Color Your World

Glatfelter has the right paper for the latest craze—adult coloring books.

Today’s adults are finding stress relief in a traditionally childlike form of entertainment: coloring books. Yet this time-honored practice has benefits that go beyond just reliving one’s youth.

For at least the last 10 years, research on adult coloring activities has shown surprising mental benefits. In 2005, the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association published a study concluding that coloring mandalas (intricate pre-patterned shapes) decreased participants’ anxiety levels. A 2013-2014 study by Australian neuroscientist Stan Rodski found significant drops in both cortisol and adrenaline (the “stress hormones”) when participants spent time each day coloring special designs.

With these findings has come a surge in interest for adult coloring books. According to Tom Wernoch, director of sales for printing and imaging papers at Glatfelter, demand for coloring book paper surged about a year ago. “The whole industry was watching, asking, ‘Is this going to stick?’ The next thing that occurred is that the whole thing caught fire,” he says.

Making paper for coloring books involves special considerations. “These aren’t just generic commodity papers,” Wernoch says. “You need a paper that’s high in weight, high in thickness, and limits the amount of show-through so you don’t have ink from the previous page going through the paper.” Because Glatfelter is the largest producer of uncoated, free-sheet Tradebook paper in the world, Wernoch says, adult coloring books were a natural fit.

Wernoch sees adult coloring books as one expression of a general trend toward printed material in our electronic age. “There’s still a segment of the marketplace that sees value in printed books, and adult coloring books are a good example,” he says. “Data suggests that coloring has therapeutic potential for many adults to create better focus and allow the brain to switch off other thoughts. It’s been an interesting development within the book publishing industry.”