Coloring Books Get a Makeover
Coloring apps (sometimes called “coloring book apps” or “coloring apps for adults”) are having a moment. For the uninitiated, coloring apps are exactly what they sound like: coloring books, but without the book part. These app simulations of coloring books run on your mobile device of choice but are especially well suited to tablets.
Coloring apps all vary somewhat, but their interfaces are essentially the same, containing at a minimum the following elements:
- a virtual canvas on which the user will paint (or color) a black-and-white vector drawing, selected from the app’s library of many images;
- a selection of coloring or painting tools, ranging from a paint can, for simple click-and-fill coloring, to an airbrush or watercolor brush, for instance, whose results are nuanced and realistic;
- a variety of color palettes to accompany the tools.
Coloring apps are available on Apple phones and tablets, Android mobile devices, Windows computers and tablets, and devices running Chrome OS, so the total number of these apps is hard to nail down. It’s safe to say, however, that there are dozens of these apps available, with new ones released regularly.
Coloring apps usually come in a basic, free version, with pared-down functionality, or in a professional, full-featured version, available via a subscription. Subscription plans vary by app but hover at around $4.99 per month or $59.99 per year. Subscription plans provide additional features such as premium color palettes, painting tools, and additional artwork to color. In other words, these are features that would have sold in the App Store several years ago for a flat fee of $4.99, but today costs that for a month. As with all subscription-based apps, consumers should steer clear of these plans whenever possible.
But are They Suitable for Adults?
Coloring apps are so ubiquitous these days that if you don’t use your phone or tablet to color, you probably have a friend who does. The problem, however, will be getting said friend to admit it. Because, despite their popularity, these apps have a slight image problem: they suffer from the long-standing association of coloring books with children, which has led to an assumption that coloring as an activity, in general, isn’t suitable for adults, or is simply a waste of time.
Anyone who has used coloring apps can verify, they are in fact completely appropriate for adults. These are not the simplistic Winnie the Poo line drawings in a child’s coloring book. They are more complex and wider in scope. The tools available with which to color are more advanced than a crayon. Coloring is no more a waste of time than, say, a game of Angry Birds. On the contrary, coloring might actually be better for you than Rovio’s popular game. As a matter of fact, lately, coloring app developers have been playing up the correlation between coloring and mental health, as seen in the description of Pixite Labs’ Pigment, below:
Coloring has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Just 5–10 minutes of coloring can provide the same benefits as meditation, and help you practice mindfulness, live in the moment, enhance concentration, and encourage your creative side.
As if it weren’t enough that coloring apps are fun and entertaining, you more serious-minded folk now have a reason to download and try one of these apps sans guilt: the doctor told you to.
The Best Coloring App
If you’re new to coloring apps but wanted to try one out, the sheer number of them may be a bit overwhelming. (Some economists call this the paradox of choice, in case you were curious.) Fear not though, intrepid reader, for I’ve done the hard work for you. My informal app testing resulted in one clear winner and one well-qualified runner-up. The majority of coloring apps I tested, unfortunately, didn’t rate a mention. These apps are either mediocre in general, or they do the bare minimum in their free versions in an attempt to upsell users on a subscription. In my opinion that disqualifies them, because a truly great app should be compulsively useable in both pro and lite versions.
Before I get to my winners, a caveat: I didn’t test every coloring app, just a bunch of them, focusing on the most popular ones. As such, my results are less definitive than I’d like, and there is a chance I missed out on an app that is truly great. If so, please leave a comment to that effect.
As for the apps that impressed: the runner-up is a solid choice, and is an app you’d be very pleased to own: Lake: Coloring Books (or just Lake for short), winner of Apple’s Editor’s Choice Award and Apple’s Design Award for 2017. Lake has employed some exceptional artists to make drawings for their app, some delightfully whimsical. This gives that app a unique feel. If you download this app, however, there’s a chance you will be tempted to subscribe to Lake’s “pro service” at an annual cost of $60. Avoid doing so. You’ll see why in a second.
Now, without further ado, the coloring app that stands heads and shoulders above its competition, which I am declaring the Best in Class coloring app, is an app whose free version rivals most coloring apps’ paid version. It’s truly the only coloring app you need to download. And you should, right now. It’s called Pigmentby Pixite Apps.
Pigment: True Coloring
Pixite bills Pigment as “true coloring,” and, indeed, users can choose to paint using the tap-and-fill method common to all these apps (which produces “perfect” uniform areas of color) or by selecting a tool like the airbrush or watercolor brush (which produces results that vary according to skill level and are surprisingly realistic).
Pigment comes in both free and paid versions, as noted earlier. But I have found Pigment’s free version so good there is, thankfully, no reason to succumb to the egregiously-priced subscription plan. While users of the free version are fairly limited in how many drawings they are able to color, Pixite has a workaround for that: users can download any drawing they want by watching a short video clip. Hence, revenues are generated for Pixite without the user’s experience being diminished (as constant video ads would do) or his wallet being raped.
Pigment has the largest selection of artwork to color, the most interesting and nuanced painting tools, and the most full-featured free version of any other app tested. If that wasn’t enough, future versions of Pigment will include a social media element that allows users to post their artistic creations in a gallery, to “like” other users’ drawings, and post comments on them. I’ve been fortunate to have been beta testing the upcoming release, and can attest it’s a major update that will cement Pigment’s position as the leader in this app category, so long as the social media elements remain open and free. If, on the other hand, only subscribers will be able to access the gallery, then these new features won’t be an advancement for Pigment at all.
Pigment from Pixite LLC is available almost on Android, iPhone, and iPad devices.
Splash photo courtesy Pixite Apps.