Q and A with Johanna Basford

Jul 28, 2016 By Jo-Ann
Q and A with Johanna Basford

Creating an Inky Wonderland: Behind the scenes with Johanna Basford from Laurence King Publishing on Vimeo.

Johanna Basford is a best-selling illustrator and adult coloring book author, credited with launching the current coloring craze with her first books Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, published by Laurence King. Inspired by the outdoors surrounding her home in rural Scotland, Basford interprets this flora and fauna in intricate ink illustrations. Her distinctive and beautiful work fills coloring books, poster books, and stationery. Additional titles include Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle.

We recently caught up with Johanna over email to learn more about her background, inspiration, and her life as an artist.

Johanna Basford

Q: Please tell us a bit about your background as an artist.
A: I graduated in 2005 from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, Scotland with my degree in Printed Textiles. My grandfather was the head gardener at Brodick Castle, on the West Coast of Scotland, and the inspiration for Secret Garden came from the early days I spent playing and exploring the grounds. When my grandfather passed away, I inherited his library of botanical reference books, which are an invaluable resource and inspiration for my art.

Johanna Basford

Q: When and how did you get into creating adult coloring books?
A: It was in 2012 that an editor at Laurence King in London contacted me and asked if I would like to create a coloring book for children. I was working as a commercial illustrator at the time, and Jo Lightfoot found my website and thought my ink drawings would work well as a coloring book. But because my art is so very intricate and because clients had been telling me for years that they felt inspired to color in my work, I felt that creating a coloring book aimed at adults was more suitable. Who knew then that so many adults would take to it so enthusiastically?

Johanna Basford

Q: What are some of your favorite pencils, pens, markers or other tools for coloring?
A: When I first begin a drawing, I use a Hello Kitty mechanical pencil that I bought in Tokyo.

Johanna Basford

A Johanna Basford page colored by Joe Vior.

Q: Can you share any special techniques you use to get great results in your coloring?
A: To be honest, I rarely color. I really like the boldness of basic black and white designs and that is why my drawings are so intricate and complex. For me, adding color can clutter the graphic.

Johanna Basford

Q: What is your process like when you create a coloring book?
A: To begin with, I tend to have a rough idea of how a piece will look. I start bigger than what the finished piece will be, which allows me to sharpen the details. I sketch in graphite pencil. The evolution is rather organic. I place a fresh sheet of paper over the top and redraw the design in ink. I then scan the artwork into Photoshop in order to sharpen details or resize areas. I only use my Mac to polish up the work and transfer it to a digital format. But every creative part of the process involves hand-drawing.

Johanna Basford

Q: What’s the most challenging part of the process? The most rewarding?
A: The most challenging part is the same as the most rewarding part, and that is the hand drawing. A hand-drawn line has character. It is personal and authentic.

Johanna Basford

Q: Why do you think adults love to color?
A: Every human being possesses a creative spark, and a sophisticated coloring book with intricate designs provides the right amount of challenge. It is inviting but still a challenge. It doesn’t require a specific skill or talent, and that is where the intimidation evaporates and when the blissful, gentle focus can begin. That is why so many users of my books credit the calming influence of coloring. It is easy to get lost in coloring a complicated design that requires just a certain degree of focus.

Johanna Basford

A Johanna Basford coloring page, colored by Joe Vior.

Q: What’s your favorite creative activity to relax and unwind?
A: I go for walks with my dog, Simcoe, where my over-active imagination and natural curiosity creates snapshots of ideas. Everything is a bit of a creative activity for me because I possess an imaginary filing cabinet of images, ideas, sounds, and lyrics. Most creative people would agree that inspiration comes from everywhere and that simply making art can be very relaxing. Look at the millions all over the world who are now coloring and creating really beautiful images!

Visit Johanna online at:

Feeling inspired to color Johanna’s beautiful illustrations? Download three free Johanna Basford coloring pages here, here and here!

And for coloring tips and techniques from JOANN click here!

Addtional Info