Have you ever been curious about those mysterious grayscale coloring books? I have often admired the colored-in pictures for looking so realistic. Some even look like professional colored pencil drawings or even photographs.
But I did not know where to start: what makes a good grayscale coloring book? What are the best tools to use? Exactly how do you do it? Not one day after I started researching grayscale coloring by reading a great website on grayscale coloring, Nicole Stacker, the web site’s owner and author of Beautiful Nature, contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing one of her grayscale coloring books. Yeah!
About Grayscale Coloring
Grayscale coloring today is not much different than it was in the “olden days:” it is coloring a photograph that is black, white and all of the gray iterations in between with colored pencils, markers, pens or other media. You don’t color in empty spaces between lines – there are no lines. Instead, the grayscale image already has the shading and depth completed for you – you just add color.
Grayscale coloring can be simple, with photographs with a lot of shading and depth, or more advanced, with only light areas of shadowing added.
Although it may look daunting I found out quickly that starting grayscale coloring is actually quite simple:
- Pick your colors, and arrange them from dark to light.
- Color all the darkest gray areas with your darkest colors.
- Color all of the lightest areas in the picture with your lightest colors.
- Working from one side to another, or from the outside in, fill in and connect the areas by adding your medium colors.
- Finish by blending, burnishing or outlining as you like.
Before diving into Beautiful Nature, I printed a sample from Nicole’s Huelish website was impressed with my first piece:
Now on to the book….
Beautiful Nature is the second grayscale coloring book produced by Nicole Stocker, the first book being the best-selling Beautiful Creatures. The first pages of the book include a brief grayscale coloring “how-to” and an inspiring introduction from Nicole. There are 48 grayscale images, and the end-paper is a full-page photo that you can color as well. None of the 48 images go into the spine but are centered on the page and perfectly aligned for framing. Each image is watermarked on the back so you can sign and date your piece.
Here is a thorough introduction of the book from Nicole:
Again, Beautiful Nature isn’t a coloring book full of line drawings, but grayscale photos. The subjects are flowers, plants, trees and nature scenes, many of them pretty even without color. The photos range from close-up images (such as a single peonie or succulent) to wide-angle landscapes. Each image has a dark border around it which that is a perfect accent.
What a beautifully-constructed coloring book!
The cover is matte heavy card stock with a partially colored grayscale photograph that is an example of one of the images inside. At 10.5″ x 9″ and 106 pages, Beautiful Nature is on the large size, so it is ideal for coloring at home. You don’t really need to use a hard surface to color; I did just fine sitting in my recliner!
The 100-pound paper is archival quality white card stock with a bit of tooth. My wax- and oil-based colored pencils blended well, but I did have to lay down several layers to get a color dense enough to show through some of the darker grays. Keeping my pencils very sharp helped minimize speckling.
Water-based markers, such as my Staedtler Triplus Fineliners and Crayola Supertips, did not bleed through or feather on the surface of the paper. My alcohol-based markers did bleed, so I put a few sheets of paper behind the image to protect the next page. This bleeding did obscure the name plate on the back of the picture, however.
The binding is very high quality, and appears to be sewn and then glued making it as sturdy as they come. The book does not lay perfectly flat, but since the images don’t go anywhere near the gutter, that is not a problem.
The images are single-sided and centered on each page so there are no worries about coloring in the gutter (except for the end-paper image). Each page is perforated for removal, but it took me a few tries to get a clean tear as the perforations are so close to the binding.
And to top it all off, this grayscale coloring book is printed on environmentally-friendly FSC-certified paper. Gotta love it.
Level of Difficulty
One of the wonderful things about grayscale images is that they can be as simple or difficult as you want; it can be adapted depending on your ability. For those who have trouble concentrating or holding pens/pencils, you can choose to do only one section, such as a petal or some grass, at a time.
This book might be tough for someone with vision impairments as the gradations between the grays can be subtle.
Nicole’s website, Huelish.com, has some practice sheets you can print out, as well as video tutorials and a gallery of other folks’ finished pictures that are quite inspirational. In my experience, the medium you use can also alter the difficulty: I found it easiest to get beautiful results with colored pencils. Finishing Derwent Inktense pencils with a Tombow colorless marker created a speckle-less finish. In my opinion, markers and pens are more challenging with grayscale coloring.
The images in this book are, of course, nature-themed and very calming. And coloring them is very engaging, so a great escape from everyday stresses. However, as this is a very different way to color, there is a learning curve. If you are in a particularly anxious mood or get frustrated with change, you may want to set this book aside for times when you can focus.
Regardless, don’t be overwhelmed when you look at the images. It really is very soothing and rewarding to color these photos. I still get the “warm fuzzies” looking at the results of my finished pieces – as a “non-artist” I can’t believe I really made them. What a confidence booster!
Beautiful Nature is my first attempt at grayscale coloring, and has inspired me to keep at it. I will buy Beautiful Creatures once I have completed this grayscale coloring book. I find it hard to say anything negative about this book, other than I had a bit of trouble with the perforations. However, the little tears that resulted will be easily covered by the frames I will put them in!
Now for the wonderful news! Nicole has generously sent me a copy of her first grayscale coloring book, Beautiful Creatures, to give away to one lucky reader!
Getting in on the fun is easy-peasy: simply follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada and starts today, December 3, 2016. Entries close on December 10, 2016 at midnight Eastern. Be sure to come back every day for new and more entry options to improve your chances of winning!
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