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Reasons Adult Coloring is Interesting

Updated on July 11, 2016
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Tim Mitchell is an avid learner adventuring into many interests. He enjoys sharing those experiences and discovered knowledge.

Adult Coloring Today

Adult coloring is an immense trend now. Nielsen Bookscan reports over 12 million coloring books sold for 2015. The year before was one million. They give black and white illustrations from beginning levels to very intricate and complex patterns like topiaries - florals, fairies, and butterflies. There are manufactures of colored pencils of different quality and type while pens are used as well. People color at home, in airport lounges, during meetings, and in waiting rooms. They offer opportunity for creative expression while presenting therapeutic values. There are many reasons coloring is interesting and helpful.

History Reaches Back over 100 Years

The start of coloring and painting books was introduced through a series of lectures by British artist Joshua Reynolds in 1880. Swiss educator Johann Pestalozzi further developed them. At 1880 they were made commercially available by the McLoughlin Brothers with Little Folks' Painting Book. As early as that time educators believed coloring contributed to conceptual understanding, developing cognitive abilities, improving skills for professions, and for the spiritual edification of children.

With education they showed great promise as memory tools for children and college students. Today they aid communicating information and ideas where primary language skills are lacking. Graduate levels of study they are used for anatomy and physiology. One such author Wynn Kapit created The Physiology Coloring Book (2nd Edition). It provides extensive text together with illustrations using learning skills. They help students to grasp and retain complex ideas and information. There have been comprehensive books created for mathematics such as geometry and programming too.

Colored pencils are available by count of twelve to as high as 150 different hues.
Colored pencils are available by count of twelve to as high as 150 different hues. | Source

Creative Expressions

Many are introduced to coloring at pre-school or earlier. We each may remember the joys experienced completing a project and sharing it with mom, brothers or sisters, teachers, and friends. A sense of self-esteem is fostered growing with pride while happiness springs forth.

Today’s adult coloring books offer opportunity for those uninclined to draw outlines for picturesque renditions of art to achieve high levels of gratification. During the process of filling between the lines the prospects for the creative process is opened. Choices of colors are made, contrasts explored, and arrangements within the patterns achieve a completed work. The experienced projects blossom to fruition like a rose at springtime as the person becomes an artist completing a masterpiece.

Each illustration offers patterns ranging from simple renditions to complexities requiring hunting for patterns, fore thought, explorations, and careful planning. The abstract combines with organization as discovered ideas are brought forth mixing and mincing color combinations. Scenes with people, animals, and even fable or lore promote within the creative mind story development opening the doors of the imagination. Every project is unique, individualized, and promises contentment with achievement.

Values with Psychology

Infamous psychologist Carl Jung who founded Jungarian Analytical Psychology gave value to them. He thought art assisted with accessing the subconscious and provide for building new self-knowledge. There is a distinction that coloring books offer immense therapeutic values, yet is not art therapy. The American Art Therapy Association states with their Official statement, January 2016.

“Excerpt: The popularity of adult coloring seems to indicate a renewed public awakening to the use of this activity for self-care. However, coloring books are not “art therapy,” and AATA endeavors to promote accurate information that distinguishes between engaging with coloring for self-care and accessing art therapy services provided by a credentialed art therapist. We also acknowledge the coloring book trend as an opportunity for the AATA to help educate the public about the evidence-based integrative mental health profession, art therapy.”

Art therapy’s goal is “is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being.” It uses art media, the creative process, and the finished work to:

  • Explore feelings
  • Reconcile emotional conflicts
  • Foster self-awareness
  • Manage behavior and addictions
  • Develop social skills
  • Improve reality orientation
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Increase self-Esteem

Coloring projects begin with the outlined illustration. Some need time to interpret them discovering the patterns of likeness while imagining the coloring schemes creating the image. (Copyright Sannel Larson, 2016)
Coloring projects begin with the outlined illustration. Some need time to interpret them discovering the patterns of likeness while imagining the coloring schemes creating the image. (Copyright Sannel Larson, 2016) | Source

Therapeutic Values for Self-Help

Many psychologists recommend coloring books for their therapeutic values. Therapeutic is having or exhibiting healing powers. Coloring books are best known promoting a means of relaxation and causing a sense of calmness removing symptoms of stress. The person focuses on coloring intricate patterns for hours on end contrasting intrusive troubling thoughts. The common psychological triggers they help with are boredom, lack of structure, and stress.

They are used by therapists for introducing and developing practices of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a recent approach to achieve “a state of active, open attention on the present”. Using coloring books is not mindfulness itself although may help with techniques. It seeks to achieve a mental state where one is focused on a present awareness while noticing feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. One goal is to recognize thoughts good or bad without placing a judgmental value upon them. The mind-body connection opens doors to the holistic approach. Eye hand coordination combines with a meditative state quieting the mind as awareness heightens. Each coloring experience is its own adventure and may be a tool for developing those techniques.

Thoughts may become more acute and clear while present opportunity for developing creative problem solving. Choices of colors achieve balance. Which part of the illustration to do first will help organizational skills. Searching for similar objects like leaves within floral arrangements develops pattern recognition. Focus grows more intense squelching automatic thoughts that may be negative. Both sides of the brain are used as concentration is enhanced and clarity emerges.

A Cuppa Tea, an Illustration, Colors, and Quietness

One such product I have used is a coloring book with a theme; Teatime Pastimes - Adult Coloring Book: Stress-Relieving with Fun Tea Themed Designs to Color (Volume 1) by Sannel Larson of Sweden. A talented author and illustrator she has authored / illustrated half-dozen children books. I discovered this book to offer 32 pages of delightful and intriguing illustrations tempting me.

Her illustrations range from easy to complex. Throughout the theme presented are a great variety of patterns with teacups, teapots, floral arrangements, people interacting, and abstract presentations. She incorporates various levels of challenging projects to develop experience.

Centered on tea time there is interesting information introduced and a delicious strawberry cupcake recipe. Wisely she left the back side of the illustrations blank preventing two images bleeding their colors together. She recommends added protection is achieved with two pages of printer paper beneath the picture being worked on too. A bonus is the blank page can be used for small swatches of colors for comparing contrast of hues.

Having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder a mood disorder I was experiencing a stage known as hypomania or an increased sense of euphoria. One symptom that may be troubling is rapid or racing thoughts. Experiencing that alongside them being automatic negative thoughts I sat down with this coloring book. To better help with the experience I first fired up the teapot, got out the rhubarb and strawberry loose leaf tea, and brewed a large mug of tea. Well, eventually two since I colored a little over three hours.

Wanting a comforting picture I picked a floral arrangement. The title seemed à propos saying, “I Love Days When My Only Problem is Tea or Coffee”. Excited for the adventure I was eager to begin. Armed with a set of 48 hues of colored pencils and a blending pencil I searched for those just right colors. Plus, this image added circular patterns providing abstractness to consider.

After hours of quiet time the completed project brings with it a heightened sense of achievement and gratification. (The completed coloring project from Sannel Larson's coloring book)
After hours of quiet time the completed project brings with it a heightened sense of achievement and gratification. (The completed coloring project from Sannel Larson's coloring book) | Source

My thoughts still rapid at first became more settled the further I progressed. As I chose the theme of colors for the flowers and leaves I saw the picture develop. The more I focused on the creating the art work those problems conjured by negative thoughts began to dissipate and were not as obtrusive. Her themed image alongside sipping the tepid brew together with time brought positive focused thoughts and a sense of calm.

Although not a cure for those symptoms I discovered an effective healing experience. Replacing negative thoughts with positive focused ones I could enjoy the creative process. Plus, when done I was gleeful and thankful I had created a work of art I was proud of and could share. I both recommend this coloring book and coloring for those times of distress, stress, and needing a sense of calmness to be evoked.

© 2016 Tim Mitchell


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    • tsmog profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Mitchell 

      2 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you BlossomSB. It is encouraging to read the experiences you shared . . .

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I've just come across this hub - congratulations! It's great and so interesting. I belong to a local artists' group and some of the members sometimes bring along an adult colouring book, instead of creating an oil painting or a watercolour. They're experienced artists, but they tell me that doing this really helps with revising how colours and shapes go together. I also know someone who experiences a lot of physical pain and she finds that when she is colouring she concentrates on it so well she forgets about the pain and is refreshed. Whoever thought of it should receive many accolades. Love your work.

    • tsmog profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Mitchell 

      2 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you vocalcoach, fpherj48, and Rick for your comments. I am happy to hear of your adventures with coloring. Have a great day! :-)

    • profile image

      Rick Stephen 

      2 years ago

      Great hub, Tim! Well written and quite interesting. Coloring isn't just for kids and the benefits are many as you've mentioned. Keep up the good work, my friend!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I LOVE this hobby!! I'm one of those Grandmas who would suggest "coloring" with the kids & I kept coloring for hours, long after the kids lost interest. Unless you try it, you can't understand how very relaxing it is. I've discovered I have fairly good creativity with colors!

      Since the adult coloring phase began, I have accumulated 6 different coloring books and hundreds of colored pencils & sharp point markers.

      Coloring is #4 on my list of favorite hobbies, right after reading, cryptograms & sewing. I love always having something productive to do! Great hub!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Oh, how I enjoyed this article. Coloring puts me in a state of piece. Sannel offers an array of marvelous choices with her latest coloring book.

    • tsmog profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Mitchell 

      2 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you Teaches12345! I agree with Senior Citizens too. Many and all may benefit from its therapeutic values. I know I do. I just finished a little over 2 hours of quiet time coloring with a cup'pa tea. Nice!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      2 years ago

      I do believe adult coloring activities fall under art therapy for many. It would be a wonderful way to help our senior citizens strengthen their intelligence. Very well written post.

    • tsmog profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Mitchell 

      2 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you Laurinzo and Frank for stopping by :-) Seems we may be coming out of the closet sort to speak. I think from comments we all gain each our own discoveries and blessings from this activity. I am so glad a Very Dearest Best friend the author/illustrator of the book recommended introduced me to it. I find it comforting and discover solutions to challenges too. I hope and wish your adventures with coloring brings those too.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      2 years ago from Shelton

      What a very well written hub... I secretly color too.. brings out the creative juices in me.. I think..

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      LJ Scott 

      2 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Hey... I have secretly enjoyed coloring for many of my adult years... thank God I am not alone and that is as fun to may as it is to me... WOW... great article and subject!!!!

    • tsmog profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Mitchell 

      2 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you PegCole17, tlcs, always exploring, and savvydating for your awesome comments. They brought a most wonderful smile to me this Monday morning :-) I think consideration of coloring as an activity will be time well spent. The bonuses of therapeutic values is amazing for me and I hope with your adventures. It helps bring calm and clarity for me.

    • savvydating profile image


      2 years ago

      What a lovely hub. I recently told someone that I would like a coloring book and nice pencils for Christmas. When I was a little kid, I loved coloring and I have a feeling that nothing has changed. Lol. But seriously, what better way to relax and let the mind flow. Thanks for mentioning the therapeutic benefits of coloring. I look forward to getting started!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This was such a joy to read. My granddaughter, Lisa gave me a coloring book and pencils for Christmas, and I must say that I love coloring. I spend so much time on the computer, it's a nice change, and you can design a lovely picture. I have a niece who is bipolar, and I will certainly buy her one. Thank you for sharing...

    • tlcs profile image

      Trudy Cooper 

      2 years ago from Hampshire, UK

      Very interesting read and so true. I find colouring very pheraputic and am able to drift away in to my own private space, a little like writing, I get the same feeling. Well done tsmog good read.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      This interesting trend brings back memories of simpler times before the onslaught of technological devices that tend to inhibit creativity. I can imagine this hobby would reduce levels of anxiety and stress, as you described. You did a marvelous job of coloring the page from Sannel's latest talented release and in describing the history and benefits of the activity. I eagerly await my copy of her new coloring book for adults.


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