Enterprise Focus: Colouring Books for Adults

There are two main contributors, from what I can assert, when it comes to colouring books for adults: Johanna Basford and Millie Marotta. When I decided to write this article and went searching for a colouring book, both of them had been so popular that my local Waterstones hadn’t received stock for around a month and Amazon had a six week waiting list. I eventually managed to get hold of Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom.

Around 2012 colouring books designed for adults began to gain traction, with Creative Colouring for Adults, focusing on the reduction of stress that the act of colouring can create. In the last two years the popularity and number of these books available has increased exponentially. Traditionally colouring books have been designed with children in mind, printed on brownish paper and sandwiched between thin cover pages. Colouring books designed for adults on the other hand are bound with sturdy card covers, high quality paper pages and beautifully detailed illustrations.

Millie Marotta, Animal Kingdom

Though the concept of a colouring book marketed at adults may seem a bit twee, when you see the intricacies of the designs you can appreciate the appeal. One of the themes that seem to emerge as the pull of these colouring books is their potential as stress reducers, it has been suggested that by colouring in the stress hormone cortisol is reduced, and serotonin the “happy hormone”) levels increase. The act of putting pencil to paper and fleshing out a black and white design has further been described as an act of meditation, an opportunity to disengage with the demands of a time poor life and focus on a separate medium.

Millie Marotta, Animal Kingdom

“I think the level of detail in my illustrations requires people to really focus on what they are doing when colouring them.

In that sense I think people have found them quite therapeutic and an effective way to ‘switch off’ as they become really absorbed in what they’re doing.”                     Millie Marotta, The Daily Mail

My Design


Personally I felt quite stressed when beginning with this elephant, which is more to do with me being an organised perfectionist (control freak) with minimal artistic predisposition. I wanted all the colours to be in a specific order, when I gave up this and worked on small sections, focusing solely on the trunk for example and then the feet, I found that almost two hours of my evening disappeared and I was incredibly proud of what I created. As a list maker, who’s constantly “firefighting” and multi-tasking, to spend this time doing something I didn’t need to reason through was a happy change, and after touting my Elephant to anyone who’ll look at it, I might have to pin this on my wall.

Business Insider has looked at this new trend alongside the resurgence and nostalgia for all things childlike. They’ve documented summer schools and preschools for adults, this combination of nostalgia and stress reduction is proving an incredibly profitable and popular combination. It can be reasoned, that there is a desire to return to a happier simpler time, and pastimes such as this allow people to pause their busy lives.

colouring books
Amazon top 100 books

Currently the top three books on Amazon best seller list are all colouring books designed for adults, Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom has been in the top 100 for nigh on six months. Her publishers, Basford, have reported sales in excess of 500,000 copies worldwide, really hammering home the success of this new medium. In Korea alone Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden has sold more than 430,000 copies (having currently sold 1.4 million world wide).

“Part of the apparent appeal is the tactile, interactive nature of the books, which offer respite to the screen-weary.” (NY Times)

Johanna Basford, an already trained an established illustrator, began her career in colouring books in an organic manner, by creating a series of free downloadable desktop wallpapers, through this she connected with her future editor. This editor saw an opportunity and suggested the idea of creating a book, and Secret Garden came about. Initially the book was created as a children’s book, but Basford championed the shift in the target market towards an older generation.

From an enterprise prospective this nuance of colouring books being designed for adults from the ground up, and in turn being incredibly successful is an interesting one. The target market of a product or service is integral to a business’s ultimate success and sourcing and supplying a niche as profitable as this is every entrepreneurs dream.

“…she [Basford] has successfully made one of the most difficult of enterprise leaps; creating a product that plays to our sense of nostalgia, but doesn’t quickly fade in the cold light of ‘today’…and that is quite a remarkable feat.” Startucus

If you want to try your hand at colouring the elephant a couple of photos up, Millie Marotta’s Publishers have a free download here.

Throughout this I have linked out to Amazon in case anyone is interested in purchasing these books out of ease, they are available where books are sold both on-line and on the high street.

We also have a Pinterest account, with boards such as this:

Emily Lane
Emily Lane



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