Johanna Basford’s Ivy and the Inky Butterfly: Review


Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is coloring “queen” Johanna Basford’s sixth coloring book and it is refreshingly  different from her previous ones. What isn’t different is the quality and fun we love about Johanna’s work.

Johanna Basford kindly sent me a copy of this coloring book. I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while using this book. This post does contain affiliate links.

Note: All my comments are regarding the US/Canada edition of this book, printed in the US. 


Unlike Johanna Basford’s previous coloring books, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is illustrated around a tale that Johanna wrote based on a bedtime story she told her daughter, Evie, and the drawings are more varied and full of a large variety of objects.

The story is about a little girl named Ivy who stumbles upon a secret door leading to the magical world of Enchantia. Ivy travels throughout Enchantia in pursuit of her inky butterfly, along the way meeting whimsical characters and discovering many wondrous things .

Along with the story, the book includes – of course! – Johanna’s sometimes intricate colorable illustrations on all pages. Some designs frame or highlight the words of the tale; others are single pages and two-page spreads that are just for coloring but still bring the story to life.

Johanna Basford
Left: “Ocean” atop “Ivy”; Right: “Ivy” atop “Ocean”

Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is approximately 8.5″ x 9.75″ with 120 pages. As a comparison, Lost Ocean is 10″ x 10″ with 80 pages, so even though the pages are slightly smaller, there are 50% more pages to color. The front and back covers have “French folds” – flaps that can be used to mark your place in the book, as opposed to the accordion-style pull-outs Johanna gave us in other books. The inside covers and flaps are colorable, as are the Title Page and “Belongs To” pages. The core of the book is the 115 double-sided, illustrated pages; it closes with a colorable End Page and a Color Palette Test Page.

The binding is sewn and glued and very strong (with 120 pages it has to be!). You can “crack” the binding to get the book to lay completely flat. However, I don’t recommend this if you are planning on keeping this as a keepsake volume as you risk loosening pages over time.  And as the illustrations only minimally run into the gutter on two-page spreads (more on this later), you don’t need to. The pages are not perforated.

The paper is smooth, ivory, and very heavy – I guess it is about 80-pound bond.

As I’ve said, the images are printed double-sided, which is not ideal for those who prefer alcohol-based markers.  If it had been printed single-sided, the book would have been almost 250 pages and heavy as a rock, and the story/pictures wouldn’t have flowed well. So I can see why the decision was made to stick to double-sided printing.

Juicy water-based markers, such as Prismacolor Scholar brush markers, did leave shadows and even spots of color on the back of the page when I put down one heavy layer or several layers. My Staedtler Triplus Fineliners and all my gel pens looked beautiful and didn’t shadow at all.

johanna basford
Page completed with Staedtler Ergosoft pencils

I found that colored pencils gave the best results in this book, although oil and wax performed differently. Staedtler Ergosoft pencils (wax-based) were super-smooth but not very vibrant with one layer.  However, the paper took several layers well which brightened/deepened the colors and allowed for some nice shading and blending. My Prismacolor Premier pencilswere more vibrant but did not “stick” to the paper as well and smudged as I colored. They also showed a bit of white spotting before using a colorless blender. None of my pencils left indentations in the paper.

johanna basford
Simpler design done with Lolliz Gel Pens

My Lolliz gel pens worked beautifully and didn’t seep through the paper at all.

As always, do test everything on the Color Palette Test Page to check how your tool(s) of choice will perform before you dive in!


Johanna BasfordThe first thing that struck me about Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is the variety of objects to color.  In Johanna’s other coloring books illustrations consisted mostly of elements related to the title (e.g. flowers and plants in Secret Garden).  In this one, you will find all kinds of things to color: animal, vegetable, mineral, fantastical and mundane alike. My favorite pages to color so far are the those that are jam-packed with a huge variety of items, which are generally interior scenes.

johanna basford
Design used as a border

Besides the variety of items in the illustrations, the images are used in a lot of different ways:  single and double-page scenes, mandalas, embellished portraits, borders, frames, ribbons, and more.

There isn’t an official treasure hunt in this book, but Johanna hid over 200 butterflies throughout illustrations for you to find. You’d think, given the title, that these would be easy to find, but some are well-hidden! As well, Johanna hid some “Easter Eggs” in her designs, such as a cuckoo clock from Johanna’s Christmas.  There are many, but I won’t list them so you can find them yourself. Searching for these little reminders of her previous coloring books is fun!

johanna basford
Two-page spread examples

On the two-page spreads, there is minimal line work in the gutter, so you don’t have to struggle to color near the spine. However, Johanna has still managed to connect the pages with a few appropriate, and minimal, lines, such as floorboards or a table top.

Johanna Basford
Left: “Ivy”, Right: “Ocean”

In two ways, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is a bit easier to color than, say, Lost Ocean: the linework is a bit heavier, and there is more white space in the designs.

Johanna BasfordSome pages, like dragon, are simple enough for some children to color on their own.

Therapeutic Value

Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is a great escape! Coloring the illustrations really helped me put aside any anxious and disordered thoughts.

The sizes of the designs range from small, such as a single butterfly that takes up only 1/3 of the page, to completely packed double-page spreads that have almost no white space, and everything in between. You will be able to find an illustration that will give you a sense of accomplishment no matter how you are feeling or what kind of mood you are in.

My Verdict: 5★

This is now my second-favorite Johanna Basford coloring book (I am a sucker for anything holiday-related, so Johanna’s Christmas is my #1). The quality and variety of designs as well as the wonderful construction is top-notch.

The fable adds so much to the book, and you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy it.  Ivy and the Inky Butterfly would make an excellent project for the whole family: what an enjoyable experience it would be to read the story and color the book together. I do hope the publisher plans on a hardcover edition that is slightly larger – it would make for an ideal keepsake volume. Being larger, the designs would be even more accessible for those who have been frustrated by previous books’ dense, fine linework. And the younger set would have more pages to color.

Want to get your own copy? Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is available at:

Amazon US – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly
Amazon Canada – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly
Amazon UK – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly
Book Depository – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly

What do you think of this new coloring book?  Let us know in the comments section below!


23 thoughts on “Johanna Basford’s Ivy and the Inky Butterfly: Review”

  1. ana luisa says:

    looks a very beautiful book, but all her books are amazing!

  2. Cynthia R says:

    wow 120 pages! That’s amazing. I’ve been coloring off and on even before coloring became a fad. I love it.

  3. I love Johanna basfords color books. I love her Christmas color book best. I’d like to get this book too.

  4. Margaret GALLAGHER says:

    I too would rate this BEAUTY 5
    ALWAYS a delight
    ALWAYS inspirational

  5. This is absolutely gorgeous! I’d love to get this one. Colouring was my #1 favourite thing to do when I was young, and I’m so glad it has become popular for adults, too!

  6. Laurie Nykaza says:

    I love the art work in this book . Having a butterfly garden full of milkweed at home and when i saw the butterfly it caught my attention with this book . I would buy this one hours of fun coloring in it.

  7. Kristin C says:

    I love the fact that this is based around a story.

  8. This is a great story. Thank You for the review.

  9. Dorothy Boucher says:

    What beautiful books these are. I love all the detailing that they put into making these for us.

  10. Beautiful book! I love coloring, and my daughter does too, we have a huge collection of books.

  11. Lots to learn in this artistic venture about what kinds of coloring materials to use.

  12. Patricia Drake says:

    I adore butterflies. I even have one tattooed on my arm.

  13. Kathy Scott says:

    This is on my Christmas Wishlist. I love all Johanna’s books.

  14. Renee Rousseau says:

    Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is a beautiful book to color. Ivy and the Inky Butterfly would make a wonderful Christmas gift for any age group!

  15. Amanda Wood says:

    I love Joanna’s other books, and I’m intrigued by this new one! The idea of a coloring book with an accompanying story sounds quite relaxing and fulfilling when you reach the end

  16. ana luisa says:

    johanna basfort lost ocean is also an beautifull book

  17. What a beautiful book! Thanks for the tips on what to use to color.

  18. Karley Moore says:

    This looks like a fabulous coloring book!

  19. The butterfly is so beautiful. I would like this.

  20. I have read a lot of wonderful reviews on this, I would love to own this book.

  21. This looks and seems awesome. I love the detail that it offers and all of the hidden items. Butterflies are my favorite!

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