Grayscale coloring books for adults: our top picks

What is grayscale coloring?

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Grayscale image of a fantasy landscape

Most coloring books have black-and-white line drawings where you fill the white space with color. Grayscale coloring books are done in shades of gray. Instead of white space, you have tones. They may look like a black-and white-photo, or black-and-white TV, if you remember those. The shades of the grayscale coloring pages go from white to black. The idea is similar to doing an underpainting in traditional oil painting.

Artists can use grayscale coloring pages to get very realistic effects. In traditional Western painting, realism is attained through tonal relationships. Objects closer to use may appear darker, and farther objects fade into the distance. You can instantly perceive space with tones alone. If you studied art, you were probably asked to paint or draw grayscale tonal studies. Grayscale is a great way to understand how paintings work to express space.

Grayscale coloring books for adults

Grayscale coloring books tend to be more “realistic” than regular coloring books. They are nearly always aimed at adults or older kids. The goal is often to make more realistic-looking art. But it’s not a paint-by-numbers kind of thing. You can experiment with colors and learn a a lot. It’s a lot easier to have textures in the finished product, which can be challenging with black-and-white.

Colored pencils and marker work best for greyscale coloring pages. You don’t want something too opaque, as letting the gray values shine through will really pull together the final image. Opaque pens are good for accent areas. For marker, remember to put a card under the sheet to avoid bleedthrough.

These books don’t do that well with watercolor. It’s best to practice grayscale painting techniques on thicker paper. You can copy the pages onto heavier watercolor paper to do that if you wish.

The darker the gray tones, the less color you need to add.

I favor adult grayscale coloring books and pages that are expressly made by the artist to be used with grayscale, rather than made from a photo, usually a photo that was in color but was changed to grayscal. However, some of the photo-derived books can lead to fine results. I’ve tried to find a balance here between realism, whimsy, and fantasy.

If you want to try one out, we have a free right here specially made for our readers: grayscale coloring page – fairy

And here’s another one on our site (second image): Free grayscale coloring page

Here’s grayscale coloring tutorial by artist Nikki Burnette on using colored pencils for grayscale coloring. Her YouTube channel has lots more grayscale coloring techniques.

Here are 9 of Color Planer’s favorite grayscale coloring books for adults available on Amazon.

 

Selena Fenech’s beautiful, delicate drawings, the same drawings seen in her line-art books, grace this grayscale adult coloring book. There are 25 separate pieces of art, and you get two copies of each, to try different techniques. Unicorns, dragons, and fairies fill this fantasy coloring world.

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A World of Fairies – A Fantasy Grayscale Coloring Book for Adults: Flower Fairies, and Celestial Fairies by Molly Harrison Fantasy Art

 

Gorgeous fairies, including flower and celestial fairies grace this magical book. You’ll be pulled into their delicate world. Twenty-five fairy images should keep you busy. Try some gel or glitter pens in areas you want to highlight or for accents. Once you get done, check out Molly Harrison’s other books.

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Spellbinding Images: Grayscale Coloring for Beginners

Nikki Burnette’s Spellbinding Images is bewitching fun. Aimed at beginners, the tones are darker here, therefore you need very little color over them. This is meant for beginners. There’s another version of the book with lighter grayscale tones for more advanced colorists.

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Funny Animals Grayscale

Wide-eyed cats, flappy-eared elephants and wacky snails fill 25 pages and will give you many hours of fun. My favorite is the chubby chicken. Try wild colors, like the pink elephant. If you’re a humor and animal lover, Funny Animals by Alena Lazereva is not to be missed.

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Mandalas in Grayscale

Mandalas, with their long history as contemplative, spiritual art, are a mainstay in adult coloring books. This collection of grayscale mandalas by Jack R. Plaxe will give you a whole new way to think about color for them.

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Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures by Nicole Stocker is a photo-derived book with carefully chosen photos that make great grayscale coloring pages, with various textures. You can try to replicate nature, or go your own way with the colors. This book has 48 images and is printed on premium paper that’s 100-lb. and acid-free, so if you’re careful you could try some watercolor. Pages are perforated for easy removal.

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Peta Hewitt’s video above shows her coloring a page from Beautiful Creatures.

Adorable Animals

We think these animals and settings by Jane Maday are sweet and adorable. Classic traditional, cheery scenes bring you to a calm and innocent place where kittens roam. The fine textures in this are a great opportunity to have fun with surfaces such as fur, wood, and metal.

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Beautiful Fairy Tales

The delicate style of these drawings by the prolific Ruth Sanderson caught our eye. Fairy-tale princesses never go out of style, and the sumptuous costumes, interiors, and lighting give your coloring a good workout. You’ll end up with a magnificent picture storybook.

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Dark Skies

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If you’re more into the morbid side of things, these fun, stylish grayscale images by Teri Sherman may have you adding lots of black. A great Halloween choice, or perfect for any time, if you’re in that kind of mood. Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses, zodiac, and mythical beasts adorn and haunt these most interesting pages.

So don’t delay, color your world with a grayscale coloring book today!