Coloring book

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For the Glassjaw EP, see Coloring Book.
Filled in child's coloring book, Garfield Goose (1953).

A coloring book (or colouring book, or colouring page) is a type of book containing line art to which a reader may add color using crayons, colored pencils, marker pens, paint or other artistic media. Coloring pages are not only exciting, but also useful for children and adults.[1] Traditional coloring books and coloring pages are printed on paper or card. Some coloring books have perforated edges so their pages can be removed from the books and used as individual sheets. Others may include a story line and so are intended to be left intact. Today many children's coloring books feature popular cartoon characters. They are often used as promotional materials for animated motion pictures. Coloring books may also incorporate other activities such as connect the dots, mazes and other puzzles. Some coloring books also incorporate the use of stickers.


The Little Folks Painting Book, 1879

Paint books and coloring books emerged in the United States as part of the "democratization of art" process, inspired by a series of lectures by British artist Joshua Reynolds, and the works of Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and his student Friedrich Fröbel. Many educators concluded that all, regardless of background, students stood to benefit from art education as a means of enhancing their conceptual understanding of the tangible, developing their cognitive abilities, and improving skills that would be useful in finding a profession, as well as for the children's spiritual edification.[2] The McLoughlin Brothers are credited as the inventors of the coloring book, when, in the 1880s, they produced The Little Folks' Painting Book, in collaboration with Kate Greenaway. They continued to publish coloring books until the 1920s, when the McLoughlin Brothers became part of the Milton Bradley Company.

Another pioneer in the genre was Richard F. Outcault. He authored Buster's Paint Book in 1907, featuring the character of Buster Brown, which he had invented in 1902. It was published by the Stokes Company. This launched a trend to use coloring books to advertise a wide variety of products, including coffee and pianos.[2] Until the 1930s, books were designed with the intent for them to be painted instead of colored. Even when crayons came into wide use in the 1930s, books were still designed so that they could be painted or colored.[3]

Educational uses[edit]

"California Poppy", a page from a wildflower coloring book

Coloring books are widely used in schooling for young children for various reasons. For example, children are often more interested in coloring books rather than using other learning methods; pictures may also be more memorable than simply words.[4]

As a predominantly non-verbal medium, coloring books have also seen wide applications in education where a target group does not speak and understand the primary language of instruction or communication. Examples of this include the use of coloring books in Guatemala to teach children about "hieroglyphs and Mayan artist patterns",[5] and the production of coloring books to educate the children of farm workers about "the pathway by which agricultural pesticides are transferred from work to home."[6] Coloring books are also said to help to motivate students' understanding of concepts that they would otherwise be uninterested in.

They have been used as teaching aids for developing creativity and knowledge of geometry, such as in Roger Burrows' Altair Designs.

Since the 1980s, several publishers have produced educational coloring books intended for studying graduate-level topics such as anatomy and physiology, where color-coding of many detailed diagrams are used as a learning aid. Examples include The Anatomy Coloring Book and subsequent book series, by Wynn Kapit and Lawrence Elson, published by HarperCollins (1990s) and Benjamin Cummings (2000s).[7]

Some publishers have specialized in coloring books with an explicit educational purpose, both for children and for adults. The books will often have extensive text accompanying each image. Examples of publishers include Dover Books, Really Big Coloring Books, Running Press, and Troubador Press.

Health and therapeutic uses[edit]

Coloring books have seen wide application in the health professions as educational tools. One nurse, trying to limit the trauma of child surgery, described in an academic publication how the use of a coloring book "might help [the child] to understand what was going to happen to him."[8] They are also used in rehabilitation of accident victims to aid recovery of hand–eye coordination, and they are used with autistic children both for entertainment and for their soothing effect. One of the appeals of adult coloring books is that they help users relax and de-stress.[9]

Political uses[edit]

In August 2011 American Publisher Really Big Coloring Books released "We Shall Never Forget: The Kids Book of Freedom" detailing specific drawings in the accounting of SEAL Team 6 shooting Osama bin Laden in his home. The book was criticized by some for portraying Muslims in a negative manner.[10]

Coloring books have been used for political purposes. In 1968 the Black Panther Coloring Book began circulating in the United States; the book features black men and children killing pigs dressed as police officers. It was argued to have been made not by the Black Panther Party but by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's COINTELPRO program to discredit the organization, a claim which other sources dispute.[11][12]

The term and concept of the "coloring book" was adopted by the feminist artist Tee Corinne as a tool of female empowerment. Corinne made pencil sketches of female genitalia, which she then inked and printed on card stock. She published a collection of them in 1975 as The Cunt Coloring Book.

In 1962, cartoonist Mort Drucker teamed with humorist Paul Laikin in creating the John F. Kennedy Coloring Book, which sold 2,500,000 copies.[14]

Fine art[edit]

Photographer Jno Cook produced line drawings based on Robert Frank's The Americans, and published them in a limited edition as the Robert Frank Coloring Book. the National Gallery of Art used the images as party favors for writers working on the catalog of a retrospective of Frank's work.[15]

Adult coloring books[edit]

Beginning in 2015 coloring books for adults began increasing in popularity. In April of that year two such coloring books became the top sellers at Amazon.[16] By November it was reported by that the books were a top wished for item with 9 out of the top ten consisting of such books.[17] Also that month Crayola began offering their own line of adult coloring books.[18]

Adult coloring books, though available in print,[1] are increasingly being offered digitally, via ebooks, digital apps, and coloring pages that can be colored online[19] or downloaded.[20] Contributing to the popularity of e-coloring books are their de-stressing, relaxation effects and the fact that users' work-products can be saved and shared.[9][21][22][23][24] Writing for the Washington Post, Dominic Bulsuto theorized that the trend of digital purchasing helped the spread of the genre, noting that the relative anonymous nature of the act allowed customers to feel more secure perusing books they would be embarrassed to buy in real life.[16]

Notable artists[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Coloring pages". Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  2. ^ a b "Drawn to Art: Art Education and the American Experience, 1800–1950". 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ Jacobs, Pat. "Coloring Books". Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
  4. ^ "A Helping Hand for Parents and Teachers". Coloring Pages Online. February 5, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  5. ^ Misheff, Sue (September 1994). "Perspectives of Children's Literature in Guatemala". Hispania 77 (3): 524–531. doi:10.2307/344988. JSTOR 344988. 
  6. ^ Drew, Christina H.; Deirdre A. Grace; Susan M. Silbernagel; Erin S. Hemmings; Alan Smith; William C. Griffith; Timothy K. Takaro; Elaine M. Faustman (March 2003). "Nuclear Waste Transportation: Case Studies of Identifying Stakeholder Risk Information Needs". Environmental Health Perspectives 111 (3): 263–272. doi:10.1289/ehp.5203. PMC 1241381. PMID 12611653. 
  7. ^ The Anatomy Coloring Book, Wynn Kapit and Lawrence M. Elson. HarperCollins, 1993, second revised and expanded edition, ISBN 0-06-455016-8
  8. ^ Harris, Carolyn (January 1961). "Tonsil Season". The American Journal of Nursing 61 (1): 91–92. doi:10.2307/3451768. JSTOR 3451768. 
  9. ^ a b "Colouring books designed for adults topping bestseller lists (Books by illustrator Johanna Basford (Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest) created as a way to de-stress)". Toronto Star. April 6, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Coloring Book Sparks Controversy". 
  11. ^ Some commentators have alleged that the book was a piece of FBI agitprop. See Jorgenson, Carl (Spring–Summer 1984). "Blacks in the 60s: A Centennial Reprise". Social Text (9/10): 313–317. doi:10.2307/466577. JSTOR 466577.  Others accept the text as genuine. See Lane, R.D. (Spring 1998). "'Keepin' it Real': Walter Dean Myers and the Promise of African-American Children's Literature". African American Review 32 (1): 125–138. doi:10.2307/3042275. JSTOR 3042275. 
  12. ^ "Police And Panthers: Growing Paranoia". Time. December 19, 1969. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  13. ^ Corinne, Tee (Summer 1993). "Artist's Statement: On Sexual Art". Feminist Studies 19 (2): 369–376. doi:10.2307/3178374. JSTOR 3178374. 
  14. ^ "Man Behind the Drawing Board", The Adventures of Bob Hope 87, 1963.
  15. ^ "The Robert Frank Coloring Book". Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Dominic, Basulto. "The top two best-selling books on Amazon right now are colouring books for adults. Seriously". National Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  17. ^ Ahashn, Sadaf. "Adult colouring books are the most wished for, according to Amazon Canada". National Post. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  18. ^ Liszewski, Andrew. "Crayola Now Has Its Own Line of Coloring Books For Adults". Gizmodo. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  19. ^ "". 
  20. ^ "Coloring Pages for Adults and Teenagers". 
  21. ^ "Adult coloring books: yes, there are apps for that". Relaxnews (Yahoo News). July 30, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Thinking Outside the Crayon Box: Adult Coloring Books Soar". Yahoo News. 
  23. ^ Baker, Keiligh (March 5, 2015). "The colour of money: British author sells more than a million copies around the world of her colouring-in books for grown-ups". Mail Online. 
  24. ^ The New York Times  Missing or empty |title= (help)

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