I bought a coloring book this summer and began coloring – as an adult. I used to love coloring as a child and I had the huge box of Crayola crayons to prove it. I cannot draw, but I can color.

I found some online sites which allow you to print out things to color and I did that, but these were usually not as intricate or else they were too intricate and all in all, it was a way to see if I was really going to like this, but not a good way to keep up my new hobby. I began my descent into obsession, which is my usual method of finding a hobby.

I have learned some things along the way. I thought I would share some of my insight.

  1. This is a wonderful way to relax. It takes concentration but not total concentration. This means you can watch TV and color at the same time. Or you can color with music in the background. Or you can color and just color. Sitting in a quiet room with a scented candle and peace and quiet is wonderful. But you do need really bright light to see what you are doing, not just the candle.
  2. There is no such thing as too many coloring tools. Each different brand of pencil is a slightly different color. So if the pencil claims to be red (and there is a specific definition of red in the science world) the shade will vary slightly by brand. So go ahead and buy different brands and get all the different shades. Each different book of pictures is a unique collection of varied works.
  3. You need to have a pencil sharpener for your colored pencils. I tried a standard pencil sharpener from Walmart and had trouble with it. I don’t know exactly why, but an eyebrow pencil sharpener worked better and a specifically purchased sharpener worked even better.
  4. Crayola pencils give me the most trouble sharpening them. The point will almost appear and then it breaks off. I have spoken with other people and they have this same problem. I don’t know why it happens or how to make it stop. It is annoying and ruins the Zen-type experience, but one must soldier on in the face of adversity.
  5. Not all adult coloring books are created equal. Some are printed on two sides and I have no idea why that happens. What in the hell are you supposed to do with the second side? (Markers bleed through to the other side and make it not good for anything while pencils and gel pens do not.) Some are produced with perforated edge so you can separate the pages. You need to separate the pages. (You need to twist and turn to get things colored and it is hard enough with one sheet of paper, the rest of the book would be horrible, as would the height of the coloring surface.) When they aren’t perforated, a wallpaper knife works to cut the book apart but be sure to use a cutting board (I have two scratches in my countertop because I did not do this).
  6. Some designed looks beautiful until you start to color them and then realize they were made to draw and weren’t really made to color. I have an entire book of butterfly pictures that look better in the drawing rather than in the coloring. It has taken me several tries to figure out how to actually color the things and found that I was coloring in the negative spaces and it finally worked. My current picture, now that I have figured out their method, is turning out lovely and I will enjoy the rest of the book. See rule 10 for further thoughts.
  7. There are no real rules. I’ve had friends who have said they would be too afraid of making a mistake. My pictures are full of mistakes, but I don’t believe anyone who looks at the overall finished picture has ever seen them. I have made a bad color choice and then had to carefully choose the colors around it to mitigate the error and found that the overall effect has turned out splendid. If it with pencils, you can layer the colors and create a whole new color, which has made for some lovely effects. I have run out of the lines and with colored pencils you can erase it if you do it quickly. With other media, you cannot. Whoops.
  8. You can mix media. I began with just pencils and then snuck in some gel pens. And then I got a panoply of Sharpie pens and then I got off brands of everything. The only thing that doesn’t work is the washable Crayola markers. They are washable because of some chemistry crap which makes them smeary and uneven color distribution. They are beautiful colors and I wish they would work, but I’ve ruined two pictures with them. They would work for other art projects, but they don’t do well on this. I bet if they weren’t washable, they would be wonderful and I have looked for that, but apparently kids are messy and so this isn’t the best media choice for adults.
  9. Gel pens and markers go on wet. If you run your hand over them before they dry, it will make you cranky. You either smear the lines or you get color on the side of your hand and blob it elsewhere on your paper when you go to color a different space. Use something to cover the wet – I have extra paper around which I use as an ink blot.
  10. It is okay to quit and throw it away. When you don’t like the way something is turning out, you are permitted to throw that sheet of paper away and start a new picture. It’s really that simple. There is no reason to keep working on something you don’t like. You can try to fix the problem and if it isn’t fixable, toss the damn thing. This is supposed to be fun. It is not punishment. You are the boss, be kind to yourself.
  11. If you color too long, you will get a stiff neck. As with everything else in life, there is no perfection. This is a great relaxer right up until your neck is so stiff you can’t turn your head. There are a couple ways to mitigate this side effect. The first would be to not color so long you get a stiff neck. This is not my preferred method, so I use some stretching and mobilization techniques to work the stiff neck out.

It is amazing to watch a page turn from black and white into a work of art. It is fun to see the way different media work. Some sparkle, some are really glittery, some are flat and bold, some are pastels and delicate, some are layered or shaded. It becomes fascinating to see what you can create. Even if the colors don’t seem to match right away, even if you run out of the lines, if you carefully and creatively work towards filling the page with color, the end result is amazing. And Dick says I’m much calmer.

Different books, different types of pictures, different media

Different books, different types of pictures, different media

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