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Colouring books for adults are hugely popular: people are using the books as a way to go offline and de-stress, and not just locally. The biggest non-fiction book of 2015 in China was a colouring book for adults, and colouring books are reported to be outselling cookbooks in France.
Colouring is meditative—it allows us to mindfully focus on one thing at a time, to steer clear of stress-causing distractions. The benefits of the practice are being espoused by the Mayo Clinic and have been endorsed by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). They’re even being used by the American Wounded Warrior program, as part of group therapy for veterans struggling with PTSD.
Whether you’re already a colouring aficionado or you’re just thinking of giving it a try, here are a few of the best books available, and what they have to offer.
In colouring books you’ll see a lot of repeated patterns. The sense of accomplishment comes not only from filling in space with the appropriate (or inappropriate) colour, it’s in the process and repeated motion. The publisher recommended by the AATA is Dover. Their book called Creative Haven Snowflake Mandalas Coloring Book is full of gorgeous and intricate repeating snowflake and mandala designs, which can be soothing to draw. And it’s available for less than $10 in Canada.
That big-selling colouring book in China also topped Amazon bestseller lists here and in the UK, and has been translated into 22 languages. It’s called Secret Garden by 31-year-old Scottish illustrator Joanna Basford, and features 96 pages of black and white floral and fantasy drawings. Her follow-up books include Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean.
Australian cognitive neuroscientist Stan Rodski has published his own line of anti-stress colouring books, aiming to encourage mindfulness in the workplace. He says he finds many of his patients who struggle with yoga or meditation will achieve a deep sense of relaxation through colouring geometric shapes, which it has been suggested stirs childhood memories of doing the same. If you order one of his books online they come with colouring pencils—preferred over crayons for adults, where precision is understood to be more satisfying. In March, Rodski’s Brain Science: Colourtation will be available in Canada.
Depicting images of far-away places is a whole subset of colouring books, and Shan Jiang’s The Bicycle Colouring Book: Journey To The Edge of the World is one of the best. It imagines a riderless bike in illustrations that suggest both Japanese anime and French science fiction. It will be available in Canada in April.
Colouring books are now available inspired by almost every fantasy subculture you can think of, from Doctor Who to Game of Thrones. But if you find Benedict Cumberbatch and the BBC’s Sherlock your cup of tea, it’s entirely possible Sherlock: The Mind Palace colouring book will suit you.
Your turn: Share your favourite colouring book in the comment section below.