Adult colouring books all the rage

Adult colouring books big seller at Calgary art store

When author and poet Wendy McGrath pitched the idea of a free, all ages colouring party to Audrey’s bookstore in Edmonton, neither she nor the manager had any idea it’d be so popular.

“We thought maybe 30 or 40 people would come,” manager Kelly Dyer told the Edmonton Journal.

The bookstore is hosting a second “colouring party” on Wednesday evening after too many people responded to the first invitation. Currently more than 100 people have RSVP’ed yes to Wednesday’s party.

All the rage right now, adult colouring books occupy four of the top 20 spots on’s best-selling books list for this week. Unlike children’s colouring books, the ones created for adults feature intricate designs of varying complexity and subject matter.

They’ve been compared to therapy and meditation because they force the user to sit down, unplug and focus intently and narrowly on a creative act.

“I think it’s a response to the need for tactile experiences in a world where so much of what we do is online, in front of a screen,” says McGrath, of the sudden popularity of the books. “There is something to be said about picking up a wax crayon, its smell, the way you can peel back the paper as you wear down your favourite colours.”

So popular are adult colouring books, store owners are having a hard time keeping copies on shelves and Indigo boasts more than 60 different titles. While Indigo does not provide sales numbers, senior vice-president of print Bahram Olfati told the Toronto Star that they were “trending very high for us.”

With so many possibilities there seems to be something for everyone, including a book of classic tattoo designs, an indie rock colouring book and even a rap-themed offering created by hip-hop artist Bun B. On Instagram, you’re just as likely to find photos of adults gathering over wine to colour under the hashtag #colouringparty as you are children.

The best-known adult colouring book illustrator is Scotland’s Johanna Basford, whose Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean have sold millions of copies worldwide. Secret Garden is thought to have sparked the recent explosion in popularity despite the fact that colouring books for adults have been around since the 1970s. Dover Publications in New York is the granddaddy of the genre and their Creative Haven line features more than 130 titles.

Canada has its own homegrown talent in Nadine Staaf of Prince Edward Island. Her books — Feel Good Colouring, Feel Inspired Colouring and Small Colouring — combine images of animals, plants and abstract designs with encouraging words and space for journaling.

“People are making conscious choices to feel good, and colouring is one way for them to do that,” says Staaf. When asked about the Edmonton colouring parties, Staaf seemed excited by the concept.

“There is definitely a community aspect that comes into play with colouring, even as adults. It reminds me of the way we used to colour in groups, at school, as kids, and I think more bookstores should jump on that train of thinking — another way to build community and to make their store a place where people feel comfortable coming.”

In Edmonton on Tuesday night, the first colouring party attracted a mix of attendees that included parents and kids, students and groups of friends.

“Audrey’s set up tables and provided crayons and pencil crayons, but a number of people brought their own pencil crayons —one woman brought a set she’d bought in Switzerland when she was 13!” says McGrath.

Attendees to the second colouring party on Wednesday are invited to bring their own books.

According to McGrath, interest is so strong that Audrey’s is considering hosting colouring parties every second month.