then I found myself one day, in my mid-20s, in an art museum gift shop, staring at a giant coloring book of Andy Warhol drawings.  Wow, I thought.  This has to come with me.  I'll keep it for when I have kids someday...or give it to someone else's kid.

So I got the book home.  I took a closer look.  I realized that--no offense, boys & girls--it was way too cool for kids.   And poof, I started coloring again.

It took a few years to fill out that book.  At some point I started getting help from a cute guy who'd later become my husband.  Two of the pages we did together ended up framed, decorating our first baby's bedroom wall. 

I'm older now and a lot busier, but if someone gave me adult coloring books for Christmas? Excellent!

(photo: unageek)

Indie Rock Coloring Book
Indie Rock Coloring Book

"This is the greatest coloring book since coloring was invented. I've decided to have kids just so I'll have somebody to give this book to," says Matt Berninger of (awesome band) The National.

But Matt, why wait for kids? Pull out the Crayola 120 (yep, fast food isn't the only thing that's been supersized) and get cracking on this brilliant book from the Yellow Bird Project, a group that produces musician- and band-designed T-shirts that benefit charity. Illustrator Andy J. Miller collaborated on the product with Yellow Bird, which invites you to "wiggle yourself through the intricate Broken Social Scene maze, marvel in the colourful carnival of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, color Bon Iver's enchanted water supply, or slide down the psychedelic playground of MGMT." Relax and play with drawings inspired by Iron & Wine, Bloc Party, Devendra Banhart, and more.

Perfect for: Any teen, adult, or (all right, all right) kid who likes indie music and art. Hint to my family...Santa...anyone! :D

A Coloring Book: Drawings by Andy Warhol
A Coloring Book: Drawings by Andy Warhol

Woohoo! The Warhol coloring book I bought 20 years ago appears to be available again in the USA! (It had been for a while on European websites). These oversized drawings are soooo much fun to color. Grab your friend, your sweetie, your kid, whoever -- and get to work on these whimsical delights. Warhol may not have been the nicest guy, but his drawings have a lighthearted, quirky humor ideal for adult coloring.

Perfect for: Warhol fans, obviously; modern art lovers; anyone whose tastes tend toward the whimsical

Paisley Designs Coloring Book (Dover Design Coloring Books)
Paisley Designs Coloring Book (Dover Design Coloring Books)

Relive the Summer of Love when you fill in these intricate paisley designs with color after brilliant color.

Perfect for: '60s & '70s fashion fans, old-school or nouveau hippies, more-is-more color addicts

Erté Fashions Coloring Book (Dover Fashion Coloring Book)
Erté Fashions Coloring Book (Dover Fashion Coloring Book)

You'll want a nice sharp set of colored pencils for this collection of intricate drawings showcasing a master of Art Deco design.

Perfect for: The fashion fanatic or designer wannabe. Know someone who's glued to "Project Runway"? They'll love this.


How do you color?

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Beautiful Butterflies Stained Glass Coloring Book (Dover Nature Stained Glass Coloring Book)
Beautiful Butterflies Stained Glass Coloring Book (Dover Nature Stained Glass Coloring Book)

Besides the beauty of the illustrations, the cool thing about this book is that it's made with translucent paper, so that each page takes on a stained-glass quality when you color it in and stick it on your window. We blew through a mini version of this book and had a blast. The full-sized one looks even better.

Perfect for: Butterfly enthusiasts, nature lovers, gardeners, eco types :)

Color Your Own Matisse Paintings (Dover Art Coloring Book)
Color Your Own Matisse Paintings (Dover Art Coloring Book)

Unlike me, my first son has bona fide artistic talent, so I called on him to help me color this book. On some pages we replicated Matisse's color schemes. On others we experimented with completely different combos. The whole process was fun and therapeutic. Now all I need is a new copy, just for myself ;)

Perfect for: Folks who love Henri Matisse (and who doesn't?) and feeling happy. His images are full of life & joy.

Between the Lines: Volume 2: A Coloring Book of Drawings by Contemporary Artists
Between the Lines: Volume 2: A Coloring Book of Drawings by Contemporary Artists

With 50+ drawings by some of today's best known contemporary artists, this unbelievably hip adult coloring book melds style and substance: Proceeds go to RxArt, a not-for-profit that curates contemporary art installations in hospitals and outpatient medical facilites. The group also donates coloring books to hospitalized children as part of its efforts to promote healing through art.

Perfect for: Modern art lovers and the charitably minded

Roger Burrows' Images Travel Pack
Roger Burrows' Images Travel Pack

Going on vacation? What better way to relax than with Roger Burrows' renowned coloring designs, described as quiltlike, architectural, and just plain cool. Spiral-bound book includes plenty of Burrows' "greatest hits" and colored pencils too.

Perfect for: Anyone! What people love about this guy is his way of inspiring personal expression.

Coral Reef Coloring Book (Dover Nature Coloring Book)
Coral Reef Coloring Book (Dover Nature Coloring Book)

If your bumper sticker says "I'd rather be diving," this book's for you. Color a vibrant ocean scene, even if you can't swim by one firsthand at the moment.

Perfect for: Scuba divers & snorkelers, tropical island dwellers or travelers


But wait, there's more!

Not feeling my 10 picks? You'd be surprised how many high-quality, adult-friendly coloring books are floating around. There's one for every taste and purpose--from meditation to microbiology. [Bonus: If you're buying for someone who enjoys 17/18C philosophy, the TV show "Lost," or both, (s)he might get a kick out of the 3-D book's author.]

Funny business

Looking for something edgier? From irreverent to empowering, these adult coloring books will do the trick.

Palette pleasers

Add aset of colored pencils, pens, crayons or paints to adult coloring books and seal the deal for a complete, unique gift.

Go ahead...let your thoughts color this lens ;) Just don't tell me I'm too old for crayons!


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    • profile image

      Katwoman55 6 years ago

      Hello! I love your page! Stop by and say hello sometime. Smiles.

      My name is "Kat!"

    • KokoTravel profile image

      KokoTravel 6 years ago

      I love to color, but haven't done it since my kids were small... my grandson is just now entering the stage where he might want to color with me... I think I need my own coloring book! These are great!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      What a beautiful selection! I want the cats coloring book! I don't know how you ever narrowed it down to seven though - I have a hard time keeping my list of favorites down to just 50 or so...LOL

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Love these!

    • KOrazem profile image

      Seeking Pearls 7 years ago from Pueblo West

      Love your selection of Coloring Books. Lensrolling to my Arts and Crafts Gifts Christmas Lens. Wishing you a prosperous holiday season.

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 7 years ago from Chicago area

      [in reply to poutine] Smart idea you had!

    • profile image

      poutine 7 years ago

      What an interesting lens.

      A few years back I bought a coloring book and crayons

      for my 80 years old mom and she was so excited about it.

      It gave her many hours of fun.


    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 7 years ago

      Very clever idea. Really liked Color Your Own Matisse Paintings - can imagine the colorful designs I could create.

    • KOrazem profile image

      Seeking Pearls 7 years ago from Pueblo West

      Great lens and I must say I am tempted. You pull this together great.

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Very tempted to add a couple to my Christmas list!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Very well done like all of yours are. Really enjoyed it. ~Blessed~

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 7 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I think coloring is good for the soul, whether inside the lines or out!

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 7 years ago

      Very cool! I don't color much anymore but I bet these would be great for the up and coming artist in the family!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      Love these coloring books. Very nice gift idea.

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 7 years ago

      Excellent lens. Coloring books for adults is an awesome idea!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 7 years ago from Canada

      Excellent idea for a few of my family members.

      Well done & blessed.