Coloring Books for Adults

Some trace the recent adult coloring book craze to a 2015 National Public Radio feature about Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden coloring book.

“We were just selling out of her books all the time,” says Lisa LoPorto, the community business development manager at Barnes & Noble. “And then it just started this whole explosion of adult coloring books.” LoPorto says the books are highly sought after because of their (unofficially) therapeutic quality. Some of the most popular images, like mandalas, are associated with meditative qualities used to relieve stress through the ages.

“It really does help you relax, and I think there’s some nostalgia to it,” she says. “You remember coloring as a kid.”

Mid-Missouri claims its own coloring book illustrators, including Anna N. Carey, a Columbia elementary art teacher and the creator of Inkspirations Animal Kingdom, and Denise E. Shaw, a Fulton hairstylist, author and creator of Fairies Here and There.

Carey, who regularly creates coloring sheets and coloring projects for her students, became inspired to do a book of her own that she placed on Etsy in October 2015. Shortly after, HCI Books messaged her, asking if she’d make an animal kingdom coloring book based on her drawing of a dog they liked. “I remember telling my husband, ‘I think this [message] is a fake,’ ” she says.

Shaw unleashed her own artistic skill while preparing a special wedding drawing for her niece a few years ago. Since then, customers have asked her to make custom designs and drawings that she colors in for them and prints through Grindstone Digital Imaging. Last summer, owner Jeff Berg encouraged Shaw to embark on her first coloring book venture that took her about three months to complete.

Carey and Shaw share with readers their insights into the adult coloring

book craze.

What explains the sudden popularity of adult coloring books?

CAREY: There are endless opportunities and possibilities. You can’t make a mistake. I think it allows people to relax.

SHAW: I think adults never grow out of our coloring phase. We all like to color. You can sit down and lose yourself in it and not have to think about the day.

What motivates you to create your coloring books?

SHAW: I like that whole magical world. I drew fairies and owls and all kinds of different things in a small world. I just love to draw that stuff.

CAREY: I love art, so I enjoy doing it. I’m not stressed out when I create or color. I enjoy sharing [my drawings] with others. My favorite thing is when somebody shows me what they did, or they are excited about it.

What is your creative process? How do you begin a sketch?

CAREY: I use Sharpies. I’ll draw it in pencil first and then when I know it [looks] right, I use a light box and I’ll put my final copy on top of my sketch and trace over it. I don’t like having pencil lines or erase marks. But the designs and doodles are all freehand.

SHAW: First, I draw it all out in pencil [freehand]. Then I go back, and I ink it in, and I outline everything. I might not like something after I’ve started, so I might have to change it. So I make sure whatever I do is in a light pencil. It can take me one whole day of finishing up [a drawing].

Try Your Hand At Coloring

Have you wanted to join the coloring craze but didn’t know where to start? Download a copy of this FREE coloring page from Denise Shaw (Grindstone Digital Imaging) by clicking here, print it out and start coloring! Submit your finished page to us on Facebook at or email a photo of it to us at  One lucky Prime reader will win a FREE coloring book!  Your page might even be included in an upcoming issue of Prime.