time-of-memory

Time of Memory: A Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Time of Memory: A Coloring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by St Martin’s Griffin. It was originally published in Korea and has been translated into English, this is one of a series of three books, the other two can be found reviewed by me here: The Story of Pandora, The Land of Dreams. All of them are written by Kim Sun Huyn and Time of Memory is also illustrated by her, whereas the other two are illustrated by Song Geum Jin so their illustration style and content is very different. Just bear this in mind and check out reviews of all three to ensure you like them all.

This book is 25cm square, paperback, with soft feel flexible card covers with beautiful coloured imagery from inside the book and half page French flaps which are left blank on the insides. The spine is glue-bound which makes it fairly durable but does mean that you’ll lose a little of each image into it unless you crack the spine which will give you better access to the centre but could eventually lead to pages falling out so do be careful. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double page spreads, a large number of them do enter the spine. The paper is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured, water-based pens ever so slightly shadowed when using dark colours but didn’t bleed at all, alcohol markers will bleed through, pencils layer and blend well as there’s a little bit of tooth. The images themselves are a very different style from the other two books in this series on account of them being drawn by a different illustrator, the cover image is included inside but is not indicative of the majority of the images which are more basic and open-spaced. The book is split into the four seasons with the pages each including scenes, objects, and imagery indicative of that season in a Northern hemisphere country. The images include: Spring flowers, butterflies, berries, goslings, fans, umbrellas, a beach, acorns, pine cones, Winter clothing, snow scenes, and a Christmas tree. Each season is titled and a short paragraph is written about what that season means to Kim and some of her memories from childhood. At the back of the book is advice written by Kim, an Art Therapist, where she describes ways in which art therapy can be used, and the effects of different colours and what they can be used to elicit. Following this are thumbnails of each image along with the title of the spread, and a double-page spread where you can create your own illustrations.

In terms of mental health, this book is good for a whole range of conditions or symptoms, the content is wide-ranging and very natural so it’s calming and soothing to colour. The line thickness varies from thin to medium thickness and the intricacy and detail levels vary hugely from large open spaces in quite blocky designs to much more detailed pictures on a level with the cover image and everything in between. This book would suit colourists with most levels of vision and fine motor control, neither will need to be perfect for you to enjoy this book. The season theme gives this book a great level of continuity and the written childhood memories as well as pictured scenes offer a good level of nostalgia for childhood holidays at the beach, rainy summer holidays and snowy Christmasses. Many of the pages have great natural stopping points so it’s well suited to good and bad days where you want to colour just one item or section, or a whole page. You won’t need high levels of concentration to enjoy this book and while it is distracting and absorbing, it’s not hugely mentally taxing so it’s good for a range of abilities. I personally found the art a little basic, particularly when compared to the other two books in the series and it feels like a slightly adult version of a children’s book, however, that might just be me, having reviewed over 200 books you do get picky and this isn’t one of my favourites though I’m sure it would be some people’s.

Overall, I would recommend this book to those who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control who want to colour natural images. The content is well-suited to pen or pencil colourists and is nostalgic both for childhood memories and for its similarities with children’s colouring book art.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Time of Memory: A Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Time-of-Memory/9781250112477/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-tip Pens and Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.

the-land-of-dreams

The Land of Dreams: An Animal Fantasy Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Land of Dreams: An Animal Fantasy Coloring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by St Martin’s Griffin. It was originally published in Korea and has been translated into English, this is one of a series of three books, the other two can be found reviewed by me here: The Story of Pandora, Time of Memory. All of them are written by Kim Sun Huyn and Time of Memory is also illustrated by her, whereas the other two are illustrated by Song Geum Jin so their illustration style and content is very different. Just bear this in mind and check out reviews of all three to ensure you like them all.

This book is 25cm square, paperback, with soft feel flexible card covers with beautiful coloured imagery from inside the book and half page French flaps which are left blank on the insides. The spine is glue-bound which makes it fairly durable but does mean that you’ll lose a little of each image into it unless you crack the spine which will give you better access to the centre but could eventually lead to pages falling out so do be careful. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double page spreads, a large number of them do enter the spine. The paper is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured, water-based pens ever so slightly shadowed when using dark colours but didn’t bleed at all, alcohol markers will bleed through, pencils layer and blend well as there’s a little bit of tooth. The images themselves are of a land of dreams so they show the weird, wonderful and surreal and are a great mixture of reality and oddity combined, from flowers to deer with floral antlers, bears floating with balloons to a whale with a castle on his back, a Merry-Go-Round to a tree-growing elephant, a floral peacock to a regal leopard and so much more. This book is jam-packed with incredible, nature-themed imagery and all of the illustrations are delicate, floral and fantastical. There are two pages with text written in paragraphs centrally which loosely explain the Land of Dreams in broken English, and a handful of pages with a thought-provoking statement written on them, I’m guessing the text hasn’t translated very well and has been done literally rather than being edited to make complete sense as some of the sentences seem unrelated to each other and a bit random. The image placement is quite varied from double-page scenes to centralised images, illustrations placed across the centre of the spread with lots of space around them and full pages with a bit of image trailing into the opposite page, there are plenty of places where you could add your own backgrounds or illustrations if you wish. At the back of the book is advice written by an Art Therapist where she describes anti-stress art therapy and colour therapy. Following this are thumbnails of each image along with the title of the spread and a double-page spread left for you to add your own drawings.

In terms of mental health, this book offers a lot of escapism and transports you to a far off land of dreams where nothing is quite as it seems and everything is a bit magical. The images portray realistic enough subjects that you could use realistic colour schemes if you wish, but they’re also surreal enough that you could really spice things up with purple elephants, green deer and red trees, the sky really is the limit with this imagery. A few of the designs don’t completely fill the double-page spread and a couple have very large open spaces where you could easily add your own illustrations or backgrounds if you wish, there are no written hints so you don’t have to add anything unless you want to, the page will look finished regardless. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels are consistent throughout and are very high, this is one of the most intricate books I’ve seen and it’s quite difficult to colour some of the most intricate parts so you’ll need exceedingly good vision and fine motor control, as well as a good level of concentration to identify each part and keep within the lines. This definitely isn’t a book for bad days, while flicking through it will surely absorb you and cheer you up, you’ll need to leave colouring it to your good days when you can concentrate properly and give it the time it deserves. This book doesn’t tell a story but it does create a sense of place and therefore is very absorbing and distracting, ideal for when your symptoms or thoughts are starting to take over too much. The illustration style and image layout is quite different from English and American books and it can take a little getting used to but it is really beautiful and looks even nicer coloured.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to those who love the surreal and who love to colour natural and nature-themed images, this book is jam-packed with beautiful, intricate content and it really does look incredible coloured even though it does take a lot of concentration.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Land of Dreams: An Animal Fantasy Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Land-of-Dreams-Kim-Sun-Hyun-Song-Geum-Jin/9781250112453/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Sudee Stile Coloured Pencils.

the-story-of-pandora

The Story of Pandora: A Fantasy Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Story of Pandora: A Fantasy Coloring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by St Martin’s Griffin. It was originally published in Korea and has been translated into English, this is one of a series of three books, the other two can be found reviewed by me here: The Land of Dreams, Time of Memory. All of them are written by Kim Sun Huyn and Time of Memory is also illustrated by her, whereas the other two are illustrated by Song Geum Jin so their illustration style and content is very different. Just bear this in mind and check out reviews of all three to ensure you like them all.

This book is 25cm square, paperback, with soft feel flexible card covers with beautiful coloured imagery from inside the book and half page French flaps which are left blank on the insides. The spine is glue-bound which makes it fairly durable but does mean that you’ll lose a little of each image into it unless you crack the spine which will give you better access to the centre but could eventually lead to pages falling out so do be careful. The images are printed double-sided and are all double-page spreads, a large number of them do enter the spine. The paper is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured, water-based pens ever so slightly shadowed when using dark colours but didn’t bleed at all, alcohol markers will bleed through, pencils layer and blend well as there’s a little bit of tooth. The images themselves tell the story of Pandora, a land where time stands still and fantasy animals come alive. There are a few pages with text written in paragraphs centrally which explain the story in broken English, I’m guessing the text hasn’t translated very well and has been done literally rather than being edited to make complete sense as some of the sentences seem very unrelated to each other and a bit random. The illustrations depict a girl travelling through Pandora, there are a number of features which are clearly from Alice in Wonderland including mushrooms, a White Rabbit, Drink Me labels on bottles, flamingos, playing cards and even the main character growing and shrinking so Alice fans will love this. The pages are all spreads with some containing randomly placed objects, some showing full-page scenes and others having a smaller image with lots of space around it where you could add your own drawings or backgrounds if you wish. At the back of the book is advice written by an Art Therapist where she describes ways in which art can help to relieve stress, and colour schemes that can be used for a peaceful state of mind. Following this are thumbnails of each image along with the title of the spread and a double-page spread left for you to add your own drawings.

In terms of mental health, this book offers a lot of escapism and transports you to a far off land where nothing is quite as it seems. The Story of Pandora has a lot of similarities with the familiar story of Alice in Wonderland and this brings with it feelings of nostalgia and fondness, especially to those of us who are huge Alice fans. The illustrations are very whimsical and fantastical and not overly realistic in composition so you can really go wild with your colour choices and have multi-coloured mushrooms, pastel coloured sheep and green flamingos if you wish. A few of the designs don’t completely fill the double-page spread and a couple have very large open spaces where you could easily add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish, there are no written hints so you don’t have to add anything unless you want to, the page will look finished regardless. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels are consistent throughout and are very high, this is one of the most intricate books I’ve seen and it’s quite difficult to colour some of the most intricate parts so you’ll need exceedingly good vision and fine motor control, as well as a good level of concentration to identify each part and keep within the lines. This definitely isn’t a book for bad days, while flicking through it will surely absorb you and cheer you up, you’ll need to leave colouring it to your good days when you can concentrate properly and give it the time it deserves. Because this book tells a story it’s got great continuity and would make a wonderful keepsake when finished, you could add more of your own story if you wish. The illustration style and image layout is quite different from English and American books and it can take a little getting used to but it is really beautiful and looks even nicer coloured.

Overall, I would recommend this book to those who have very good vision and fine motor control, those who like Alice in Wonderland, and those who love to colour intricate, detailed storybook-style colouring books. It’s ideal for pencil colourists and will make a wonderful project to colour from beginning to end to turn into a keepsake.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Story of Pandora: A Fantasy Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Story-of-Pandor-Kim-Sun-Hyun-Song-Geum-Jin/9781250112460/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Sudee Stile Colouring Pencils.

the-inspiring-colouring-book

The Inspiring Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Inspiring Colouring Book: Hand Lettered Botanical Designs of Motivational Phrases and Positive Affirmations is illustrated by Meg Cowley who kindly sent me a copy to review. This book is A4 and is hand-drawn by Meg, it’s published through Createspace and is therefore paperback with flexible card covers, and a glue-bound spine. The images are printed single-sided and are a mixture of portrait and landscape orientation, none of them reach the edges of the paper and therefore none of the images have any aspects lost into the spine. The paper is standard Createspace paper and bright white, thin and very lightly textured, it shadows with water-based pens and will bleed heavily with alcohol markers so do place some scrap paper behind your work; pencils blend and layer fine, especially if you’re patient with them. The book contains 20 images, each printed twice full size and then once a little smaller than A5 in pairs at the back of the book so you get 3 copies of each image. The illustrations each contain a hand-drawn motivational phrase or positive affirmation as well as beautiful botanical drawings; some of the phrases include Stay True To Yourself, Find Your Joy, Count Your Blessings, and Dream Big. At the bottom of each page is space to write your name, copyright information, and Meg’s web address. The illustrations are all drawn quite differently so there’s a good variety, their content is also quite varied and ranges from very busy, full-page drawings with flower-filled backgrounds to decorated text in the centre of the page, scenic images to poster-style depictions and more. While the images are all hand-drawn, the lines on very close inspection are ever so slightly pixelated during printing, however, this doesn’t affect enjoyment because it’s only noticeable if you get really close to the page so once coloured and framed you’ll just be dazzled by your artwork! A handy tester sheet has been included at the front of the book for you to test your colouring mediums on.

In terms of mental health, if you like affirmations and positive reminders then this book will be ideal, there’s a good mix of evocative words as well as inspiring phrases, I’m personally really picky about this kind of thing and there are a couple I’m not overly keen on and don’t agree with (e.g. Mind Over Matter), but we’re all different and I know that many people live their lives by these sayings so do check out the images below and don’t be put off by my niggles. The line thickness is varied and ranges from medium/thin to spindly thin, it’s also thinner on the smaller versions due to the downscale in size. The intricacy and detail levels also vary hugely from large, open spaces to smaller, more detailed sections and everything in between, this book will suit people with most levels of vision or fine motor control though those with poorer levels of either might struggle with the smaller size prints. These illustrations would be ideal to remove from the book and frame once coloured so that they can inspire you throughout the day or be given as inspirational gifts to friends or family. Text is ideal to colour because you can use any colour scheme you fancy, there’s no right or wrong and it looks fabulous no matter what you choose. The natural aspects can either be coloured realistically if you want the choice taken away, or again, in any colours you fancy to complement the text or to contrast it. These pages have a manageable level of content and you can colour just one word or butterfly on a bad day, or a full page on a good day. The phrases and sayings are great for keeping you focused and inspiring you on bad days to remind you that good days will come again so this book is ideal for those of us with mental health problems.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to those who like inspirational sayings, who respond well to positive affirmations and want to be able to colour and possibly frame or gift these to spread some sunshine. The pages are drawn beautifully and look really lovely when coloured.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Inspiring Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Inspiring-Colouring-Book-Meg-Cowley/9781537785820/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens and Prismacolor Premier Pencils, the white accents were created using a white Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pen.

birdtopia-20-colour-in-postcards

Birdtopia: 20 Colour-In Postcards – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Birdtopia: 20 Colour-In Postcards are published and kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. These postcards are of illustrations taken from the Birdtopia Colouring Book which was one of the most unusually formatted books I’ve ever seen during my time reviewing. This postcard book is paperback with card covers made of the same card as the postcards themselves, it’s bound with beautiful red tape creating a lay-flat binding meaning you can reach all of the edges when colouring. Each of the 20 postcards have a thin lined border around them and the main background of each is printed in cream, just like the original book, with white backgrounds for all of the colourable sections on the birds and plants. The card itself is white, thick, and lightly textured, it’s a little tricky to build up layers with pencils but patience helps and it doesn’t bleed, shadow or spread with water-based pens; alcohol pens will heavily shadow and bleed to the back but won’t bleed through onto the next design though do always pop a protective sheet behind your work, just in case! The binding allows the postcards to be kept in the book if you’re careful not to twist the spine, or remove them if you wish for gifting or framing. All of the postcards are portrait orientation apart from one landscape image. The illustrations themselves are all taken directly from the book with very little editing of the content, a few are drastically reduced in size, others are smaller but much closer to the original size, none appear to be larger. On the reverse of each postcard is space to write, four address lines and a beautiful floral bordered space for a postage stamp, in the bottom left corner (when looking at the back in a landscape orientation) the birds illustrated are named so that if you wish to colour them realistically you can. Each image contains one, or more, birds and usually a plant of some kind so there is a good variety and plenty of interest in each picture. Some of the birds include the European Robin, the Plate-Billed Mountain Toucan, the Pileated Woodpecker, and Chilean Flamingo, there is a good range of British and exotic birds to suit all tastes.

In terms of mental health, these postcards make the ideal manageable project, they’re small enough to manage in one sitting but the images are also made up of lots of component parts so you could colour just one section if you wish. The line thickness is spindly thin throughout and you will have to have very sharp pencils or fineliners to avoid going over the lines. The intricacy and detail levels vary a little but all of the postcards have high to very high levels of intricacy so you will need exceedingly good vision and fine motor control to enjoy these as the majority of the images are printed on a much smaller scale than in the original book. The content of the images is very natural and realistic and I found it quite calming just looking through the images let alone actually colouring them, the illustrations are very good at grounding you. Because the drawings are of real birds and flowers and the birds are all identified, it’s easy to look up the colours of each and colour them realistically if you wish so that you don’t have to worry about choosing colour schemes when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

I would highly recommend these postcards to bird-lovers and those who love to colour nature and natural images, who don’t mind a bit of the surreal. The images are beautifully drawn and if the cream background doesn’t bother you then this book is sure to be a winner and the card quality is great!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Birdtopia: 20 Colour-In Postcards
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Birdtopia/9781780679419/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils.

floribunda-a-flower-colouring-journal

Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Journal – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Journal is illustrated by Leila Duly and published and kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. These journals often come shrink-wrapped in plastic so unfortunately, even if you’re able to hunt it down in the shops, you may not be able to see inside so here is my review to unlock its mysteries and show you inside so you can make an informed decision. This journal is beautiful, as you’d expect, those of you familiar with Leila’s first colouring book, Floribunda, will know just how stunning her artwork is and now some of the smaller elements have been collated into this journal. It’s really luxurious from its pale pink hardback cover with a beautiful floral scene from the book, to the black linen-style spine, this journal oozes class and specialness and will be perfect for using as a diary, writing special notes or taking down your life story, or even using as a scrapbook, this journal is certainly not for your run of the mill shopping or to-do lists! It is A5 in size and contains 144 pages which are plain and un-lined meaning you can write in it or even use it for doodling, the corners are rounded so there are no harsh lines or corners making this journal feel very warm and inviting. There is a handy shell pink ribbon bookmark so you can easily find your place each time and on every other double-page is a small image from Leila’s Floribunda colouring book. The 37 illustrations include lots of the single flower illustrations which were printed in colour on the inside covers of her original book, they are printed in a very similar size to those and therefore look very delicate on the page. Of these illustrations, around 5 are printed twice, first towards the front of the book and then towards the end, these include the freesia, iris, delphinium, and two others. They look beautiful left uncoloured or brightened up with splashes of colour. The cover has a paper strip which is folded over but not attached stating the title of the journal and the price and description on the back of it, which can be removed. The inside covers and first and last pages are pale pink and the first internal page of the book has a large floral image with a small lined space to write your name. The paper is cream adding to the luxurious, vintage feel of the book and it is smooth meaning it’s a little tricky to layer your coloured pencils but it is doable with a bit of effort. I tried out my water-based fineliners and they didn’t bleed at all and only had the slightest hint of shadowing with very dark colours but I only noticed because I was closely inspecting it. The ink lines do transfer ever-so slightly when pressing hard with pencils so do use a spare piece of paper behind when burnishing the images to avoid image transfer. My recommendation would be to use pencil to write in the journal or water-based pens rather than ball-points which would dent the paper heavily and take away from its lovely smooth feel.

From a mental health perspective, this journal is lovely because it gives you small little colouring projects for the days when a whole page is far too overwhelming. The illustrations are small and can be completed in a short amount of time meaning you don’t need a good attention span or level of concentration to be able to enjoy each illustration though you do have to focus very hard to not colour over the lines. You could complete them one by one, in order, each time you get to writing on that page, or pick and choose your favourites. The images are very intricate and detailed, and the lines are possibly the thinnest I’ve seen with the illustrations much smaller than those in the original colouring book pages and a similar size to their coloured counterparts on the inside covers of it, therefore you will need extremely good vision and fine motor control, a steady hand and some sharp pencils or a trusty set of fineliners so that you don’t go over the spindly thin lines. When compared to the two previous colouring journals Laurence King have published, I was very slightly disappointed with this one as there are no foiled elements on the cover (apart from the title on the removable paper strip), no metallic coloured edging to the pages, and half the number of colourable designs also including 5 repeats. This seems a little bit of a shame, however, as a standalone product it’s simply beautiful, I just feel the two journals of Johanna Basford’s artwork were better value for money as they had double the number of illustrations but for Floribunda fans this journal will still be ideal.

I would highly recommend this journal for stationery addicts, those who love to write and ‘need’ a new notebook, and fans of Floribunda and the stunning work of Leila Duly. This is wonderfully luxurious, beautifully illustrated and ideal for mixing colouring and writing and it’s perfect for your bad mental health days when all you can cope with colouring is one little flower. This journal is delicate and beautiful and a lovely addition to the colouring journal range.

You can purchase a copy here:
Amazon UK – Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Journal
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Floribund-Leil-Duly/9781780679402/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The images below were coloured using Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils.

the-flower-fairies-colouring-book

The Flower Fairies Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Flower Fairies Colouring Book is published by Warne and was bought by me for my personal collection. This listing appears to have been merged with other books with similar titles and thus not all of the reviews are of the same item, I am reviewing The Flower Fairies Colouring Book. When one thinks of fairy art, one can’t help but think of the stunning work of Cicely Mary Barker, my childhood bedroom was filled with her artwork and I grew up looking through and reading all of her flower fairy books so I was very excited when I saw that a colouring book of her work was to be published.

The book itself is 25cm square, the same size as the bestsellers, it’s paperback with a cream card cover with black line drawings of fairies and flowers with luxurious dusky pink foiling accents, a pink foiled spine, and one-third French flaps with a pink and white berry and foliage design. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s durable and strong and it’ll ease up over time so that you can reach the centre of the images and colour them fully. The paper is a creamy off-white but not yellowy, it’s medium thickness and lightly textured and I found it worked well with pencils and I was able to build up layers, water-based pens do shadow and may bleed but this isn’t an issue because the 45 images in the book are printed single-sided. There is a small treasure hunt at the front of the book with 12 items and creatures for you to find within the pages, there are no answers printed in the book so if you’re unable to find one it may elude you forever! The book starts with a beautiful This Book Belongs To page and then continues with a lovely written introduction, followed by 45 single-sided images. On the back of all the pages is a thumbnail of the image and a brief description or title of the image content which is really helpful for identification. The images contain some of the most well-known and best-loved fairies though there are a number of repetitions of some which is a shame given just how many stunning fairies Cicely illustrated, they include the lily-of-the-valley fairy, the apple blossom fairies, the tulip fairy, the pansy fairy, the holly fairy, the nasturtium fairy and so on. The images range from original scenes to merged scenes from two original book pages, centralised fairies with associated flowers and leaves surrounding them, floral arrangements and it includes a few wallpaper style images too including lily-of-the-valley, tulips, lavender, fuchsias, berries and miniature images of some fairies. The illustrations mostly aren’t direct copies of Cicely Mary Barker’s originals, however, I can’t tell if they’re just rearranged and the colour has been digitally removed, or if the illustrations have been re-drawn by someone in an identical style.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful! It’s incredibly nostalgic and transports you right back to childhood and happy memories of being read the poems by parents or grandparents, and poring over the beautiful images, in my case plastered all over my walls, calendars and lampshades as well as in the books. Now, you get the chance to colour the images yourself and either replicate Cicely’s colours and style, or bring a whole new lease of life to them by spicing up the colours you choose, it’s entirely up to you! The line thickness does vary throughout from thin to medium thickness and this is directly related to the intricacy and detail level of each image with the thin-lined pages having lots of intricate details to colour and the medium-lined pages having much larger open spaces where you can really go to town with your blending and shading if you wish. You certainly don’t need perfect vision or fine motor control in order to enjoy the majority of the pages in this book; the exceptions are a handful of the most detailed wallpaper-style images which you may prefer to just leave. This book is very natural and calming and the illustrations are utterly charming and filled with character so they’re wonderful for your mood and for brightening the darkest of days or settling the most anxious mind. Many of the images consist of collections of images and are therefore well suited to good or bad days with natural stopping points after just one berry or fairy portrait, or on better days you can colour a full page. There are hours and hours of colouring fun held within these pages and before you know it you’ll be transported into Cicely’s magical world where fairies frolic, flowers become outfits and mushrooms and trees become home.

I would highly recommend this book to children, and nostalgic adults, whose childhoods were filled with the poems and artwork of Cicely Mary Barker. This book is beautiful and familiar and while it mostly doesn’t contain the original compositions, these are not far off and offer a great starting point to create your own masterpiece. This is a colouring book that truly transports you back in time and into another world and once you’re there, I’m not sure you’ll want to stop colouring it!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Flower Fairies Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Flower-Fairies-Colouring-Book-Cicely-Mary-Barker/9780241279045/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Sudee Stile Coloured Pencils, the background snowflakes were coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

sudee-stile-120-coloured-pencils

Sudee Stile 120 Coloured Pencils: The New Marco Raffines? – A Review and Comparison

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

EDIT: Since writing this post a set of 150 individual colours has been released in the UK and US. I don’t have this set yet and at the time of writing and photographing the maximum set size was 120. If and when I get the full 150 set I will update the whole review but in the meantime I have just added this edit and a purchase link here and at the bottom for the full 150 set.

These pencils were kindly sent to me free in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance as I’ve been hearing about these pencils increasingly often in the Facebook colouring groups and I wanted to see what they were like. The biggest and most common claim I’ve seen made about them is that they’re the new Marco Raffines and on a par with their quality, but with a whopping 48 extra colours is this true? Read on to find out what I think.

One thing worth mentioning before I continue is that I’ve extensively read the reviews of these pencils on both the UK and US Amazon sites and it appears that while the majority of people love them, a few hate them due to there being some significant production issues with some sets having shattered leads, arriving dirty or used, with the incorrect packaging etc. I can only review the one set that I’ve got and the only real issue I’ve had is that I received a duplicate pencil and was missing one. Please do bear in mind that this review is just my opinion of my set and obviously isn’t representative of those sets that have arrived broken or badly damaged.

Availability, Cost and Set Sizes
The pencils are not available in stores and are currently only available on Amazon. They are not available in open stock, neither are the Marco Raffines, so you will sadly have to buy a new set when you start running low on some colours, however, the price of these pencils is brilliant, at 30p a pencil, they’re a bargain and while they’re not the cheapest option of pencils, this is by far the best quality, largest range of colours for the least amount of money that’s available. They’re currently £35 for the full 120 set and have been as low as £27 though that listing has been unavailable for a while, do hunt around for the best price! The pencils are available in 120 colours and in sets of 24, 48, 72, 96 and the full 120 set.

Colour Range and Presentation
On first inspection these pencils are identical to the Marco Raffiines apart from the writing on them which obviously says Sudee Stile rather than Marco Raffine. I assumed, like many others, that these were just Marco Raffine pencils re-branded with a different name printed on them but they’re definitely not. Marco Raffines have an oil-based lead whereas the Sudee Stiles are almost certainly wax, it doesn’t say anywhere on them or the Amazon listings what the lead is made of and I originally thought they were oil-based because they behave so similarly to the Marco Raffines, however, I noticed a few days after colouring that a slight wax bloom had built up on my heavily burnished coloured areas and this has never happened with my finished Marco Raffine pages. This wax bloom isn’t a problem and is very common with any wax-based coloured pencils, it can usually be avoided by spraying your finished work with a fixative spray, many people use hairspray as a cheap option, please avoid doing this as it can yellow over time and ruin all of your hard work! The pencils themselves are hexagonal with a silver barrel and a colour-dipped end which is relatively true to the colour of the lead, but not so in all cases so do make a colour chart! Each pencil has black text on it stating Sudee Stile Color and a unique identifying number but these are not done in any sensible colour order so you’ll need to try and create your own or copy my order on the photo of the colour chart I created below. The pencils are available in 120 unique and individual colours, sadly my set arrived with one missing and a duplicate of the number 39 pencil but the colours cover a great range of shades and hues and are a really good selection with no specific colour being over-represented like in some sets. A lot of the colours are pretty similar to the Marco Raffines but you get so many more colours that even if you already have those, these are absolutely worth having too and I would highly recommend getting the full set as you’ll only wish for more if you get the smaller sets. There is another set of Sudee Stile pencils which is externally different but the colours and leads are reportedly exactly the same (information taken from the seller in the questions section on the pencil listing). This other set has a full colour barrel with a gold-dipped end and the writing on the pencils is written in gold rather than black. The Amazon listings have altered over time so sometimes both sets are available, often for different prices from each other, and currently only the silver set I have is available, don’t be alarmed, they’re both the same so just go for the cheapest version of the set size you wish to purchase unless you have a particular preference for the external look of the pencils. There is no mention of lightfastness and due to it being Winter here in the UK I can’t test this currently, the Marco Raffines aren’t very lightfast, especially the light shades so I would expect these to be the same due to the price point so I’d avoid using these to colour pictures that you’re wanting to display rather than keeping in the book.

Packaging
Originally, these were all packaged in a plastic screw-lid tub and they are pretty wedged in against some bubblewrap, this tub will surely last a while but is likely to break with a lot of use and it’s very difficult to identify the pencil or even pick one out, especially once you’ve started sharpening them and they become shorter so I’d strongly advise investing in a pencil case or pencil wrap for ease of use. The 120 set is now available in a thick cardboard box with three trays of pencils and two pencil sharpeners inside. There are reports of them occasionally arriving with no packaging in just a plastic bag, in this case always contact the seller or Amazon and I’m sure they’ll get it resolved.

Sharpening
The pencils arrive pre-sharpened with a blunted point. One thing to note is that they really need sharpening before use, for some reason there seems to be some sort of coating on them which makes them a bit scratchy to start with but this pretty much goes as soon as you sharpen them so don’t lose hope, they’re completely different once sharpened! None of my pencils arrived with broken leads. They have strong leads and sharpen well. I use a T’Gaal adjustable pencil sharpener which is known to be very good for not breaking leads but these are well-made pencils with nice smooth wooden barrels so there shouldn’t be any sharpening issues, regardless of what you use, I’ve had absolutely no breakages so far. The pencils can be used to colour very intricate images because they sharpen to such a good point which is really handy for some of the more detailed adult colouring books out there! They work well on lots of different types of paper and I really haven’t had any issues with them, a few of them feel a little gritty and scratchy at points but that’s something you expect when buying pencils for these kinds of prices and usually it’s a fragment of grit which will sharpen out and then the pencil is fine again (I have also found this to be the case with Marco Raffines).

Blending
The leads aren’t super soft but they’re not hard either, they’re most similar to Faber Castell Polychromos in terms of hardness, and they’re almost identical in feel to the Marco Raffines. They provide very vibrant and even coverage with no need to press hard, they are really easy to blend and shade with, very comparable to Marco Raffines, and they keep a good point so you don’t have to sharpen too regularly. Do check out the comparison blending photos below, the only visible differences are due to my changes in technique rather than the pencils.

Erasing and Smudging
The pigment does erase pretty well (see photo below), especially with a battery-operated eraser so these are ideal for those of you who frequently colour over the lines and want to clean up the edges, as well as for creating highlights that aren’t that uncoloured white type! Obviously, you’ll never be able to completely remove all of the pigment, especially when burnished, but a surprising amount does come off. I haven’t noticed these pencils crumbling at all so you’re unlikely to get any pencil dust, if you rub hard on the pigment it does smudge but this is always the case with a pencil that blends well.

Overall, I fully expected to use these pencils once and then never again because I have full sets of Faber Castell Polychromos, Prismacolor Premier, and Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils, however, I’ve already used these to colour images in 3 different book reviews because I love them so much! The pencils are really versatile and if used properly you can get the palest hint of colour all the way up to a completely filled vibrant colour, they can be used to blend and shade or for block colouring and it’s easy to colour without streaks if you’re careful. They are really pigmented so even light colouring gives a good level of colour without hurting your hands, I have very problematic joints in my hands and end up in a lot of pain if I have to grip or press too hard whilst colouring, I’m also currently suffering from repetitive strain injury in my right thumb, however, these pencils really haven’t exacerbated any of this because they’re soft enough and give a good vibrant coverage without having to force the lead into the paper, this is great for books with thinner paper that you don’t want to create identation on. These pencils would be ideal for beginner colourists all the way up to experts and artists. The colours are a fantastic range, there’s a really good mix of light, bright, pale, and dark shades within each colour group and none are over-represented. The leads are hard enough to keep a good point and not need sharpening too often, but soft enough that they’ll be suitable for the elderly, those with weak grip, and those suffering from arthritis, sore joints, and any other hand complaints (they can be made even more comfortable and chunky by adding pencil grips when colouring). Marco Raffines are the go-to budget pencil option for most people and the Sudee Stile pencils give them a really good run for their money and with the addition of 48 more colours what’s stopping you? These pencils are easy to use, great value for money, and honestly, they’re just a joy to colour with, I love them, they’re a bit more expensive than the Marcos for a 72 set but most of us have been craving more colours in Marcos and now you have the option of 48+ extras in the Sudee Stiles!

If you’d like to purchase a set then they’re available here:
Sudee Stile 24 (Silver) 3 Pack
Sudee Stile 24 (Colour) 3 Pack
Sudee Stile 48 (Silver)
Sudee Stile 48 (Colour)
Sudee Stile 72 (Silver)
Sudee Stile 72 (Colour)
Sudee Stile 96
Sudee Stile 120 Set
Sudee Stile 150 Full Set

The images below were all coloured using Sudee Stile Coloured Pencils.

nordic-wilderness

Nordic Wilderness – A Review and Comparison to the German Edition, Nordische Wildnis

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Nordic Wilderness is illustrated by Claire Scully who co-illustrated The Menagerie, The Aviary, and The Aquarium, and is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. This book was originally published in Germany under the title Nordische Wildnis, you can find my review of that edition here, I expected the UK publication to be identical but I couldn’t have been more wrong, despite the content being almost identical, almost all aspects of the publication are different including the image order, formatting, paper colour and book size to name a few, therefore I will first review the UK edition here and then go on to compare the UK and German editions so that you know which to purchase if you want just one, or whether to buy this UK copy if you already have a German copy so buckle up, this is a long one folks!

Review

Nordic Wilderness brings us exactly the content you’d expect, beautiful images of animals and scenery from the Nordic countries, it’s gorgeous, drawn in Claire’s signature intricate style and really lovely! The book is just under 25cm square, paperback with flexible grey card covers with images from inside the book and silver foiled text, the spine is a dark teal/blue colour and the inside covers are also this colour. The spine is glue and string-bound and fairly strong but also pliable so you can get the book to lie quite flat. The pages are mostly printed double-sided but the book contains 9 fold-out pages each containing a single-sided double-page spread which is a fantastic feature as the spine doesn’t get in the way of colouring the centre of these pages and they could also be carefully removed to frame if you wish. On the backs of the fold-out pages are a unique small motif so there are no truly blank pages in the book. The paper is thick, cream and lightly textured, I’ve tested it with pencils and these blend and layer nicely and I coloured my double-page spread with water-based pens which didn’t bleed or shadow at all; alcohol markers will bleed through so either keep these to the fold-out spreads or avoid using them in this book. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads and those that are most affected by the spine being down the centre have been printed on the 9 fold-out pages so you can finally colour the beaks of the two owls which disappeared into the spine in the German edition.

The images are beautiful and so cohesive! The illustrations are all of things you’d expect to find in Nordic countries from polar bears to pine martens, various species of owl to wolves, whales to horses, and squirrels to salmon. There are also a number of beautiful scenic images of fjords, log cabins, lots of trees, underwater creatures and even a stunning double-page spread of the Northern Lights over some icebergs which I can’t wait to get blending pinks and greens on to really make the scene come to life. Some of the images are animals on their own, others have backgrounds or objects with them, some are shown in groups and there are also a few double-page spreads of collections of natural items including lots of mushrooms, pine needles and pine cones, palm fronds, feathers, snowflakes and leaves. There are no filler images in this book and each illustration has absolutely earned its place, Claire’s style is beautiful and her hyper-detailed drawings of nature are just perfect to be coloured with pencils or fineliners. A fantastic new feature of the UK edition is that it contains an image key at the front, annoyingly this isn’t printed in the same order as the images in the book but it’s easy enough to find the picture you’re wanting to colour and find out what type of bear or fish it is you’re embarking on colouring, this is ideal for those of us who like to colour things realistically as it really aids with searching for the right colour schemes!

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, it’s absolutely jam-packed with nature imagery and so it’s really calming and grounding. It also offers wonderful escapism as it creates a real sense of place from the first page and truly does transport you to the Nordic countries where it’s cold and snowy and bears and furry creatures are everywhere. Claire’s illustration style is very realistic so it’s well suited to colourers who like to stick to realistic colour schemes but equally, her images look fabulous in neon colours, metallics, or rainbows for those with an adventurous streak! The line thickness is consistently thin throughout but it’s not particularly difficult to stay within the lines as long as you have moderate to good vision and fine motor control. The images are highly detailed and intricate (on a par with Millie Marotta’s and Johanna Basford’s books) and there are lots of tiny spaces making up each image whether it be hundreds of leaves, or blades of grass, or feathers, fur or scales, there is a huge amount of detail in these illustrations which makes them so beautiful and a joy to colour but this does mean it’s not so suitable for people who don’t have good vision or fine motor control. However, while the images are really intricate and detailed, most of this detail is drawn into much larger spaces including landscapes and animals so you could very easily colour over these details with pens or pencils so that the linework shows up as texture rather than having to colour each tiny section separately so there is scope for most ability levels to really enjoy this book. There are also a number of larger spaces in some of the images that will be really well suited to using your pencils for blending and shading to really bring the animals and landscapes to life. There aren’t any designs for you to finish drawing but there are natural spaces left in a few of the designs where you could add your own creatures, foliage, scenery and backgrounds, this is a happy compromise for those who can and can’t draw because there is space to draw if you want it, without any written hints.  You will need a fair amount of concentration to really get the most out of this book as each image will take a good long while to colour but because of the subject matter you can always colour a few leaves or a flower to get your quick colouring fix on a bad day and tackle a whole image on days when you can cope with colouring for longer. I really can’t express how beautiful this book is or how amazing the production is. You’ll get absolutely lost in the Nordic Wilderness and if you like The Menagerie, you’re sure to love this book filled with Claire’s beautiful illustrations, the German edition made its way straight onto my list of favourites and this new formatting has possibly made me love it even more!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves colouring natural images of plants, animals and scenery, this book is beautiful and the added features of removable card pages, bookmarks and postcards is such a wonderful touch. The paper is great quality and If you love detail, intricacy and realistic images then this book will be perfect for you.

Comparison

  1. German edition has covers that open out revealing a colourable design, the UK edition has blue coloured inside covers and no design to colour.
  2. The covers are totally different between the editions.
  3. The UK book is almost 2cms larger in both dimensions than the German edition.
  4. The paper colour is very different, it’s bright white in the German edition and cream in the UK edition, it seems to be equal thickness and similar texture, neither bleed with water-based pens but pencils blend and layer better on the UK edition.
  5. The UK edition has a key at the front of the book with a thumbnail of most of the images and a written description of what they depict, there is no key in the German edition.
  6. In the UK edition many of the double-page spreads are printed on fold-out pages, especially those most affected by the spine in the German edition. The German book has no fold-out pages.
  7. The German edition contains postcards and 4 perforated card pages with single-sided images to colour. The UK edition does contain the images of 3 of these but there are no postcards or perforated pages in it.
  8. The images are either the same size of a little larger in the UK edition due to the larger size of the book, this isn’t a huge difference but if you have slightly poorer vision or fine motor control then you’d be best getting the UK edition rather than the German.
  9. The image order is completely different in each edition.
  10. The UK book is missing about 3 single pages of artwork compared to the original German edition, these include the twigs next to the beaver page and the fox tail but I’m yet to discover the third page that hasn’t been included, it’s not an obvious one though.
  11. The whale is printed totally differently, in the German edition it’s a double-page spread showing just half of the whale, in the UK edition it’s a triple-page spread spanning a single page and a double-page fold-out and it shows the whale in its entirety so it’s printed a fair bit smaller in terms of the detail and intricacy.
  12. The cover image of the German edition is a colourable page in the UK edition with the title removed, in the German edition is has the title intact and is the title page of the book.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of either of the books then they’re available here:

Amazon UK
UK – Nordic Wilderness
German – Nordische Wildnis

Book Depository Worldwide
UK – https://www.bookdepository.com/Nordic-Wilderness-Claire-Scully/9781780679099/?a_aid=colouringitmom
German – https://www.bookdepository.com/Nordische-Wildnis-Claire-Scully/9783833852626/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’re a fan of Claire Scully’s artwork then please join my new fan group and share your coloured pages from her book – The Menagerie and More

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

magisk-gryning-postcards

Magisk Gryning 20 Vykort (Magical Dawn 20 Postcards) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magisk Gryning 20 Vykort are illustrated by Hanna Karlzon, and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. These postcards are taken from Hanna’s original colouring book Magisk Gryning/Magical Dawn (reviewed by me here), there is also an artist’s edition available. This postcard book contains 20 postcards, it’s paperback with thick card covers and a black tape binding. The cover is the same colour and design as the original book but printed on a smaller scale with the same luxurious gold foil accents. The book has a lay flat binding meaning there is no spine to contend with so you’re able to reach and colour the entirety of the image; the postcards are easy to remove if you wish so they can be sent or gifted or even framed but they’ll stay in the book as long as you’re careful not to twist the spine. The cards are a cream colour which looks quite vintage, it’s fairly smooth with a light texture and is perfect for blending and shading with pencils but pens glide over it seamlessly too. Alcohol markers won’t bleed if you’re careful and they don’t spread, they do shadow onto the reverse so bear this in mind if you’re wanting to write on the back. The postcards are printed single-sided and on the reverse are printed three address lines and space for a stamp with a little star motif within it. The drawings mostly have a small border around them but 6 are full page, they will be pretty easy to frame if you wish to do so. The illustrations are all very similar to those used in the Daydreams and Winter Dreams postcard sets in terms of intricacy level and content, none are impossible to colour and all will look beautiful when finished. The images are mostly nature-based but a number of them are magic-themed and for the second time Hanna has included female drawings, four have been included this time which is a lovely addition. There aren’t a lot of gems in this selection but the illustrations do contain a really good variety of things from birds to potion bottles, jewellery to cats, females to sand timers and beetles to flowers, this postcard set possibly contains the widest ranging content of all of Hanna’s postcards. They’ve all got a bit of added whimsy and fantasy which is a huge part of what gives Hanna’s images such charm and sets them apart from others, they’re just beautiful, even without colour added!

In terms of mental health, these postcards are just perfect! Postcards offer a smaller project which is less daunting to start and takes far less time to make progress on or finish than a full book page. The card is ideal for using any mediums and because they’re single-sided they’re perfect for framing so you can brighten up your darker days by just looking at all of the wonderful pages you’ve created, a great way of lifting your spirits. These postcards are fantasy-based which means they offer great escapism and distraction from difficult thoughts or symptoms, Hanna’s images really absorb you and transport you to far off lands and magical places. Fantasy images are great for those of you who don’t like being restricted with colour schemes and they’re a good challenge for those of you who like to colour things realistically as you can really let your hair down and use any colours you fancy for feline princesses or crystal mushrooms, there’s no right or wrong colour scheme and often the more vibrant and outlandish you go, the better the results! The line thickness is consistently thin throughout but it’s not spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels are pretty high but none of the spaces are impossible to colour. You will need fairly good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of these postcards. As for concentration level, these pages are ideal because their smaller size means they take less concentration and you can focus on individual aspects if you prefer and colour just one gem or potion bottle rather than focusing on the whole picture at once. These postcards are ideal for good and bad days, they’re a manageable size and I personally find them very inspiring and easy to get into without having to stress over colours for hours, I can just dive right in. If you need any inspiration then just search online using Hanna’s name or the book title and you’ll find heaps of ideas to get you going!

Overall, I would highly recommend these postcards, they’re all beautifully illustrated and they’re perfect for days when you’re feeling poorly, down, or your concentration is waning. They make an ideal project to send to others, to frame, or to keep in the book and they’re truly beautiful even just to look through uncoloured! They are a great format for Hanna’s drawings and even if you have the original colouring book, it doesn’t feel samey or stale despite containing the same imagery, the change in scale somehow makes the artwork seem different and lends itself to different colour schemes and the use of different mediums and techniques.

If you’d like to purchase a set they’re available here:
Pen Store – https://www.penstore.com/art-design/magisk-gryning-20-postcards-to-color
Bokus – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612831/magisk-gryning-20-vykort-att-farglagga/

Or you can pre-order the English language version, published in April, here:
Amazon UK – Magical Dawn 20 Postcards
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Dawn-20-Postcards-Hann-Karlzon/9781423646617/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Sharpie Fine Point Alcohol Markers and a few Promarker Alcohol Markers and the white highlights were added using a White Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pen.

magisk-gryning

Magisk Gryning (Magical Dawn) Målarbok – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magisk Gryning is the third instalment of colouring books illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. I have previously reviewed Hanna’s original two books, Dagdrömmar (Daydreams) and Sommarnatt (Summer Nights). The latest book is identical in format so if you already have a previous title of hers then skip to paragraph two, for those of you who are new to her work, this book is hardback and just a little smaller than A4 at 21.6 x 25.8 cm. The covers are a very pale lilac colour with a black and white design from inside the book with gold foiling accents and lettering adding a touch of luxury! The spine of the book is black with gold lettering (these books look really luxurious on the shelf and look like classic tomes). The pages are glue and string-bound and the pages are attached to a sturdy ribbon which is flexible rather than being rigidly glued to the hardback spine; the spine is durable and hard-wearing but it can be a bit difficult to get to the very centre of some of the pages though this does ease up with use. The paper is thick, cream and smooth and pencils work fairly well on it, with it relatively easy to build up layers for blending and shading; water-based pens don’t bleed or shadow (always test somewhere inconspicuous because everyone colours differently). The illustrations are printed double-sided and consist of single and double-page spreads.

The image content is really varied and utterly beautiful! The pictures are very nature-centred as always but not all of them are realistic or as you’d find nature in real-life and this book has a good heap of magic and mystery in it too. This book contains the largest number of images of women (20) with flowing hair, floral tattoos and piercings but if you’re not interested in colouring people, don’t despair, these are not the majority and there are heaps of images of animals, flowers and plants and lots of gems for those of you who, like me, are addicted to colouring gemstones! There are also loads of potion bottles in this one. It’s hard to describe the sheer amount of content within this book but some of the pages include pictures of birds, jewellery, cats, beetles, arrows, mushrooms, butterflies, moths, sand timers, flowers, and just so much more! The illustrations are all drawn in a very ornate, highly decorative style and they’re just beautiful and they look incredible when coloured! Hanna’s books are pretty similar to each other so it’s difficult to make each review different, a few have criticised them as being same-y but this book has taken a more magical turn and is more human-centred and has lots more gems than the previous titles so those who are fans will still love it but it does also offer a little more variety compared to the first two titles.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, it offers escapism, natural imagery and lots of whimsy and it’s perfect for distraction even just by looking through the images! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary throughout and mostly range from medium to high but a few have much larger open spaces. The detail is part of what makes Hanna’s work so special and beautiful, if you’re wanting to colour within each teeny tiny section then you’ll need to have very good vision and fine motor control but if you’re happy to colour over some of it and use it as texture underneath then moderate vision and fine motor control would be absolutely fine! Unlike Hanna’s first book Daydreams, this book doesn’t contain any outline images or written prompts. This may be a welcome change for those of you who don’t like to draw. A number of the images are centralised and have large surrounding spaces so there are plenty of opportunities to create your own backgrounds if you wish, though of course this isn’t a requirement! I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different details, patterns and creatures makes me feel calmer and the images are just charming so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary in size and difficulty and they consist of a mixture of collections of components, portraits and scenescape images. This makes it ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one gem or potion bottle on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves natural images, highly ornate illustrations, and anyone who likes all things pretty or magical. Hanna’s books are genuinely stunning and some of my favourites, I love just looking through them and this is possibly my favourite as it has so many gems and I can’t wait to colour it cover to cover!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available right now from Sweden from the sites below:
Pen Store – https://www.penstore.com/art-design/magisk-gryning
Bokus – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612688/magisk-gryning-malarbok/

Alternatively, if you’re happy to wait, you can pre-order a copy of the English language edition which will be published to the same specifications in April by Gibbs Smith.
Amazon UK – Magical Dawn
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Dawn-Coloring-Book-Hann-Karlzon/9781423646594/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils.

vinternatt-postcards

Vinternatt 20 Vykort (Winter Night 20 Postcards) – A Review

Vinternatt Postcards are illustrated by Hanna Karlzon, and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. These postcards are not taken from a book and have been published as a standalone postcard set and Hanna has categorically stated that there are no plans to turn these, or her other winter-themed postcard set, Vinterdrommar/Winter Dreams, into a full length colouring book. This postcard book contains 20 postcards, it’s paperback with thick card covers and a black tape binding. The cover is a pale blue with an illustration from inside the book with beautiful silver foiling accents and writing on the spine. The book has a lay flat binding meaning there is no spine to contend with so you’re able to reach and colour the entirety of the image; the postcards are easy to remove if you wish so they can be sent or gifted or even framed but they’ll stay in the book as long as you’re careful not to twist the spine. The cards are a cream colour which looks quite vintage, it’s fairly smooth with a light texture and is perfect for blending and shading with pencils but pens glide over it seamlessly too. Alcohol markers won’t bleed if you’re careful and they don’t spread, they do shadow onto the reverse so bear this in mind if you’re wanting to write on the back. The postcards are printed single-sided and on the reverse are printed three address lines and space for a stamp with little star doodles within it. The drawings mostly have a small border around them but 4 are full page, they will be pretty easy to frame if you wish to do so. The illustrations are all very similar to those used in the Daydreams and Winter Dreams postcard sets in terms of intricacy level and content, none are impossible to colour and all will look beautiful when finished. The images are very nature-based and for the first time in a postcard set two of Hanna’s female drawings have been included which is a lovely addition. There are a good number of gems which many of you will know I’m a huge fan of colouring and the illustrations also include lots of birds, stars, a cat, candles, a crown, a beautiful house, lanterns, a beetle and more. They’ve all got a bit of added whimsy and fantasy which is a huge part of what gives Hanna’s images such charm and sets them apart from others. These images are all winter themed with a real Nordic style to them, there’s nothing Christmas-themed in this book and if you’re looking for that then I’d recommend the Vinterdrommar/Winter Dreams set, this set is very bird and star heavy and it’s really ornate and highly decorated.

In terms of mental health, these postcards are just perfect! Postcards offer a smaller project which is less daunting to start and takes far less time to make progress on or finish than a full book page. The card is ideal for using any mediums and because they’re single-sided they’re perfect for framing so you can brighten up your darker days by just looking at all of the wonderful pages you’ve created, a great way of lifting your spirits. These postcards are nature-based and I find this the best thing for mental health as they’re very calming and peaceful and if you struggle to conjure up colour palette ideas you can just go with the one nature already created or spice things up a little if you’re feeling brave. The line thickness is consistently thin throughout but it’s not spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels are pretty high but none of the spaces are impossible to colour. You will need fairly good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of these postcards. As for concentration level, these pages are ideal because their smaller size means they take less concentration and you can focus on individual aspects if you prefer and colour just one star or bird rather than focusing on the whole picture at once. These postcards are ideal for good and bad days, they’re a manageable size and I personally find them very inspiring and easy to get into without having to stress over colours for hours, I can just dive right in. If you need any inspiration then just search online using Hanna’s name or the book title and you’ll find heaps of ideas to get you going!

Overall, I would highly recommend these postcards, they’re all beautifully illustrated and they’re perfect for days when you’re feeling poorly, down, or your concentration is waning. They make an ideal project to send to others, to frame, or to keep in the book and they’re truly beautiful even just to look through uncoloured!

If you’d like to purchase a set they’re available here:
Pen Store – https://www.penstore.com/art-design/vinternatt-20-postcards-to-color
Bokus – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612664/vinternatt-20-vykort-att-farglagga/

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils, the background was coloured using a black Sharpie and the white highlights were added using a White Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pen.

tangle-wood-collectors-art-edition

Tangle Wood Collector’s Art Edition – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Tangle Wood Collector’s Art Edition is illustrated by Jessica Palmer and published and kindly sent to me to review by Search Press Publishing. This book is the artist’s edition of Jessica’s hugely popular debut colouring book, Tangle Wood, which I reviewed almost 18 months ago, she’s since gone on to produce two further titles, Tangle Bay and Tangle Magic. This artist’s edition is a different format from the original and contains 20 images, some originally single pages and others a full double-page spread, I’ve included photos of all of the pages below so that you can see if your favourites are included and decide if this book is for you. It’s currently listed on Amazon with a release date in the UK as the 31st of March but my contact at Search Press is expecting their own website to have stock by the end of January and Amazon doesn’t usually take long after that so do get your pre-order in (links below) and you’ll be sure to get a copy as soon as it’s available.

The book itself is very large, measuring 25 x 33cm (the same size as Floribunda and the JB artist’s editions), it’s paperback with covers made of the same card as the pages inside, it’s thick card which is a beautiful cream colour, lightly textured and perfect for use with water-based pens which don’t bleed sideways or through, and pencils which layer and blend beautifully. I tested my Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and they didn’t shadow onto the back, they just seemed to glide on top instead of saturating the paper. Cream isn’t everyone’s favourite page colour but it definitely adds a vintage feel and seems more natural than pure white so it really fits the woodland theme and also means you’re left with a less harsh contrast if you decide to leave the background uncoloured. The 20 images are printed single-sided onto the card and all of them are landscape, some are single page images from the original book which are printed a little larger, and others are double-page spreads which have been shrunk to fit the new page size. The book has a lay-flat binding meaning there is no spine to contend with and that you can reach the whole image to colour it. The pages are all removable, they’re not perforated so there’s no risk of them not being fully perforated and you ripping a page when trying to remove it, they’re all glued onto the spine in the same way as postcard books so they’re easy to remove if you wish but do stay put as long as you’re careful and don’t twist the spine too much, mine arrived pretty stiff. The removable nature of the pages is ideal for two reasons, firstly, its main purpose, which is so that they can be displayed, framed, or gifted to friends or family so your colouring is no longer destined to stay hidden away in a book; secondly, it makes it much easier to colour if you remove the page first – the book is very large when fully open which makes it difficult to colour on your lap or even on a clipboard because it’s over A3 size when opened, but when you remove the page you can turn it to any angle you please so that you can colour each section easily without having to have your hand hanging off one corner or be rubbing over previously coloured areas and accidentally smudging bits.

The images included are all from the original version of Tangle Wood, unlike most artist’s editions, the majority of these images are actually smaller than in the original book, I personally don’t think this was the best decision as Jessica’s illustrations are some of the most detailed around and it would have been lovely to have slightly larger scale versions to get our teeth into. There are also some slightly odd image choices like the floral frame which doesn’t actually fill the page or have enough space in the middle to draw much of your own imagery, or the floral spray with a small hummingbird, I was very disappointed to see that the gingerbread house wasn’t included apart from as a faded background for the bio on the back page. However, those niggles aside, the book is lovely and the images are really beautiful. Of the 20 images, 3 are printed larger than the original, 11 are printed smaller than the original, and the rest are the same size (see comparison photos below). The illustrations are printed in a different order from the book and don’t show the journey through the wood as the original did, there also isn’t a treasure hunt aspect though there are jewellery pieces hidden in each illustration. On the back of each page it says “Hand Coloured By” with a line to write your name and then “On” followed by space to write the date, you could also add the colouring mediums you used as a great record for the future.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, Jessica’s work contains so much detail that there’s constantly something to look at and notice, there’s a really good mix of images from up-close plants and insects to more scenic pages and all of the chosen illustrations will look beautiful framed if you wish. The linework is fairly consistent throughout and is thin and spindly thin, the detail levels do vary because the scale of the images varies and it ranges from the tiniest of details up to much larger open spaces. While you will need pretty good vision and fine motor control, don’t forget that you don’t have to colour in each tiny section individually and you can get great effects from colouring over sections and using the black linework as pattern or texture through your colouring, I often do this with Jessica’s illustrations and it’s really effective. The drawings themselves are really natural and evocative and are sure to spark your imagination as well as calm you down, Jessica’s illustrations feel very peaceful so they’re great for slowing down a racing mind. A number of the images have large spaces where you could add your own backgrounds but this is by no means necessary and the pages will look beautiful with or without any additions. There is also a variance in the amount of content on each page so you can tackle a simpler page on bad days or a more complex design on days where you can focus and concentrate more fully. Fans of the original book are sure to love this edition, it feels quite different from the original but it has many more uses and is ideal for using heavy/wet media that you can’t use on double-sided pages.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, while the image choice and layout is a little disappointing, this may just be my personal taste and what is here is very lovely and will look stunning finished and framed. The book itself would make a wonderful gift or you could colour and frame a page for a loved one, or just brighten up your own home with your wonderful creations, I will certainly be framing my own soon, I just love how my owl turned out!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Tangle Wood Collector’s Art Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Tangle-Wood-Jessic-Palmer/9781782214878/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Search Press Website – https://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782214878/tangle-wood-collector-s-art-edition

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils and the background with PanPastels.

vivi-soker-en-van-malarbok

Vivi Söker en Vän Målarbok (Vivi’s Looking for a Friend) – A Review

Vivi Söker en Vän Målarbok, which translates into English as Vivi’s Looking for a Friend, is illustrated by Maria Trolle, who has also illustrated Blomstermandala and I Bring You Flowers Postcards, and is published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is Swedish and currently only published there, it’s available for International purchase using the links at the bottom of this review just above the photos. Maria has created a children’s story book with these illustrations in full colour and an adult’s colouring book (reviewed here) where the story is removed. Maria has posted a short description of the story on her Facebook page which I’ve quoted directly below.

“The story of the book in short is this: “When Vivi woke at dawn the walls were darker than usual and the house felt cramped. I want a friend, someone who is just mine, she thought. Vivi lives in a tree house in the woods. One day she goes on an adventure to find herself a friend.
Vivi takes a ride with a bird and fly up into the sky where she meets the Cloudbear. She goes deep into the ocean where she meets ta mermaid. In the oak, she becomes friends with the tree spirit. Vivi looks into hollows in the ground where the voles live. But who can be her very own friend who is hers always…
The Miniwolf are also looking for a friend. He is curious about Vivi and wonders if she’ll ever see him …
Vivi meets a friend is about finding your place in the world and to find yourself and meet the right person. A best friend.”

The book itself is 21.5 x 25.4cm, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside on the cover (the storybook has a fully coloured image on the front so be sure you’re ordering the correct one) wrapped around both flexible card covers, there are small colourable images from inside the book on the insides of both covers. The spine is glue and string bound so it’s very durable but a little tricky to get the book to lie flat at first. The pages are printed single-sided onto perforated pages which are sturdy enough to hold them in the book if you wish to keep it complete, but these do allow you to remove pages before or after colouring if you wish. The paper is cream, thick and very lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed with water-based pens but does bleed with alcohol markers so make sure you pop a protective sheet behind your work. Pencils go on smoothly but are a little tricky to blend and layer due to lack of tooth, experienced colourists will manage to get stunning results though I’m sure! The images themselves are a great mix of adult level colouring but with childlike charm. The illustrations tell the story of Vivi as she goes in search of a friend and she travels to different environments and meets different creatures which means you’re offered a huge variety of things to colour from practising skin tones and fur to feathers and clouds, if you want a book to challenge you out of your comfort zone then this is ideal. Equally though, this would look gorgeous block coloured or with minimal blending and shading, or with a touch of added sparkle from some glitter gel pens so don’t be put off if you’ve not mastered fur, I haven’t yet but I’ll be giving it a go in this book. A few of the images have dots on to indicate shading and these are very useful, especially for beginner colourists to learn where light and shade can be placed in an image. As with Maria’s other books, a total of 8 images have a black background which is a lovely touch and will make the colours really pop on those pages. There are almost 50 images which are really varied in content and there is a beautiful map at the back showing all of the different places Vivi travels to within the story.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, the storytelling aspect is lovely because it offers escapism and Maria’s images are so evocative and charming that you can’t help but become immersed in Vivi’s world and your worries and symptoms soon melt away. The childlike quality of the images is very nostalgic and really transports you back to simpler times and happy days as a child. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels vary from large open spaces of a fox or whale to much smaller details of leaves, flower centres and butterflies, and everything in between. You will need fairly good vision and fine motor control to keep within the lines but they don’t need to be perfect so don’t be put off, just check the images below to decide if they’re suitable or not. This book offers a huge amount of scope for the imagination, while the pictures do tell the story very well, you could easily add your own written story on the blank left-hand pages throughout the book and once coloured you could gift it to a child or read it to your own children. You could even colour Vivi to look like a little girl you know and get her to wear their favourite colour so that it’s like that child is in the story, this would make the most wonderful personalised gift! Equally, you could remove the pages and frame them for a child’s bedroom, they’d be a wonderful addition with their whimsical content. The variance in image content means that this book is ideal for those with fluctuating conditions and concentration levels, on bad days you can colour just one cloud or acorn and on better days you could colour a whole image, there are loads of natural stopping points so you can get the satisfaction of finishing something without it having to be the entire page which can often be quite daunting and off-putting!  This book really is another beautiful creation which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Maria, it’s a really different premise from most adult colouring books but I personally love it and even though I don’t have children myself, or really anyone to gift it to, I’m still loving colouring in it and imagining myself on Vivi’s journey as she meets cloud bears, mermaids and woodland creatures.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, it offers so much escapism and the artwork is just charming. It would make a wonderful gift fully coloured, with a written story added, or even a framed page and Vivi is sure to become a family favourite!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available to order below though you may need to be patient as it’s very popular and often out of stock.
Pen Store – https://www.penstore.com/art-design/vivi-soker-en-van
Bokus – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612695/vivi-soker-en-van-malarbok/

If you’d also like to purchase a copy of the Vivi storybook with fully coloured illustrations then it’s available from Bokus here – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612718/vivi-soker-en-van-sagobok/

The image below was coloured using Sharpie Fine Point Alcohol Markers.

faglar-fjarilar

Fåglar & Fjärilar (Birds and Butterflies) – A Review

Fåglar & Fjärilar is illustrated by Nadja Wedin, and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This is another beautiful Swedish offering which is currently only available from international websites (links below, directly above the photos). This book is landscape, measuring 29x20cm, paperback, with thick flexible card covers with partially coloured images on the front and back covers which are featured within the book. It has gold foiling on the title and matte gold tape covering the spine which has a lay-flat binding meaning the book will lie completely flat and that the pages can be removed if you wish, this also means you need to be careful not to twist the spine to avoid pages accidentally falling out. The book contains 20 single-sided images and every other one has a black background, the last 6 pages are the same 3 images printed first with a black background and second with a white background, the other 14 pages in the book are all different images. The pages are a pale cream colour, made of thick card and are lightly textured, water-based pens don’t bleed or shadow, alcohol markers do bleed to the back of the page but not through onto the next as the card is so thick. Pencils apply smoothly but are a tad tricky to layer at points due to lack of tooth, it is manageable though and I’ve seen some beautiful finished pages done in pencil so do persevere. The images themselves are exactly as you’d expect given the translation of the title, the pages are filled with birds and butterflies, as well as berries, flowers, leaves, trees, cats, hedgehogs, pine martens, and heaps more. Some of the images are scenes and others are a bit more like a random collection of items all pictured on the same page. 7 of the images are portrait, the other 13 are landscape. A few elements of some of the images are drawn in a greyscale style where they’re not just black and white line drawings, they have lots of shading and texture added in the form of fur on a few of the animals, this is quite unobtrusive and is fantastic for those of us who’ve not yet mastered colouring realistic fur!

In terms of mental health, this is a lovely book and because it’s nature-based it’s great for calming you down. The imagery is almost like walking through a garden and this is great for those who are housebound like I am, one of the things I miss most is being outside watching the birds and looking at flowers and this book really offers up a sense of those things. The line thickness is consistent throughout the book with thin lines and some spindly thin details. The intricacy and detail levels are varied within each image and range from very small details all the way up to much larger open spaces, the majority are small so you will need reasonable vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book. The images are all made of lots of component parts which is ideal for those of you with concentration problems of fluctuating conditions, you can colour just one or two items at once or colour all of one type of flower, or berry, or more on a better day. There is plenty to look at on each page so it’s very absorbing and you do need to focus well in order to decipher what each section is to ensure you’re colouring things the correct colour. These illustrations look truly stunning when they’re completed in a number of mediums and they are absolutely worthy of framing which means the removable pages are ideal. You could display your completed creations in your home to brighten things up and remind you on bad days of exactly how much you can achieve, or they would make a stunning and very personal gift, if you can bear to part with any!

Overall, this is a beautiful nature-themed book which really does take you on a walk through a garden of birds and butterflies. The black and white background pages are lovely and the card is great for just about any medium and when you’re done you can frame your creations and show off all your beautiful hard work. What could be better?!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s currently only published in Swedish and available for International delivery from the following stores:
Pen Store – https://www.penstore.com/art-design/faglar-fjarilar-tavelbok-artist-edition
Bokus – http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789163612947/birds-butterflies-20-ark-att-farglagga-riva-ut-och-rama-in/

If you need some inspiration or want to see some more coloured pages then check out this lovely Facebook Fan Group.

The page below was coloured using Sharpie Fine Point Alcohol Markers.

i-heart-colouring-christmas

I Heart Colouring Christmas – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
I Heart Colouring Christmas is published by Buster Books and purchased by me for my personal collection. I know I’m a little late to the party and that Christmas was 3 weeks ago now but we all know how the song goes about wishing it could be Christmas every day and with this lovely little book, it can be! This book is 15cm square, paperback with white card covers and red foiling accents on the front (this isn’t to be confused with the book of the same name published in 2015 which has silver accents on the cover). The spine is glue and string-bound making it very durable but a little tricky to reach the centre of the images, it will ease up over time. The paper is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured, pencils work well on it and water-based pens don’t bleed and only occasionally shadow so as long as you’re careful this book can be used with felt-tips and fineliners if you wish; steer clear of alcohol pens or you’ll ruin the reverse image with bleed-through. The illustrations are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads with the majority being double-page spreads. This book is packed full of images of Christmas trees, Christmas puddings, jumpers, presents, food, bells, baubles, candy canes and so much more! The illustrations are drawn by a number of different artists and therefore there are a number of image styles throughout. Some of the content includes fireplaces, gingerbread houses, heaps of presents, advent calendars, snowman scenes and lots more. Many of the pages are collections of images of associated items or repeating patterns, the majority aren’t scenes or snapshots, they’re collection images. There’s a huge assortment of tasty treats packed in and this book is sure to keep you feeling festive despite the decorations being packed away and the food being a distant memory and a slightly enlarged waistline.

In terms of mental health, this book is a great one for distraction. It’s lots of fun, full of quirks and whimsy, and a great one to flick through during a bored moment. The size of the pages means that you can finish a page in a matter of minutes if you wish so this is an ideal book for those of you with very poor concentration or who like a really quick colouring fix. The line thickness varies throughout and ranges from thin to medium/thick. The intricacy and detail levels also vary hugely from teeny tiny details all the way up to much larger open spaces. This means that it’ll suit most levels of vision and fine motor control though I’d advise against anyone with particularly poor levels of either of those buying this book as you won’t get the most from it. I Heart Christmas Colouring epitomises variety and really does have something for everyone and every concentration and ability level. On bad days you can opt to quickly colour one jumper or penguin and on better days you can colour a full stack of presents or anything in between. This book is a great size to pop in your bag for colouring on the move as it doesn’t take up much space.

I would highly recommend this book to any festive fans who wish it could be Christmas all year long and anyone looking for something fun and quirky to really go to town on. Christmas doesn’t have to just be coloured in December and this is a great book for bringing back some Christmas cheer and get you using your glitter gel pens and red and green coloured pencils.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – I Heart Colouring Christmas
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/I-Heart-Colouring-Christmas-Part-2-Lizzie-Preston/9781780554549/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you like the look of this book, why not check out my review of another in the series, I Heart Baking Colouring.
Amazon UK – I Heart Baking Colouring
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/I-Heart-Baking-Colouring-Various-Illustrators/9781780554488/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-tip Pens.

holbein-pencils

Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils 150 Set – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils aren’t very well known yet, but they really should be! These pencils are from my personal collection and I purchased them just a few weeks ago, since then, I’ve used them every chance I’ve had and I have to say, I love them, they’re quite possibly my favourite pencils! It was quite a risk clicking the buy button because they’re pretty expensive and I could find very few reviews so it was a bit of a leap of faith but the completed pages I’d seen were so beautiful that I just had to have them and see what they were like.

Availability, Cost and Set Sizes
The pencils are Japanese and are available in open stock in Japan but almost impossible to find out of sets anywhere else in the world, they’re also not available in shops worldwide and can therefore only be bought online outside Japan. There is a huge variety of set sizes and palettes ranging from a set of 12 all the way up to the full 150 set which is available either in a sturdy cardboard box (this is the set I bought and am reviewing), or in an incredibly beautiful looking wooden box with trays in wooden drawers. These pencils are expensive so they’re a real investment and it’s really worth shopping around as the set I bought I’ve seen ranging from £227 all the way up to well over £300, some places to look for them are Ebay, Amazon UK and US (check the US ships to you) and Amazon Japan which was where I bought my set (see bottom of post above photos for info about how to order from Amazon Japan and a direct link to the set).

Colour Range and Presentation
The pencils are available in 150 colours and what sets these apart from any other set I’ve seen is the sheer variety and range of pastel colours, you also get 6 metallic colours and 6 fluorescents as well. The colour range is very varied and doesn’t feel shade-heavy in any shades and I haven’t particularly found it lacking in colours either though I do always hanker for more browns but this is one of the easiest colours to make when mixing other shades together, I’ve just not got around to making a colour mixing chart yet. The pencils themselves look most similar to the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils, they have a full colour round barrel which is thick and feels very well made, the wood casing is perfectly formed on all 150 of my pencils with no scratches, splits or off-centre leads. The non-colouring end is rounded and also coloured so your pencil lead can’t come loose from the casing and be pushed out the end like Prismas have been known to do. The pencils have gold writing, and a gold ring, similar to that on the Polychromos pencils but it’s much further from the end (see photos below), so they’re easy to tell apart. The pencils themselves are thicker than normal, the same thickness as Polychromos and they have a substantial, thick lead. Each pencil has a unique colour name and number printed on it and the lightfastness star rating.

Packaging
The packaging is superb and possibly the best I’ve seen for pencils (excluding the extortionately priced wooden box/drawer sets you can buy), the box is made of very thick cardboard and it doesn’t warp or twist at all, inside the lid it lists all of the pencils with their English and Japanese colour names, their unique colour number which is what they’re ordered by on this list and a chart with dots indicating which sets each pencil can be found in which is very useful for discovering the differences between sets and also being able to buy the smallest possible set when you start running low on certain colours! Each layer of pencils has a sheet of packing foam over it which helps absorb vibrations during transit, there is also an instruction manual which is sadly written in Japanese, though there are a lot of pictures so you can mostly guess at the techniques it’s teaching, and a small booklet containing the same packaging information as the box lid and opening out to show a colour sample of each pencil. The box contains three thick cardboard trays of pencils, each has a plastic insert that has individual slots for each pencil to sit in, the edges of two of my plastic inserts did arrive a bit broken however this isn’t affecting use, the cardboard trays have well-attached blue ribbon loops to aid lifting them out and this prevents warping and twisting of the trays. The pencils arrive pre-sharpened but not to a fine point, they all have a flattened end as if the tip has been cut off or they’ve been sharpened against something (see photo below), I’ve never seen this in a set of pencils before. A number of them also arrived with a strange residue on them that seemed a bit waxy, odd as the pencils are oil-based, this easily rubs, sands, or sharpens off though and it’s visible on the pencils it affects as the tip looks cloudy (see photo below) so there’s no reason to ruin your colouring page, just check the tip and clean it first and then you’re good to go.

Sharpening
The pencils sharpen beautifully, I use a T’Gaal Adjustable Pencil Sharpener which is arguably the best sharpener around (read my review of it here) and I’ve had no breakages and they sharpen to a nice point. The leads are relatively hard, significantly harder than Prismacolor Premiers and a tad softer than Faber-Castell Polychromos so they keep sharp for a good while during colouring and the tips don’t crumble. I personally use the “1” setting on my sharpener as I hate losing lots of wood at once and prefer to use a shorter point which is why in the photos below the point is short, these pencils hold up well on all of the T’Gaal’s settings including the longest point.

Blending
The pencils blend like a dream! Prismacolor Premiers are arguably the best and easiest pencils to blend due to their soft core but these Holbein pencils are a pretty close second and I found them a little bit easier to blend than Faber-Castell Polychromos. As yet, the only time I’ve needed to use a blending pencil has been when I’ve wanted to fade to white but haven’t wanted to lighten the colour by blending with a white pencil (see the blue, purple and pink gems in the photo below). They are really easy to layer, giving a good even coverage and being very sensitive to pressure, they have a beautiful vibrant pigment as you can see from the photographs of my colour charts below which I’ve not filtered or edited in any way, that’s truly how they look in real life! The pencil barrel colour is very similar and pretty accurate to the lead colour, but as always, I would still recommend creating a colour chart, it’s a great way of getting used to the pencils and how they perform on paper/card and it’s a really handy resource to have so that you can easily compare within and between brands so you can make perfect colour choices!

Erasing and Smudging
The pigment of the pencils erases pretty well, even when fully burnished, obviously you’ll never be able to completely remove all of the pigment, especially when burnished, but a surprising amount does come off, particularly when using a battery operated eraser which was what I used for the test below. As with all pencil pigments, it does smudge a little with pressure however, the smudge below was only created from deliberately rubbing at the pencil with my finger and will only smudge during normal use if you get any pencil “dust” which happens very little in use as these pencils really don’t crumble.

Overall, these are expensive and they’re not an item to purchase lightly, however, I can’t recommend them highly enough, there are no production issues at all in my set and none that I’ve heard of within the colouring community, the colour choices are unique and vibrant, they blend beautifully and are a great addition for those looking for more colours who already have any other pencil sets as these don’t contain a huge number of duplicate colour options. They sharpen well, with no issues and the packaging protects them well and makes them really easy to use without needing to decant them elsewhere unless you want to. These pencils would be a wonderful first artist’s grade set, or in addition to others and the pastel colours are just incredible! If you’re wanting to splash out on a new set then you should definitely consider these, I was so anxious about purchasing them but as soon as they arrived and I finished stroking the pretty colours and actually started using them, my fears were allayed and I instantly fell in love with them as has everyone else I’ve seen using them!

Purchasing
If you’d like to purchase a set then you could try out a set of 12 though these are still just over £2 per pencil but at least you’ll then know if you like them and have spares if you then splurge on the full set.

Amazon UK:
12 Colour Pastel Shade Set
12 Colour Basic Shade Set
24 Colour Set in Tin
36 Colour Set in Tin
50 Colour Set in Cardboard Box
100 Colour Set in Cardboard Box
100 Colour Set in Wooden Box with Drawers
150 Colour Set (as reviewed here) in Cardboard Box
150 Colour Set in Wooden Box with Drawers

Amazon Japan
150 Colour Set (as bought by me and reviewed here) in Cardboard Box
All Holbein Pencil listings on Amazon Japan

Amazon Japan ordering instructions
Google Chrome has a pretty accurate page translate tool which I used, you’ll first need to set up an Amazon Japan account and add your payment details and postal address, do this first or it’s really difficult to accurately find out prices. Don’t get too excited when you discover the pencils are mega cheap, the postage and import duties are an absolute killer, this set of pencils worked out at about £165 but the postage and import taxes left me paying another £60, this is all calculated by Amazon and paid upfront so there should be no unexpected fees when they arrive with you though I can’t guarantee this but I didn’t pay anything extra for mine. They also arrived ridiculously quickly, I was told it would take 7 days from Japan to the UK with standard delivery and in fact they took just 4 which is quicker than some UK deliveries I’ve had! The delivery packaging wasn’t great, just a thin bit of paper wedged in the box with no bubble-wrap or anything but my pencils seem to be absolutely fine and the set packaging itself is really good and protective which will help avoid any damage.

romantic-country-the-second-tale

Romantic Country: The Second Tale – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Romantic Country: The Second Tale is published by St Martin’s Griffin and is from my personal collection. Ever since Romantic Country was published in April, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this second instalment in the three-part series. I didn’t think it was possible to love a book more than Romantic Country, but I do love The Second Tale more, it feels more in depth and has even more exciting content as well as all of the beauty and charm of the first book. It’s illustrated by Eriy, a Japanese artist who creates her work using a toothpick dipped in ink. This whole book took approximately 1200 toothpicks and because of the way the lines are created they’re not a uniform thickness and aren’t a stark black colour (more on this later). This series was the series I’ve been hoping would be made, with its childlike charm but with adult levels of intricacy, it’s what I always felt was missing for me in JB’s books, don’t get me wrong, hers are stunningly beautiful, I really love them, but they’re a little too perfect for my imagined perfect series. Eriy’s books are utterly charming, not quite perfect, and truly heart-warming and that’s what makes them so wonderful.

This book is square, the same size as the bestsellers, paperback, with a removable paper dust jacket with partially coloured images from the book on the front and back. The book itself has brown card covers with a wraparound line drawing from inside the book and blank covers on the inside. The paper is a lovely rich creamy colour (it’s hard to describe but it’s a little warmer in colour than the paper in Johanna’s first two books but not yellowy and it’s the same as in Romantic Country), and it’s thick and doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens when used carefully, it also held up well to water and didn’t bleed through at all with my Derwent Inktense pencils. The paper is lightly textured and while you can’t get loads of layers, pencils do lay down well on it and it’s perfectly possible to get some lovely blending and layering. The spine is glue and stitch-bound so it’s durable but a little difficult to get to the centre of each spread, however, spines of this type do ease up with use so do persevere. The images are printed double-sided and borderless and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads so a little of each image is lost into the spine to begin with. The images themselves are beautiful, charming, and begging to be coloured and are split into the following 5 chapters: 1. The Glow of Beautiful Old Castles; 2. Magnificent Lakeside and Mountain Landscapes; 3. Fairies and Works of Nature; 4. The Witch and the Hidden Secret Forest; 5. Cheerful Town Scenes. The book starts with a single page spread showing a map of Cocot (the name of the land in which the book is set, which was dreamt up in the imagination of Eriy when she was a child), depicting the landmarks introduced in this book. Following this, are two double-page spreads showing mapped scenes of the landmarks which are pictured in more detail later in the book so you can clearly see where they’re situated in relation to each other. Following the maps, the images show beautiful scenes of mushroom villages, shopping streets, witches’ houses, shop interiors, vegetable gardens, interiors and exteriors of castles, windmills, churches, underwater scenes including a mermaid, holiday scenes including Halloween and Easter, fairy houses, village markets and so much more! Each image is shown as a thumbnail at the back of the book too with a short description telling you more about each place and life in Cocot, you will truly want to move there and never leave! At the back of the book is a removable fold-out poster featuring the main character who is followed through the book (a little girl called Elena) and her duck friend Joset, which is fully colourable and can be cut out and glued together to create two beautiful 3D scenes showing a castle interior and the forest.

In terms of mental health, I doubt there’s a book that’s better for it in all honesty! Certainly for mine anyway! The illustrations are so charming and because they have a beautiful childlike quality to them they really have a nostalgic aspect which will remind you of colouring books you used as a child but with so much more detail and intricacy that it’s still very entertaining as an adult. The content is wonderful because it whisks you off to a simpler, happier, gentler place where there is a slower pace of life and mythical creatures live alongside people and even witches are good. The line thickness varies throughout because Eriy draws with a toothpick and so it naturally varies however the majority of the lines are thin but not spindly so they’re perfectly colourable with moderate vision and fine motor control. The lines themselves are not a stark black, they’re an uneven brown because they’re drawn in dipping ink and while this may not sound great and does take a little getting used to, it truly adds so much charm to the drawings and these illustrations just wouldn’t look right drawn in harsh, black, perfect lines. The images range in intricacy and detail from large open spaces of the stained glass window page I coloured and scenery, to small intricate details of vegetables, books and leaves, and everything in between, it’s very wide-ranging but the intricacy level in this book is significantly higher in most images than in Romantic Country though most of the images would still be suitable for those with moderate, or higher, vision or fine motor control so this is a great book for nearly anybody! The images are detailed and contain lots of things to look at and colour but most are not so overwhelming that you don’t know where or how to start and because they’re all depicting real things like buildings, plants, and food, they’re easy to work out colour schemes for whether that be subtle pastels, realistic browns and greys, or bright fantastical colours, this book isn’t so perfect that you don’t want to touch it which is part of its huge appeal. The images are really cohesive and almost tell a story as you walk through the streets, castles, countryside and shops, by the end of the book you really feel like you’ve visited Cocot and you’ll be planning your next visit as soon as you can!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to colour scenes, landscapes, shops, food and flowers. This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen and I’m pretty sure it’s my favourite with its charming illustrations and beautiful thick paper. This book is cute, pretty, whimsical, magical and charming and it truly is the book of my dreams, and hopefully of yours, if you don’t already have Romantic Country then get that too, this series is truly perfect!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this gorgeous book then it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Romantic Country: The Second Tale
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Romantic-Country-The-Second-Tale-Eriy/9781250117281/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can find my review of Romantic Country here. Or it’s available to purchase here:
Amazon UK – Romantic Country
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Romantic-Country-Fantasy-Coloring-Book-Eriy/9781250094469/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Romantic Country: The Third Tale will be published in May 2017 and is available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Romantic Country: The Third Tale
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Romantic-Country-The-Third-Tale-Eriy/9781250133830/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water which I applied as sparingly as possible.