We’ve all enjoyed those serene rainy afternoons coloring cartoon characters in Disney-themed coloring books with the kids, right?
Maybe you don’t want to admit how much you love coloring.
It is kind of childish.
Thankfully, some creative marketing geniuses have emerged to give us “adult coloring books,” so we no longer have to hide.
A therapeutic hobby akin to the art of Zentangle, the adult coloring book craze has taken off — an unexpected blessing in the lives of reluctant grown-ups.
The patterns are complicated. Princesses and talking animals are conspicuously absent from the pages. And it says “Adult” right on the cover!
This is obviously a grown-up affair.
Why We Love Adult Coloring Books
I’ll admit, I resisted the adult coloring book craze for some time.
I’m a grumpy cynic who hates anything considered a “craze.”
But as they tend to do, my sisters convinced me of the merits of the popular pastime by showing up at Christmas armed with a few fresh books and Crayola markers.
In a world where almost no one can get through her day without facing the glare of a screen and the stress, worry and demand of everything it displays, we’re looking for any break we can get.
Yes, you can always go for another run, join a yoga class, clean something around the house or take up baking.
But sometimes you just want to chill out. Adult coloring books let you do that.
The patterns may look more challenging than their childish counterparts, but really, they’re just a bunch of small spaces to color however you please.
They’re repetitive and often symmetrical.
The colors you choose have little impact on the quality of the final image.
They just feel good to color.
Once I finally tried it, I begrudgingly became a fan.
How to Find Affordable Adult Coloring Books
But did I mention these coloring books — unlike their cheap childish counterparts — run about $10 apiece?
I knew there was a reason I didn’t like the word “craze.” It tends to come with a hefty price tag.
Well, luckily I’m a Penny Hoarder — I don’t settle for high prices.
I’ve found some great free alternatives to expensive adult coloring books. And they still come with all the Zen you need.
Check these out:
1. Coloring Pages for Adults
Coloring Pages for Adults is just that: Hundreds of free adult coloring pages to download and print.
2. Easy Peasy and Fun
This site is dedicated to making life “easy-peasy and fun.”
It offers crafts and activities for kids — but also has thrown in some original free coloring pages for adults.
For more than just this sampling, the author also has full PDF ebooks available to purchase.
In addition to the coloring pages and activities for kids we expect from the brand, Crayola’s website also offers free printable coloring pages for adults.
4. Coloring Life
Adult Coloring Book Apps
If you don’t have a printer and don’t want to make a run to the library or FedEx to prepare for a peaceful afternoon, here are some options you can grab right on your computer, smartphone or tablet.
Of course, using these apps means more screen time. But while “coloring” with an app doesn’t offer the 100%-unplugged feeling of the paper version, it was still better for me than scrolling through Twitter or busying my brain with a game.
Adult coloring book apps are plentiful, so you can have your pick.
Here are a few I’ve tried:
As the name suggests, the HelloKids website offers coloring pages, games and activities for children in addition to coloring pages for adults.
You’ll have to watch an ad before accessing your design.
But what’s cool is you can choose to print images to color on paper, or color on-screen with a built-in app.
6. Color Therapy
While it works fine on an iPhone, my 30-year-old eyes don’t love concentrating on the small screen.
I’d recommend the iPad version for an experience more akin to a real coloring page.
Color Therapy comes with a variety of free patterns, with new ones added every week.
The app is supported by in-app purchases — allowing you buy additional patterns and color palettes — plus occasional ads.
Though it’s similar to Color Therapy, I prefer Colorfly for iOS for its cleaner interface.
Without any in-app purchases, you see fewer ads, and even the ads to support the free version are unobtrusive.
If you want a totally ad-free experience, you can pay $1.99 per week for the premium version.
8. Coloring for Grown-Ups
The app version of the 2012 adult activity book Coloring for Grown-Ups is perfect if you’re just too cynical to embrace the calming, swirling patterns of traditional adult coloring books (I understand.)
This app allows you to maintain your integrity by thinking about the “mind-numbing realities of modern adult life” while you unwind.
It’s like going to a bar. But with crayons.
It’s not free; it’ll cost you 99 cents to download for iOS, but worth checking out if you’re not quite ready to jump on the Zen bandwagon with us.
Your Turn: Are you into adult coloring books? Do you buy them or use one of these methods to save money?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes about writing, life, comedy and love for blogs and books and sometimes things people care about, like Huffington Post and that one time she had an article published in the Onion.