Adult colouring books are gaining popularity, here’s why

  • Meenakshi Iyer, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 12, 2016 11:14 IST
Characterised by intricate designs, psychedelic patterns and meditative forms, adult colouring books are a popular trend in the west, and are gaining fans in the country too. (Photo: Beauty Needs Space)

Twenty eight-year-old market researcher Averee Burman was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (a rheumatic condition that affects the muscles) last year. To get better, along with a healthy dose of medication, she took up colouring. “The main reason for my condition was stress. I had to learn to be happy and positive. It was a bit of soul-searching to understand the triggers of my happiness and cut down consciously on despair,” she says. And what else can trigger happiness than going back to being a child again?

Characterised by intricate designs, psychedelic patterns and meditative forms, adult colouring books are a popular trend in the west, and are gaining fans in the country too. Grown-ups are happy to trade their cellphones for colouring pencils. Last year, publishers were surprised to notice an uptick in the sales of adult colouring books, led by Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford’s titles Secret Garden (2013), Enchanted Forest (2014) and Lost Ocean (2015). So far, Basford has sold 15 million copies worldwide.

Crayons and sketch pens

To fuel this craze, Bengaluru-based illustrator and children’s books author Indu Harikumar released her first colouring book, Beauty Needs Space, in August last year. The initial print of 200 copies sold out, and Harikumar is already in the process of reprinting 500 more. “I get a lot of emails from people telling me about their lives and personal stories. This one girl said that she never got anything beyond a C grade in drawing class in school. We all want to be perfect. Colouring was her way of sharing her talent,” says Harikumar. The artist is now working on her next: a colouring book based on the Kama Sutra.

There’s a colouring book on every imaginable theme — nature, mandalas, indie rock, Game of Thrones, and one even on swear words with illustrated typography. Last month, popular stationery brand Moleskin teamed up with award-winning illustrator Carlo Stanga to release its first adult colouring book based on intricate cityscapes.

An artwork from artist Kanika Jain Gupta’s colouring book (Photo: Happiest Colouring Book)

Messages inspired by nature, intricately drawn snowflakes, jellyfish, mountains and trees will feature in graphic designer Kanika Jain Gupta’s upcoming colouring book. Titled Lessons From Mother Nature, the book has been approved by a therapist who considers affirmations as a form of positive reinforcement. “For instance, one of the illustrations reads “I am unique” and has snowflakes designed around it because no two snowflakes are alike,” says 32-year-old Gupta. Priced at `540, the 13 artworks are based on similar facts inspired by nature. Currently, Jain is in conversation with Tihar jail officials to conceptualise a colouring book for inmates.

Therapy at work

It’s not just Gupta who believes in the therapeutic powers of colouring. Stuti Agarwalla, founder of Macaroni Media, a city-based brand consultancy, printed a few sheets of illustrations for her co-workers. “Colouring is something we all associate with our childhood. At work, it helps us de-stress after a long day and get energised,” says Agarwalla. And, it’s a plus that you get to flaunt your creations proudly on the soft board.

An artwork put up at Macaroni Media’s office.

“The joy of seeing something plain and simple transform into art helps foster a sense of achievement,” asserts 26-year-old lawyer Ayesha Khan, who recently finished The Magical City by illustrator Lizzie Mary Cullen and has taken up doodling as she contemplates her next purchase.

At Kala Ghoda’s 145, an all-day bar and café, your colouring abilities could win you a free pint of beer or a cocktail. The menu here features a few illustrated pages, a few plain sheets of paper, and every table is provided with a bunch of sketch pens. “We wanted to add a fun element to the place. We want to encourage people to be able to entertain themselves while waiting for their food or keep them busy if they come alone,” says owner Ishaan Bahl.

Digital doodles

Call it immersive, meditative, relaxing or therapeutic, colouring has sure caught the fancy of grown-ups and some have taken their artwork digital. With tonnes of colouring apps available, commutes to work and leisure TV viewing time for a few is peppered with tapping on their phones trying to fill colours in geometric patterns. “To me, it’s like a drug. I need my daily dose of colouring on the app to help de-stress,” says 24-year-old management trainee Prachi Vichare.

An artwork from Indu Harikumar’s first colouring book, Beauty Needs Space (Photo: Beauty Needs Space)

For Sulagna Chakraborty, a 25-year-old student — who picked up colouring at an event in the US — these artistic experiments often end up featuring as part of her home décor. Burman, who is planning to buy The Mindfulness Colouring book soon says, “Colouring is a great stress buster that makes oxytocin fly happily through all my cells producing waves of gleeful nostalgia.” So, have you picked up a colouring book yet?

Adult colouring books to pick

Lost Ocean: Johanna Basford’s illustrations take colouring enthusiasts beneath the waves into the world of exotic fish and coral.

Available on:

The Magical City: A book of illustrations on the intricacies of cities — soaring skyscrapers, cobbled pavements and skies.

Available on:

The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress art therapy for busy people: A pocket-sized colouring book of scenes and patterns.

Available on:

Lessons From Mother Nature: A colouring book by Kanika Jain Gupta inspired by nature.

To pre-order:

Beauty Needs Space: Illustrator Indu Harikumar’s colouring book on meditative patterns.

To order:

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