The Adult Colouring Craze
You’ve probably heard about the adult colouring craze. You’ve probably even seen adult colouring books in your supermarket, local bookstore or discount store and discovered tons of pencils and other colourful accessories in various gift shops or online. But what is adult colouring all about? Does it help to calm you? How are you supposed to go about it, and what supplies do you need to do it? In this blog we explore adult colouring as an exciting new medium that anyone can give a go. But adult colouring can also become very involved and almost a precise art, as most avid ‘adult colourists’ will tell you!
When Did It All Begin?
You might be surprised to hear that ‘colouring in’ as an art form is not that old. The first colouring book was released in 1879 titled ‘The Little Folks Painting Book’. The line work was created by Kate Greenaway and was an immediate success. Soon enough, paint books and colouring books began to emerge in the U.S. and Great Britain, inspired by a series of lectures by British artist Joshua Reynolds and the works of Swiss educator Johann Pestalozzi. Both Reynolds and Pestalozzi felt that students of all ages stood to benefit from art education as a means to developing cognitive abilities and conceptual creative thinking. The adult colouring craze as we know it really took off several years ago in France when women began to colour in en masse for health reasons, and with the modern influence of social media, what was once considered mainly an art for children became a global movement.
A Calming Influence
One of the main reasons adult colouring has become so popular today is that the practice appears to relieve tension and anxiety. People from all walks of life are coming home from stressful jobs and colouring in to achieve relaxation through mindfulness. Colouring is also used in therapy sessions and in some rehabilitation programs. Customers asking after certain titles in bookstores have often been advised to do so by counsellors or therapists. In fact, so popular are the ‘anti-stress’ qualities of colouring that colouring books have begun outselling cookery books on Amazon and adult colouring sets have become popular ‘go-to gifts’ for friends.
I’m Not a Colour Expert – How Do I Start?
As with all art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so there is no wrong way to do adult colouring. It is a good idea, however to determine the theme (e.g. floral = spring colours) and then select a palette of colours to work with (see our Colour Theory and Mixing Tips for some ideas on colour selection and mixing). There are a myriad of colour palette options you could create based on season (e.g. Spring/Autumn), location (e.g. ocean/jungle) and other cultural theme influences (e.g. tribal/mandala/gothic). ‘Creative license’ is what makes adult colouring fun and some colourists even go in ‘blindfolded’ – so to speak – and just pick up any colour, completely letting spontaneity to take over, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Popular Adult Colouring Techniques
So if we determine our theme and pick a colour palette we have adult colouring down pat right? Well…we did warn you that adult colouring can become a very precise art depending on how far you want to go! Common adult colouring techniques include:
Tinting the Page – this is done with pastel pencils by scraping pigment onto the page and gently rubbing it over the surface with your finger or paper stump. This allows for use as a pastel, creating soft blends.
Colour Blending – this involves bringing colours together so they transition into one another, bringing realism and adding interest to your work.
Theoretical Colour Grouping – this basically means selecting colours that work together on the colour wheel. A good colour wheel will help you select complimentary colours.
Cross Hatching – involves filling the spaces to be coloured with fine line work at differing angles. This creates a complex patterned effect that is interesting to look at.
Take a look at our lesson on How to Get the Most from Colouring In to explore these techniques.
What Art Materials Can Be Used for Adult Colouring?
Any art medium that makes a mark can be used in adult colouring, but there are some materials that are more effective and popular than others:
Wax Colour Pencils – these are the most popular medium to use and are good for a number of reasons. They are relatively cheap, easy to find, and are available in a huge range of colours and hues. They also sharpen to a very fine tip, allowing for precision, and are compatible with other wax pencils, regardless of brand. The quality of the pencil can impact the brightness and consistency of your work, however. Wax pencils can be removed to a certain extent with a good quality eraser. See our suggestions for colouring pencils or check out our tips on How to Make the Most out of Your Pencils.
Pastel Pencils – pastel pencils are great to use for their soft shades and muted tones, but they do work differently to wax pencils. Instead of a pigment that marks the paper surface, the pigment catches on the tooth of the paper, sitting on the surface. While this bond is not as tenacious, pastels are easily blended enabling colour vignettes and soft tones, and fixatives can be used to preserve work. Many colourists like to create soft backgrounds with pastel pencils and then go over the top with wax pencils. Pastel pencils can almost be totally erased (using an electric eraser or a polyvinyl eraser), but are very soft and need to be constantly sharpened for fine colouring. See our suggestions for pastel pencils.
Watercolour Pencils – Not content with traditional wax pencils or pastel pencils, some adult colourists are opting for watercolour pencils to create soft, colourful and fluid pieces. When using watercolour pencils, care should be taken to ensure the amount of water used does not compromise the page, as most adult colouring papers are not designed for watercolours. Good quality watercolour pencils provide even amounts of pigment and crisp, clean colours. Watercolour accessories such as water brushes (brushes you can fill with water) are popular for no-dip watercolour work.
Marker Pens – markers and felt tip pens have made quite the resurgence in colouring, and can be used to great effect. They are strong and vibrant, and can feature a number of different tip sizes for a variety of effects – from fine detailed tips to thicker tips for colour blocking. Marker pens can also be found with brush tips that give the user the ability to vary the line weight, depending on how much pressure is used. Specialised adult colouring markers are also available, often featuring duo tips for both fine and brush work. Remember that markers are permanent, and they contain an aqueous ink that penetrates the sheet. It is possible to ‘overwork’ an area resulting in the surface of the paper to pill.
Paint – paint can be used for colouring, but be aware that most colouring books contain paper that has not been prepared with an appropriate size to provide body and seal it. You can counteract this by ensuring that paint coats are not applied too liberally, as the sheet can buckle and sustain surface damage. All paints except oil-based paints are suitable. If using another design surface such as an adult colouring canvas, paint, pens or markers can be used with great success.
Finally, remember that adult colouring is all about experimentation and you will work out what works for you. So if you haven’t tried colouring yet, give it a go, you just may enjoy it.
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