Coloring for Grown-Ups

Coloring is an inherently tongue-in-cheek activity: after all, it’s premised on the genteel fiction that an untalented amateur filling in the colors actually completes an artwork. Rightly or not, we’ve come a long way from the civilized era of Couleru’s 1860 coloring book Nouveau Cours Élémentaire de Coloris et d’Acquerelle.

But when you need to clear your mind, one of the best things to do is color. All your senses conspire to rinse troubling thoughts away: tearing into the crisp cardboard box; that heavenly whiff of wax, blooming heavier with every twist of the built-in sharpener; the press of a crayon marking out its line across paper; unraveling the paper sleeve as the point wears down to a nub. We should color at least as often as we drink coffee. Here are few ways to have fun with coloring that won’t make you feel like you’re back in kindergarten.

Luxirare Edible Crayons
Eating crayons is a raw, much-scolded childhood urge – but now, at least, a distinctly less toxic one. Luxirare edible crayons combine crushed food ingredients based on desired color, not taste. For example, the green crayons are made of peas, green beans, dried kiwi, pumpkin seeds and Fruity Pebbles.

The Colour-In Dress
Just as crayon making is pushing boundaries, the possible canvasses for coloring are expanding as well. Retailing for €238, the Colour-In Dress by Dutch designer Berber Soepboer, developed with Michiel Schuurman, comes printed in black-and-white, ready to be filled with the enclosed textile markers.

The Song Coloring Book
Even old-school paper coloring books are taking on new shapes. PingMag reports on developments from Japan, where unconventional coloring books for adults range from anatomical-drawing coloring books and cult-manga books to coloring books for the elderly by Mimiko Akiyama (at left).

The coloring book that’ll really drive you to your katakana dictionary is Onchu’s Coloring Origami series – sadly only available via

Clearly, however, the medium is rife with irony, swimming deep in snark. The Grey Gardens Coloring Book promotes itself with taglines like “Don’t eat it. Give it to Whiskers,” while the Executive Coloring Book exudes a quietly desperate hilarity.


But perhaps best of all is the chance to do good and color and the same time. The Indie Rock Coloring Book, from the Montreal-based nonprofit Yellow Bird Project, gives all of the royalties to charities. Likewise, the  CMYK cocktail event (video below) is proof that more fun with color is on the way.

Jude Stewart is a Print contributing editor. She has written on design and culture for Slate, Fast Company, The Believer, I.D., Metropolis, and GOOD, as well as a column on color for STEP Inside Design. She also tweets about color at

8 thoughts on “Coloring for Grown-Ups

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  3. Jude Stewart

    I’m with you, housemdfan – the Colour-In Dress is a bit expensive, but on the other hand there’s a wide-open opportunity if you could make a color-able dress that could be RE-colored if desired. Quick, to the invention studio!

    I’m also big on the Dover books. Less affordable, but similarly fantastic, is the Sneaker Coloring Book, which I was sorely tempted to buy at the Cooper-Hewitt gift shop last week:

    Any other good coloring-book finds, by all means send ’em our way.

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  5. Carol

    What a fun article! As it happens, I just purchased an anatomy coloring book and some colored pencils last week, and have been having a blast with them — much to my husband’s amusement.

    You’re right, Jude: there’s something about coloring that helps to clear the mind and slow the world down. And now I think I’ll look into getting my hands on those edible crayons . . .