Introduction: Designing a Coloring Book

Picture of Designing a Coloring Book

I wanted to make a coloring book for a friend's birthday of all of his favorite things. I didn't mind doing some editing in Illustrator, but I wanted a way that other people could contribute drawings too that don't have access to very many materials. I've included some pages for The Happiest of Birthdays Book and some extra coloring pages for a different book that is in the works.

Materials needed:

  • plain paper (8.5x11 copy paper works great)
  • black sharpies or other permanent markers (thick and thin lines)
  • camera or scanner
  • access to a printer that can print 11x17 paper, although you could scale down and do booklets with 8.5x11 paper too.
  • Adobe Illustrator or other vector editing program* (for cleaning up images + editing)
  • long-arm stapler

*I'll also show a way to make the pages without Illustrator.

Step 1: Using a Permanent Marker to Start Your Drawings

Picture of Using a Permanent Marker to Start Your Drawings

Some of these I drew, and some I collected from others who wanted to contribute to the coloring book. Black permanent markers work best, but other pens and markers are fine too, they just might require more post-processing.

If you don't want to use Illustrator, I recommend drawing on plain white copy paper with a black sharpie, then use a copier to make pages.

Step 2: Editing Images in Illustrator

Picture of Editing Images in Illustrator
  1. bring scanned or photographed pages into Illustrator
  2. select > image trace
  3. play around with threshold and other settings until it looks good enough
  4. click expand
  5. use the direct selection tool (a) to clean up the drawing
  6. object > path > simplify to clean up the drawing further
  7. add a stroke if you would like your lines to be thicker
  8. arrange your objects on a page
  9. if you would like text, type what you want, then select (v) and go to object > expand
  10. change from fill to outline
  11. if you want more room to color inside the text, effect > path > offset path
  12. save as a pdf!

Step 3: Putting the Pages Into Book Form

Picture of Putting the Pages Into Book Form

I use Adobe Indesign to put my coloring pages together, but you could also just copy your pages. Export as a PDF, then print on 11x17 paper in booklet form. After your booklet is printed, fold in half, unfold, and use a long arm stapler to attach your pages together.

Attached are the birthday book (which may or may not be fun for you, it's filled with inside jokes), and some additional pages that are not part of the birthday book. This project is still in the works! I hope to have my finished version printed with a nicer cover page and twice as many pages as I currently have.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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Bio: I am the Tinker Tank Program Lead at the Pacific Science Center! I love to teach people about science and technology and to make whimsical ... More »
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