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The best colouring books for adults

Colour in the lines (or out) because colouring books aren't just for children

Colouring is therapeutic, most working adults need to relax – enter the adult colouring book. We raided local stores and picked out some of the best titles for you to engage in some mindful colouring (and doodling). 

Photo: Hizwan Hamid
1/11

Blame Johanna Basford. When she drew ‘Secret Garden’ – a colouring book marketed for adults, mind you – it sold millions of copies worldwide, sparking a colouring craze that has translated into second and third Johanna Basford successes: ‘Enchanted Forest’ and ‘Lost Ocean’, filled with intricate ink illustrations of flourishing forests, flowers and shoals of fishes. 

It’s safe to say that colouring books have brought a new lease of life to the publishing industry; publishing houses are chasing the colouring books trend, printing colouring books almost as fast as they fly off the shelves. There are colouring books of the animal kingdom, there’s one for fans of ‘Game of Thrones’, another with hip hop artists, plenty of options for the modern art snob (‘The Modern Art Doodle Book’ for example, imitates the styles of famous artists), and pages after pages of sophisticated, swirly patterns. 

It’s been said that colouring books for adults is a cultural shift, and one that’s not necessarily all good – critics claim it’s escapist infantilisation, functioning as a form of regression for adults not adult enough to confront their adult problems. 

Clearly, colouring books for adults are a thing. Clearly, it’s supposed to be therapeutic – psychological research backs it up, citing mindfulness, organised thoughts and stress relief through the satisfying act of colouring and seeing the colours spread through the page. Clearly, there’s a difference between colouring books for adults and those for children – those filled with laughable kiddish bunnies with bow ties, or something – even though a part of the appeal of the former is that it takes one back to one’s childhood. 

Last year, Fahmi Reza published a successfully crowd-funded alphabet colouring book featuring satirical drawings of Malaysian politicians. Stickerrific, the arts and crafts store in PJ, has published its own watercolour colouring book with pictures of Malaysian food – think kuih and noodle soup. Emila Yusof, too, has illustrated a series of successful picture books. 

It’s not all black and white. You’re never too old to colour inside – and outside, if you so wish – the lines.

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
2/11

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

RM43.90

Johanna Basford, the one who started it all. ‘Enchanted Forest’ takes colourphiles on ‘an inky quest’ through a magical map filled with intricate leafy drawings of flora and fauna, leading to a castle at the end of the book. Hidden throughout the book are symbols, which you must find to unlock the doors of the castle. Ng Su Ann

enchanted forest
Photo: Hizwan Hamid

Available at Books KinokuniyaMPH Bookstores and other major bookstores. 

Ngiau
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
3/11

Ngiau

RM45

A cat-themed colouring book brought to you by Fearless Ideas & Design, the design consultancy affiliated with Kakiseni. It’s not just any old cat, though. This one has three eyes. Ng Su Ann  

ngiau
Photo: Hizwan Hamid

Available at Supermart Collective

The Stickerrific Watercolour Coloring Book: Food Edition
4/11

The Stickerrific Watercolour Coloring Book: Food Edition

RM40 

It’s only fitting for a Malaysian-made colouring book to feature something so close to our hearts – food (think chicken rice balls, bubur cha cha and Malay kuih). Szetoo, co-founder of arts and crafts store Stickerrific, found that most colouring books had too-fine lines that made them unsuitable for filling in with watercolour. Hence, Stickerrific’s own colouring book features large drawings printed on 200gsm watercolour paper, while the blank spaces on each page encourage you to add some personal touches. If you need some painting tips, drop by the Jaya One store or sign up for the watercolour workshops. Syarifah Syazana

stickerrific
Photo: Stickerrific

Available at Stickerrific

Sherlock: The Mind Palace
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
5/11

Sherlock: The Mind Palace

RM59.90 

If it’s been a while since you watched BBC’s ‘Sherlock’, this colouring book should refresh your memory in no time with its spoiler-filled black-and-white illustrations. No ordinary colouring book where you merely colour in the consulting detective’s piercing gaze, a vital clue from each episode is hidden within the art and you’ll find them only after completing each scene. Plus points: close-ups of Sherlock’s/Benedict Cumberbatch’s face, Moriarty on his much-deserved throne, and a particularly spoiler-heavy scene from ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ episode. We’re a little sad the scene of Sherlock declaring ‘I don’t have friends’ in ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ episode didn’t make the cut, because colouring in all those chins would’ve been a feat. Melissa Mazlan


sherlock
Photo: Hizwan Hamid

Available at Books Kinokuniya and MPH Bookstores

Vogue colouring book
Photo: Zara Suhaimee
6/11

Vogue colouring book

RM35.90 

It’s not in fashion until Vogue says it is. You can now colour Balenciaga and Givenchy dresses in whatever shade you want, regardless of what Anna Wintour thinks. The artworks featured are inspired by iconic images and spreads from Vogue UK in the '50s so it’s like fashion history – a lot of matching hats and gloves, ballgowns and cocktail dresses. Nadia Rosli

vogue
Photo: Zara Suhaimee

Available at MPH Bookstores

Bun B's Rap Coloring and Activity Book
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
7/11

Bun B's Rap Coloring and Activity Book

RM50 

This one’s for the hip hop heads, curated by American rapper Bun B and created by music critic Shea Serrano. The 48-page book of rap-related colouring activities features rappers like Childish Gambino, Common and Talib Kweli. Warning: not for kids. Ng Su Ann

rap coloring book
Photo: Hizwan Hamid

Available at Markas

A Million Cats: Fabulous Felines to Colour by Lulu Mayo
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
8/11

A Million Cats: Fabulous Felines to Colour by Lulu Mayo

RM39.90 

Here’s one that combines two things we love – cats and Japanese motifs – for the ultimate Zen colouring fest. Illustrator Lulu Mayo’s colouring book debut sees over 30 spreads of whimsical (fat) felines in different shapes and sizes doing everyday things like riding a bus, taking a nap, and er, playing the shamisen. It’s all very weird and wonderful. Syarifah Syazana

cats
Photo: Hizwan Hamid

Available at Books Kinokuniya

Dream World Colourart by Emila Yusof
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
9/11

Dream World Colourart by Emila Yusof

RM20 

The third book in Emila Yusof’s Colourart series has dreamy, delightful doodles of a castle with a cat peeking out of a window, flying fishes with rotor blades, and sunflowers with smiling faces. Ng Su Ann

dream world
Photo: Hizwan Hamid

Available at Books KinokuniyaSilverfish Books and Stickerrific

The Penang Colouring Book by We Are Artists
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
10/11

The Penang Colouring Book by We Are Artists

RM20 

Penangites, your attention please. The colouring book features sketches from local artists – Esther Geh, Lusy Decoursey and Tiffany Choong, to name a few – to celebrate the people and places of Penang. Ng Su Ann

penang colouring book
Photo: Hizwan Hamid

Email info@wearearts.net to buy a copy.

Buku Mewarna ABC Politikus Malaysia
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
11/11

Buku Mewarna ABC Politikus Malaysia

Fahmi Reza is notorious for his protest art and if you need an introduction to the local political scene, always start with your ABCs. The colouring book is no longer available for purchase but Fahmi’s a stand up guy so he lets you have it for free. You can print a copy of the book yourself by downloading the PDF file. Nadia Rosli

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