Adult Coloring Books

The Ultimate Guide to Pain-Free Coloring

Written by Adrienne


Ouch! Sometimes, coloring can be a real pain in the, uh, fingers.

There’s only so long you can intensely grip a sliver of wood and make the same back and forth motion before your accuracy starts slipping, and your back starts cramping, and your vision starts to blur…

I’m probably not the only one who squeezes their coloring in sometime between work and bedtime. In the evening, the light is poor, and my wrists and hands are already tired from eight hours of typing on a computer keyboard at my day job.

Even if you’re not resigned to coloring in snatches of time in the evening, are you coloring under the best possible conditions? Or are you hunched over a table?

If coloring pain has got you down, I’ve come with good news. There is hope. There are ways to lighten the blow coloring can take on your fingers, your back, and your eyesight. Keep reading for some ways to make coloring more comfortable… and some ideas to truly take your relaxation to the next level! Now grab a coloring book and go fight that stress… in comfort!

Disclosure: I am not a medical expert, just someone who colors a lot. Please take the information provided here as ideas only, not as medical advice. If coloring is giving you a lot of pain or discomfort, please go see your doctor!

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The Ultimate Guide to Pain-Free Coloring: stop hurting your wrists and back and straining your eyes while coloring! Learn how to handle coloring even if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Easing Coloring Pain in Your Hands

Are you trying to color with Carpal Tunnel?

I work with a computer all day at work. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but it feels almost inevitable with the amount of time I spend on the computer. Coloring is a great refuge from the computer, but gosh can it make my wrists hurt.

Usually, I realize first that my fingers are in pain, having stiffly been gripping a pencil for an extended period of time. Only later do I feel the throbbing and weakness in my wrists.

If you suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it is certainly still possible to color! You just need to be especially mindful of taking breaks and stretching your muscles before, during, and after you color. That’s right, I said stretching! Your hands will thank you if you treat coloring a bit like a workout. Roll your wrists gently in circles, clench and unclench your fists, and lightly bend your hand forward and back at the wrist with your other hand. During coloring, I find that it helps me to “shake out” pain in my hands, and take frequent breaks.

Use a squishy wrist rest to keep your hand from grinding into the page as you color.While I’m coloring, I have to remind myself often to grip the pen or pencil more lightly. This can also have the added benefit of my applying the color more evenly, because I’m not pressing as hard on the paper. If I’m working at a table, I sometimes use a squishy wrist rest like this one under my elbow or wrist to stop it from grinding into the table as I color — it has the added benefit of supporting my hand higher off the page, so I’m not smudging what I’m coloring!

Beyond your positioning and awareness of how you are coloring, there are also some ways you can adapt your supplies to make them more Carpal Tunnel- or wrist pain-friendly.

If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to pick up that pack of Prismacolors you’ve had your eye on, here’s one: the reason that these pencils are more expensive than dollar store brands or Crayolas is because they are more highly pigmented. That means that you don’t need to press as hard to get a bold layer of color down on the page, and they are a lot softer feeling to use. My set of pencils is like butter compared to the Crayolas I used when I was a kid.

Your hand naturally wants to grip whatever you are coloring with in a triangular shape. That’s part of what makes Staedtler Triplus Fineliners so comfortable to use for an extended period of time — the triangular barrel is just naturally a nicer shape for you to hold than a cyllindrical or hexagonal one.

Pencil gripsTo make your other coloring supplies adapt to a triangular shape, you can cover them with triangular grips like these, which will instantly make whatever you are holding softer and more comfortable to grip.

If you find the grips frustrating to use (they can be slippery on some pens and pencils, and unless you get a ton you’re going to be slipping them on and off as you move to other colors), they also sell triangular colored pencils. As a bonus, no more rolling off the desk!

Have the last little ends of your well-loved pencils got you down? It is seriously painful to spend much time coloring with a pencil that is too short. Enter pencil extenders! Note that while these work great for round and hexagonal pencils, since the triangular ones are typically a little wider, they don’t always fit into the extenders.

Pencil extenders extend the lives of your colored pencils and save you from killing your fingers using short pencils.

Most importantly, if coloring is really starting to just plain hurt, call it quits for the day. Coloring should be a relaxing and relieving activity — not a painful one! You can come back fresh to your coloring tomorrow.

Cure Your Coloring Back Pain

Just like you can get pain in your back from hunching over a computer, you can get it from hunching over your coloring book.

It is a good idea to pause every few minutes to stretch out your back. Raise your hands over your head, lean backwards, or even twist (gently) in place. Once you get back to coloring, keep one part of your mind on your back: are you still sitting straight, or are you hunching?

Tabletop drafting desk

It can help to change up your position, because, to be honest, hunching over a table really is not the ideal way to color. If you’re married to working at a table, you could prop up the page or the book at an angle on a tabletop drafting table. (Got the space? You could just spring for a drafting table.)

Lap drafting desk

My favorite position for coloring is using a lap desk while reclining on the couch or sitting up in bed propped up on pillows. It is a much more natural position for your back. Make sure your coloring area is well-lit, or be sure to get a clip-on light that fits your lap desk, or you might be coloring in the dark.

Stop Squinting While You Color

Speaking of coloring in the dark, are you? Not only does it make it harder to stay inside the lines, but it’s also not great for your eyesight! Play around with the lighting in your coloring space to find what works for you. Maybe the sunlight is more than adequate in the afternoon, but as the sun sets, your space is looking a little dim.

One thing I have noticed is that some smoother coloring books (typically ones with thinner pages) look a little too “glossy” if my only light source is directly overhead — the light bounces off the ink on the page, making the lines really hard to distinguish from the white paper. If you’re having this problem, try turning off the overhead light and using a lamp to illuminate from the side. The light won’t be bouncing off the ink quite the same way, making things a little less squinty.

As I mentioned above, if you are using a portable work surface like a clipboard or lap desk, consider getting a clip-on light. Since I don’t know what work surface you are using, I can’t recommend the perfect one, but this gooseneck LED clip-on light has pretty good reviews and claims to be quite bright.

Magnifying lamps can make coloring a lot easier if your eyesight isn't 20/20.

Eyesight not what it used to be? No shame in that — quit squinting and invest in a magnifying lamp. Seriously! Not only will it brighten your coloring page, but it will actually bring it closer to your face so you can actually see what you’re doing! It takes a little getting used to to color through a magnifying glass, but the lamp has an adjustable neck so you can move it wherever you need it.

Since coloring, by its very nature, involves intensely staring at something really close to your face for an extended period of time, do yourself a favor and look up now and then to rest your eyes. Focus on objects at different distances further across the room. If you’ve been coloring for a while and your vision just keeps getting blurrier and blurrier, or your eyes are burning, take a break!

Upgrade Your Adult Coloring Relaxation

Want to make your coloring that much cozier? Here are a few ideas for upping the ante on the relaxation. Let’s upgrade the coloring experience. Let’s dial the relaxation up to 11! (Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.)

First and foremost, have the time and the space to color. Clear your schedule of errands and commitments (schedule time to color, if you have to!) and tell your family you need some “you” time.

Rolling cart for your coloring suppliesYou want to give yourself room to spread out your coloring supplies so you can see them (here are some great ways to organize your colored pencils on your work surface!). If you are coloring on the couch or in bed, which I totally support, have your supplies close at hand, either on a nightstand or sidetable, or even in a rolling cart that you can pull out whenever the mood strikes.

I love coloring to music. I’m sure you have your faves, but recently I’ve been listening to Joni Mitchell, M83, and a violinist named Lindsey Sterling. (Yes, I realize these are very eclectic choices.) Since I use Amazon Prime, all three of these are available to me to stream for free, and tons of other stuff is too. Seriously, check it out.

Sometimes I go all-out and binge watch some TV while coloring. I would recommend light-hearted comedies for this (think Seinfeld, Friends, The Mindy Project), NOT gripping dramas, or you’re not going to get any coloring done.

Why not go for a glass of wine or a mug of tea or hot chocolate? Just keep it away from the coloring book!! You don’t want to end up having to figure out how to counteract the affects of a spill on your coloring page (the sad fact: you most likely can’t).

Candles can also be a fun touch. Not to see by (did you even read that last section?!) but for the mood and the scent.

Coloring can be lots of fun with company — why not invite a friend over to join in on the fun? Check out my list of coloring clubs in the United States to find a coloring group near you!

I love cookies, but not while coloring. The crumbs can transfer oil to the page.

One thing that I do try to completely avoid doing while I color is eating. Most foods are too messy for while you color. Even if it’s not a crumbly, crummy food, any oils you get on your hands from what you’re eating can easily transfer right to the paper, or rub onto your colored pencils never to come off again. I start every coloring session with recently washed and thoroughly dried hands!

So those are my suggestions for how to make coloring less painful and more relaxing! I would love to hear from you about how you make your coloring time more enjoyable, or what cool tools you have found to make it easier on your eyes, hands, back, and more. Let me know in the comments below!

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The Ultimate Guide to Pain-Free Coloring: stop hurting your wrists and back and straining your eyes while coloring! Learn how to handle coloring even if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Featured image by srgpicker.

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