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The Truth About Adult Colouring

Jana likes to grow stuff, exercise, snack, and explore creative projects as a means to relax and grow.


Carl Jung and the Monks

Adult colouring is not a modern trend. The notion that this activity is only for children is a very Western one. In the East, for centuries, people have used colouring to relax and meditate. One example is Tibetan Sand Art. Buddhist monks use dyed sand to create images like mandalas, often in breathtaking detail.

In the 20th century, Carl Jung became one of the first psychologists to give the idea some serious thought. The famous Swiss thinker founded analytic psychology and used mandalas to treat patients.

In case you are wondering, mandalas are flexible designs but generally include something concentric and repetitive. Jung believed that mandalas aided relaxation and encouraged people to self-discover their total selves.

An example of a ready-to-colour mandala.

An example of a ready-to-colour mandala.

Modern Criticism

Colourful drawings have a long history in both sacred rituals and therapy. But despite this, modern criticism persists.

Friends And Family

Almost every adult who enjoys this hobby has a story to tell. In an attempt to share their passion, they would tell a friend or family member. But this person either laughed, looked at them like they were crazy or childish or told them straight that colouring is a waste of time and money. Enthusiasts are also told that there are better ways (for grownups) to create art or feel better about themselves.


The main concern of therapists is that adult colouring creates unrealistic expectations. They fear that people see colouring books as therapy when the activity cannot replace a professional cure - and that colouring should definitely not be used as the sole coping strategy for serious emotional trauma. Not all therapists share a total gloomy view. Plenty agree that the hobby is useful when done in conjunction with conventional treatments.

Sales Gimmick?

A final gripe most critics have is that colouring for adults is a multi-million dollar business. They feel the hype is a sales gimmick that doesn't come clean about the limitations of the hobby.

Meet the Artists

Contrary to what the most paranoid of critics may fear, a grownup in the throes of colour and crayons is not a sign of a lesser intellect. Among the ranks of adult colouring enthusiasts are professionals like architects, business owners and teachers. No less important, there are also students, parents and patients suffering from PTSD or illness. Among people who have reported a positive experience, the main benefit is a sense of calm and relaxation.

This Is What Scientists Discovered

Where there is controversy, there are scientists ready to put everything to the test! Adult colouring is no different. During several studies, artists were questioned, involved in artistic experiments or had their brains scanned.

Here are the most interesting results.

  • Overthinking is a trigger for anxiety and depression. Colouring keeps the mind from floating into the future (anxiety) or dredging up the past (often associated with depression).
  • It can relax the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear and stress.
  • Individuals who are not particularly artistic can create stunning art and feel a sense of achievement.
  • Colouring serves as a kind of meditation, since it also involves similar qualities like mindfulness and tranquility.
  • When the hobby replaces electronic bedtime activities, it aids sleep. Bright screens from cellphones and laptops tend to wake up the brain.
  • Colouring maintains manual dexterity of the hands, something that fades with age.
  • It fosters self-expression.
  • Mood improvement.

Create Your Own

For some, creating their own outlines also provide a relaxing time and sense of achievement.

For some, creating their own outlines also provide a relaxing time and sense of achievement.

Colouring Is Free Or Low-Cost

One reason why this “craze” took off is the fact that it doesn't cost the earth. Sure, you can spend a little money and buy a colouring book or a cellphone app but anyone can start out free if they choose.

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For some, drawing their own images is a new level of creativity and meditation, especially when it's a mandala. However, this is not for everyone. Some people just appreciate the freedom of colouring a beautiful image without needing to create it first. Then, purchasing a colouring book is perfectly fine.

The Artists and Critics Are Both Right

As long as the colouring craze continues, there will be two camps. The artists versus the critics.

Undoubtedly, positive things flow from this hobby. This is a stressful world and adult colouring provides a cheap, non-addictive coping strategy that cannot be discounted. On the other hand, the critics have valid claims. This hobby must be viewed within realistic expectations. It cannot replace medicine or serious therapy. However, at the end of the day, the critics need to understand that if somebody wants to spend a few dollars (or more) on a colouring book and add blue to some Smurf, then it's that person's choice.

There's no shame in this hobby. On the contrary, it's an ancient art that deserves to be revived!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit


Donna Rayne from Sparks, NV on January 02, 2020:

Jana, I've been wanting to get an adult coloring book and then frame my work to use as pictures to hang in my house. Thank you for such a wonderful article and inspiration!


Donna Rayne

Jana Louise Smit (author) from South Africa on September 28, 2019:

Hi Kenneth. Thank you for the great comment. I truly appreciate it. :)

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on September 23, 2019:

Jana . . .very professional hub. Helpful and very-needed. I commend you for your writing talent.

Keep the great hubs coming.

Jana Louise Smit (author) from South Africa on August 18, 2018:

:) Insightful comment. I enjoyed reading your views, thanks for adding your thoughts!

RTalloni on August 12, 2018:

What a great post! It's about time therapists were challenged! VIVA coloring at any age! So glad you added the positive bullet points. Common sense tells us much of that without research. :) Besides, if pitching a fast-ball glop of paint onto a canvas from 14 feet away can be called art, certainly coloring is real art! Good stuff here. :)

Jana Louise Smit (author) from South Africa on August 12, 2018:

So true, Dolores. This is a very relaxing and yet challenging (if you want it to be) hobby. Thanks for reading!

Dolores StPierre from Auburn,Maine on August 07, 2018:

I always colored as a child, my father being an artist showed me how to blend, I have done most Mediums. Relaxes me and I love accomplishing the picture that I thought I couldn’t do. I love a good challenge