Thinking of making your own adult coloring book? Here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way.
I’m crazy about adult coloring books. I’m always drawn in by something unique that’s produced to a high standard. After considerable time as a coloring artist I thought I’d give making my own book a go. It’s called “Color That Hunk” and is soon to be launched on Kickstarter.
I had a great time putting it together and I learned a huge amount along the way. It’s always fab to hear about a new artist and I have the utmost respect for anyone thinking of giving it a go. I’ve put this article together to make sure anyone considering it can start out with as much knowledge on their side as possible. The tips and tricks I’ve outlined here should save you quite a bit of time and also help you get the standards of the illustrations and production as high as possible.
There’s an awful lot to keep in mind throughout the process. Fortunately for me, I’ve worked for many years as a Graphic Designer. The skills I learned during my day-to-day proved invaluable while making “Color That Hunk”. I’ve included as many of them as possible while trying not to get too technical and geeky! If there’s anything here you’ve found particularly useful or if you think there’s something I’ve not touched on I’d love to hear about it. I hope this article helps you along the way to creating your own book!
What’s the theme?
All of my favorite coloring books are ones that stick to a unique theme. For me it was hunks. Other artists have focused on an amazingly wide range of alternate themes. When you’re thinking up your theme asks yourself if it’s something that you will be able to keep coming back to and enjoy working on throughout the entire process. I’ve seen great books that focus on the artist’s pets, their travel experiences, the swear words they love plus much, much more! I decided to execute my idea when it occurred to me to write a naughty innuendo for each page and character. Without that addition, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it quite as much. What kept me motivated was seeing my friend’s and family’s reaction every time they saw a new page! It was really important to me that the book was both funny and entertaining plus enjoyable to color. Make sure you find a recipe that works for you!
When you’re brainstorming themes for your book make sure you write everything down, however, silly it seems at the time. The ideas will develop and sometimes merge. The end result may move a long way from the scribbled notes that started it all off (and this is almost always a good thing).
Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. Friends and family are a great place to start but only if you are sure they won’t mince their words. Honest feedback is surprisingly hard to come by and is so valuable. You’re going to be putting an awful lot of your time into your book so be sure that you love the idea and everyone you show it to feels the same. It’s understandable to feel a little uneasy about sharing your idea with other artists. However, if there are any you know and trust I’d highly recommend getting them involved.
When and how to illustrate
If you don’t thoroughly enjoy illustrating then creating an adult coloring book probably isn’t for you. Forcing yourself to do something you aren’t really into is going to show in the final product. For me, a weekday evening or weekend afternoon that is spent doodling away with a glass of wine and some great music is time very well spent. If this sounds like fun to you too just one word of advice; go easy on the wine!
Don’t force yourself to get illustrating if you’re really not in the mood. It’s pretty much a given that you won’t like the end product and you’ll burn out fast. It’s not work, it’s a passion project, make sure you enjoy it.
If you love the idea of making a coloring book and you love illustrating but aren’t sure if your drawings are up to scratch then practice, get feedback, and keep practicing. There are loads of different styles of illustrating that are great to color, you’ll be sure to find one that works for you. Take a look through your collection for some inspiration!
A thorough time plan is really important. Even more important than that is the discipline to stick it (when you can) and the flexibility to break it (when you need to). Some weeks you simply aren’t going to have the time to illustrate. Don’t beat yourself up, rejig the dates and keep going. This most certainly isn’t the case if you’re a full-time coloring book artist, but hey, you’ve gone pro, no sympathy from us aspiring hobbyists!
I’m sure most are already aware of this so I’ll be brief… It’s going to take months and months to finish all your illustrations. Keep everything in order and in one place. You’ll regret not doing so if even one precious illustration goes missing. This very nearly happened to me on one occasion, it wasn’t a happy Sunday morning.
Find your best production process
Some artists sketch in pencil then draw over in a pen. Some go straight to pen. Some use computers during the creation process, others don’t. The most important thing to keep in mind at first is to be flexible and experiment with different methods until you find a flow that is both efficient and leads to the best results. At first, this may seem quite daunting as there are many different ways to go about it but you’re much better off sorting this now than skipping it and later realizing that you’ve wasted loads of time.
I also highly recommend checking out some computer software that can help you get your illustrations ready for print. Unfortunately, an unedited photo of your drawing isn’t going to cut it. It will be riddled with unwanted smudges, inconsistency in paper texture and unwanted lighting effects. This can all be overcome by hiring a professional photographer but for me, this was way out of budget. I used computer software and a high-quality scanner to get the best results possible. This also allowed me to revisit the illustrations from time to time and tweak things like line thickness and edit other fine details.
Test your pages
I took “Color That Hunk” right back to the drawing board on one occasion. I thought I had over half the 32 pages finished but after coloring them myself I found they didn’t have enough variation in detail. I found I enjoyed the coloring so much more when there were areas of the page that were high in detail and other areas that eased off a bit. As an artist, it’s natural to want to make sure all your illustrations are as intricate as possible so that your colorers have the maximum amount to get stuck into. But the truth is, they probably aren’t going to enjoy it as much as you (the artist) thinks.
At the second attempt, I got much closer to the mark. It was at this point that I decided to share some of the illustrations with avid colorer friends and encouraged them to test the pages out. I got some valuable feedback that helped me polish up and finalize each page. This is a step that you absolutely have to carry out. Unfortunately, you won’t ever be able to view the illustrations you have created from the perspective of a coloring artist seeing them for the first time.
Making the book
This is where all that hard work starts to pay off. It’ feels great to hold the first sample copy of your book. Getting there efficiently, however, can be tricky.
The first thing to consider is how your book is going to be bound. This is mostly dictated by the page count. As a very rough guide, a book below 30 pages may be best suited to saddle stitching. Anything over 30 pages could benefit from perfect binding. The best thing you can do at this stage is to find a local printer with a great reputation who knows their stuff. Ask for their advice before hitting the start button on a production run, however, small the scale!
The paper weight is also extremely important. How disappointed would you be if your new purchase was made from paper that was too thin to color on both sides? I’d be pretty upset!
Different coloring tools require different paper thicknesses. If you’re illustrating a book designed for watercolor painting you are going to need a much thicker paper weight than usual. The best thing you can do here is to test out your illustrations on different paper weights and different paper styles. It shouldn’t cost too much to order several different options of one page and will save you a ton of stress and money in the long run. I’ve decided not to share the exact paperweights necessary for different mediums as this is an expensive decision to get wrong and I don’t consider myself a paper expert. Be thorough, pick the right printer, trust their advice and test out several different options.
Designing the cover is a really important part of the process. If you have no idea where to start then I suggest hiring a freelance Graphic Designer to help you out. The cover art performs an essential role in your book. It gives the all important first impression for what lies between the covers. It should showcase everything that is great about your book in a detailed yet concise manner. Whether you’re hiring a designer or doing it yourself it’s essential that you thoroughly research other designs on the market. Find your favorites and then figure out what you like about them. It’s also worth noting down what you don’t like about the designs that you’re not so keen on.
There’s nothing wrong with your cover looking unique. It’s a hard thing to achieve but will help your book jump out from the crowd. It is important to remember that it should still look like a coloring book cover. If it doesn’t how are your potential fans going to know what it is? Remember you don’t have long to make a first impression and if it’s the wrong one you may not get a chance at a second. It’s all about making the most of the time people give to check out your product.
Keeping it consistent
Improving as you go is a great thing. Don’t hold back. If you see that your five most recent illustrations are stronger than all the others you should be immensely proud. You’re a fast learner! Don’t view all your previous illustrations as a waste of time, many of them will require nothing more than a revisit where you apply your new found techniques and skills. Make sure you do revisit them. You’ll see ways to push the standard up so it is consistent across all your pages.
Never accept any pages as “good enough” or “just about okay”. When you flick through the final book they’ll jump out at you like a sore thumb, the colorers will certainly spot them too. You are much, much better off making a reasonably sized high-quality book than a leviathan full of rushed illustrations and filler pages. What’s the point in paying for paper that’s being used to print something that you’re not truly proud of?
I would recommend anyone who loves coloring and being creative to give making your own book a go. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. It’s been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling though at the same time quite exhausting!
Something I haven’t touched on here is just how much time it all takes. I’m not the fastest illustrator, it’s roughly a full day’s work for me to get a drawing ready to send around for feedback. It’s worth bearing in mind just how much of your free time will have to go into even a small scale project. It will take a lot of determination but it is achievable and it’s so worth it.
The author of this article, Oliver, is the creator of “Color That Hunk”. The book is available now at www.kickstarter.com/pr
Oliver’s obsession with coloring started when he was bought a swear word coloring book many years ago. As his experience grew he felt ready to make a book of his own. It had to be unique, entertaining and a joy to color.
Grab your copy of “Color That Hunk” now at www.kickstarter.com/projects/opocmedia/color-that-hunk-a-cheeky-and-unique-adult-coloring or follow him at www.facebook.com/colorthathunk
If you have any questions about me, this article or “Color That Hunk” drop me a message via https://www.facebook.com/colorthathunk/
Good luck with your book!