Adult coloring book sales skyrocket

Comforting colors

Freshly-sharpened colored pencils are ready for the first meeting of the Creative Coloring Club at Barnes and Noble in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Freshly-sharpened colored pencils are ready for the first meeting of the Creative Coloring Club at Barnes and Noble in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Diane Welsh loves coloring. And she’s not alone.

A small group gathered at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids July 21 for the store’s first “Creative Coloring Club.”

Welsh, store manager, organized the group to celebrate coloring books marketed to adults. The trend is hot, hot, hot right now, but the Cedar Rapids store has carried the books for years.

“Finally, the world caught up with us,” Welsh laughs.

Today, the store carries more than 100 titles. The adult coloring books stand out from the more traditional children’s coloring books — the adult pages feature intricate pictures, with highly detailed designs that require a fine-tipped pen or well-sharpened colored pencil to complete.

Aficionados say coloring in these pages is relaxing and even therapeutic.

“With coloring you don’t have to think,” Welsh says. “It’s addictive. I spent two hours yesterday coloring.”

She’s far from the only one who has caught the coloring bug.

The trend started to take off after British artist Johanna Basford published the coloring book “Secret Garden” in 2013. In recent months, her books and others have shot to the top of best-seller lists.

“Secret Garden” was the No. 1 best-seller on Amazon as of this story’s deadline, with two other coloring books, including “Enchanted Forest” by Basford, also making the top 10. “Enchanted Forest” also was a best seller at the Cedar Rapids Barnes & Noble store last week.

The selection of available books is expanding. Basford’s garden and forest scenes have been joined by books featuring geometric patters, city scenes and cats. Even comic book publisher Marvel has jumped on board, releasing colorless versions of comic books for readers to decorate at will.


Several books are straight forward about what many find enjoyable about coloring. Titles like “Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns” and “Balance (Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1)” have hit the best-seller list as well.

Astrid Gale of Cedar Rapids says, it is her way to relax.

“It’s very calming for the mind,” she says. “When doing something creative that requires me to focus, I can’t think about other things.”

She attended the Creative Coloring Club and plans to come back.

“It brings out the inner kid,” she says.

Barnes & Noble cafe manager Joelyn Postlethwait of Marion agrees with Gale’s assessment.

The attention to detail required by the books helps her unwind, she says. It’s mentally engaging without deadlines or rules, she says.

She and her son, an engineer who lives in Chicago, bought coloring books together recently.

“About three weeks later, I got a picture on my phone from his girlfriend,” she says. “It was both of them sitting at the table with coloring books, drinking IPAs after a long day at work.”

Welsh says, for her, it is a form of artistic expression, without any pressure.

“I would love to be an artist and draw, but I’m not talented,” she says. “So I can still create something beautiful.”

Donna Zimmerman of Cedar Rapids says she bought a book when she was with her 15-year-old granddaughter. They both enjoy the activity.

“I always wanted to be an artist,” she says.

“You are now,” Gale tells her.

If you go

What: Creative Coloring Club

Where: Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 333 Collins Rd., Cedar Rapids

When: 3 p.m. Tuesdays

Cost: Free




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