Book Review: Secret Garden

I’ve been addicted to adult colouring books ever since I received my first book after I had given birth to my baby. I only wish I had taken up this hobby while I was pregnant, when I had so much time up my sleeve. Since Octavia was 8 months she was able to pull her self up to the couch, steal my pencils and empty my pencil sharping all over the floor. So I usually have to wait until she is napping or finally down for the night to get down to some serious colouring.

One of the first adult colouring books I bought was Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden. Johanna is a Scottish illustrated that pioneered the adult colouring boom with the Secret Garden. She has since gone on to release four more colouring book that have also gained much popularity. I current own her first four books and I am hoping someone buys me her last book, Johanna’s Christmas, but I’m not holding my breath. My family already think I have enough colouring books, so not counting on getting anymore this Christmas. But I am definitely getting colour envy seeing all the amazing work other colourist have put up.
I thought for my first post on colouring I would share some of my early work from this book. As you can see I am not the best colourist, but I have come a long way learning new techniques that are more evident in some of the other books I have worked.
When I first started I had bought Derwent Studio Pencils, which I soon realised were not the best for colouring. They are very hard and I often ruined the tooth in the paper. I soon upgraded to Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils which were so much softer and easier to blend. So you will probably notice some variation in these images.


Title page – For this page I used Derwent Studio and a few of my limited Polychomos pencils. The Derwent pencils were so hard that they ruined the tooth of the paper and I found it harder to blend with them. I still had fun colouring this first page though.


Naming Page – I tried my hand at personalising my name. It was a little difficult sketching it, going over with pen, then erasing the pencil. But I think it turned out ok for a first try. I think what made it hard was that it had to be so small to fit my whole name. I only used Polychromos pencils for this page, so you can see already that the colours are so much more vibrant and blended much nicer.
Johanna also brought out a video guide on how to personalise your colouring book, which I found really helpful, Tutorial! How to personalise your colouring book.


Page 7 – This was one of my first pages I coloured and I really enjoyed experimenting with the leaves but I still still learning where to adding lighting and shading. I love the little owls peeping out from the leaves! I used the Northern Saw-Whet Owl as a reference.


Page 71 & 72 – For the big sunflower I tried a technique I found on the website Atelier Gina Pafiadache. You really only need 4 colours, one of which is white, which blends the yellow and orange. Gina gives another could of examples using pink and also blue. She also has a video you can check out. Just not that both her website and video’s are in Portuguese.
This page still feels unfinished for me. One day I’ll put in a background.


Page 47 – I experimented here with shading, light sources and musky colours. I was inspired by La Artistino’s (Peta Hewitt) colour scheme in her Deer Head Double Spread from Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest. I love Peta’s work and have learned so much from her video tutorials. If your new to colouring I really recommend her blog and Youtube channel.

 In upcoming posts you will see how my colouring has improved after doing her tutorials. This page is also the first page Octavia ripped when she was about 10 months. Luckily it was only tiny tear.



Page 83 – For this page I tried to experiment with autumn colours. I am not entirely happy with some of my colour choices though. I was inspired by La Artistino’s video on How to Colour Amazing Leaves from Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest.



Page 21- I only ended up completing the first page of this double page spread. I was still using Derwent Studio pencils with my limited Polychomos, but I was excited by all the greens that I could experiment. One day I’ll hopefully get to the other side and put in a background.



 Page 6 – For this page I wanted to illustrate leaves going from Summer through to Autumn and Winter. I looked up many leaves on google for inspiration. For the background I experimented with some pastels. They have dulled a bit over time, but I also may of been a bit light handed on my first try with them.


Page 1 & 2 – This double spread was my first attempt at a background. I was really happy with it until I went too dark on those mountains. I haven’t been too keen to drawn in anything with black pen ever since. I was really happy with my tree house though, which was previously just a door in mid-air.

dsc07223Page 69 – This page was coloured with the help of Chris Cheng‘s tutorial, The Magical Water Lily Pond. She coloured it with Prismacolor pencils,  so I tried to match my Polychromos and Derwent pencils as best as I could. I did find that my pencils didn’t blend as well as hers as they fade to white. Chris taught me how to  colour the most amazing bubbles and to use colour in a less unformed and more natural way.She has another video for the other side of the page, which I intend getting to eventually. 

dsc07213Page 5 – For the background I used Chris Cheng‘s tutorial, The Owl’s Background Coloring. Again I used Polychromos and Derwent Artist pencils, whereas Chris uses Prismacolor. I really liked doing the glowing orbs in the background, but I found my black came out really scratch and dull. For the owl itself I was inspired by images of the Great Horned Owl

dsc07219Page 67 – This page took me ages. I had a lot of issues had to go over a few times because the white speckling kept coming through even with blending. I am not entirely happy with it. The fading from one colour to another doesn’t really show unless you look close up.


Page 68 – I did this picture after I had done La Artistino’s first tutorial, Duck Pond from Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest. I was excited to recreate the rocks and sea life being careful to balance the colours like she showed. Since the water was such a large space I decided to use a blue pastel. I didn’t protect my colours enough so a blue hue went over the pencil. Other then that I was happy with it.


Page 63 & 64 –  This was the last picture that I coloured in this book. It was done with only Polychomos pencils. I was really happy with how it turned out. I had been colouring for over year by the time I did this, so you can see how much I improved.

This book is gorgeous, intricate and great for new colourists. You can purchase this book from just about every bookstore and many online retailers, including Amazon. For an inside look, review, speed colouring and tutorials check out many of the videos other colourist have put up on Youtube.

I hope you enjoyed my first post on colouring and look forward to sharing more of my work soon!

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Secret Garden

  1. I will surely try one of adult coloring books.. coloring and drawing are so good stress reliever as well.. Thank you for sharing!


  2. I hope one day I can be as good as you ~ your pages are absolutely gorgeous! I’ve been coloring for about 1 1/2 years but really started getting into it last fall when my daughter bought me the Prismacolors set of 150 pencils AND Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden, World of Flowers, Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle a few months ago, which brought me to a whole different level of coloring and my obsession with it lol. I will be using this page for inspiration and your suggestions, as I delve into The Secret Garden book. Thank you so much for sharing your talents with us!


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