Almost everyone has some memory of coloring as a child. The creative pastime has been a popular way to captivate the imaginations of young boys and girls and fine-tune motor skills since before 1879, when the McLoughlin Brothers introduced the world to its Little Folks Painting Book. Now, more than 100 years later, coloring books are more prevalent than ever, with a push for older generations to get back to the simplistic, artistic roots of their youth with the best adult coloring books.
What are the benefits of adult coloring books?
Though coloring books for adults began to circulate more widely in the 1960s as objects of satire, they wouldn’t become mainstream until the early 2010s, when people began to view them as therapeutic.
Coloring for adults may have a number of positive effects on the mind and the psyche. Namely? Reducing anxiety and staying present. “Coloring definitely has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus, or bring [about] more mindfulness,” Marygrace Berberian, a certified art therapist and the Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at NYU, told CNN.
Berberian’s claims have been backed by plenty of research. A 2005 study published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that coloring a plaid design or a mandala (an intricate spiritual symbol found in Hinduism and Buddhism practices), decreased anxiety after about 20 minutes.
A 2006 study from Psycho-Oncology showed that after coloring, female cancer patients “demonstrated a significant decrease in symptoms of distress … and significant improvements in key aspects of health-related quality of life.”
Berberian said that these findings may be especially true for closed-off individuals. “My experience has been that those participants who are more guarded find a lot of tranquility in coloring an image. It feels safer and it creates containment around their process,” she told CNN.
What’s more, adult coloring may enhance an increase in self-efficacy, creative agency, and openness to art therapy, as discovered by a 2017 study out of Drexel University.
“Adult coloring … is a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves,” explained clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea, Psy.D., to the Cleveland Clinic Medical Center. “In the same way, cutting the lawn, knitting, or taking a Sunday drive can all be relaxing.”
What is the best adult coloring book?
With adult coloring book options now available for practically every interest, every purpose, and every experience level, you’ll be hard-pressed to go awry when shopping for these stress-relieving finds. Still, we’ve gone ahead and done the legwork of sussing out the best-of-the-best for your personal needs.
Read on for Woman’s World’s picks for the best adult coloring books money can buy.
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Best Coloring Book for Beginners
Adult Coloring Book: Stress-Relieving Designs
Where to buy: $6.40, Amazon
Plenty of clinically-soothing mandela patterns can be found within the leaves of this large assortment of drawings, and each one has been specifically designed to relax and inspire. Printed on single, one-sided sheets you can easily tear sheets from the book to frame your work. The sketches also feature varying degrees of difficulty, making them just as workable for a coloring novice as they are for longtime experts.
Though purchasers note that these pages are thin, 78 percent of the more than 1,800 Amazon reviewers were pleased with this purchase. “Some are more difficult than others, but the easier ones give you the chance to hone your coloring skills,” wrote one coloring newbie.
Best Adult Coloring Book of Art
The Bob Ross Coloring Book
Where to buy: $15.26 (Originally $16.95), Barnes & Noble
From 1983 to 1994, the American painter and art instructor Bob Ross captivated us all with his work as the host of The Joy of Painting. Though he passed away in 1995, you can honor his legacy — and the love of art he inspired — with this exclusively-authorized collection of coloring outlines crafted from Ross’ own paintings. More than just the 75 drawings you’ll receive in this assemblage, you’ll get a piece of Ross himself, with reprints of his famous quotes and catchphrases and a gallery of his artwork also found within.
Best Travel Adult Coloring Book
The Mindfulness Adult Coloring Book
Where to buy: $7.74, Amazon
Coloring as an adult is all about taking a respite from the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and no book embodies that spirit more than this The Mindfulness Coloring Book from Emma Farrarons. Pocket-sized for convenience and chock-full of 70 complex patterns featuring nature’s leaves, rolling waves, butterflies, and more, this best-selling book will help you to feel more calm in no time. Just ask its raving critics, who praise Farrarons’ work for being “detailed-yet-meditative” with “high-quality” paper.
"I struggle to meditate, but automatically get in 'the zone' while using this book," one happy buyer wrote, adding, "I have used several different coloring books for adults, and this is by far the best."
Best Cat Adult Coloring Book
A Million Cats: Fabulous Felines to Color
Where to buy: $9.95, Barnes & Noble
Embrace your inner cat lady as you fill in the lines of the varying felines that span the 64 pages of this coloring book. While these fun and quirky illustrations will appeal to colorers of all ages, customers report that its “Drawings are very detailed,” and that some include “many intricate and small areas to color,” making it just right for older artists looking for a bit of a challenge. Each design also features multiple cats, ensuring that you won’t run out of material anytime soon.
Best Adult Stress Coloring Book
Turtle Illustrations Health & Wellness
Where to buy: $11.38, Walmart
This interactive book from Turtle Illustrations is much more than a coloring book — it’s a journey into your inner psyche. With 162 pages that have been thoughtfully curated by clinical therapist Courtney Wegner to guide you in a meditative journey, you'll encounter a mixture of writing and coloring pages that will work as personal directives, ultimately allowing you to achieve your own personal creative nirvana. Ohm!
Best Disney Adult Coloring Book
Disney Dreams Collection Thomas Kincade Studios
Where to buy: $8.43, Amazon
Who says Disney is just for kids? If you’re a fan of the old classics, such as Cinderella, Fantasia, and Snow White, this is definitely the adult coloring book for you. Featuring 63 ready-to-shade pages from the Disney Dreams Collection — a famed re-imagination of some of Walt Disney’s most beloved animated characters — this nostalgic find will transport you back to magical days of yore as you color in your favorite princesses and princes, Disney villains, and more.
Best Large Adult Coloring Book
The Calm Coloring Book: Lovely Images to Set Your Imagination Free
Where to buy: $11.62, Target
Going to be stuck inside for awhile? Check out the The Calm Coloring Book. As the largest collection of the bunch, it features a whopping 256 pages to work on, making it easy to lose yourself — and your stress! — in its fun, soothing drawings. Featuring luxe paper that will withstand coloring mediums other than crayon, you can find your bliss without worry that the color will bleed or that pages will tear. Take it from Target shoppers, 100 percent of which said they would recommend this product to others — this is one buy you won't regret!
Best Hard Adult Coloring Book
Creative Haven Whimsical Gardens Adult Coloring Book
Where to buy: $5.99, Barnes & Noble
Like to garden? Then this niche publication, filled with 31 of artist Alexandra Cowell’s floral and plant-themed illustrations, is for you — particularly if you happen to be an artiste! Designed specifically for a more experienced eye, this book ensures that shading in Cowell’s deeply involved gardens won’t be a bore, even for the most practiced of colorers. Pages are also perforated for easy, displayable removal.
Best Literary Coloring Book
Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book
Where to buy: $13.46 (Originally $14.95), Barnes & Noble
With this spooky compilation of illustrations from Odessa Begay, which outlines some of literary great Edgar Allan Poe’s most well-known works, "Nevermore" will you be without an outlet to relieve your anxiety. From The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat to The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven, you can relive Poe’s spooky tales as you color in the scenes from each and every story, all of which come with an accompanying excerpt.
Best Fashion Coloring Book
Yves Saint Lauren Personalized
Where to buy: $52 (Originally $65), Neiman Marcus
Fashion lovers will delight in this personalized coloring book featuring the work of iconic French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent. Not only will you be bringing unpublished, never-before-seen designs to life with your coloring, your work will be bound in a genuine saffiano leather book that can be monogrammed with your initials.
Best Printable Adult Coloring Book
15 Affirmations Positive Affirmations
Where to buy: $3, Etsy
Take your ingenuity to new heights with this instantly-downloadable coloring book full of positive affirmations. Not only will you get to choose which type of art paper you’d like to do your work on (card stock, for example, is recommended for those working with markers), you’ll be reminded to “Dream Big,” “Shoot for the Stars,” and “Have Hope,” as you fill in the lines of the calming shapes surrounding these uplifting declarations.
Etsy customers are big fans of this hand-drawn book, writing, “Great book for break-ups. Love coloring out my feelings on these pages,” and “Fun and beautiful!”
Best Sticker Adult Coloring Book
Paint by Sticker
Where to buy: $9.98, Target
OK, so this one's not exactly a coloring book, per se, but it's still a great way to take your mind off the present as you focus on content creation. Unlike traditional models, paint by sticker books, like this one from Workman Publishing, work similarly to puzzles. Simply place the included stickers onto corresponding numbered slots for each design. The end result is a cool, 3D-looking piece that mimics real-life paintings and can easily be torn out for easy display.