Crayons at the ready. Adult colouring-in is having a major moment. It started with the naturalistic line drawings of Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford, whose books — which are this week joined by a third, Lost Ocean — have in two years sold more than 10m copies worldwide and ignited a publishing phenomenon.
Call it a therapeutic shortcut to creativity, or a curative for our stressed-out times, but the wonderfully analogue act of putting pencil to paper has found ardent followers from Britain to Brazil and even South Korea, where smartphone addiction is so rife among teenagers that it has prompted government intervention.
Now the lucrative domain of adult doodling has a stylish new sub-genre: the fashion colouring book. With its wistful “Juniper” cover design, The Liberty Colouring Book (October 29, £9.99, Penguin) is the sort of thing you’d expect Alessandro Michele’s arty Gucci girl to pull from her knapsack. “It takes the colouring trend beyond its associations with mindfulness and relaxation to appeal to those with an interest in fashion and textiles,” says Penguin Books editor Zoe Bohm.
“It’s the repeated nature of these patterns that makes them so powerful,” says Bohm of the book which features 43 black-and-white outlines of Liberty designs taken from an archive of more than 40,000 prints, “it means you can really focus on the colouring process.” Highly intricate styles like the 1930s “Betsy” floral have been selected for their classic appeal.
So how best to bring living colour to these quintessential prints? “There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to colour,” says Sally Kelly, senior designer at Liberty Art Fabrics and creator of the book’s “Busy Issie”, “Jenny’s Fan” and “Hunter Paisley” prints. “It helps to think tonally. Limit yourself to a palette of soft greens or blues, and always consider the placement of colour before you start.” Liberty’s heritage prints have long been associated with rich jewel tones — what Kelly calls “oriental, spicy hues” — but some multi-hued fabrics feature up to eight colours at a time. “Colour is crucial,” says Kelly. “That’s what draws people in when they see a row of fabrics. It can make or break a design.”
Would-be designers can indulge their fashion fantasies further still with the arrival of the Vogue Colouring Book (November 5, £10, Conran Octopus), a series of sketches by Iain R Webb traced straight from the pages of 1950s British Vogues. All those statuesque beauties in sweeping skirted Worth gowns and flatline Dior suits make the era an arresting one to bring to life.
For the colourer with more contemporary tastes, there’s Parisian Street Style: The Adult Colouring Book (Saltyard Books, £9.99). Altogether enough to lure us, however fleetingly, from the compelling glow of our Instagram feeds.