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Think Outside the Lines: 8 Creative Ways to Color Adult Coloring Book Pages

Are you an adult coloring book addict? Do you want to take your coloring to the next level? These coloring tips will help you think outside the box, if not the lines, to create gorgeous coloring book pages! 

Creative ways to color in adult coloring book pages

These coloring tips will help you create interesting works of art with coloring book pages for grown-ups!

Photos and art via CakeSpy unless otherwise noted

From multimedia works of art to collage-like effects using common household objects, these cool and creative ways to color adult coloring book pages are bound to get you inspired to break out your art supplies and create something beautiful!

8 coloring tips for creative ways to color adult coloring book pages

Turn a coloring book into a zentangle

1. Make it a zentangle 

By using ink, you can “color” in the page using different pen strokes like hatching and cross hatching and tiny patterns to create an intricate coloring wonderland. Before you know it, the page will completely change character, becoming almost like a collaborative work between you and the coloring book page illustrator. 

Check out our tutorial on how to draw a zentangle!

Watercolor on coloring book pages

2. Use paint 

Using paint instead of pencils or crayons can make coloring a totally new experience. In the above photo, watercolor is used to apply a delicate, translucent tone to the coloring book page, giving it a soft effect and a different character than a page colored in with crayon or colored pencil. Watercolor isn’t your only option; you could use gouache or acrylic, too (oil paint is not suggested).

For best results, remove the coloring book page from the book before painting so the paint doesn’t warp the pages below or seep through. Using removable tape, affix it to a rigid work surface to prevent buckling of the page as you paint. 

Layering colored pencils

3. Create lush layers

Working in layers, you can create a lush, soft effect in colored pencil that can create truly stunning coloring book pages. In this post on the Bluprint blog, the artist offers a tutorial for how to build layers slowly, with one color at a time, allowing for better control over value and consistency of color. A little bit different than working with several colors at the same time on your piece, the results are luminous and stunning.

Learn this layering method on the Bluprint blog!

Picture indenting your coloring books

4. Try indenting

Indenting is an awesome technique that can add texture and character to your coloring book pages. First, start by either removing the page you’re working with, or by inserting a rigid backing, so that you won’t inadvertently add texture to the pages below the one you’re coloring. 

Place a sheet of tracing paper over the image, and then use a pencil or pen to indent the image. You won’t be actually drawing on the image, but rather indenting the paper so that your colored pencil or coloring medium will leave ghostly white outlines in the spots you indented. This could be as simple as adding details to flower imagery or adding zentangle-like patterns within your coloring book page. It makes for a magical effect as you color.

Check out this post for more detail on how to indent an image!

Make a rubbing

5. Make a rubbing 

Here’s a fun way to add a collage-like feel to your coloring book page: try make a rubbing! All you have to do is put some sort of textured object under the coloring book page (above, it’s a series of coins). Then gently shade the space with the side of the pencil or colored pencil point to fill in an area. It can give interesting bits of texture to an area in your coloring book page, and when used on an entire page, it can create a cool effect.

Pop art in coloring book

6. Make it pop with markers 

Make your coloring book pages pop by using markers to color it in! Similar to using paint, you’ll want to make sure to remove the coloring book page, or at the very least insert a rigid, thick board behind the page in question so that the ink doesn’t bleed. 

You can be straightforward with your marker coloring, or you can use it as an opportunity to transform your page into a work of pop art by filling in areas with boldly colored patterns. 

Learn how to create pop art style works of art on the Bluprint blog!

Pencil shading on coloring booksAntique effect coloring book

7. Work in a monochromatic palette 

Consider this the coloring book version of applying a black and white or “antique” filter, as you would do on your Instagram feed. Working in pencil, marker or paint, choose a neutral palette. As you can see on the top image, shading with regular pencil on your coloring book image makes it look less like a coloring book image, and more like a hand drawing. 

By using a palette of browns, you can create an “antiqued” look on your coloring book pages, as if they are treasures from a different era. 

Resist with crayon and watercolor

8. Try a blocking technique 

Here’s a cool and easy effect to use for coloring: using a white colored pencil or crayon, sketchily color in areas of your image. Then, apply a watercolor wash on top. The paint will resist the areas colored in, leaving you with a cool, distressed effect on your page. 

For more cool resist painting, check out our post on how to create a batik-style painting!

Get Coloring With This FREE Adult Coloring Book

adult coloring book

Who says coloring is just for kids? Enjoy adding gorgeous color to these one-of-a-kind designs with your favorite art medium. Get my FREE coloring book »


Kathy Carter

I think this coloring book is great for trying out different experiments with pencils, markers, and so forth. Thank you to whoever took the time to put together a great product. Especially since its free. How can anyone complain or give a bad comment.


Some people like this style, there’s nothing wrong with that. Being rude is very “kiddy” though.


Agree, Riley. Couldn’t have said it better! Happy coloring. 🙂


Hi, thanks so much for the info…it is very useful and provides some fun ideas to try. I have a question about Gouache paints and am asking if they can be used for fabric painting? i.e., making tee shirts?

Thanks much and this id’s a great resource for artists.

Kathy Carter

Not sure I just use fabric paint. You could check the directions or try it out on an old shirt you don’t wear and test it.

Mary Turk

Thank you so much for the different ideas!!!!!! Love the Zentangle.



Great ideas on how to advance a person’s coloring techniques! Thank you for such a smart article.

I am looking for somethinv to use in my coloring that I hope you can help me find. I have been trying to find a “self-healing” rigid/hard yet smooth backing to use between coloring book pages rather than having to remove the pages from the book to prevent impressions/indentions on next page. I’d like self healing so any heavy pressing doesn’t mark the card and smooth so I can control textures, if any. I prefer it be *very* light weight too.

I have literally searched the internet for 3hrs and I have been unable to find a specific product for my purposes. I haven’t actually been able to come up w/ *any* type of product except a craft rotary cutting mat.

I appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks in advance.


The rotary cutting mat is all I know of too. I thought I’d tell you what I use–I went to my local craft shop (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, etc) and in the scrap booking paper area, they have differing thicknesses of chipboard or a thin cardboard. These range from about 20 cents to 75 cents, depending on what you choose, not a bad price really. I got several sheets of chipboard and smooth cardboard, 12 x 12 and 16 x 16. I cut the pieces with an exacto knife to fit my different sized books. I really like this. It is easy to use, works really well to protect the next page from markers (you could even glue 2 pieces together if you couldn’t find the thickness you really want, or just to be safe) or indentions.

I’ve had my chipboard and cardboard sheets for a while now. I just close the book around them or else take them out of the book and lay them flat on a shelf when I’m not using them.

I hope this might come in handy, and be of some help, if you hadn’t thought of this, until you perhaps find what you’re looking for. Happy coloring. 🙂

(Oh, some people I know have made inserts from large pieces of poster board-like you’d make a sign out of or maybe used in elementary school-but I prefer the chipboard and smooth cardboard from the scrapbook section.)


I use a piece of leftover linoleum from our kitchen floor. Also fun foam may work but may be too thin. Thinking out of the box …old vinyl placemats, etc


Mina, grow up. Juvenile remarks are unnecessary. You don’t like them, then don’t download them. Really simple.

Marisa Vosloo

Thank you so much for this wonderful article. I learned a lot today.


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