The Explosion

Adults across the world are suddenly going crazy over coloring. This traditional childhood play pastime leapfrogged over biographies, histories, and politics to the top of the bestseller lists Publishers promoted sales by offering a wide imaginative range of books, some by well known illustrators. In 2013, Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford published The Secret Garden. Her initial printing of 16,000 books blew up to nearly six million. Some think Brasford’s book triggered the craze. Since that explosion, coloring books have become big business — publishers say the market crosses age, gender, and geographical boundaries. Sophisticated, detailed drawings of mandalas, graceful swirling flowers, hearts and animals, created in every imaginable style, fill inexpensive ($3.99 to $25.00) books. The topics are traditional and R-rated (see list).

Relax and Create

My favorite supermarket checker introduced me to her co-worker. I asked her to tell me why she colors. Her intense answer surprised me. Looking serious, Patty said, “It’s therapeutic! I can’t turn off my mind. If I walk down a grocery aisle and spot an empty box, I think about things to do with it. It’s hard to let it go. It’s constant and endless. I discovered coloring a long time ago.  Before the trend. It is the only way I can turn my mind off and calm down.” Patty came across a way to unstress her own mind, a way that seems to have no negative side effects. She could have found destructive methods, such as alcohol, street drugs, or prescription drugs. Counselors teach their anxious clients to calm themselves with behavioral methods, such as mindfulness, deep breathing, affirmations, music, and physical activity. Coloring places a new, easily used tool in the stress lowering tool box. Coloring takes you away from worries and a chattering mind. Some say coloring is a creative venture without the need for artistic flair or skill. Canadian artist Steve McDonald offers incomplete drawings for his “partners” to finish. This process is exciting to him. The coloring boom is inspiring artists to think “outside the lines.”

Comments from the internet:

  • “Coloring takes me into my imagination.”
  • “I can focus better in class.”
  • “It’s meditative.”
  • “It’s satisfying.”
  • “It settles my jitteriness.”
  • “My concerns fade to nothing.”


Coloring alters the mind, the body and the emotions. All three are tightly woven together. Relief in one area helps the two others. Art therapy developed as a specialty to aid talk therapy, and lets patients express emotions that are difficult to put into words. Painting and collage help release current pressures and past traumas. Coloring may or may not be art, but it works in a similar way. Neuroscientific research shows the brain can physically change, grow and rejuvenate. Coloring has a predictable outcome which combines with repetitive motion. The heart rate gradually slows and the brain waves change. Negative emotional responses seem to be blocked during coloring. Therapists use coloring to assist in the treatment of cancer patients who feel overwhelmed. The fearful helpless emotions get a bit of a rest.   Even in Bellingham, a low-stress, nature-loving city, people feel pressure from work, family, and internally. When they mix and match colors, they stimulate their senses, develop vision, and use their fine motor skills. At the same time, coloring soothes anxiety symptoms like worry, restlessness, and insomnia. The mind and emotions quiet.

Unplugged Fun

A poetry group recently walked into Pure Bliss Desserts, and they could not miss seeing several women laughing, talking, and coloring at a table together. Coloring clubs, coloring parties, and even coloring in bars are all the rage. The gatherings make sweet companionship, not so different from quilting bees or knitting together. You can color with your kids or with a sick friend. If you want to get back to something a little more hands-on or if you want to step away from the digital world, you can color.


  • architecture
  • hipster
  • skate boarding
  • history
  • tanks
  • classic cars
  • celebrities
  • airplanes
  • Kama Sutra
  • rap
  • fashion
  • botanicals


  • Art of Nature
  • Dreamcatcher
  • Color Me Calm
  • Mindfulness Coloring Book
  • Animal Kingdom
  • The Tatoo Coloring Book
  • The Big Little Girls Coloring Book
  • The Badass Feminist Coloring Book
  • Fantastic Cities
  • Coloring Notebook

Whether you choose pens or crayons, pastels or paints, enjoy the relaxation and focus that coloring can bring you.

"Coloring alters the mind, the body and the emotions. All three are tightly woven together. Relief in one area helps the two others."