Although coloring books are generally thought of as a children's activity, adult versions are gaining a lot of momentum. And we are on it. Coloring is a creative exercise that helps with anxiety and organizing your thoughts. Numerous studies cite art and coloring as a stress reducer, or as a beneficial practice in increasing mindfulness. After hearing of these potential benefits, I decided to try it out for myself a few months ago, and I have since become a coloring enthusiast. Calming and relaxing, the activity has become my go-to release. I color all the time: before bed, while watching TV, on airplanes — you name it. I have a few different coloring books now, and an assortment of ink and gel pens that I use. Some people may think this is silly, but I truly find coloring therapeutic.
And now, coloring books aren't just on paper — they are also gaining steam in the digital space. After hearing about a new app that launched last week called Pigment, a digital coloring book available for iPhones and iPads aimed at adults, I decided to try it out. It has 65 free illustrations, and features a variety of digital pens and pencils, allowing you to control not just the color, but also the opacity. You can color with your fingers, or use the Pencil stylus if you're on a fancy new iPad Pro. You can even use a two-finger zoom to zero in on a small detail to make sure you stay within the lines (if that's how you like to color).
I decided to attempt a butterfly illustration on an iPad, and it was great. As someone who prefers to hold a book in my hand rather than a Kindle, I went in thinking I wouldn't like it, but off the bat I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. One especially nice thing about coloring in an app versus on paper: being able to erase it and start all over again if you really like one pattern, or if you totally botched your first go. Unfortunately though, as time went on and I lost myself in a colorful mandala (another pattern option in the app), I began to miss my old tools of the trade. I missed my color pencils, and being able to press hard and soft for the right shade rather than adjust it digitally (you can do this with the iPad Pro's Pencil, though, which does much more closely resemble the real thing). On the tablet, all of the fancy features started to take away from the psychological benefits that I had experienced with my physical coloring books. The concept is great, and the app is executed wonderfully, but there was something missing — it just wasn't quite as satisfying. For me, coloring is more than just putting ink inside the lines. I lost things like the calming effect of spreading out my pens and pencils on the table. Nostalgia, ritual, and habit are powerful emotional stimuli, and I couldn't get that out of an app.