Opus Resource Library
Just Add Colour! Discover the Joys of Colouring
Opus Resource Library

Colouring books have grown up!

A relaxing, therapeutic, and remarkably fun activity, colouring books have made a comeback with adults worldwide.

In mid-2014, the reports of a new creative trend began to emerge. Adults were picking up pencil crayons, markers, and more, using them to spend hours on an activity normally reserved for children: colouring.

What they were colouring in, however, were not the simple forms found in publications aimed at children. A new wave of intricate designs requiring the steady hand of an adult had begun sweeping its way across the world. Adult colouring books are not new, but the widespread popularity they are enjoying is.

It appears to be a response to a world that is always vying for our attention, offering the welcome reprieve of a fairly undemanding activity that gives us an opportunity to be present and connect with an artistic activity that brought us pleasure as children.

Two women sit at a table together colouring
Artists Sandeep Johal and Crissy Arseneau take a moment out to socialize and colour (2015)

At the turn of the 20th century, Carl Jung introduced the Western public to mandalas, recommending colouring them as a way to promote focus and to let the subconscious go. That idea is being echoed today with colouring being looked at as relaxing, even as therapeutic. When French publishers added the words “art therapy” and “anti-stress” to several colouring book titles, a phenomenon was born, with over 3.5 million books sold in their country.

In North America and the UK, the book that is propelling colouring into the popular consciousness is Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book. The British publishing house, Laurence King, approached this well–known illustrator to create a children’s colouring book, and it was she who suggested a book for adults. They agreed, and 13,000 copies of Secret Garden were published in early 2013.

An artists hand holds a marker in preparation for colouring

In October 2014, Ms. Basford announced that the book had sold 200,000 copies. That number rose to 1 million in January of the following year and by September 1, 2015 it had reached a staggering 6.8 million copies sold worldwide! While Secret Garden is certainly the front runner in the category, it is not alone. A multitude of artists have been inspired and are sharing their own illustrations as books and free downloads.

We’ve seen trends similar to this in the past — all the Paint-By-Numbers paintings in vintage stores attest to that. Yet, while those kits offered adults a chance to get a feel for what it was like to move paint across a surface with a brush, “by-numbers” meant the creative decision-making was out of their hands.

A couple of colouring sheets partially coloured with bright colours

Why you should try colouring

Where is the creative decision-making in colouring in someone else’s illustration? By removing the “What should I draw?” or even “I can’t draw!” from the equation, you can jump right into selecting colour and experimenting with your materials.

For those who haven’t honed their own drawing abilities, it’s a beautiful way to begin to explore their creativity through colour, to get to know their materials on work that isn’t precious. For others who have demonstrated illustration skills, it allows them to unofficially collaborate with another artist, perhaps even becoming aware of their creative choices and allowing that to positively influence their own work.

Colouring has become a wonderful creative outlet for millions, as adults the world over are discovering how it can improve your focus, allow for moments of relaxation and connection, and that it’s a perfect way to experiment with a host of materials.

Give it a try for yourself with free printable colouring pages (below), great for all ages! 

colouring sheet with a Line drawing of a deer with moths flying nearby
by Kyrra Kosar 

Download a Free Colouring Page!

We invite you to pick up your markers, coloured pencils, and more, download our free colouring sheets and just add colour! The colouring sheets below are great for artists of all ages – from kids on spring or summer break to adults looking for a meditative activity to chill out with – download and print them out, pick up your favourite colouring tools and begin! 

Many of the colouring sheets below are illustrated by Opus staff members past and present – our staff are artists, too – and are a great resource to help you get started on your creative journey, from colouring to painting and much more!

Creativity Makes The World Go Round

Start simple with a motivational colouring sheet! Or take it to the next level and add more designs or drawings within the text and shapes.

Creativity makes the world go round colouring sheet.

Faber-Castell Cats

Cats galore! Create colourful chaos with this furry bunch – what colours are your dream cats? This colouring sheet is from our friends at Faber-Castell. 

cats colouring sheet

Opus Art Supplies

Get inspired by our favourites — art supplies! This illustration was created by former Opus Staff member, Brianne Tweddle.

art supplies colouring sheet

Pigeon & Pizza

Add punchy colours to these Pizza lovin Pigeons! This illustration was created by former Opus Staff Member, Nicole Pinkerton.

pigeon pizza parlour colouring sheet

Deer & Moths

Dreamy deer and moths to delight your colouring senses - will you enlist natural colours, or something other-worldly? This illustration is by Opus Staff Member Kyrra Kosar.

deer and moths colouring sheet

Victoria's Chinatown

Take a colourful trip to Victoria's Chinatown! With loads of cool details to colour in, this colouring sheet brings hours of focus and fun. This illustration was created by former Opus Staff member, Kris Parley.

chinatown colouring sheet

Creativity Takes Courage

We know you've got the courage to be creative because you're here on the Opus website... but maybe this is a good reminder the days its not so easy to muster up your creative spark. Enjoy a meditative colouring session with this colouring sheet from our friends over at Faber-Castell.

creativity takes courage colouring sheet

Today Is Going To Be Awesome

Let every day be awesome! Adding colouring to each day will definitely help with that plan. This uplifting colouring sheet is from our friends at Faber-Castell.

today is going to be awesome colouring sheet

Looking for More? Explore our selection of Colouring Books

Colouring books aren't just for kids these days – there are books designed specifically for adults that just want to take a moment to themselves with an off-screen activity

These books have wonderful illustrations, and some, like the ones from Pepin Press, even have their designs printed on fine art paper that will take different kinds of media like water-soluble coloured pencils and even watercolours. 

Excellent Coloured Pencils

Taking colouring to the next level

Don’t want to colour in someone else’s drawing? Pick up a pencil, or a pen or paintbrush, and begin creating your own Secret Garden, whatever that looks like for you.

Looking for further inspiration? Watch our video Just Add Colour (below) featuring Vancouver artist Sandeep Johal. We joined her in her home studio in 2015 to discuss the colouring craze.