Choosing colours for adult colouring books

Choosing colours in your adult colouring books can be both daunting and intimidating. Sometimes you will see pictures that you really love but you just don’t know how to get started. This is something that I come up against a lot in my own books.

There are a few methods of choosing colours that can give you the courage to take on any line drawing in your colouring book. I have personally used all of these methods to help me.


Colour Theory

Colour Theory is the both logical and scientific, philosophical and personal. It is centred around the colour wheel and which consists of primary, secondary and tertiary colours.

  • Primary: red, blue, yellow
  • Secondary: purple, orange, green
  • Tertiary: yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green



You can use the Colour wheel to find Colour Harmonies between different colours. Colour Harmonies can be formulated within the Colour Wheel as:

  • Analogous (colours that sit side by side to each other)
  • Complementary (two colours that sit opposite each other)
  • Triadic (three colours that sit evenly spaced from each other)
  • Tetradic (four colours, consisting of two complementary)
  • Square (four colours evenly spaced)
  • Split-Complementary (two colors adjacent to one compliment)
  • Warm (yellows, oranges, reds)
  • Cool (greens, blues, purples)

Colour Wheel.jpg


You can use the colour wheel when you begin to choose your colour pallette, based on Colour Harmonies. You can also use the these formulates to choose colours, which will complement or contrast with objects you have chosen the colours for. I often will use this method when I am stumped on what other colours to choose. For example, if I am colouring a bunch of flowers, I may choose to use analogous colours and a complementary colour for an object or the background.

For more information on the Colour Wheel and great colour combinations that work together, check out this article, The Ultimate Color Combinations Cheat Sheet, by Bright Side.


Search for Colour Palette

Finding colour palettes that inspire you is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. You can find colour palettes a few different ways:

  • Take photographs or save pictures of a collection of colours that you like together
  • Search for pre-made colour palettes online
  • Make your own colour palette using online programs

Pinterest is a great platform for saving images of different colour palettes. I like to pin images of artworks, artistic photography, still life, animals, people and pre-made colour schemes and palettes. Colour Palette, In Color BalanceDesign Seeds have an amazing collection of pre-made colour palettes, which include a photo and colour swatches. You can also just type in the ‘colour palette’ or the name of the colour you want to work with in Google or Pinterest and you will get many images of photos and colour palettes come up.

Once you have chosen the colour palette that you like you can always add to your colour scheme, by using principles from the colour wheel.

Here is my Pinterest folder which I use to collect colour palettes: Colouring Inspiration


Go for realism

Taking inspiration from real life can make choosing colours a lot easier. You only need to type in the name of the object and plenty of photos will come up on Google Images. Once you know what colour you need you can then use colour harmonisation or other realistic colours of the object’s environment. I probably use this method the most for animals and flowers that I recognise. I also often look for similar objects to figure out balanced colour schemes, highlights and shading.


Search for colour combinations you like

You can find amazing colour palettes just about anywhere. Whether you are looking at an amazing sunset, sitting on a beach, being in nature, looking at shopping window or even about to eat a delicious meal. Just take a quick snap shot with your phone or camera and you have a new colour palette to try. I find the seasons often influence my colour selection. Think of beautiful autumn leaves or bright sunny days. Again you can search key words online that will help you explore the colours in nature and seasonally trends.


Keep to a  limited Pallete

I often find that keeping to a limited palette helps my work seemed more balanced. So even if I haven’t really got a colour palette initially I may build one as I go with similar tones or blend the 10 or 15 pencils that I already have to make new colours. Even if the picture is going to have many different colours you can always reuse colours in different part of the picture to keep this balance.

For example, when I coloured this desert snake from Emelie Lidehäll Öberg’s Sagor och Sägner, I kept a very limited palette. I only selected about 5 pencils to begin with and then built up to about 13 pencils in similar shades. I also blended this pencils to make new colours, that seem different but are still complementary to the overall picture.



This picture is from Hanna Karlzon’s Daydreams. In this picture, I did use quite a lot of colours. However, I reused the main colours in different parts of the picture to create balance and harmony. You can see the oranges and blues I used for the mushrooms have been reused for the birds and flowers. The greens and pinks were also repeated for the flowers, plants and berries.



Get some inspiration from fellow colourists

There are so many amazing colourists out there. I often come across colourist who use colour combinations that I have never imaged or hesitant to try. I like to use Pinterest and Instagram to get inspiration from other colours and also get feedback from my own work.

There are also many colouring groups on Facebook. You can join a group based on certain books, by country or just people who love to colour.

I find that other colourists inspire me to start a new picture and the courage continue even when I feel intimidated by it. Here are examples of my Pinterest boards that I have made for different colouring books.

Just remember that if you copy the work of another colourist (colour palette, drawings or overall design) you should always credit them when posting your work.



Do a tutorial

I love doing tutorials by other colours that I admire. You can learn so much by how they put colours together, built depth of colours with layers and other techniques. I think it has helped me become a better colourist. I don’t get stuck so much when it comes to choosing colours and my technique has really improved.

You can find tutorials for many different colouring books on Youtube, Facebook colouring groups and Instagram. They will all vary in difficulty, mediums and style. Some are narrated step by step; some only flash the pencils on the screen as they colour to music and others are just short technique teaching tutorials. There are so many on Youtube, so just explore and you will find what you are after.

I have done quite a few tutorial with these colourists:

Peta Hewitt aka La Artistino

Chris Cheng

Color with Iris

Coloring with Alena



Other great colourists (in no particular order) who make Youtube tutorials include:

Always Coloring

Shirley XL. Y.

Davlina Art

Amie’s colouring tutorials

Mia Fox

Cindy Cink

Julie’s passion for coloring

Olly LoveArt



Jazz_Funk’s Colouring

Crazy for Coloring

Colour with Claire

 Shine Bright Design


How do you choose colours for your colouring books?

Do you use any other methods?

4 thoughts on “Choosing colours for adult colouring books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s