We all remember the days spent in our youth colouring in fun cartoon designs and that very real struggle to stay within the lines. Now, the colouring fad is officially back, and it’s not just for kids!
Psychologists say that when we concentrate on the activity of colouring, it takes our focus away from worries, whilst stimulating motor skills, senses and creativity. With all the stresses of daily life then, it’s no wonder that adult colouring books have become a huge hit; Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom, published by Batsford, has sold more than 320,000 copies in the UK alone since January.
To inspire you to ditch chapter and verse in favour of black outlines and felt-tips, here is my pick of potential colouring book images from our archive:
It is no surprise that animals are a big hit for colouring books as we are endlessly fascinated by their exotic colours and wonderful patterned coats. The Bridgeman archive is home to a vast collection of animal images, from predators in the wild to your sweet, domestic pets.
Illustration of Capreolus Polyceros from Aldrovandi’s ‘History of Monsters’ , 1642, Italian School / Private Collection / Prismatic Pictures / Bridgeman Images
Illustration of “Monstrum tetrachiron alatum capite humano aurito” from Aldrovandi’s ‘History of Monsters’ , 1642, Italian School / Private Collection / Prismatic Pictures / Bridgeman Images
While animals may have a more specific appearance, there is no better way to let your imagination run free than with mythical monsters and other curious creatures. Who’s to say if they have a pink neck or green eyes – only your creativity can decide.
Sea Life and Nautical Scenes
The Blood of Fish, published in ‘Ver Sacrum’ magazine, 1898, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images
The Whale looking for the ‘Stute Fish, illustration from ‘Just So Stories for Little Children’ by Rudyard Kipling, pub. London, 1951 / Private Collection / The Stapleton Collection / Bridgeman Images
Gustav Klimt is better known for his colourful and decorative style of painting, so it is quite unusual to see his monochrome drawings. As one of my favourite artists, I would love the chance to try and recreate his characteristic style using an illustration like ‘The Blood of Fish’.
Aquatic life overall is strongly associated with a sense of tranquillity and as such these kind of images would perfectly compliment the objective of a stress-relieving colouring book.
The Fairies Dispute, English School, (19th century) / Private Collection / Photo © Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, London / Bridgeman Images
‘Dreams’, 1894, Aubrey Beardsley, (1872-98) / Private Collection / Prismatic Pictures / Bridgeman Images
Fairytales, dreams and whimsical scenes are wonderful subjects for colouring books; the illustrations are often beautiful, intricate and occasionally abstract, helping to transport the viewer to another world away from troubles.
Map of Mexico, illustration from ‘Civitates Orbis Terrarum’ by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg c.1572, Joris Hoefnagel (after) / Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France / Bridgeman Images
Map of Europe, illustration from ‘Le Magasin Pittoresque’, 1849 , French School / Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France / Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Images
United Kingdom, Georgina Naisbitt, Bridgeman Images
London, Georgina Naisbitt, Bridgeman Images
Maps contain a lot of detail by their very nature and therefore make for a great subject to colour, whilst also teaching you some geography! From old-fashioned maps to the contemporary patterned versions by Studio artist Georgina Naisbitt, the world is at your felt-tips. BOOb
Genghis Khan (c.1162-1227) illustration from ‘Grandeur and Supremacy of Peking’ by Alphonse Hubrecht, 1928, French School / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images
The building of the wall, illustration from ‘A History of England’ by C.R.L. Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling, 1911, Henry Justice Ford / Private Collection / The Stapleton Collection / Bridgeman Images
How well do you remember your history? Get up close and personal with the most renowned events and figures of all time with a historical colouring book.
Just as gothic images are widely popular in tattoo designs, I imagine that macabre imagery such as skulls and flames will also find their place in adult colouring books.
The Mad Hatter, illustration from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, by Lewis Carroll, 1865, John Tenniel / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images
‘Mr. Darcy with him’, illustration from ‘Pride & Prejudice’ by Jane Austen, edition published in 1894, Hugh Thomson / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images
What better way to make your favourite stories come to life than by colouring their illustrations? The Mad Hatter could be made madder than ever with the addition of some bright neon shades. This would also work perfectly with comic book illustrations as well.
The Peacock Skirt, illustration for the English edition of `Salome’ by Oscar Wilde, 1893, Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98) / Fogg Art Museum, Harvard Art Museums, USA / Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop / Bridgeman Images
‘The Battle of the Beaux and the Belles’, drawing for the eighth illustration from ‘Rape of the Lock’ by Alexander Pope pub. by Leonard Smithers, 1896, Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98) / The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham / Bridgeman Images
As one would expect, fashion is another fantastic subject matter, particularly when they incorporate exquisite illustrations by artists such as Aubrey Beardsley. Her drawings were inspired by Japanese woodcuts and feature bold lines and spectacular detail, portraying the decadent, erotic and grotesque in society.
Untitled, Stephanie Davies / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images
With their naturally bright colours and intertwining shapes, floral patterns are another must-have design feature.
Studio & Contemporary
Silvertips Greyhound With Floral Border, 2012, Jo Chambers / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images
In addition to the wide variety of existing black and white images in the archive, it is also possible to work with our Bridgeman Studio artists to create more unique or customised content for your colouring book. Jo Chambers, Stephanie Davies and others are all willing to adapt their images and collaborate with publishers to be a part of this hot trend.
Find out More
Browse all colouring book images. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on image licensing and clearing copyright.