Getting your color on: maybe there’s some truth to the trend

Coloring was never my thing, even as a young child, the amount of decision required in coloring was actually stressful to me. Hence my skepticism of this zen adult coloring trend. I purchased a book and selected coloring tools about a year ago, coloring bits and pieces here and there but not really getting it. Until now.

While reading an article about the psychology behind adult coloring, I found this quote to be exceptionally interesting:

The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress. -Gloria Martinez Ayala [quoted in Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress]

Color Me Stress Free by Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter

A page, colored by Whitni Watkins, from Color Me Stress Free by Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter

As I was coloring this particular piece [pictured to the left] I started seeing the connection the micro process of coloring has to the macro process of managing a library and/or team building. Each coloring piece has individual parts that contribute to forming the outline of full work of art. But it goes deeper than that.

For exampled, how you color and organize the individual parts can determine how beautiful or harmonious the picture can be. You have so many different color options to choose from, to incorporate into your picture, some will work better than others. For example, did you know in color theory, orange and blue is a perfect color combination? According to color theory, harmonious color combinations use any two colors opposite each other on the color wheel.” [7]  But that the combination of orange, blue and yellow is not very harmonious?

Our lack of knowledge is a significant hindrance for creating greatness, knowing your options while coloring is incredibly important. Your color selection will determine what experience one has when viewing the picture. Bland, chaotic or pleasing, each part working together, contributing to the bigger picture. “Observing the effects colors have on each other is the starting point for understanding the relativity of color. The relationship of values, saturations and the warmth or coolness of respective hues can cause noticeable differences in our perception of color.” [6]  Color combinations, that may seem unfitting to you, may actually compliment each other.  

Note that some colors will be used more frequently and have a greater presence in the final product due to the qualities that color holds but remember that even the parts that only have a small presence are crucial to bringing the picture together in the end. 

“Be sure to include those who are usually left out of such acknowledgments, such as the receptionist who handled the flood of calls after a successful public relations effort or the information- technology people who installed the complex software you used.”[2]

There may be other times where you don’t use a certain color as much as it should have and could have been used. The picture ends up fully colored and completed but not nearly as beautiful (harmonious) as it could have been. When in the coloring process, ask yourself often “‘What else do we need to consider here?’ you allow perspectives not yet considered to be put on the table and evaluated.” [2] Constant evaluation of your process will lead to a better final piece.

While coloring I also noticed that I color individual portions in a similar manner. I color triangles and squares by outlining and shading inwards. I color circular shapes in a circular motion and shading outwards. While coloring, we find our way to be the most efficient but contained (within the lines) while simultaneously coordinating well with the other parts. Important to note, that the way you found to be efficient in one area  may not work in another area and you need to adapt and be flexible and willing to try other ways. Imagine coloring a circle the way you color a square or a triangle. You can take as many shortcuts as you want to get the job done faster but you may regret them in the end. Cut carefully. 

Remember while coloring: Be flexible. Be adaptable. Be imperturbable.

You can color how ever you see fit. You can choose which colors you want, the project will get done. You can be sure there will be moments of chaos, there will be moments that lack innovation. Experiment, try new things and the more you color the better you’ll get. However, coloring isn’t for everyone, at that’s okay. 

Now, go back and read again, this time substitute the word color for manage.

Maybe there is something to be said about this trend of the adult coloring book. 

1. Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress
2. Twelve Ways to Build an Effective Team
3. COLOURlovers: History Of The Color Wheel
4. Smashing Magazine: Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color:
5. Some Color History
6. Color Matters: Basic Color Theory
7. lifehacker: Learn the Basics of Color Theory to Know What Looks Good
8. lifehacker: Color Psychology Chart
9. Why Flexible and Adaptive Leadership is Essential