Disney Publishing Worldwide Enterprises
Janruary 24, 2017
Free to download, in-app purchases
While there are hundreds of colouring apps–some of them incredibly popular and lucrative–adult colouring is still mostly about books. Colouring for kids is just another fun activity, but colouring for adults is serious business. It’s not a hobby, it’s art therapy; it’s not a craft, it’s meditation. With this new app Disney hopes to snare kids and adults at the same time.
When you first log into Colour by Disney the app prompts you for your age. I told the truth, but because I wanted to see if there would be differences in user experience, I had a number of friends lie to it. The only difference we discovered was that younger colourists (like child young) get a handful of free colouring sheets, while adults (ugh, me) only get one. Other than that, the user interface, customizations, and in-app purchase options remain the same. The colour sheet shop and colouring interfaces are intuitive without being condescending, so I have to applaud Disney World Publishing on this, at least, a UX that is actually all ages.
Colouring is simple: a single tap on a given panel fills the whole thing in, and a second tap clears it. Tricky patterns with a tiny surface area become more kid-friendly by zooming in. To select colours, you just tap on them and the app saves up to three “recently used” colours so that you can keep your palate consistent. In addition to basic colours, the app also comes loaded with various colouring effects including gradients, metallics, and glitter. Gradients and metallics operate like any other colour–select, tap, and fill–whereas animated effects like “under the sea” can be applied to a previously coloured page and affect the whole page at once. Parents and kids could easily pass the iPad back and forth, colouring sheets together, or separately without trouble. The variety of available sheets works to that end as well, with a combination of simple character portraits and complex mandala or stained glass patterns. There’s something for everyone here, for a price.
And the price is a problem. You can use Colour by Disney without spending any money, if you don’t mind colouring the same portrait of Ursula from The Little Mermaid over and over and over. But if you want to be able to return to Colour by Disney long term, you need to subscribe. For $10.99 a month, or $54.99 a year if you want to go all in and save 70%, you get access to “100+ Exclusive Disney Images…500 Colours…[and]New Content Added Weekly!” While $10.99 isn’t an exorbitant amount to spend on colouring books or sheets per month (some adult colouring books can be as pricey as $30), it’s difficult to gauge the value of a changeable number of colouring sheets, particularly since you don’t have the option of hanging your kids’ most inventive creations. What if your kid finally moves on from their Lion King obsession? What if you just get tired of looking at Rapunzel’s cheery face? How much Disney colouring do you really want to do in a given month and how much of it do you want to do on a tablet?
That’s the other problem with Colour by Disney: it’s dependent on an electronic device that needs charging, access to wifi, and is expensive to replace. And while for kids, tablet games and activities are just fun, for adults they’re fun until eye-strain sets in, or until their after-work decompression is hampered by proximity to social media. That is, a colouring app may be less fun and less relaxing than a colouring book, because it doesn’t take you away from one of our biggest contemporary stressors: constant connectivity and attendant fear of missing out. On the other hand, apps like Colour by Disney are a boon for people who find colouring books impossible or frustrating due to arthritis and other disabilities, because the UX and in particular the colouring mechanism, is so solidly designed.
Colour by Disney is basically okay. It has enough options that a devoted Disney fan could stay busy with it for months, but not enough to make it a good option for those with a passing interest. And while it’s well designed, both in terms of UX, and in terms of the colouring sheet library, there’s nothing about it that stands out as remarkable. If you love Disney before all others, this may be the colouring app for you. If not, take your in-app purchases elsewhere.