Feel stressed? Need a new creative outlet?
It may be time to reclaim your favorite childhood hobby and pick up an adult coloring book!
Adult coloring books offer a great way to boost your creativity, ease anxiety, and relax after a long day or a stressful work week. They’re also helpful for when you want to disconnect from the noise of modern living.
But with the thousands of titles available for every adult coloring book you could imagine, how can you choose the best one?
Whether you’ve just stepped into the world of adult coloring or are searching for the best books to add to your growing collection, you’ve come to the right place!
We’ve rounded up some of the best coloring books for grownups today.
Let’s dive right in.
The Best Coloring Books for Adults at a Glance
How We Did Our Review
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, here’s a quick look at how we did our testing process.
First, we scoured the interwebs to find the most recommended coloring books by the adult coloring community. We dug through tons of reviews and testimonials and even visited our local bookshops to find out the best titles before narrowing down our list to the top 8.
We gotta say, there are a LOT of coloring books on the market today and to say that we had a tough time compiling this list would be an understatement! Still, we managed to come up with a diverse list of titles that we think will appeal to various colorists, from newbies to the most seasoned artists.
We then cataloged each book’s features as well as our first impressions. In particular, we looked at the book’s paper quality and construction, and also reviewed the illustrations to determine who they’re best suited for.
Next, we picked a drawing from each book and had a field day coloring the pages using different tools. We used ColorIt colored pencils, glitter gel pens, alcohol-based markers, and watercolor brush pens to find out which medium works best for the design and paper. We also wanted to see whether the illustration’s ink/printing would suffer any smudging with any medium we use.
Finally, we considered our overall coloring experience. After all, coloring isn’t a mere hobby, but a practice that offers a wide range of benefits for adults, including helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
So based on our review and testing, here are the best adult coloring books you can get your hands on today:
Mandalas to Color Book I by ColorIt
Mandalas to Color Book I is the second coloring book released by ColorIt. It’s ranked a perfect 5 out of 5 stars in various sites and has consistently become one of our best-selling books.As a pioneer in premium adult coloring books, we believe that Mandalas to Color has captured the attention of newbie and seasoned colorists alike because it comes with all the right features: hardback covers, hand-drawn illustrations, spiral binding with a lay-flat design, and artist quality paper.
Still, we wanted to look at our coloring book from the eyes of our consumers and understand what exactly makes it one of the best on the market as well as find out if there are areas we need to improve on. So we put our objective caps on and tested this book right alongside the others.
The first time you get your hands on the Mandalas to Color Book I, you’ll immediately know that this is miles away from the coloring books we know from our childhood! There are so many things that make this book unique.
First, its hard-back covers allow for on-the-go coloring without the need for a hard surface. It features top spiral binding, which means both right- and left-handed colorists can finally color every page with ease without having to bend the book.
The pages are also perforated, so if you want to frame your masterpiece or give it to a friend, you can quickly remove it without ruining the page. Plus, with its free blotter paper, you won’t have to worry about the markers bleeding through the next page (spoiler alert: the markers don’t bleed through the next page even without using a blotter paper. But more on that later).
Perhaps the only issue we see is that this book can be quite heavy to lug around when traveling. It measures 12 x 9 inches and weighs around 1.6 pounds.
On that note, if you’re into mandalas and would love a portable and travel-friendly coloring book, then our Traveling Mandalas Coloring Book is your best pick!
Our Coloring Experience:
What we love most about this book is that it uses the highest quality paper--thick, smooth, and bright white pages, and includes only one print per page.
If you’ve just started out with your coloring journey, you will surely love this book since it features 50 hand-drawn designs that range in complexity, perfect for beginners to pros.
As previously mentioned, we used four different coloring media to test out which works best for this book: ColorIt’s alcohol-based markers, glitter gel pens, colored pencils, and watercolor brush pens.
We love that ColorIt’s markers glide like a dream on the drawing and the colors seem to jump off from the page since the paper is smooth and ultra-white! We also discovered that with or without a blotter, the markers slightly show through the back of the colored page but don’t bleed through the next page. But if you’re layering multiple colors, it’s best to take caution, of course, and use the blotter.
If you want your mandala to shine and sparkle, we recommend using gel pens. The gel pens work wonderfully and are great for coloring very detailed patterns.
Next, we used colored pencils. The page is quite thick and glossy so we had to apply more pressure when using the pencils to achieve vibrant colors. But there are some techniques you can try to control your pencil when coloring on our paper and still achieve the desired effects.
Finally, the watercolor brush pens. This medium also works well for this coloring book as it gets in tight places to do tiny details. It also dries quickly and does not bleed through the page. Take note that we applied the watercolor brush pens directly to the page, without using water for blending, so if you’re planning to dip the tips in water, make sure not to overdo it to avoid damaging the page.
Mandalas to Color Book I is an excellent book coloring enthusiasts will truly love--and have loved since its first release! Not only does it stand out on the market with its premium features, such as hard-back covers, spiral binding, bonus blotter, and artist quality paper, it is also well-loved because of its variety of designs that fit all abilities of artistry. At $19.99, Mandalas to Color Book I isn’t the cheapest on this list, but as they say, you get what you pay for!
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford
A roundup of the best adult coloring books won’t be complete without including Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book.
With over 11 million copies sold worldwide, Secret Garden is credited for launching the adult coloring book craze in 2013 and remains to be one of the most popular adult coloring books available today.
Johanna Basford’s first book features a collection of beautiful and highly-detailed drawings of mazes, trees, leaves, flowers, and garden creatures, such as butterflies, bees, and tons of creepy-crawlies!
Now let’s dive right into the review to find out why this book has appealed to colorists of all ages.
If there’s one word that best describes Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book, that would be charming!
The fun starts with the book’s dust jacket. Accented in gold hot foil, the dust jacket is peppered with pen and ink garden-related doodles and drawings of plants, flowers, bees, butterflies, and more, that can be colored. The book itself is a brown paperback that also features intricate drawings.
We did a quick flip-through of the book and found out why so kids and grownups alike are enamored by this book.
First, it’s chock-full of beautiful and highly-detailed illustrations, which will definitely keep you captivated for hours on end! Designs are also printed on thicker and heavier paper stock. To add to the fun, tiny garden creatures and things are speckled throughout the drawings, waiting to be found and brought to life.
What we’re not happy about this book, though, is that the illustrations are printed front and back. The paper is also more yellowish than bright white. And because the book isn’t spiral-bound, it doesn’t lay flat and may give you a hard time coloring areas near the binding. The pages aren’t also perforated so if you want to remove and frame a page, you have to be careful in cutting it out.
Our Coloring Experience:
If you love forest and garden scenes, then Secret Garden will definitely tickle your fancy! The drawings are beautiful, and we’re pretty sure you’ll have tons of fun transforming the black and white pages into colorful pieces of arts.
With its intricate drawings, we think that coloring tools with fine tips, such as colored pencils, watercolor brush pens, and gel pens work best for this book. The outline of the drawings is crisp, which means they don’t smudge or fade when you layer in your colors.
If you love working with alcohol-based markers, though, you may have to switch to another tool. Although the vibrant colors of markers would be great to make the drawings pop out, the ink bleeds through the paper, which means you will have to pick which drawing to color on, since the illustrations are printed on both sides.
Another difficulty we had when coloring this book is that some of the drawings had microscopic details that will challenge your eyesight and coloring skills.
It’s also worth mentioning that more than just a coloring book, Secret Garden lets you go on a treasure hunt to find hidden creatures such as ladybugs, butterflies, keys and bees on each page. Some pages also leave spaces where you can incorporate your own doodles to finish or add to the drawing. This isn’t necessarily something we want but perhaps some people might like.
Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book will forever be etched in the history of adult coloring. It has taken adult coloring up a notch with its beautiful book cover, thick pages, and clever and inspiring illustrations. While we found the book to be entertaining, there are a few things we’re not particularly happy about, such as its side binding, double-sided printing, and the color of its paper.
Cheerful Journey Coloring Book by LANG
Need a good pick-me-up? The Cheerful Journey Coloring Book by Lang might be just what you need. Featuring over 100 coloring designs by Debi Hron, this book promises to let your inner child shine as you set out into a world of creative self-expression and relaxation.
But will this book really take you on a cheerful journey? Let’s find out.
If you thought ColorIt’s Mandalas to Color Book I was heavy, wait till you get your hands on The Cheerful Journey Coloring Book by Lang.
At two pounds, this book is large enough to feel like a coffee table book. We love its hard covers, single-sided printing, spiral bound pages, and perforated paper for easy removal. The paper quality is also wonderful. It’s medium weight, white, and smooth but with a bit of texture.
If you prefer fun and whimsical drawings instead of busy patterns, then you will enjoy this book. Most of the designs are simple for new colorists, yet have enough detail to keep you interested. It includes cute pictures of birds, scarecrow, snowmen, cats, and flowers, plus some uplifting quotes and sayings thrown in.
However, we were disappointed to discover that some pictures were simply enlarged and repeated a couple of times in the book! That means you won’t actually be enjoying 100 pages of unique drawings. Now if you’re a fan of Debi Hron’s artwork and don’t mind the repetitive images, then you might appreciate the duplicates.
Some parts of the drawings also go into the spiral part and almost always continue past the perforation, so some of the design or border is lost when you remove the picture.
Our Coloring Experience:
While the book is literally heavy, coloring a page from it will make you feel light! We love the drawings and the inspirational quotes featured in most pages.
For this book, we enjoyed using markers the most because they’re perfect for adding vibrant colors to the cute drawings. Although they bled through, you can use a blotter to protect the next page. The same goes when using watercolor brush pens and gel pens. They may leak slightly through the page or leave a shadow on the back so it’s best to keep a blotter within reach.
Colored pencils, meanwhile, worked well with this paper. It has good tooth, which lets you apply layers of the same color to get rich pigment.
The Cheerful Journey Coloring Book by Lang is a wonderful book for newbies as well as those who want a break from coloring intricate patterns. The paper quality is good and holds up well to most coloring media, just be sure to have a blotter ready. It’s also easy to remove and frame the drawings because the paper is perforated.
Perhaps our only complaint is that we don’t really get to enjoy 100 unique drawings since some of the illustrations were repeated a couple of times in the book, just in a different format.
Vogue Colors A to Z: A Fashion Coloring Book
Who would have thought that one of the world’s top fashion and lifestyle magazines would also venture into the world of adult coloring?
With Vogue Colors A to Z: A Fashion Coloring Book, fashion lovers can get a glimpse of the delightful history of fashion...and have fun coloring while at it! The book features 26 archival iconic magazine covers from 1912 to 1932. Aside from bows, hats, headpieces, and women dressed for adventure, the book also includes Art Deco patterns and Jazz Age-inspired alphabet.
But is this coloring book as sophisticated as the magazine itself? Here’s what we found out.
We haven’t seen a coloring book that looks as fab as the first-ever coloring book from American Vogue! Spiral bound and featuring an Art Deco motif, this book can easily pass off as an adorable coffee table.
We love that the cover is sturdy, and the paper used is thick and bright white. As we leafed through the pages, we were impressed by the playful and whimsical details shown on each design. There were tons of flapper dresses, feathers, exotic animals, ribbons, and pearls to color on--a true gem for lovers of vintage fashion!
Perhaps it’s a personal bias, but we aren’t too keen on coloring books with designs printed on both sides. For this book, the actual fashion design is printed on one side while the associated letter is featured at the back.
Good thing, though, this book comes with a few extras: a four-page fold-out that highlights 21 fashionable designs to match the dates of the covers featured, as well as full-color thumbnails of the original cover designs in case you wanted to follow the original colors.
Our Coloring Experience:
Coloring this book not only helps you express your creativity but also lets you take in the history of fashion. We appreciate the lovely thumbnail color prints included at the back as it gave us an idea of what the actual covers looked like when they were printed.
For this book, we enjoyed using watercolor brush pens because they’re great for achieving a soft, whimsical look! Take note that for this review, we focused on the dry application of watercolor brush pens, so if you’re planning to use a bit of water, then you may expect some bleed-through.
We also liked using colored pencils and gel pens for this book. The latter is especially great for adding extra sparkle and shine. Gel pens, however, require more drying time than usual so you have to be careful to prevent smudging.
As much as we’d love to use alcohol-based markers for this, especially when working on the backgrounds, the ink seeps through the page, so coloring one side ruins the back page.
Another thing that may put off colorists is that some of the designs look more like fashion sketches than designs to be colored on--that is, they have really sparse outlines and small prints.
Vogue Colors A to Z: A Fashion Coloring Book is a captivating coloring book for anyone who loves flipping through old fashion magazines! The coloring pages are thick and white, and the drawings are good for anyone who loves detail and fashion. However, we’re not too happy about the book’s double-sided printing and the fact that some designs look less than coloring pages and more like fashion sketches.
Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imagined by Steve MacDonald
Looking for something that’s not only challenging but will also feed your wanderlust? Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imagined by Steve MacDonald won’t disappoint.
This book features illustrations inspired by some of the world’s best urban landscapes, from New York to London, Paris to Istanbul, Tokyo, to Melbourne, Rio to Amsterdam, and many more.
Now let’s find out if this book will really transport us to an exciting coloring adventure!
The first thing that we noticed about this book--aside from its beautiful art cover--is its size. At 11.5 by 11.8 inches, this coloring book is on the large side, which means it may not fit your average bookshelf.
But upon flipping through the pages, we think this book does deserve the large format because it features a whopping 58 illustrations that are extremely detailed and varied.
What we love about this book is that the paper is bright white and thick, almost cardstock. And although this isn’t spiral bound, the book can still be made to lay flat. The drawings also don’t run into the middle of the book, so you won’t struggle jamming your pens or pencils into the crease.
Perhaps the only thing we don’t like about this is that the drawings are printed on both sides of the page. The pages aren’t also perforated so if you want to remove your favorite designs and frame them, you will have to slice or cut the pages out from the binding.
Our Coloring Experience:
Fantastic Cities coloring book is a feast for those who like to color architectural drawings and work on amazingly detailed sketches of cityscapes.
Some designs, however, can be a little too complicated and too busy, with spaces so small to fill. Because of this, some Amazon reviewers claim that their coloring experience turned out to be more frustrating than relaxing.
In our test, we discovered that art materials with fine tips are your best bet when working on the book’s extremely details pages. These include colored pencils and gel pens. Watercolor brush pens also help bring the illustrations to life.
The pages, however, do not hold up well to alcohol-based markers as the ink bleeds through the page; thus, ruining the drawing on the other side.
Fantastic Cities is a great pick for those who are into intricate coloring and are in a perpetual state of wanderlust. The quality of the construction of the book is great, the paper is thick, and the illustrations are mind-blowingly good and challenging! Be prepared because you will spend hours of coloring. We don’t recommend this book, however, to new colorists as they may find the designs overwhelming.
Outside the Lines: An Artists' Coloring Book for Giant Imaginations by Souris Hong
What makes art art, they say, is that it has no rules. And Souris Hong’s Outside the Lines certainly embodies that philosophy.
A quirky and unusual collection of illustrations from 100 of today’s most celebrated contemporary artists, including graphic designers, cartoonists, street artists, and illustrators, Outside the Lines leans on the abstract.
Will this book be a good addition to your collection? Let’s find out.
What initially attracted us to this book was its cover. The half-colored doodle was an excellent prelude to the edgy and contemporary pieces that await colorists!
As we leafed through the pages, our reaction was a combination of delight, excitement, and the inevitable “huh?”. Each page is so much more different than the next or the one before it--you’ll find oodles of doodles, graffiti, caricatures, and even two pages of just black ink.
We like that the illustrations are totally random, which invites the colorist to add their own special touch to it. Some of the drawings can definitely be categorized as avant-garde and you may have a tough time coloring them in the traditional sense, so this is highly recommended for those who want to try something new.
Quality-wise, we’re not fans of the book’s paper as it is too thin. It also opens sideways so it’s hard to keep the page open when coloring. But we love that it only features one design per page and includes the name of the artist on the back.
Our Coloring Experience:
It’s safe to say that our coloring experience was less than satisfying due to the book’s paper quality.
Gel pens add interest to the page, however, may make the page wrinkle slightly.
As for watercolor brush pens and alcohol-based markers, it’s possible to use them as long as you keep a blotter ready. The ink may bleed through but at least you won’t run the risk of ruining another drawing (as long as you use a blotter) since only one illustration is printed per page.
Finally, colored pencils. Since the paper is thin, it would have been better suited for colored pencils. However, its lack of tooth makes it hard to blend the pencils well.
Outside the Lines is at best unique and at worst bizarre. The collection definitely stands out for its randomness, so we highly recommend it for those who want something out of the box. But if you’re a colorist who craves form, then this book may not interest you.
Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Designs Animals, Mandalas, Flowers, Paisley Patterns And So Much More by Cindy Elsharouni
Cindy Elsharouni’s adult coloring book is the #1 Amazon bestseller in Mandalas & Patterns Coloring Books for Grown-Ups. And for only $6.20, this book is no doubt affordable.
But is it really a steal? Let’s dive right into the review.
This book by Cindy Elsharouni offers a large collection of stress relieving designs of animals, flowers, mandalas, paisley patterns and more.
We were impressed by the large variety of designs the book offers--some illustrations are simple enough for newbies to work on, while others are also intricate enough to challenge seasoned colorists.
We also love the bright white paper of the book because it helps the colors pop out, although it is quite thin.
What we don’t like about the book, though, is its printing quality. The line drawings and outlines of the artworks are blurry and pixelated. It looks as if the printer was running out of ink on a few of the pages. The book isn’t also spiral-bound so it’s hard to keep it flat when coloring.
Our Coloring Experience:
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and fun to color, however, its paper and printing quality are poor, which can affect your coloring experience.
Gel pens slightly leak through the page and wrinkle the paper, while watercolor brush pens and alcohol-based markers heavily bleed through the page. So if you’re planning to use any of these tools, it’s a must to use a blotter.
Colored pencils, on the other hand, work best for this book. But don’t forget to have your pencils sharpened to a perfect point for the tiny areas!
Cindy Elsharouni’s adult coloring book offers a good variety of illustrations for newbie and seasoned colorists. Its paper and printing quality, however, are disappointing. So if you’re willing to shell out a few more dollars for the better experience with quality paper, then we recommend trying out other books on this list.
Adult Coloring Book: Butterflies and Flowers: Stress Relieving Patterns (Volume 7) by Cherina Kohey
Love all things butterflies and flowers?
Cherina Kohey’s Butterflies and Flowers adult coloring book promises to help you rediscover the joy of coloring. This book is the cheapest on this list at only $5.99.
But does it offer decent value for the content if offers? Here’s what we found out.
We now understand why this book is the cheapest on this list. The paper is thin and flimsy, the printing quality is poor, and the sketch drawings are generic and disappointing to say the least.
Our Coloring Experience:
Sadly, Cherina Kohey’s Butterflies and Flowers adult coloring book didn’t do well in our testing.
Because of the poor quality of its paper, gel pens slightly leaked through and wrinkled the page, while watercolor brush pens and alcohol-based markers also bled through it.
We think you can get better results with colored pencils, but don’t expect to get rich enough pigments from its paper.
If you like butterflies and flowers, or need a book to practice coloring on, go ahead and grab a copy of this book. But if you want to truly enjoy the benefits of adult coloring and experiment with your coloring arsenal, then we suggest you skip this one. Cherina Kohey’s Butterflies and Flowers adult coloring book comes at a very affordable price, but don't expect hours of fun from this one.
Each adult coloring book on this list has its own set of pros and cons. But based on our testing and evaluation, we can say that ColorIt’s Mandalas to Color Book I is a sure stand-out quality-wise and offers an excellent coloring experience for colorists of all levels.
The other books on this list, such as Secret Garden, Cheerful Journey, Vogue Colors A to Z, and Fantastic Cities, and Outside the Lines, were a joy to color on but didn’t really impress us quality-wise. The books by Cindy Elsharouni and Cherina Kohey, on the other hand, are both pocket-friendly but don’t offer the same level of enjoyment and challenge as the other books.
All things considered, Mandalas to Color Book I by ColorIt checked all the right boxes. It combines quality construction and a variety of lovely illustrations and difficulty levels, and is specifically designed for adult coloring.
Did you find this review helpful? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think!
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