H for Horatio’s Garden – A Review

Following on from my review of The Horatio’s Garden Colouring Book, I bring you a review of a second book, the first created by the hugely talented, Catalina Willis. This book isn’t a colouring book but please don’t stop reading, this book is very small but very mighty and those of you who read my review of her colouring book will know that these books are being sold for a truly wonderful and worthwhile cause. For those not already aware, Catalina was inspired to create the books in memory of her Godmother’s son, Horatio, who very sadly died in 2011, aged 17, killed by a polar bear on an expedition to Svalbard. Horatio had planned to be a doctor and did voluntary work in a spinal treatment centre where his father worked, he realised there was a need for accessible gardens and set about helping create these, three have already been created in his memory with a further eight planned so that all 11 NHS spinal injury centres will have one, the proceeds from sales of this book will go directly towards this worthy cause.

This book is small at 15cm square, paperback, and has a yellowy-green cover. The book is printed double-sided, in full colour and is very high quality throughout. The content is described as “A whimsical romp around the 27 letters of the English alphabet, through the eyes of Catalina Willis” and the book does exactly what it says on the tin, each double-page spread is dedicated to a letter of the alphabet, each symbolising something beginning with that letter e.g. O for Outer Space, T for Togetherness, and most importantly, H for Horatio’s Garden. The pages are filled with quirky drawings, fun characters, whimsy, and lots of humour. It’s honestly a delight to look through and will make children and adults laugh as they journey through the alphabet. As for mental health benefits, what could be better than something that makes you laugh and smile? Catalina’s drawings are charming, characterful and they have a lovely naïve and child-like quality but with a true artist’s finesse added to them so fantastic for cheering you up and brightening your day, especially with all of the bright and vivid colours she’s used.

Overall, this is a lovely book, ideal for children and adults, and being sold for a truly fantastic cause, what have you got to lose? I can’t recommend it highly enough, it’s super cute, funny, and just adorable.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available on the Horatio’s Garden charity website here.

Can’t get enough of Catalina’s artwork? Check out my review of her gorgeous colouring book which you can bring to life with your own beautiful colours.

The Horatio’s Garden Colouring Book – A Review

Today I bring you a review, quite different from any other, I’ve had this book for months and just haven’t quite known how to review it because it’s been created for such a wonderful cause and has such an important message, I really wanted to be able to do it justice. The book was created by Catalina Willis, a young, and extremely talented illustrator who was just 15 at the time, not that you’d know it from the professional look of her drawings. She was inspired to create the book in memory of her Godmother’s son, Horatio, who very sadly died in 2011, aged 17, killed by a polar bear on an expedition to Svalbard. Horatio had planned to be a doctor and did voluntary work in a spinal treatment centre where his father worked, he realised there was a need for accessible gardens and set about helping create these, three have already been created in his memory with a further eight planned so that all 11 NHS spinal injury centres will have one, the proceeds from sales of this book will go directly towards this worthy cause.

The book itself is small at 20cm square, perfectly formed, and the ideal size to take on your travels and pop in your bag for colouring on the go. It’s paperback with flexible card covers with a lovely dark blue front and one of Catalina’s cute birds trudging his way across the cover. The spine is glue and string-bound and very durable but also easy enough to open the book fully and access the centre of each spread. The illustrations are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads with the majority being single page images. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens and pencils blend and shade nicely. The images themselves are a real mixture of content and style but all are very cute, quirky and whimsical. The book is arranged into 10 chapters: 1. The Gardens, 2. Activities, 3. British Animals, 4. The Sea, 5. Sleepy Animals, 6. People, 7. Sensible Animals, 8. Pangrams, 9. Silly Animals, 10. Patterns. The images are roughly arranged into these themes and include styles from normal black and white line drawings to greyscale type images, some with realistic greyscale photo backgrounds and even patterned or black backgrounds. The images vary from large drawings with thick lines drawn in a blocky style, to much more detailed images with much thinner linework and teeny tiny spaces and a huge range of everything in between. The majority of the images are animal-based and contain lots of anthropomorphic animal characters from poorly donkeys to nursing geese, dinosaurs offering rides to fez-wearing creatures and lots more. Some of the pages contain lots of random objects, others include food, some contain text and some of the loveliest images are of the current spinal injury gardens being enjoyed by poorly animals. Catalina’s illustration style is beautiful, hugely varied and much more mature than you’d expect from a 15-year-old, with a huge dollop of humour, whimsy and cuteness added into the mix. There is even a game of hide and seek going on through the book with Kit the fly hiding on each double-page spread.

In terms of mental health, this book has got everything needed to make it perfect for helping mental illnesses, it’s being sold in aid of a fantastic cause, it’s got a huge variety of content and style and it’s wonderfully light-hearted, making it ideal for children, adults, and the young at heart. As mentioned before, the linework is varied throughout from spindly thin to really thick and chunky and the intricacy and detail levels also vary hugely from teeny tiny spaces to much larger open spaces so the majority of the pages would be suitable for all levels of vision and fine motor control. The variety in content and style will also be ideal for those of you with varying conditions and symptom levels as you’ll always find something suitable for how you’re feeling on any given day and the pages are a really manageable size with many taking an hour or so if you want to block colour, or much longer if you want to take your time with blending and shading. There are lots of really natural stopping points so you can colour one animal or creature if you wish, rather than a full page. A number of them have printed backgrounds which really help to finish off the page but there are also plenty that have blank backgrounds where you could add your own imagery if you fancy though there’s no need to do so if you don’t want to.

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s so cute and it’s been created for such a worthy cause. It would be a wonderful gift that’s sure to put a smile on the face of any child, or adult, receiving it. You’ll also be doing your bit to help those with spinal injuries be able to visit accessible gardens whilst in hospital and that can only be a good thing! Catalina’s illustrations are gorgeous, very cute and often funny and they’re sure to be a hit with the whole family, she’s clearly poured so much love and passion into her work and I really hope it’ll continue to raise much-needed funds for this cause.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here, where all proceeds will go directly to the charity.

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

Fairy Tales Coloring Book (Sagolikt) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Fairy Tales Coloring Book is a Swedish book illustrated by Emelie Lidehall Oberg, originally published with the title Sagolikt and published and kindly sent to me to review by Gibbs Smith. I reviewed the original book, Sagolikt, HERE and this English language edition is identical in all respects apart from the language it’s written in and very subtle cosmetic differences with slightly different colour shades used on the covers for example but nothing that affects the use or enjoyment of the book, therefore the rest of my review is identical.

The book is 25cm square, paperback with flexible card covers that are cream with mint green and pale pink coloured illustrations with gold foiling accents on the front and back making it a really pretty and luxurious looking book. The covers have ¾ flaps which both have fully colourable black line drawings from within the book. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s fairly durable but this does mean a little of each image is lost into it. The paper is cream, thick and lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens unless you press too hard in one spot, it works well with pencils and you can build up a good number of layers for blending and shading. The book contains 96 pages of double-sided images which are all single page spreads. The image content is really varied and contains all sorts of aspects from different fairy tales without being specific or telling any stories, each picture is a stand-alone piece though some content is similar. So many different things are pictured from all sorts of furry animals and birds to doll-like people and treehouses, gramophones and teapots to cupcakes and bunting, glass jars and flowers to tepees and underwater scenes. Some of the images are of more realistic scenes and others are purely fantasy-based from a tea party scene with cuddly toys to a family of clothed rabbits moving house; a glass fish bowl to a teacup village; and a beautiful country house to a city contained within a lightbulb. The images are really pretty and this book is absolutely ideal for anyone who likes fantasy, whimsy and images that are filled with childlike charm (not childish) but with adult levels of intricacy. The images are also really cohesive and I didn’t feel that any of the pages contained filler images, each has definitely earnt its place and they look beautiful together.

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely because it’s based around fairy tale imagery which is full of charm and whimsy. The images aren’t overly realistic so there’s no need to use realistic colour schemes unless you want to and the animals pictured could be coloured as if they’re real, or as if they’re cuddly toys that have come to life so the possibilities are endless! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is medium/thin so it’s perfectly colourable for almost anyone and there is a little leeway to prevent you accidentally going over the lines. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout and while the majority of the images are very detailed, hardly any of this is particularly intricate so this book will suit most people apart from those with particularly poor vision or fine motor control. The variance in difficulty level means that there is something suitable for your good days, bad days, and everything in between so this is an ideal book for those or you with fluctuating conditions or changeable concentration levels. The book offers huge amounts of escapism and truly transports you to a far off land where you can get out of your head, away from your thoughts and lost into a place filled with friendly fluffy animals, beautiful doll-like people, and quirky, whimsical landscapes. There are plenty of fairly large spaces where you can really practice your blending and shading and there are a number of pages with jewels on for those of you who are currently obsessed with the gem-colouring that has swept through the colouring groups. The images are really pretty, so varied and just lovely to look at and to colour! There is plenty of space to add your own backgrounds or details if you wish but all of these pages look finished and there are no hints or written suggestions so there’s absolutely no need to be able to draw if you don’t want to.

I would highly recommend this book to those who like fairy tales, charming and cute imagery, and Swedish artwork because this book is beautiful and one I’m really pleased to now own. It’s a really pretty book with plenty of detail and interesting imagery, the paper is ideal for pen and pencil lovers and it really has a good feel about it.

If you’d like to pre-order a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Fairy Tales Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Fairy-Tales-Coloring-Book/9781423646624/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-tips and Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Magical Dawn Artist’s Edition (Magisk Gryning Tavelbok) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magical Dawn Artist’s Edition is illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Gibbs Smith. This book was originally published in Sweden under the title Magisk Gryning Tavelbok and this book is identical, apart from the language. This Artist’s Edition is also identical in format to those published for Hanna’s other books, Daydreams, and Summer Nights and therefore my review is mostly identical apart from the content section and the photos. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are a pale mauve colour (not identical to the book which is paler and more lilac) with black and white line drawings of Hanna’s flowers and a beetle with gold foiling accents on the front and back. The book has a black tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The 20 illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The illustrations chosen are a really good cross-section of images from the Magical Dawn colouring book, there’s a huge range of content, all with a magical theme, including moths, a regal swan, a crown, birds, potion bottles, animal portraits, lanterns, crystal mushrooms and finally, a whopping four of Hanna’s signature female illustrations, the most ever included in an Artist’s Edition. The images are all printed the same size as the original colouring book so if you’re able to colour that, you’ll also be able to colour these with no difficulty and Hanna’s chosen a lovely range that will look incredible finished and framed or gifted to others. All of the images are pictured below so you can check that you’re happy with the choices and see if your favourites are included.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, seasoned readers of my blog will know that I strongly believe that natural images, and those depicting nature are the best for mental health and calming you down and this book is no exception, the images are very relaxing as well as a little bit magical! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary a little throughout from medium to high and this 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! 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 a little in size and difficulty and they mostly consist of a collection of components which is ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one tiny potion bottle or moth on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book to those of you who are already fans of Hanna’s work and have the original book, those who love to gift or frame their colouring, and those who like to use alcohol markers or wet media as there’s no worry about ruining any reverse images. The illustrations chosen are beautiful, a wonderful cross-section and very calming.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Magical Dawn Artist’s Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Dawn-Hann-Karlzon/9781423646600/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

Summer Nights Artist’s Edition (Sommarnatt Tavelbok) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Summer Nights Artist’s Edition is illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Gibbs Smith. This book was originally published in Sweden under the title Sommarnatt Tavelbok and this book is identical, apart from the language. This Artist’s Edition is also identical in format to those published for Hanna’s other books, Daydreams, and Magical Dawn and therefore my review is mostly identical apart from the content section and the photos. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are a pale peach colour (not identical to the book which is paler and pinker) with black and white line drawings of Hanna’s butterflies and beading with gold foiling accents on the front and back. The book has a black tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The 20 illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The illustrations chosen are a good cross-section of images from the Summer Nights colouring book (reviewed by me here), there’s a huge range of content including butterflies, birds, owls, jewels, houses, insects, cats, flowers, leaves and finally, one of Hanna’s signature female illustrations. The images are all printed the same size as the original colouring book so if you’re able to colour that, you’ll also be able to colour these with no difficulty and Hanna’s chosen a lovely range that will look incredible finished and framed or gifted to others. All of the images are pictured below so you can check that you’re happy with the choices and see if your favourites are included.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, seasoned readers of my blog will know that I strongly believe that natural images, and those depicting nature are the best for mental health and calming you down and this book is no exception, the images are very relaxing! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary a little throughout from medium to high and this 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! 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 a little in size and difficulty and they mostly consist of a collection of components which is ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one flower or beetle on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book to those of you who are already fans of Hanna’s work and have the original book, those who love to gift or frame their colouring, and those who like to use alcohol markers or wet media as there’s no worry about ruining any reverse images. The illustrations chosen are beautiful, a wonderful cross-section and very calming.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Summer Nights Artist’s Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Summer-Nights-Hann-Karlzon/9781423646570/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils and the background was created using Panpastels.

Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints – A Review and Comparison of UK and US Editions

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints is published in the UK by Batsford Books who kindly sent me a copy to review, and is published by Lark crafts in the US and I purchased a copy of this edition myself.

Comparison

  • The US edition contains 18 prints and the UK edition contains 20, the additional images are the octopus and the lobster.
  • The card in the US edition is MUCH thinner than the UK edition, it feels like school card and is very flexible whereas the card in the UK edition is thick and much less bendy, similar in thickness to the card used in Johanna Basford’s Artist’s Editions.
  • The spine on my US edition broke really quickly because it’s only very lightly glued and the pages are already completely loose from the book covers despite very careful handling, the pages in the UK edition are glued more strongly.

The book itself is 25 x 33cm, paperback with flexible card covers that have a re-jigged version of the Animal Kingdom book cover on the front. The book has a lay-flat binding which is quite stiff to begin with but loosens up over time, each card page is glued onto the spine and it’s therefore easy to remove them for framing or gifting so do be careful not to twist the spine if you wish for your pages to remain in the book. The images are each printed single-sided and are mostly portrait with 4 landscape images (2 in the US edition). The card is thick, white, lightly textured and lovely to use with any medium, my pencils were a dream to blend and shade with, water-based pens don’t bleed, shadow or spread and alcohol markers will work well too, just make sure you pop a protective sheet behind to ensure no bleed-through. The images are all taken from Millie Marotta’s debut colouring book, Animal Kingdom, and all are printed the same size as the originals. No text is added to any of the pages and the majority of them contain large open spaces around them so you’re free to add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish but this certainly isn’t a requirement and with or without, the pages will look incredible. I’ve included photos below of all of the illustrations including the two additional images in the UK edition of the octopus and lobster. The images contain a good range of animals from the book and a really good range of Millie’s different illustration styles including full page designs, floral component parts, and centralised single animals.

In terms of mental health, this book is great because it offers a manageable project which you can frame or gift once finished, this is ideal for cheering up dark days or for boosting your confidence and self-esteem because you’ll have evidence and proof on your walls of just what you can create and achieve; the colouring projects I have displayed in my flat never fail to make me smile, even on really bad days. The line thickness, as with all of Millie’s work, is spindly thin and the images all contain really high levels of intricacy and detail so it’s really geared up for those of us with very good vision and fine motor control. The pages contain a range of amounts of content from a centralised animal to a page filled with leaves and a bird so there are some pages that will take much less time than others. Millie’s work has very natural stopping points but does require a lot of concentration so this is a book to either colour in small chunks or to save for your good days when you can focus well. While the images are all filled with huge amounts of detail, these sections don’t all have to be coloured individually and can easily be coloured over so that they show up as texture underneath (see my lobster below). The nature-themed imagery is very calming and distracting because there’s so much to look at on each page and Millie’s work is some of the best I’ve found to work on when I’m feeling anxious and need to really focus on something other than the thoughts swirling round my head.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to fans of Millie’s work and those who want to be able to frame or gift their finished pages. I would recommend the UK edition over the US edition as the card is much thicker, the binding is more sturdy and you get 2 extra images to colour. This is a lovely new format for Millie’s images and one that I hope will be reproduced for all of her other titles.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of either edition of the book, they’re available here:
UK Edition
Amazon UK – Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Millie-Marotts-Animal-Kingdom-Book-of-Prints-Millie-Marott/9781849944014/?a_aid=colouringitmom
US Edition
Amazon UK – Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints to Color
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Millie-Marotts-Animal-Kingdom-Millie-Marott/9781454710318/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’d like to frame your work, you can find frames of the correct size here on Amazon.

The images below are coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners (Giraffes), and Prismacolor Premier Pencils (Lobster).

The Flower Year: A Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Flower Year: A Colouring Book is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. This book is the second colouring book offering from Leila Duly who illustrated the hugely successful and utterly stunning, Floribunda, reviewed by me here. This new book is a different format, with somewhat different content and very different production however, rest assured, it’s equally beautiful and an absolute must-have! Below the review are photos of inside so you can have a sneak-peek and if you want to view the whole thing you can see my silent video flick-through here.

This book is quite small at 23 x 18cm, it’s hardback with a pale pink linen-style cover in a slightly different shade from Floribunda, with black floral line drawings on the front and back covers and beautiful moss green interior and first and last pages. The spine of the book is stitch-bound and it is glued onto a flexible fabric tape strip which makes it easier to access the gutter in the center of the pages though in some cases this is still tricky and you’ll lose a little of some of the images. The illustrations are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The paper is medium/thick, cream and very smooth, it’s similar to the paper used in Swedish colouring books though it has less texture; it’s ideal for water-based pens which apply smoothly and don’t bleed or shadow (do always test in an inconspicuous place as we all colour differently), I coloured my page with oil-based pencils (Holbeins and Polychromos’s) and found that I struggled to get even coverage as they didn’t want to blend very well and I was left with a slightly patchy appearance, even without any visible tooth to the paper, until I used a blending pencil (see photos below), this may be user error, but as many of us know, certain papers work better with certain types of pencils and I found that it performed much better with wax-based pencils when testing my Prismacolor Premier Pencils. The book contains a sage green satin ribbon bookmark which is very handy for keeping your page and really adds an extra touch of luxury in addition to the pale pink foiling which adorns the title on the cover and the spine.

The illustrations contain images of flowers from throughout the year with a title page for each month, starting with January and ending in December, each bordered with plants and flowers from that month, following each are 7 pages of floral illustrations containing a range of content styles including double-page spreads, single page spreads, collections of individual flower images and 7 pages with a written quote and a smaller flower image. There is a huge variety of content from birds to butterflies, dragonflies to berries and of course, heaps and heaps of flowers including, a dog rose, foxglove, bluebells, fuchsia, hellebore and plants including mistletoe, holly, horse chestnut and English oak. Some of the pages show small scenes of a zoomed in flowering plant or birds perched on branches, others show a small section of a whole plant, similar to images found in spotters guides and old-fashioned nature books, these collections have the flower’s name added on the page so they’re easy to identify. One of the best things about this book is that all of the pages are shown as thumbnails in the index and underneath each is a list of all of the flowers and birds depicted meaning that those of us who wish to colour the flowers realistically can, with great ease. A number of the pages have centralized images or sweeping spreads with large spaces left where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, however this is by no means necessary and the pages will look finished and stunning, regardless of whether you add extras or not.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, just as Floribunda was. The images are so realistic and they’re just packed with detail so even just looking through the pages is very calming and it really feels like you’re taken on a journey through the flowers and plants of the British seasons. I particularly like the way the book is split into months and that all of the illustrations are grouped together in this way, it means that you could just work through it in order or even colour the pages from each month as you go through the calendar year and see if you can spot some of those flowers when you’re out and about, I’ve certainly been noticing lots of crocuses (apparently January flowers) and daffodils outside my flat recently, as well as lots of birds, though I’ve not seen any wrens which are pictured for March, maybe I’ll see one soon. Nature-themed imagery is one of the best types for mental health because it’s so innately soothing and calming, even with no colour added, Leila’s illustrations are an absolute work of art and they are truly brought to life once coloured. The line thickness is spindly thin throughout, and while this does make it quite tricky to colour the images, they just wouldn’t look right with a thicker line, their beauty is in their delicacy. The intricacy and detail levels do vary from larger open spaces on periwinkles and bindweed to much smaller spaces of berries and lily-of-the-valley, but really you will need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book; I have good levels of both and it required a lot of time and patience to stay within the lines, even whilst colouring over many of the detailed sections. You will also need a good level of concentration to enjoy this book, while it will certainly cheer you up and calm you down on your worse days, it requires a lot of focus in order to stay within the lines and identify each section so that you’re not accidentally colouring a petal in leaf colours so this book is one to keep for your better days. That being said, when you’re well enough to colour it, it offers wonderful escapism and is extremely absorbing, leafing through the pages is like taking a garden walk, it really transports you outdoors and through forests, meadows and hedgerows.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to nature-lovers and those with very good vision and fine motor control, Leila’s illustrations are second to none and while this book is absolutely beautiful as it is, it’ll be an absolute stunner when it’s full to the brim with colour. This is one book that I really hope I can colour from cover to cover in my lifetime because the end result will be incredible. While the paper can be a bit tricky with certain pencils, do persevere, I promise it’s worth the effort!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Flower Year, it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – The Flower Year: A Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Flower-Year/9781780679532/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Floribunda it’s available here:
Review – Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Book
Amazon UK – Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Book (Colouring Books)
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Floribund-Leil-Duly/9781780677767/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using a combination of Holbein Artist’s Coloured Pencils and Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils. I also used a Caran d’Ache Blender.

Po Drugiej Stronie Snu (On the Other Side of Sleep) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Po Drugiej Stronie Snu is a Polish colouring book illustrated by the very talented Karolina Kubisowska who kindly sent me a copy to review. This book is periodically on Amazon UK though it’s currently very expensive there (I’m not sure why as it hasn’t always been) and Book Depository (links below, above the photos). The title translates as On the Other Side of Sleep which I’ve guessed to mean that it’s showing a dreamy fantasy land and that’s exactly what you get inside, surreal, weird, wonderful and ethereal images that would fit right in to a dream land.

The book itself is 22cm square, paperback with flexible card covers with a partially coloured image from inside the book, the inside covers are a sage green colour. The spine is glue-bound and you will need to be a little careful with it to avoid loosening the pages over time. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads with the majority being single pages, they are all full-page designs that reach the edges so a little of some of the images can be lost into the spine. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and smooth but not shiny, though, in most of the images the paper looks a little grey due to the printing (this isn’t a negative, more on this later). Water-based pens don’t bleed or shadow and pencils work well on the paper despite it not having much texture, I used Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water and the paper held up very well with almost no warping or buckling and any that did occur was because of my inexperience and lack of ability to be sparing enough with water!

The artwork is really unusual, in fact everything about the content and style of this book is unlike anything else I’ve seen hence the whole paragraph dedicated to it. Karolina’s art is a cross between normal line art and greyscale, it’s not fully shaded or photographic but it does have heavy black shading which makes the illustrations really dramatic and really easy to make look amazing with little to no knowledge of blending or shading. In addition to this some of the pencil lines are left showing and the pen lines aren’t pristinely, accurately drawn, they feel more chaotic and haphazard but you can see that they’re all meticulously placed to give a sketched look and this creates a real feeling of movement rather than a flat, static drawing.  The backgrounds aren’t left plain, they mostly show some sort of texture from canvas-like texture to toothy watercolour paper and plenty of others, hardly any have totally white backgrounds. This book is very much like looking through an artist’s sketchbook, it isn’t perfect, it’s not polished but that’s what’s so good about it, it feels inviting, less intimidating and all it needs is some vibrant colour to finish it off. Interspersed through the colouring pages are a number of pages with text written on them, sadly this is written in Polish so I have no idea what it says but I understand that it tells the story of the dreamy land that Karolina has created. Some of these pages are black and white and others are printed in full colour. The last two colouring pages have some splashes of colour added around the edges but these aren’t intrusive to the main designs; a few of the images have black backgrounds. The image content is very wide-ranging and contains some realistic images and others which are much more imaginary, there are lots of mushrooms and gems, plants and animals as well as dolls, three-eyed girls, crying unicorns and even a haunted-looking house, there’s nothing particularly horror-themed or grotesque, but there is a little of the dark and bizarre which could be the subject of bad dreams but not nightmares.

In terms of mental health, this book is ideal, at first it appears really intimidating because the artwork is different from anything you’ll have seen before and the dark lines and shading can be off-putting but as soon as you put colour on the paper your fears will melt away and you’ll realise just how easy it is to bring Karolina’s art to life. This would be an ideal book for beginners because the shading is already added for you so you can learn about light and shade and add your darker colours where the heaviest lines are and your lightest colours in the emptier spaces but it’s also easy enough for advanced colourists to challenge themselves and make their own mark on the pages. The line thickness is varied throughout the book and each page, and ranges from medium/thin to very thick. The intricacy and detail levels also vary throughout from large open spaces to much smaller sections and everything in between meaning this book would be suitable for most people with most levels of vision and fine motor control, those with poor levels of either may struggle with a few of the images but this isn’t a book where you need to stick rigidly to colouring between the lines, Karolina’s beautiful haphazard drawing style will be very forgiving of any slips or spills so if you like the artwork then take the plunge and get a copy! The content of the images is very unusual and while none of it is nightmareish or horror-themed, some of it is quite dark and a little eerie so do check the images below if you can be affected by dark themes to ensure that it won’t negatively affect you. In terms of concentration level, this book will adapt to those with good or poor concentration, there are plenty of natural stopping points and if using watercolours you can use sweeping strokes to colour quite quickly if you so choose, you certainly don’t need to spend hours and hours on each page unless you wish to.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, it contains a huge variety of images and they’re really fun to colour and let loose your wildest colour schemes on, it’s great for pencils, pens and watercolours and ideal for those who want to learn more about light and shade or who don’t want to be restricted by “perfect” drawings where you have to stay inside the lines, this book is really freeing, even for those of us who are anxious and perfectionists and the finished pages look amazing!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Po Drugiej Stronie Snu
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Po-drugiej-stronie-snu-Karolin-Kubikowsk/9788379452040/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Karolina’s Website – http://www.karolinakubikowska.pl/po-drugiej-stronie-snu-karolina-kubikowska-prod258962.htm

Karolina has also recently published a second book called Ticket to Dreams which is spiral-bound and available to purchase here – http://www.radostpromaminku.cz/product/omalovanky-pro-dospele/ticket-to-dreams—karolina-kubikowska/927

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with minimal amounts of water.

Press Out and Colour: Butterflies – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Press Out and Colour: Butterflies, is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow. This book is aimed at children but actually, it’s ideal for anyone who’s young at heart and I really enjoyed colouring my butterfly ready for the review. This book is hardback, a little larger than A5 and spiral-bound. The covers are bright blue and the spine is pink with silver foiling on the spine and the front cover. On the inside covers are white line drawings on a pink background showing 5 of the butterflies fully assembled and named on each. The book contains 10 models of butterflies which you can press out (before or after colouring), colour and assemble and then hang around the house. The pages are made of very thick card/hardboard and are covered in silver foil throughout. The butterflies are white with silver line-drawn patterns all over them which you colour within and these catch the light beautifully when you hang up your assembled butterfly and it moves against the light. The butterflies are printed double-sided, they’re designed to look like real butterflies so some have the same design printed on the top and underside and others have different tops and undersides like their real counterparts thus making them look more realistic when hung up. The cuts around the little sections that need to be removed in order to slot the butterfly together and hang it up are really well cut so that you can push the unneeded bits out with your fingers or something a bit pointier if needed. The pieces slot together really well and are very sturdy and will remain so if you don’t disassemble and reassemble them a lot so they won’t fall apart by accident and they shouldn’t need gluing. Each butterfly has a small hole in the centre of each wing so that you can tie some thread through (the hole is a little small for string) and you could either hang the butterflies separately or together, or even create a mobile or ceiling centrepiece. If you don’t want to keep the butterflies hung up then they can be disassembled and the pieces can be popped back into the guides in the book for safekeeping. The guides can also be used as stencils to draw within (or you could draw around the pieces but be careful to only use pencil so you don’t accidentally damage your finished butterfly) so that you can create kaleidoscopes more than the original 10 you’re getting. Simply draw within the slots and holes on the pieces to make sure it’ll slot together just like the original or, if you’re using thinner card, make them thinner and adjust with scissors as you go if it’s a bit too tight a fit! The butterflies included are: Blue Morpho, Buckeye, Lime, Monarch, Painted Lady, Peacock, Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, Red Admiral, Tiger Swallowtail, and Zebra Longwing.

As mentioned before, the card is very thick hardboard and therefore you can use whatever mediums you fancy. I used alcohol markers on mine as they’re much more fade-resistant than water-based pens and they didn’t shadow at all. The patterns are quite detailed so you may struggle with pencils and little people almost certainly would so I’d stick to pens for this (do put down some protective stuff on the table if letting your child loose with Sharpies or it may not just be the butterfly that gets permanently subjected to their creative flair). These butterflies would make a perfect family project, you could do one each or even do a piece each and see what you come out with, I’m sure you could create some stunning butterflies! It would be a lovely activity to do for or with your children and once you’ve completed all 10 you could hang them at different heights in their bedroom so that you and they are constantly reminded of the fun you had creating them together. The hardboard is really durable and will hold up to a fair bit of bashing, scrubbing, and over-colouring (children can get a little over-enthusiastic with pens sometimes) so these butterflies would be ideal for children of almost any age, if they can hold a pen and colour, they can colour these butterflies! The parts are all fairly big so it’s advised on the book that you don’t give it to a child under the age of 36 months but above that you’ll be good to go!

In terms of mental health, what could be better than an activity that you can share with your children? The process of colouring them together will be sure to lift your mood and if you’re ever having a bad day or feeling anxious, go and check out your handiwork and lie on the floor gazing up at the masterpieces you and your children have created and imagine you’re a butterfly fluttering through the sky and away from your problems; it can’t just be me who’s always wished they could fly?! The intricacy and detail level is surprisingly high for a book that’s aimed at children but the silver lines can either be coloured within by adults, or over by children, it really won’t matter either way and you’ll get some very unique butterflies regardless of the way you colour them. If you want the butterflies to look realistic then you could find some images of the butterfly to show your child so they can have a go at matching it or you can let their creativity loose and have a multitude of rainbow butterflies. All of the butterflies are made of 2 pieces so they’re really easy to assemble and they don’t take hours and hours to colour, even if you do colour each section separately (like I did) so they’re a great quick project to create something beautiful and displayable for your home!

I would highly recommend this book to those with children, or the young at heart. These butterflies are super cute and great fun to colour and they look even better once assembled, a fully coloured kaleidoscope of them hung up in a room will look fabulous and be sure to delight your child and brighten up the darkest of days be those due to weather or mental health. Get colouring yourself a kaleidoscope of butterflies!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Press Out and Colour: Butterflies
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Press-Out-and-Colour–Butterflies/9780857638755/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The butterfly below was coloured using Sharpies.

Press Out and Colour: Easter Eggs – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Press Out and Colour: Easter Eggs, is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow. This book is aimed at children but actually, it’s ideal for anyone who’s young at heart and I really enjoyed colouring my Easter Eggs ready for the review. This book is hardback, a little larger than A5 and spiral-bound. The covers are bright yellow and the spine is pale blue with gold foiling on the spine and the front cover. On the inside covers are white line drawings on a bright blue background of Easter egg decorations hung on branches. The book contains 20 different sizes of Easter eggs, some of which are flat and some of which slot together to make a 3D shape all of which you can press out (before or after colouring), colour and assemble and then hang around the house. The pages are made of very thick card/hardboard and are covered in gold foil throughout. The Easter eggs are white with gold line-drawn patterns all over them which you colour within and these catch the light beautifully when you hang up your assembled egg and it moves against the light. The eggs are printed double-sided with the same design on both sides so that you can colour it identically and have a 3D egg at the end. The cuts around the little sections that need to be removed in order to slot the egg shapes together and hang it up are really well cut so that you can push the unneeded bits out with your fingers or something a bit pointier if needed. The pieces slot together really well and are very sturdy and will remain so if you don’t disassemble and reassemble them a lot so they won’t fall apart by accident and they shouldn’t need gluing. Each egg has small holes that you can tie some thread through (the holes are a little small for string) and you could either hang the eggs separately or together, or even create an Easter tree out of foraged branches. You may not want to keep these egg decorations up all year round and if that’s the case then they can be disassembled and the pieces can be popped back into the guides in the book for safekeeping. The guides can also be used as stencils to draw within (or you could draw around the pieces but be careful to only use pencil so you don’t accidentally damage your finished piece) so that you can create lots more eggs than the original 20 you’re getting. Simply draw within the slots and holes on the pieces to make sure it’ll slot together just like the original or, if you’re using thinner card, make them thinner and adjust with scissors as you go if it’s a bit too tight a fit! The eggs are in 4 different sizes: 6 of the largest which are all 3D; 2 of the second largest which are also both 3D; 8 of the second smallest which are flat in design and 4 of the smallest which are also flat in design. Once they’re all coloured, assembled, and displayed together they’ll look fabulous and you’ll be all set for the Easter Bunny’s arrival in April.

As mentioned before, the card is very thick hardboard and therefore you can use whatever mediums you fancy. I used alcohol markers on mine as they’re much more fade-resistant than water-based pens and they didn’t shadow at all. The patterns are quite detailed so you may struggle with pencils and little people almost certainly would so I’d stick to pens for this (do put down some protective stuff on the table if letting your child loose with Sharpies or it may not just be the egg that gets permanently subjected to their creative flair). These egg decorations would make a perfect family project, you could do one each or even do a piece each and see what you come out with, I’m sure you could create some really wonderful decorations! It would be a lovely activity to do for or with your children and once you’ve completed all 20, or just a few, you could hang them around the house or on an Easter tree in pride of place so that you and they are constantly reminded of the fun you had creating them together. The hardboard is really durable and will hold up to a fair bit of bashing, scrubbing, and over-colouring (children can get a little over-enthusiastic with pens sometimes) so these eggs would be ideal for children of almost any age, if they can hold a pen and colour, they can colour these decorations! The parts are all fairly big so it’s advised on the book that you don’t give it to a child under the age of 36 months but above that you’ll be good to go!

In terms of mental health, what could be better than an activity that you can share with your children? The process of colouring them together will be sure to lift your mood and if you’re ever having a bad day or feeling anxious, go and check out your handiwork and marvel at the gorgeous colours and look forward to the chocolate treats you’ll be sharing with each other soon! The intricacy and detail level is surprisingly high for a book that’s aimed at children but the gold lines can either be coloured within by adults, or over by children, it really won’t matter either way and you’ll get some very unique egg decorations regardless of the way you colour them. Each egg either has a pattern or Spring-themed scene on it so none of it needs to be coloured realistically and you could either theme them all with a Spring palette or just let loose with ALL the colours! Each egg is either made of one or two pieces so some need no assembly and those that do just require slotting one piece into the other so they’re really easy to assemble and they don’t take hours and hours to colour, even if you do colour each section separately (like I did) so they’re a great quick project to create something beautiful and displayable for your home!

I would highly recommend this book to those with children, or the young at heart. These egg decorations are super cute and great fun to colour and they look even better once assembled, a fully coloured set will look “eggcellent” (not even sorry!) hung up in a room or adorning an Easter tree and they’ll be sure to delight your child and brighten up the darkest of days be those due to weather or mental health. Get colouring yourself some “eggstra”-special egg decorations!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Press Out and Colour: Easter Eggs
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Press-Out-and-Colour–Easter-Eggs/9780857638694/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The eggs below were coloured using Sharpies.

Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: Birds and Blossom – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: Birds and Blossom is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow Publishing. This book is unlike any other because it’s not a normal colouring book, each page is a gift box which can be removed and folded into a box to gift to friends and family, this is the second in the series with a Christmas-themed one available HERE. The book itself is paperback with flexible card covers, it’s just under 30cm square and has a mid-pink cover with splashes of pinks and blues and mint green foil accents. On the inside cover are diagrams and written instructions about how to remove and fold the boxes and on the back inside cover are three recipes so you can create Easter treats to go in your boxes – Chocolate Nests, Easter Egg Biscuits, and Butterfly Cakes. The spine is glue and string-bound making it durable but it’s all quite easy to press flat so that you can colour the whole box, or remove it via the perforations before colouring if you find that easier. Each of the 24 pages contains one double-sided box with different matching designs for each of the sides and the inside base and then a small repeating pattern on all of the other edges, there’s heaps to colour in on each one! The card is medium thickness, bright white and lightly textured so it’s perfect for pencils and water-based pens which didn’t bleed and only slightly shadowed with the darkest colours; alcohol markers will bleed so I’d avoid using these. The perforations are well-made and the parts do mostly come out easily, I would advise caution as a very small section of my actual box started splitting so you may prefer to use the perforations as a guide for scissors or just work slowly, a few of the parts have quite large perforations which do leave large bumps rather than smooth edges on the box but again, these could be tidied up with scissors if you wish. The boxes are individually designed and contain themed illustrations from garden birds to swans, butterflies to bird houses, Easter eggs to dragonflies, kingfishers to bunnies, bunting to bee hives, Easter baskets to owls, and lots more Spring and Easter-themed imagery. The images are very cute and have a naïve quality to them which makes them look really charming and they’ll look lovely coloured by adults or children and gifted to others. At the back of the book is a page of mint green foiled stickers each with lines on where you can write names to and from, and each with a small Spring-themed motif. The set is really well-made and thought out, this book is produced by the same publishing company who created the Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes so you can be assured it’s good quality though the illustrations are created by a different artist (Felicity French) from those (Rebecca Jones) and the other colouring gift box book (Sarah Walsh).

In terms of mental health, I think this book of gift boxes is pretty great because it offers up a project with a very clear purpose and end point, ideal for those of us who struggle to get motivated or see the point in things sometimes. Sharing is always good fun and when colouring these boxes you know you’ll be sharing the love with someone you care about and that’s a great thing to be able to do! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels are pretty high with lots of small sections so these boxes will only really be suited to those of you with good vision and fine motor control. The boxes take ages to colour so you’re certainly getting lots of colouring hours for your money, however, each box consists of lots of small colourable parts which is ideal for any level of concentration or amount of symptoms, you can colour for 20 seconds doing just one or two flowers, or hours and hours doing the whole internal repeating pattern or somewhere in between. The images on the box are sure to get you in the mood for Spring and remind you that Easter and yummy chocolate eggs are on their way! These boxes will be perfect for sharing Easter treats with family and friends and they can be filled with small gifts or sweets or chocolates and they’ll be the perfect packaging for anything handmade, the possibilities are endless!

Overall, I would highly recommend these colourable gift boxes, there’s loads to colour on each one and they’re sure to get you and your recipient in the mood of Spring and Easter and they give a wonderful personal touch to whatever gifts you decide to put inside them.

If you’d like to purchase a set, the book is available here:
Amazon UK – Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: Birds and Blossom
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Gift-Boxes-to-Colour-and-Make–Birds-and-Blossom/9780857638687/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can find the Christmas Gift Box book here.

The box below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

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

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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.