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Book Review: Lost Ocean

Last week, I promised to start reviewing books that I have in my collection and so here is my first post in that series. I don't have that many coloring books, just about 10 or so. While just these 10 books will be more than sufficient to last me the rest of my life (and that is if I managed to color every single page), there are many people who have ten times the number of books!

The first book I'm going to be reviewing is Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford. It is the book that introduced me to the world of adult coloring and in spite of the fact that I think I have better books in my collection now, I still have a special place for it.

Johanna Basford is a Scottish illustrator and all her coloring books feature hand drawn creations in black and white. She prefers using traditional pen and paper to digital art. Her designs are usually intricate and contain mostly natural features like plants and animals.

Book - Lost Ocean
Author - Johanna Basford


You can easily find detailed descriptions of the book on Amazon but here's what you need to know. The book has 80 pages, including a giant 4 page foldout at the back that you can remove for framing or any other use. I have the US version which does not have the removable dust jacket like the UK one. In general, books published in Europe or for a European audience tend to be of much better quality than ones that are sold in the US. Various reviewers have noted that the UK version seems to have better paper, which was also the case for previous Basford books like Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden.

I have the US version and I would advise anyone to get the UK version if you can find a copy in your local bookstore or if you're ordering from Book Depository (they do free worldwide shipping).


The artwork in this book is gorgeous which is certainly not unusual for Johanna Basford. It made quite an impression on me when I first flipped through it (I didn't know who Johanna was back then). There are mostly underwater scenes or wallpaper type images with sea life. Not all of the images show realistic ocean life, you also have mermaids and things like that. The pictures don't have any border though and some of the illustrations do run into the spine. There are a few double-sided images throughout the book.

One thing that I will note about the artwork is that it is extremely detailed and intricate. If you are the kind of person who doesn't like to go over the lines (which means every enclosed space will get a different color), you're going to have a tough time with this book. On the other hand, if you can ignore some of the lines then you have the flexibility of covering multiple spaces with the same color which should be much less tedious. Pens, gel pens, find liners etc. are almost necessary in some images, although you can still use pencil for bigger spaces on the same page.

Paper Quality

The paper in this book is bright white, different from the ivory colored paper used in her previous books. It is good quality with medium thickness but is smoother to the touch and doesn't have much of a tooth. It is certainly not the best paper I have seen in a coloring book (in fact her previous books have much better paper I think) but it is quite good.

Having used the book for a few months and coloring in a few pages, I can say that it takes pencils quite well. I don't have any markers to test in these books but I do have Staedler fineliner pens. Some pages seem to take pens pretty okay while other pages get lots of shadows.

Suitable Media

I have tested Prismacolors, Polychromos, Inktense and Albrecht Durer pencils. For pens, I only have Steadtler fineliners and Sakura gel pens. Personally I don't like using Prismacolor pencils since the paper doesn't have much of a tooth. Instead of getting a nice even layer of color, I get a waxy buildup quite quickly. The oil-based Polychromos do much better, so brands like Marco Raffine or Renoir will do quite well.

The paper can take watercolor pencils as long as you don't use much water but it is not really made for wet media. You won't be able to use alcohol markers like Copics but water based markers should be fine provided you don't go over the same area too often. Since the designs are so intricate, I'd suggest a combination of oil-based pencils and fine tipped pens for this book. If you like the artwork but are put off by the intricacy, you can also use soft pastels to cover the complete page and then pick out the details you like with pencils or pens.


Most adult coloring books seem to be priced at $10 or so (plus or minus a few bucks) and Lost Ocean come to around the same. I would say the book is pretty good value for anyone who loves intricate designs and those with great eyesight. If you struggle with motor coordination, have poor eyesight or just don't want the hassle, there are plenty of other good coloring books out there for you. And I will be reviewing more of them over the coming weeks.

Lost Ocean is not my absolute favorite coloring book and I would certainly not recommend it for beginners. If this is the kind of artwork you like though, you will not regret it. I'm using this book mostly for practice, testing new media and learning different types of techniques like layering, shading and blending. So get your pencils out and enjoy Lost Ocean.


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