Adult coloring books are all the rage, and I understand the appeal. Back in 2011, I was in pain for months before surgery fixed my problem. Exhausted and hurting, I spent hours coloring to distract myself. It was absorbing without being difficult, and very relaxing. But I didn’t use published coloring books. I made my own.

A sample of a coloring page from my homemade book (9″ x 12″)

I’ve always been interested in drawing, but at that time I believed I couldn’t really draw. I felt so awful that everything seemed hard. Doodling gave me permission to play with markers without making Art. The funny thing is, the more I practiced, the more beautiful my pages got. With time, I included sketches that actually looked like things I saw around me. Eventually, I got up the courage to take online art courses.

If you want to take your coloring to the next level, then it’s time to make your own coloring book. You don’t have to be an artist to doodle (and you can doodle even if you are an artist!).

You can make your coloring pages on loose sheets of paper or in a sketch book. I like using wire-bound sketchbooks because they lay flat and keep my doodles in chronological order. I mostly use larger formats (11″ x 14″) because I like room to spread out. I do take smaller sketchbooks (5″ x 8″) with me when I travel. Not all my pages turn out great, but it’s nice being able to look back at them.

To help you get started, here is how I do it:

1) Draw frames. I do everything freehand because I like the hand-drawn look of my imperfect rectangles, but you can use a ruler or a stencil to draw your frames. Also, they don’t have to be square. I’ve made pages with triangular frames, curvy frames, even frames that make a picture of a flower.

Draw frames to fill the page

2) Fill each frame with a different pattern or image. There are lots of sources out there that can teach you different patterns to doodle (Zentangle is probably the most famous). But you can easily come up with your own. All you have to do is look around and copy what you see.

Here are the patterns I used for my sample doodle page:

Draw a pattern in each frame (designs described in post text).

A) Basket weave: texture copied from a basket on my table

The basket I looked at and the pattern I drew from it.

B) Simple grid: super easy to draw with lots of coloring options; I drew mine on an angle relative to its frame because I like how it looks

C) Stylized zipper: this is a simplified drawing of one half of a zipper with the teeth turned into rectangles. You can use any pattern you see around you. If it’s too hard to draw, simplify the elements and draw that.

D) X box: this is a pattern inspired by a quilt block I really like. Like the grid (B), it’s easy to draw and has lots of interesting coloring options

E) Bubbles: lots of circles drawn different sizes. You can do this with any shape you want. And you can make them overlap (like I did) or just fill the space with them. Whether or not you draw them so that they disappear behind the frame is also up to you.

F) Sawtooth borders: draw a series of lines (straight or curvy) and then fill them in with triangles. You can fill each strip with any design you like, simple or complex, and make the borders in one frame all the same, alternating, or all different.

G) Scales: A simple C shape drawn to pack the space. You can add as many echo lines in each scale as you like (the sample shows one echo line).

H) Tiles: draw a single shape over and over, packing them together but leaving a set amount of space between the adjacent tiles. I used triangles here, but this works with all sorts of shapes, even really strange ones.

3) Color your designs. I’ll talk more about coloring tips in my next post, but here are the basics. You can use anything you have or like (markers, colored pencils, ballpoint pens, gel pens, crayons, etc.). I used markers because I loved the strong color and the way the ink flows on to the page.


I bought a set of Prismacolor Premier artists markers so I would have lots of colors to work with. You can use smaller, cheaper sets (which is how I started), but I like having lots of color options.

My doodle page, after coloring (approximately 5″ x 5″)

Even a limited set of markers can make for a great looking page. Here’s a monochrome page I colored using the black and gray markers from one of my cheaper sets.

Colored with grey and black pens (5.5″ x 8.5)

Of course, you can still make your own coloring pages even if you have only one pen or pencil. Just shade in part of the designs to add light and dark.

“Coloring” page made with a single pen (5.5″ x 8.5″)

My favorite thing about making my own coloring book pages is that the results are so personal. When I look at a doodle, I remember the thing that inspired the pattern. For the more unusual patterns, I remember where I was (visiting a friend, sitting on an airplane, hanging out in a hotel room) and what I was looking at (a piece of pottery, the fabric on the seat in front of me, the pattern on the bedspread). Like any kind of drawing, even doodling can open your eyes to the world around you.

Next week: Tips on coloring your homemade pages.

7 thoughts on “Make Your Own Coloring Book”

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