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April 15, 2017

Color By Disney review: premium subscription for a not-so-premium coloring app

by John_A

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Back in college, if I’d been caught coloring in my secret stash of Disney coloring pages, I’d have some explaining to do.

Nowadays, though, coloring books need no explanation, as they’ve seen a massive resurgence among adults who are looking for an easy way to escape daily stress and find some inner peace. But you can’t exactly carry around your 128-color case of pencils and that big book of mandalas for coloring on the train, during your lunch break, or wherever the urge strikes you. Enter a slew of coloring apps, all promising the same fun and calming without leaving pencil shavings everywhere or without you ruining a page by coloring outside the lines.

Disney decided to get in on the action with premium coloring app Color By Disney, and while their efforts are certainly good… I wouldn’t go running to the app store just yet.

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It’s not cheap, and it’s hard to change your subscription.

Color By Disney is a subscription app, and without one, you have only four images you can color. If you want a subscription, you should think long and hard about which one you want before you sign up, because once you pick a subscription, it’s not easy to change it. There are three subscription types: Weekly ($2.99), Monthly ($7.99), and Yearly ($39.99). The longer you commit to, the cheaper the subscription, so if you’re someone who thinks they’re going to spend a lot of time coloring here, then you should definitely consider the longer subscriptions. That said, the yearly subscription is $40. You could buy two movies for that money. They’d probably last longer, too.

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Price aside for the moment, let’s look at the app itself. You can browse curated collections like so-called “Simple” artwork, or you can tap Find and look for art based on the Disney franchise it belongs to. When you search for art this way, two things quickly become apparent: there aren’t a lot of actual coloring pages here, and most of them belong to a choice few franchises, like Frozen, Moana and Beauty and the Beast, while most other franchises on the list only get three to four pages, if they get more than one.

There are only six new pages added a week, and depending on the week’s subject and complexity, you can burn through them in a matter of hours. If you want to spend hours and hours coloring Disney artwork in, you’re going to want some diversity in the work, and Color By Disney’s portfolio isn’t nearly there yet.

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Many images have incomplete lines that lead to colors bleeding and patterns breaking.

Once you select a piece to color, the process is fairly straightforward and, indeed, very relaxing. You select colors from one of three palette types, then tap sections to color them. If you tap where you didn’t mean to, you can either tap the undo button in the top corner, or you can tap the miscolored area again to turn it back to white. You can pinch and pull to zoom in on the artwork for detailed coloring, which also helps prevent missed taps. Your color picker at the bottom can remember your last three used colors, but unfortunately, it doesn’t compile a palette for all of the colors you’ve used on an image, which can help tremendously on detailed, time-intensive pieces. You can also change the filter for the image, which can give the image marker lines, pencil texturing, or it can cover your work in glitter, put your piece underwater, or invert the white and black of the base image for a unique “Dark Shine” look.

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Coloring these roses is not without few thorns. The first is that while all of the artwork looks beautiful, many images have incomplete lines that lead to colors bleeding and patterns breaking, which can be excruciating on mandalas and detail-oriented pieces. Another glaring flaw when dealing with color patterning and shading is that the color picker at the bottom of the screen can be a bit lackluster. The “Inspired” color collections only deal with a few of the more popular franchises, and some “Shades” palettes are out of order or lacking in certain spectrums. There’s no option to pick your own colors, so if you’re missing a shade, you’re just out of luck.

Once you’re done with an image, you can download it to your device’s internal storage or share it out across social media to show off your coloring prowess to friends and family. Even if you’re not going to print out the finished work to hang on your fridge, I recommend saving your finished works in case you decide you want to color them again, as these coloring pages are reusable. If you want to clear a coloring page and start over, tap the trash can and you’ll be able to start over with empty lines.

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Color By Disney can provide hours of coloring fun without the hassle of art kits and papercuts, but the selection is still rather small, and the coloring pages tend towards a few favored franchises. The color system itself also needs some work, and until both the colors and the coloring page selection expand a fair bit, I’d just as soon grab a hardcover Disney coloring book and break out the pencil sets while I buy a movie I bought with my savings.

Ease and convenience come at a price… you just have to be willing to pay it.

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