Review-Clairefontaine Coloring Book for Adults #Exaclair #Clairefontaine #Giveaway

Around the beginning of the year, Exaclair, Inc. let me look at their 2015 catalog and choose what items would be given away in the giveaways I'd host throughout the year.

There is definitely a factor of greed here--I can choose items that I dearly want to try out, lol.  But I also try to choose items that I think 'you', that wonderful person who reads my blog and lets me share my passions with you, I try to choose items that I believe will excite you as well.

When I saw that Clairefontaine had added a series of coloring books to their offerings, I knew I'd found something that would satisfy both expectations.  Not that I expect everyone who reads my blog to drool over a coloring book.  But I know that enough of you love mandalas and love beautiful renderings of mandalas and will itch to add bursts of colors to these pages.

The giveaway details are at the end of this post (U.S. only. Sorry!)

...and on to the review!

No of Pages: 36 
Paper: 120g Clairefontaine drawing paper
Size: 7 3/8 x  7 3/8
Binding: Glued
Also available: Flowers, Birds

Look & Feel
Since the paper in this coloring book is from Clairefontaine, I expected it to be high quality and to accept a wide range of mediums. I wasn't disappointed.

The cover is shiny cardstock with delicate covering.  There isn't a lot of description.  The information, 'Coloring Book', and 'For Adults' is repeated in French, English and German.  There's nothing to indicate that the book is full of mandalas and nothing but mandalas.  The back is very like the front only with less color and less writing.

My only real unhappiness with this coloring book is the binding.  It is well- glued, and has a ridge that runs parallel to the spine on both front and back that allows you to fold the cover back without breaking the glue.  But you can't lay the book totally flat or fold the pages around so you can hold it in one hand while you color.

That said, I didn't find it too much of a problem, except that I couldn't color right up the edges on the bound side.  That's a minor bugaboo of mine, though not a deal-breaker and you have the same problem with many wire-bound books. Many won't mind it at all.

Although the paper is fairly thick, the book itself is very light, making it a good prospect for carrying around so you can color while traveling or sitting in doctor's offices.

The paper's surface is smooth enough to allow even coverage for markers and pens, yet has enough tooth to accept mediums like colored pencil, watercolor and acrylic.  It's a bright white but not brilliant.  There are many large black areas, and the ink is well-distributed without spots or streaks. The black makes a sharp contrast to the white.

The paper stock is thick, almost edging on cardstock, but more flexible.

I've never seen a coloring book with so much black in the illustrations.  It provides for a great deal of variety, ranging from pages with no solid black, just line-drawings, to pages dominated by black.  There is a similar range in the amount of detail, with some pages having large open spaces and little detail, to other pages having a great amount of detail.

The illustrations themselves are beautiful and floral.  Some of the motifs (certain types of images) are repeated often, but with the difference in the amount of detail and amount of black on each page there is plenty of variation. Some pages have enough white space or black space that you could add your own doodles or tangles, if desired.


Since the paper in this coloring book is from Clairefontaine, I expected it to be high quality and to accept a wide range of mediums, with little to no bleed through, feathering, or dimpling of the paper. I wasn't disappointed.

In all cases where there is black, it comes from the original drawing in the coloring book.  I used no black ink, paint or other black medium.

Alcohol Marker (Alcohol markers have a permanent ink that can be blended with alcohol.  Most commonly known brands are Sharpies, Copics, Spectrum Noirs.  They tend to have intense colors that bleed through and show on the back and possibly even the page underneath. )

I used Copic alcohol markers because I like the transparency of the colors and the flexibility of the tips.  This coloring book does NOT have specially coated pages (few, if any do), so I expected the color to bleed through to the back of the page.  The question was by how much, and I'll address that in a moment.

One some papers, alcohol inks may feather--those hundreds of tiny lines that creep out and spread everywhere.  There was no hint of that whatsoever.  The colors were bright, but not as intense as I thought they might be against the black.  Faint shadows of color show on the black, but only in certain light.  I like the effect.

There are two possible problems with alcohol ink that are caused by the absorbancy of the paper rather than the ink iteself.  The ink can leave streaks, if you layer color over areas that have already dried.  The colors can also run together a little if you apply wet color into a wet area, and it can cause some papers to pill or tear.  Both these features can be problems or can be used for certain effect.  Wet over dry can be used to shadow.  Wet on wet can be used to blend colors. 

  I found drying times to be moderate.  Not so slow that colors bled together nor so fast that everything was streaky.  In large areas, I did need to use a circular motion to avoid streaks but that was expected.

I did expect some bleed through, and here you can see the back of the page.  Where the page was black on the front, there was very little bleed through on the back.  I kind of like the look, and almost decided to leave it as is.  But, in the end, I used it as the base for a different medium.

Crayola Crayon A friend gave me a pack of good old Crayola crayons recently.  The ones that every American grade-school student uses.  I used on the page above and it worked beautifully. The alcohol marker color changed slightly, but the transparency of the crayon let it show through.

The paper is wonderful for crayon.  It has enough tooth that you get a soft granular look, and colors blend nicely when you layer them.  This coloring book and a cheap box of crayons would truly be enough for many.

Colored Pencil  I've often thought that colored pencil is what professionals use in lieu of the crayons most of  us used as children.  Crayons are limited--especially the pale, waxy non-toxic things that are produced today.  When you move on to a good quality color pencil, the possibilities blossom, and so do the mandalas in this Clairefontaine coloring book.

There is enough tooth to the paper that the pigment just rolls off the pencils.  You're still able to get soft, lovely tints of color, but it doesn't take much work to get deeper jewel-like tones, as well.  I was able to get up to seven layers of pigment without much waxy build-up.  I feel I could have achieved more layers with ease, but didn't feel they were necessary.

I used Derwent Coloursoft pencils, which I feel are a lower mid-range quality.

The pencil color does show on the black of the paper as a ghostly sort of tint (look at the green leaves inside the purple ring), which could be used to create haloes, or spectral effects.  For those who want stark black and strictly clean edges, it means staying carefully in the lines when coloring around the black.

Gel Ink Pen and Colored Pencil  Most of the problems associated with Gel Ink pens are particular to the pens themselves--slow-flowing ink, and a lack of value range, so it's hard to get a feeling of depth or shading with them.  To some extent, the paper doesn't matter.  The color is flashy and works much the same on any paper.  But given the amount of black coverage in this book, I thought gel pens would be beautiful.  And they were.

I couldn't get the sparkles to scan or photograph, but in real life, the gel colors are quite brilliant against the black.  The Sakura Moonlight brand are flourescent and would show up on the black itself.  Mine are almost out of ink though, so I decided not to try it for fear of running out of ink in the middle of it.

Assorted Marker Pens-Dry  There are many kinds of markers out there.  Some can be blended with water, some have permanent ink, or india ink.  As with alcohol markers, these markers can have trouble with streaking or bleeding through to the back.  Those that have soft fabric tips will sometimes pill, if the paper is too rough.  Usually the problems aren't as severe, and other than a little streaking, I had none of them.

I used Faber-Castell India Ink markers, American Craft and Distress markers (which are water-soluble, but I used them dry) and a brand of non-water-soluble markers that I've had for so long that the wording has worn off, and I forget what they are.  Marvies, perhaps.  They all had soft fabric tips, but I had no problem with pilling.

Assorted Markers-Water soluble For this next example, I used Distress Markers, with lots of water to blend the colors.  You can also get some extremely delicate coloration, and I think this is my favorite of all the examples I did.

Water-soluble markers don't usually need quite as much water as pan or tube watercolors, but the colors are less intense.  There was a little dimpling, which I was able to flatten out by weighting the paper once the paint was dry.  No rippling, buckling, or pilling occurred.  No color bled through to the back.  I believe the paper could take more water if one wanted to try paint, but you would probably get more dimpling or rippling.

Acrylic Paint An unusual choice for a color book, but I decided to try acrylic paint.  I used a number 8 round brush and started painting. I used a moderate amount of water.  I had no problems of any kind.  You can choose how much water you want with acrylics, so if I had increased the water, I would could have had some rippling or dimpling.

Fountain Pen Ink Clairefontaine paper is noted for being fountain-pen friendly and I had to know--did that include this coloring book?  I used a variety of fountain pens with flex tip, extra-fine, medium and broad.  The inks themselves were J. Herbin ink.

Problems associated with fountain pen ink include bleed-through to the back, feathering, pilling, and streaking.

I would characterize this as fountain pen friendly paper.  There was no feathering or pilling.  I did get streaking when covering larger areas, which I expected and used to create texture.  Most of the time, people write with these inks, so the streaking doesn't occur unless you cover large areas.

A little color did bleed through to the back.  This occurred when I layered wet ink to areas that were already wet.  Adding a second layer to a dry area did not result in bleed-through. (Note: I'm only showing part of this page because I don't want to make it possible for thieves to copy the page, clean it up and repost it as their own).

Personally, I love this color book.  The mandalas are beautifully drawn, the paper quality is high and you can use almost any coloring medium available.

The one drawback is that you can't lay the book flat.  I only found that to be a problem though, when trying to color right up to the bound edge.

Giveaway Info
What's the prize: Four winners will receive a Clairefontaine Mandala coloring book for adults like the one reviewed here.
Who can win: I'm sorry, this giveaway is open to the U.S. only.
Starts: Monday-June 01, 2015 06:10 AM PDT
Ends: Monday-June  08 2015 11:59 PM PDT
How to Enter: Comment on this post, including an email address so I can reach you if you win.

I'll contact the winner by email as soon as possible on Tuesday, June 09, 2015 and will announce the winner once I hear back from them.

These are a new item and at the time I'm writing this, I can't find any place in the U.S. where the coloring books are available.  I'll keep an eye and let you all know once I find an outlet.  Meanwhile, be sure to check your local stores.  If you want to ask your merchant to order the book, the details can be found in the 2015 Exaclair, Inc. Catalog.

Edited to include: My friend, Jean Chaney, has since, found the coloring books online at Notegeist and I also found them at Writer's Bloc.  I'd love to get the one on birds!