ANGELES — Since she got in on the adult coloring book
craze two years ago, Cheri Brown has spent more than
$400 on 50 books holding intricate sketches that she
embellishes with Sharpies, colored pencils and gel pens.
in November, Brown shifted spending to digital products.
She paid $100 for mobile apps including Recolor and
Colorfy, which Comscore researchers say together reached
2.3 million users in the U.S. in March, less than 10
months after launching.
who crisscrossed the world as a diver for 30 years, now
relaxes at home in the Los Angeles area. Eight hours a
day, usually settled in an armchair or curled in bed,
she pecks with her right index finger at an iPad Mini,
lighting its screen with the blues, greens and silvers
of the sea.
63, even plans to pay upward of $700 for a stylus and an
iPad Pro. It stores more artwork, boasts a bigger screen
and offers greater precision.
I had $100 to spend on coloring, I’d be more likely to
buy into a really good app than buy coloring
books," she said. "You see where my purchases
are starting to go."
brisk rise of coloring apps threatens the enormous
growth of coloring book publishers, who sold 12 million
adult and children’s coloring books in the U.S. last
year — 1,100 percent more than in 2014, according to
tracking firm Nielsen.
book enthusiasts insist they’d never abandon the pad
and paper. But the concern is that, like Brown, people
will become accustomed to the on-demand, dynamic
enchantment of apps and ditch the old medium. That’s
what has happened as other throwback trends enjoy
revivals — for instance how young adults subscribe to
Netflix, not cable, to watch Nickelodeon shows from
issue reflects a spreading realization: It’s dangerous
for companies entrenched in making physical products or
selling goods at bricks-and-mortar shops to not fight
for online spending — and vice versa.
explains why popular publisher Blue Star Coloring has
found a partner to develop a coloring app, why movie
studios are hawking apps filled with games and extra
content, why rumors suggest online retail giant
Amazon.com plans to open hundreds of bookstores and why
many online shopping startups now rent mall space.
colorist community is falling in line.
is a place for physical books," said Ilkka Teppo,
40, chief executive and founder of Sumoing, the
Helsinki, Finland, startup behind Recolor. "You can
much more easily try color combinations and styles on
digital, then when you have more time, you can have the
experience on print."
strategists agree books and apps can coexist. But it’s
not certain that every industry searching for
physical-digital harmonies can escape the infamous
decline that Napster, iTunes and Spotify unleashed on
can have a happy medium," said Elizabeth Spaulding,
leader of management consulting firm Bain & Co.’s
digital practice. But "simply waiting for it to
play out is not a good answer. Figuring out trends that
could displace their business is what matters."
coloring books, Brown’s move to digital offers one
prediction of the future.
friend’s Facebook post about coloring apps and the
tediousness of books inspired her digital transition.
Brown carried a big tote with pencils and books when
taking her infirm mother to long doctor’s visits. Now,
she slips the iPad into her purse.
a page takes days. So she’s colored only 150 pages
versus 300 digital creations in one-third the time. On
screen, she colors three insect sketches during a doctor’s
appointment, mainly because elements like shading are
a touch of a finger, you’ve got it perfectly done —
polished and smooth," she said.
trying 20 of the 450 coloring apps, she settled on
Recolor, paying a $40 annual subscription. It’s best,
she says, because you can erase by touch, quickly access
recently used colors and color virtual 3-D objects. She
expects Recolor to add better effects, which can make a
drawing look like it’s on canvas or other materials.
and crayons cost hundreds of dollars. She spends less
these days, occasionally splurging on 99-cent add-ons
from third-party apps like Lumiere that animate Recolor
drawings: Say putting shooting stars on an evening
hasn’t ditched books; she recently bought five because
she wants to finish her coloring supplies. But she’ll
use her iPad camera to scan most pages into Recolor for
digital alteration instead.
her best digital work is possible too. She ordered a
2-foot-by-2-foot print from Costco of her coloring of
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
looks like a photograph," she said.
Matsumoto, a spokeswoman for Laurence King Publishing,
which has sold 16 million art-book copies since 2013,
acknowledged that heightened competition hurts sales.
But the firm anticipates an enduring, sizable audience
that "purposely seeks a very non-digital
experience," Matsumoto said.
among them Shelly Durham, who runs the website Adult
Coloring Book Reviews.
a coloring app and saying you created art is like
putting a TV dinner in the microwave and saying you
cooked," she said. "They will never be the
King is out to prove it. One new book has gum binding
for easy tearing and framing of pages. Another is a
flipbook-style story, and a third has an accordion-like
layout that unwinds 15 feet.
maintain separate tactics to outlast — and buoy —
books. Recolor is talking to publishers, advertisers and
entertainment giants about constantly introducing the
latest hot characters and themes into its app since
digital rollouts can be fast.
will be major synergistic deals cut between intellectual
property holders, booksellers and app vendors over the
next 12 months," Teppo said.
recently raised an undisclosed amount for the nonprofit
World Wildlife Fund by selling a pack of 10 animal
drawings for $2.99. It also promoted the band Wolfmother
by offering free album cover art for coloring.
declined to reveal overall sales figures, but data
suggest a surging business. In April, Recolor added more
than 2 million users and hosted 30 million coloring
sessions — both double from March. About 3 percent of
users subscribe, generating 5 cents in revenue per daily
user, comparable to casual mobile games. Colorfy, the
largest player in coloring apps, has five times as many
users, according to estimates from tracking firm Sensor
an illustration runs about $80 on average. Two launch
every day, though striking partnerships could accelerate
the pace 10-fold.
six-man team pursued Recolor almost a year ago after
realizing three had wives hooked on coloring books.
Smartphones, where tapping to insert a swatch of color
could replace scribbling between lines, promised to make
the art form easier. They launched in August.
80 percent of users are women or their children. Women
tend to love puzzle games like "Candy Crush,"
but coloring provides the satisfaction of creation,
describe coloring as a way to relieve stress. That’s
partially the case with Brown. But entertainment is key,
because she lacks options as a homebound caregiver.
forged friendships with app-colorists from Japan to
Poland she discovered on the popular image-sharing app
Instagram. But Brown avoids the
"condescending" book-only colorists, she says.
always have artists that think the only way to be an
artist is to pull out their coloring set," she
said. "My heart is in the digital end of