Adult Coloring 101: 8 Physical and Mental Benefits and the Tools You Need to Start

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Coloring books aren’t just an activity to keep children occupied. They haven’t been for a long time – adult coloring books slowly and surely rose in popularity until they started showing up on New York Times bestseller lists in 2011 and 2012. Since then, they have remained a popular hobby for many adults.

Many adults are coloring not just to relive their childhoods. Adult coloring can be a therapeutic exercise that can help you relax and reduce anxiety. Coloring even just one page of an adult coloring book helps spark creativity and brings back the simple happiness of youth. It’s an activity that takes us outside ourselves and focuses on making something beautiful. It is a form of art therapy that engages the rational and creative sides of our brain. It exercises our vision and fine motor skills, too.

The repetitive patterns and intellectual, artistic challenges lead to mental and even physical health benefits in adults. Here are 8 important benefits of coloring for adults:

1. Adult coloring reduces anxiety and stress

Carl Jung was one of the first psychologists to study the therapeutic benefits of coloring books for adults. In the first half of the 20th century, he used mandalas as art therapy to help his patients lower their stress revels. Mandalas are made up of geometrical patterns and concentric circles. There are no rules about how to color them or what colors to use, and this freedom is at once challenging and relaxing.

Coloring relaxes the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain. It induces a state similar to meditation – it allows your mind to get some rest. Coloring can also reduce anxiety levels because it’s a simple activity that needs your full focus. You are in complete control of what you’re coloring, and it decreases any panic you may feel creeping up.

Artistic expression and art therapy is an excellent prelude to other types of therapy as well. If you’re in a relaxed and calm state, you are receptive to talking about your emotions and open to accepting help.

2. Adult coloring engages both sides of the brain

Coloring books are widely considered a purely creative endeavor, but it involves logic, too. It’s not an exclusively left-brain or right-brain activity. It’s a full-brain workout that exercises both areas of the cerebral cortex.

The “rational” part is engaged as we use logic to choose what color to use for a particular pattern. The “creative” part mixes and matches those colors and forms an aesthetically pleasing piece of art.

Coloring also improves our ability to focus. It opens up the frontal lobe, which is the part of our brain dedicated to organization and problem-solving.

3. Adult coloring improves fine motor skills

Just as coloring is a great developmental tool for kids, it has physical benefits for adults as well.

Adult coloring books exercise the muscles of our arms and hands. Staying inside the lines and coloring in small spaces help exercise and strengthen these muscles. Many adults have atrophied these fine motor skills in a world that’s so heavily centered on technology.

Coloring is even encouraged as an activity for the elderly, a kind of physical art therapy. The combined mental and physical exercise helps maintain dexterity and hand-eye coordination. It can even help delay the onset of dementia. After all, an active mind and body is a healthy mind and body, even if you’re just sitting down and coloring.

4. Adult coloring helps us reconnect with our Inner Child

Coloring pages is a nostalgic reminder of our stress-free childhoods. Looking back on happy memories helps us relax and even feel optimistic about the future. One of the benefits of coloring is that you let yourself feel the unbridled excitement and fun that you used to feel as a kid. The simple, uncomplicated feeling can be a wonderful escape from an adult life that can at times be difficult and full of stress.

Inner Child healing therapy is used for adults who are harsh with themselves. When we are free to reconnect with our inner child through our adult coloring book, it’s easier for us to love ourselves more unconditionally. This form of art therapy can break negative thinking patterns we may have developed early in life. This helps us become a more loving, confident person, someone with higher self esteem, someone who can face the world with no fear.

5. Adult coloring displaces negative emotions

When you’re concentrating on coloring a cityscape or a garden, you unconsciously replace any negative thoughts with pleasant ones. Focusing on choosing a color and staying inside the lines occupies the same parts of the frontal lobe that stops anxiety. Any negative thoughts and emotions that we may have been carrying throughout the day can dissipate as we focus our concentration on coloring.

A relaxed brain leads to a relaxed body and vice versa. As you focus on your coloring books, you may notice tension bleeding from your shoulders and your overall posture becoming more natural and loose. The stress and anxiety away and does wonders for overall mental health.

It helps that adult coloring books are such a low-stakes hobby, making it great to use for art therapy. Even if you’re coloring in real-life animals, objects, and locations, there are no rules. You can use whatever color you want, you can be as messy or as neat as you want. There’s really no way to screw it up. There’s no way to go wrong. There are no consequences, in the beginning, middle or end. All we have to do is color in some blank spaces, and nothing more is asked of us.

6. Adult coloring gives us time away from technology

Our lives are so centered on technology. It’s not out of the norm for an adult’s screen time for the day to go up to 16 hours or more. Most of us work on our computers, socialize via mobile phone apps, and sleep with our phone next to us in bed.

This immersion in technology only means we need to put more effort into unplugging. Developing hobbies away from the internet is essential to maintain overall mental health and keep our eyesight healthy.

One of the benefits of adult coloring is that when we sit down after a long day and spend 20 or 30 minutes to focus and color a page, that’s time spent away from technology. Even using a coloring app is a form of unplugging. You’re still using a device, yes. Nevertheless, you’re disengaging from your work calendar/social media/other things that are causing you stress and anxiety.

You can take your coloring book anywhere, too. If you’re stuck in an airport or bored in a coffee shop, taking a few minutes to color a picture or two can be incredibly relaxing. Many popular colored pencil and marker sets include travel cases, so it’s no trouble to pack your coloring supplies and hit the road.

7. Adult coloring encourages mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the current moment and accepting it with no judgement. This is a therapeutic meditation exercise that’s a great place to begin if you’re looking for the key element in happiness and reduced stress levels.

Coloring pages removes us from the center of our thoughts and focuses on the present moment. We slow down our pace in almost a meditative manner. Many people who find it difficult to tune out the outside world’s ills when meditating find coloring books to be a simpler way to get into that state.

8. Adult coloring sparks creativity

As adults, we often find ourselves stuck in a home-work-home rut as we go about our daily lives. Hobbies help us exercise underused physical and mental muscles to get out of our routines.

Coloring pages ignites our creativity because it engages our brain in such a markedly different way. Adults who color become more creative in parts of their life that have nothing to do with coloring: in their jobs, in decorating their home, in picking out designs and colors for their clothes.

One of the benefits of adult coloring books is that you can turn your designs into actual art pieces. You can decorate your home with your most ambitious pages and share your hobby with your family and friends.

The beauty of coloring is that it’s not just for artists or art enthusiasts. There’s no base skill level that you have to be good at before you can buy your first coloring book, there’s no test you have to pass. We all learned to color between the lines as children, and that’s all the prior knowledge you really need. There are no rules to coloring and no real consequences if your design doesn’t come out perfectly.

Adult coloring books are just meant to be fun, nothing more and nothing less. You can start coloring from page one or skip around to the ones that catch your eye. You can use whatever palette or style you love, or just go into a piece with no plan at all. You can populate your adult coloring book and your life with fairies and flowers and skyscrapers colored purple and aquamarine, and it’s all perfect.

There is also a unique sense of accomplishment that comes with the finished product. Completing a coloring page is so satisfying, and it will lead you to want to do it more and more.

So I Want To Start Coloring. Where And How Do I Begin?

Art therapy in the form of adult coloring books encourages creativity and mindfulness. It’s meant to relieve us from anxiety and give us time to focus on anything but the stress of our daily lives.

So it follows that you don’t need any fancy tools to start. There’s no gatekeeping in adult coloring. All you need are coloring materials and something to color.

You don’t even have to purchase anything. You may already have some crayons, gel pens, or colored pencils lying around the house from a previous art project. You can browse online and print free coloring pages that catch your eye.

If you do want to browse Amazon or your local stationery store for the best adult coloring books and tools to buy, here are some recommendations:

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are favored tools by beginner colorists as well as professional artists. They produce gorgeously vibrant colors, their pointed tips are perfect for detailing, and they are very lightweight and easy to lay down on coloring books. Check out a few of our favorite colored pencils below. If you’d like to see more, check out our best colored pencils for adult coloring books review

Crayola Colored Pencils

Crayola’s colored pencil set is absolutely perfect for beginners. Their biggest set goes up to 100 colors, and it’s still very affordable, providing great value for money.

Crayola is a well-established brand in the industry, so color quality is assured even with the bargain price. The set of 100 won’t set you back very much wallet-wise, and the sheer number of color choices will bring out anyone’s creativity and makes adult coloring books extremely fun.

Arteza Colored Pencils

Arteza’s wax-based colored pencils are so impressive in their ability to blend. Blending is so easy and seemingly unlimited – you can use an eraser or a solvent, and there is no resistance even as you go up to five or more color layers. A whole new coloring technique is opened up when you can blend and layer as many colors as you want.

These blendable pencils offer excellent quality for money, making them perfect for beginners and highly experienced artists.

Colored Markers

Adult coloring books are generally made with thicker paper and have single-sided drawings specifically so you can use colored markers to color them in. Make sure your coloring book can handle your chosen markers before you start in on a page!

Check out a few of our favorite colored markers below. If you’d like to see more, check out our best markers for adult coloring books review

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner markers are very affordable and great for beginners. They have water-based ink flowing from superfine tips that are excellent for detailing and give lovely, even colors. If you happen to leave your pens uncapped, there’s a dry safe mechanism that ensures the ink won’t dry out. 

The box of 60 fine point pens includes lots of tints and shades in every color of the rainbow, perfect for coloring pages in any theme.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner
Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

Suppose you want to level up your adult coloring. In that case, these Prismacolor markers have dual tips for fine detailing and for broader brush strokes. The dual-ended tips share one barrel of ink, so color consistency is maintained on both ends.

This is a great, versatile marker set that’s great for students, beginners, and industry professionals.

Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers
Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

Adult Coloring Books

There are thousands of adult coloring books on the market. When spoiled for choice, some people find comfort while others are overwhelmed. It helps to narrow things down to your preferences: are you a nature and flowers person, or do you love cityscapes? Do you want to jump into the world of Marvel superheroes or Disney princesses? Do you think you’ll find the geometric patterns in coloring mandalas relaxing, or do you prefer the chaos of dragons and fairies?

Mandala Coloring Book For Adults

This mandala adult coloring book is great for beginners. The 50 hand-drawn designs are printed on thick, high-quality paper, so you don’t have to worry about ink bleeding through the pages. The spiral binding makes for a comfortable coloring experience with the book laid flat on a table. The pages are perforated, so you can easily tear them out if you want to frame them or give them away as gifts. There is a variety in the designs, too – there are pages that children can do and ones where you can use a wider tipped brush.

This is a great book to get as you begin your adult coloring journey. Just relax and give yourself into this wonderful hobby that doubles as a form of meditation and therapy. It will lead you to better health, more self awareness, and a ton of enjoyment.

Mandala Coloring Book For Adults
Mandala Coloring Book For Adults

Conclusion

There are so many physical and mental health benefits brought on by adult coloring. It’s a form of art therapy that can reduce stress and anxiety, induce a meditative state and mindfulness, increase self esteem, spark creativity, take us out of the vice grip of technology, and exercise our hands and minds.

Coloring is a hobby that any adult can quickly begin right in the comfort of home. There’s an enthusiastic community that comes with it, too – just check out the supportive comments on coloring posts on social media.

There is value in taking time out of our day to focus on something simple and uncomplicated. There is a great sense of achievement in completing a piece or even finishing an entire coloring book. There are many, many benefits to adult coloring, so hopefully, you can give it a try.

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