Maps join adult colouring in

IMG_2947Unless you’ve been under a rock for the early part of 2015, you’ll probably be aware of the latest craze, adult colouring in. It’s possible that, like me, you’ve jumped on the craze and discovered the unexpected relaxation benefits of gradually colouring in a detailed drawing. It isn’t just a UK craze, it’s sweeping the world, as The Guardian reported: “Five of Amazon’s top 10 last week were adult colouring-in books, as were six of Brazil’s top 10 non-fiction list. Last year in France, the combined colouring-in industry sold 3.5m books.”

With the growth in technology and social media meaning we are all available 24/7 and spending increasing hours of the day looking at screens, some time out spent colouring in can be hugely beneficial.  There does seem to be some science behind the trend with numerous psychologists admitting that when it comes to relaxation, colouring has surprisingly scientific results.

When we’re running around at work or home making decisions and solving problems, we use beta brainwaves, which take up a lot of mental energy. The brain can’t sustain this mode, it would be like keeping up the speed of a 100m sprint for a prolonged period. We need to slow down to a mental jog and use alpha brainwaves instead.  Some people find it hard to slow down, but activities like colouring can actually help put the brain into alpha mode. It gives the brain something simple to focus on.

Where does map colouring in fit in?

Some say that symmetry and heavily patterned images are more appealing to the brain, and it was this thought, combined with our usual #ThrowbackThursday quiz featuring historic black and white maps, that started us thinking about colouring in maps.


We regularly hear from OS map fans who can happily spend hours poring over maps and planning new adventures and we wondered whether that activity might produce similar alpha brainwaves. The networks of roads, rivers and buildings that form the towns and cities of Britain make some complex and detailed patterns – and surely it could be fun to colour them in too?

We’ve customised some extracts of our OS OpenData products to create a perfect adult colouring in environment. From the regimented layout of Milton Keynes to the curves of the River Thames through London, we’ve picked a range of areas around Britain. We’ve used OS VectorMap District (VMD) and OS Open Map – Local (OML) to create the colouring in maps. Our Carto Design team stripped all of the street names and colour from the map to create a blank canvas ready to be coloured in.


Try your own map colouring in

Will you go for an abstract design or try to restore the maps to their original state? Download and print a copy off from here and then share your results with us!

OS logo in London (recommend printing at A3)

OS logo in Southampton (recommend printing at A3)

London VMD

London OML

Southampton VMD

Southampton OML

Milton Keynes VMD

Milton Keynes OML

Cardiff VMD

Cardiff OML

Edinburgh VMD

Edinburgh OML




You may also like

OS colouring book coming this autumn
Map colouring in takes off

38 Responses

  1. Richard Worth

    This is just so right an idea. My partner does the colouring in while I’m a bit of a ‘mapaholic’.

    Looks like I am going to have to get the lady a professional set of pencils for her birthday

  2. Thanks for all of the lovely comments – nice to know I’m not the only adult colouring fan out there! I’m making a note of all of the requests for new locations and we’ll have a think about how best to do another batch. I’ll have to be extremely nice to our Carto Design team as they did the last batch as a favour! Thanks, Gemma

    1. Ruti

      Sounds as though the carto design team might be a little busy! Perhaps some extra biscuits would help 🙂
      It also sounds like there might be enough demand for a physical colouring book in the not too distant future…

  3. Denis Payne


    Any chance of a few more details on how this was put together – would love to get one of Cambridge/Ely/Colchester – and sure you’ve not got the time to do all of those …


    1. Hi Denis

      I’ll be more than happy to – but my lovely Carto Design colleague is away at the moment. I’ll pick his brains when he’s back in and let you know. Due to the great response we’ve had, we’re seriously considering releasing a wider range though, so I’ve made a note of the area you’ve suggested too.

      Thanks, Gemma

      1. Becky

        More areas would be great – major cities, holiday places – Portsmouth, Aberystwyth, and rural, would be great to colour the contours of hills!

  4. Rachel

    Fantastic idea! Great for a wet day in the summer holidays. Would also be interested in other areas eg Berkshire and York

  5. Pingback : Throw away the stress ball and get the crayons out. |

  6. Barbara

    Would a map of the UK be a suitable candidate? Everything colouring-in related in a book? Keep the excellent ideas flowing! Thank you.

  7. Pingback : Ordnance Survey Blog Maps: Adult Colouring In [No sniggering at the back!]

  8. Rachel

    This is a great idea. Combines my love of maps with mycurrent relaxation method. These will have to be framed.
    Please can we have more rural areas, the national parks (as others have asked). I definitely think this would make a great book.

  9. bloggins

    Please can we have Leeds, York, Newcastle and Carlisle! – pretty please…..!!! – somewhere “North”!! 🙂

  10. Andy

    This is such a brilliant idea. My girlfriend just never stopped colouring and now finds herself bang on trend. I have developed a weird obsession with maps of my local area. Put them together and we’ll be very happy bunnies.
    Wolverhampton and Birmingham please.

  11. Pingback : ‘Colouring In’ therapy trend | Clevedon Counselling

  12. chris_maps

    A dream come true – wonderful idea! More more more PLEASE! Other shapes like hilly locations with contour lines (example: Snowdonia), or locations with lots of islands and lakes (example: Outer Hebrides) would also be very welcome.

  13. Pingback : Why not try these adult colouring-in maps of Newcastle and Durham? | Newcastle.Press

  14. Dolly Eyes

    My local newspaper did an article and included a link to your site. They indicated that you could download maps to colour of Durham and Newcastle. However I cannot see them on your list of downloadable colouring maps. Do you do colouring maps of Durham and Newcastle?? – if so could you let me know the link. Thanks.

  15. I’m an artist and did a project that involved tracing only the buildings from an OS map of city centre York. It took weeks!

    There is a strong movement of artists working with maps. Is there a way of extracting any criteria of data from OS maps, say only street names, only buildings, or only rivers and waterways etc. etc. Wondering if files could be available to allow those kind of selections?

  16. P L Perrin

    I’ve become a fan of adult colouring books in the last year or so and think your maps are brilliant – how about doing a series of British County Towns?

  17. Pingback : Geography - so much more than the sum of its parts - Methinks

  18. Ruti

    Thank you so much for this. My boys just love making their own maps for play. They also love drawing and altering old atlas and road atlas pages. This will be a really great additional resource for them. I’m going to print out and see what happens!
    Would you be able to do Loughborough or Charnwood? Famous urban areas would be great. I’m thinking that it might make a nice stretch activity for them if they have a blank map and are challenged to fill it in. It could also be great for geography learning if they are able to colour in different types of land use.

  19. Alastair

    This is a great idea. Jo and Anna Blount suggested maps of the Lake District and South Downs NPs. If there were colouring in maps of all National Parks and AONBs, we could colour in our walks as well.

  20. Gemma

    I completely love this – thank you 🙂

    Definitely a good geography project for the little man while he’s stuck at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name* :

Email* :