Forget video games and tech in general, adult coloring books are the latest way to relax

adult coloring books on social networks lost ocean johanna basford
Johanna Basford/Facebook
At the end of a difficult day, what’s better than a game of Fallout Shelter on your phone, watching a video on your tablet, or just trawling the Internet for pictures of cats? Apparently, coloring books are, and not ones for children either. Adult coloring books are the latest, and definitely least techy, method that people are choosing to help relax. However, despite the low-tech appeal, the trend is just as prevalent on social media as it is in bookstores.

How popular are they? According to the Associated Press, in the past week eight of the top 20 books on Amazon’s best-seller list have been adult coloring books, and a spokesman for a publisher specializing in the titles said, “We cannot print them fast enough, we are getting orders of 60,000 at one time from some of our biggest retailers.” Dover Publishing told the New Yorker that it hasn’t “seen a phenomenon like it in our 30 years of publishing.”

A check of amazon.com reveals four adult coloring books in the top 11 best selling book list, and on amazon.co.uk, there is one in the top three, right behind Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and To Kill A Mockingbird. One name which appears on both lists is Johanna Basford, a 31-year old artist from the UK whose Secret Garden book as sold 1.5 million copies.

#jardimsecreto #florestaencantada A photo posted by Cleito Cabral (@cleitocabral) on

The non-tech aspect of the coloring in book extends to Basford’s creation of the beautiful, intricate pictures. Rather than create them digitally on a computer or tablet, she told slate.com she “prefers pens and pencils to pixels,” and admits that she’s not one for using computers at all. In an interview with the Mirror, she said “Computer generated graphics can feel cold and soulless whereas hand drawing captures a sense of energy and character which no pixel can ever replicate.” There’s no arguing that the monochrome results are staggering.

However, just because adult coloring books are a distinctly analog, tactile pastime that don’t require ownership of a particular brand of smartphone, or an ongoing subscription to unlock the next picture, doesn’t mean it’s not taking the online world by storm. Just like photos taken with our phones, images of both bare and complete coloring pictures are quickly being spread over social networks.

There are thousands of results related to coloring books on Pinterest, and almost all are shared by adults, about adult books. There are YouTube channels dedicated to hints, tips, and tutorials based on these astonishingly complex pictures. Johanna Basford has nearly 80,000 followers on her Facebook page, and on Twitter, many people share examples of their completed masterpieces.

It’s much the same on Tumblr, and hashtags like #adultcoloringbook and #adultcoloring have tens of thousands of associated images on Instagram. Korean singer Kim Ki-bum, better known as Key, attracted more than 130,000 likes when he shared his own coloring-in efforts, proving its international appeal.

A photo posted by 범키범 (@bumkeyk) on

If you’re tempted to give the adult coloring thing a try, but don’t have a set of pencils, pens, or even crayons handy, don’t worry, there are even apps which capitalize on the trend, with the recently launched Colorfy for iOS a perfect example. However, don’t go sharing the pictures in certain circles, because we doubt adult coloring purists will look at them very favorably.

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