Born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Johanna Basford OBE, is regarded as a pioneer of colouring books for adults. After convincing her publisher to release her first book of this genre….Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book (2013)….. sales went off the scale and exceeded even the wildest expectations.

Johanna has since released a further 4 books, totalling sales of over 20 million and counting. The beauty of colouring books is that generally there is no language barrier, creating a global opportunity, which Johanna s backing up with huge sales in Brazil, China and the US to name a few.


Johanna spent much of her childhood exploring her rural Scottish surroundings; visiting relatives on family holidays. Her Grandfather was Head Gardener at Brodick Castle Gardens, where a young Johanna was free to indulge in it’s beautiful natural surroundings and let her imagination unfold:

The gardens were an amazing place for a child with a big imagination to be allowed to roam free and play. There was a formal walled garden, complete with precision planted flowers beds, honeysuckle clad pergolas and a beautiful sundial at it’s centre.
Out with the walled garden lay acres and acres of forest peppered with spectacular blossoming rhododendrons, ponds with lily pads big enough to stand on, a half hidden summer house lined with pinecones and row upon row of humid greenhouses where the ‘behind the scenes’ work went on – trays and trays of seedlings, seed pods in little paper bags and mountains of plant pots! Much of the inspiration for Secret Garden came from those early days I spent playing in the Gardens and helping my Grandfather at his work.Johanna Basford in an interview with Cass Art


Speaking to the Herald Scotland, Johanna humbly discusses the collaboration between illustrator and you the reader/buyer…..person who colours the book in!

“It is just my job to do those black and white outlines, then whoever has the book brings the pictures to life with colour – they are really completing it. We work as a team.”

It’s this inclusion that we love about colouring books for grown ups. Whatever the reason you colour in: coping with stress, anxiety, creativity, fun. It needs YOU too. Sure the illustrations are often so intricate and mesmerising but adding colour brings them to life. Such simplicity can be enjoyed by anyone, of any ability.


Johanna is known to advocate the hand drawn approach and, where possible, steers clear of computer generated artwork, embracing the personal charm and imperfections of hand. Her work is beautifully intricate, blossoming with flora, fauna and minute little details.

Discussing her process, Johanna explains to Digital Arts Online:

I try to have a mix of compositions in the book, some repeat patterns, some panoramics, some symmetrical motifs. I like the idea that people can just dip in and out of the book, find something that charms them and colour away. No need to finish the page in one sitting or work through the book from start to finish, there are no rules. You don’t even have to stay within the lines! I tell people all the time, I go over the lines a lot! I just draw an extra little bit of outline and contain my spillage. It’s not about the pursuit of perfection, it’s just about making your mark.Johanna Basford speaking to Digital Arts Online

As an inspiration to many new illustrators, trying to make their mark in the colouring book for adults genre, the future looks bright for Johanna, and here at StressFish, we continue to enjoy colouring in her amazing work.

Why not submit some of your own work to Johanna Basford Colouring Gallery? A space she has created to showcase your collaborations:

Some of Johanna Basford’s inspirational books: