Finding Creativity Between the Lines

For adults, coloring books offer an imaginative escape from daily stresses.

Walk into any bookstore, craft supply store, or gift shop, heck, even any grocery store, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a whole rack of coloring books.

But these now ubiquitous coloring books aren’t intended for the kiddos. With intricate designs of everything from sea creatures, cityscapes, and the world of Harry Potter, these coloring books are meant for adults—and their popularity has surged in recent years. Nielsen Bookscan, a data provider for the book publishing industry, estimates 12 million adult coloring books were sold in 2015.

The inflow of more sophisticated coloring hobbyists calls for a special type of paper, too, one with a toothy finish that pulls the color from a pen or pencil without letting it wick outside of the lines, so to speak.

“The fibers are like a bath towel,” says Derek Robbins, product manager, Printing and Imaging Papers at Glatfelter. “If the fibers are too wild or crazy on the surface, it would just wick into the fiber and go outside of where the color was meant to go.”

Adults dive into coloring books to unwind and, sometimes unknowingly, tap into their creative side. Everything from selecting the book to choosing the colors and moving the pencil or marker rhythmically across the page can serve as a form of creative meditation.

“The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors,” psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explained to the Huffington Post. “The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.

Coloring books geared toward an adult audience incorporate 70- to 118-pound sheets for more designer-type books that, Robbins says, also prevent any color bleed-through. The paper ranges in color from bright white to a soft natural tone, giving coloring book artists an assortment of page colors from which to choose so as to customize their work.

“While the pages might be a heavier stock and a more refined shade than those in children’s coloring books,” Robbins says, “the effects of filling in the pages are quite the same, whether the artist is a child or an adult: It’s an escape into our own sense of creativity.”