Searching through an op shop years ago, I found a workbook that was designed to help people pray using colour. I was going through an extremely challenging time and the concept struck a chord in me; I was already interested in art as a therapy, and I could see how colour could help focus the spirit on reflection, relaxation and letting go, among other things. The book is long gone, lost over a couple of house moves, but since then I have often turned to art therapy as a way to relax myself and take my mind off worries; for me, drawing mandalas is particularly good.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have the therapy without having to plan out the art and that’s where colouring books for adults make great therapy. I bought one for my mother last year and since then, these books are everywhere. Not long ago, Murdoch Books sent me the beautiful Art Therapy: Celtic by Jacqui Small to review. I love this book – it’s full of intricate designs and patterns of varying levels of difficulty. Some are basic, others complex and detailed, with spirals, knots and circles, or more angular designs providing plenty of choice depending on your mood.


If you’re keen to jump on board the colouring craze, or like me, you don’t care about being trendy and you just need to chill, here are some tips you might find useful.

DO think about which medium you will use before you start colouring. Some permanent markers will bleed through to the next page. Test these on a photocopied page, bearing in mind that the paper quality of the original and copy will be different. I tried permanent markers and decided that I preferred pencils.


DO use good quality pencils. Cheap pencils are hard and often don’t produce the brightest colour results. I tried one mid-priced set but found the colours insipid; I also had to press quite hard to get better colour. I am now using my Derwent watercolour pencils I’ve had since 1989! They’re soft so you can achieve different levels of colour intensity depending on how hard you press. These pencils are finally going to get used! I’m planning to buy some more non-watercolour pencils in this brand soon.

DO take your time. The more intricate designs need good fine motor control so rushing will not give the best results. Think about whether you need a sharper pencil (for smaller areas) or a softer point before you start a section.

DO make sure you have good light. You don’t want to hurt your eyes when you’re focusing on small details.

DO create a relaxing space to colour. Find a place that’s away from distractions. Light a scented candle (for your sense of smell, not light), turn on some music you like, and spread out your pencils and book on a table. Colour with friends or on your own. Whatever you do, make sure you’re able to relax your mind and body to get the most benefit out of the experience. It’s not just about creating something pretty, it’s about drawing your attention away from the stresses of everyday life.

DO listen to your body. Is your hand starting to ache? Are your eyes starting to hurt? Are your neck or shoulders cramping? Due to bouts of tendinitis, I have to pay attention when my right hand and index finger say enough. Ignoring it leads to pain and that undoes all the relaxation I’ve just achieved.

DO have fun. So what if you make a mistake. Or colour out of the lines. It’s not a competition. The idea is to relax, not be a perfectionist. IMG_4709

What other tips do you have?

To buy this book visit here. Murdoch Books will be releasing another book, Art Therapy – Extraordinary Gardens, later this year.



Picture of Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. My daughter bought me a lovely colouring book last year. …funny that !

  2. Some great tips there. Having fun is probably the most important.
    Only use permanent/alcohol markers in books that aren’t printed both sides of the paper and always put a sheet of card under the page you are working on to protect the one underneath.

      1. I started with promarkers, bought them for something else but as I was learning to use them I discovered colouring pages and never got round to using them for what I intended until a few months later.

        I really got the bug, I now own Derwent intense, stabilo pens and have started playing with Derwent line painters.

        That’s perhaps another tip; don’t get carried away just because there’s 100+ pencils in a set doesn’t mean you should buy them all at once. I’ve built my collection up over months.

  3. I just picked up my first coloring book this week! Saw this on Reading, Writing and Riesling and your tips are timely and helpful. May I repost?

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