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Zentangle, Zendoodle Techniques: Shading

Updated on April 5, 2013
Shadows help to accentuate highlights in zendoodles.
Shadows help to accentuate highlights in zendoodles. | Source

Zendoodle Zentangle Shading

Zentangles® or zendoodles, as they are sometimes called, are delicious little pieces of art created with nothing more than paper, pencil and a fineliner pen. It's quite easy to learn how to create a zendoodle, but one thing I had difficulty with when I first started was adding shadows to my drawings. If you have the same problem, then follow along with this short tutorial. All the pictures are available in slideshow view, so you can refer back to this page whenever you need to.

© This page was created by TheRaggedEdge. All rights reserved.

The Zentangle® art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at

Zentangle bare-bones.
Zentangle bare-bones. | Source

Draw your Zendoodle

This is how my drawing started. As you can see, anyone can do this; you don't have to have any special skill. If you are looking for a Zentangle® step-by-step, then this page might help: Zendoodle, Zentangle: How To.

Finished zendoodle sans shading
Finished zendoodle sans shading | Source

Unshaded Zentangle®

Here is the zendoodle without any shading added. It's okay but the elements are not cohesive, they just look like pretty patterns. Adding shadows will anchor the image, bring the individual tangles (patterns) together and make parts of the drawing pop.

Where is the Light?

First I had to decide from which direction the light is falling. Almost every drawing or painting has an imaginary light source. If there is light, then there must be shadow, yes? I generally see my Zentangles® with a light source coming from the top left or right, depending on the way I prefer the drawing to be. Note: turn your zendoodle until you find it's 'right way up' - every Zentangle® has one and it might not be the way you started out with!

In this one, the light is coming from the top left side of the drawing. Therefore the shadows will be formed on the lower right side of each element or 'tangle'. I also want to add shade where the drawing is to look 'deeper'. This will provide a pleasing three dimensional look.

I recommend you use an HB or B grade pencil for shading. Anything softer will be too black and heavy and lighter, harder graphite will not blend nicely.

First stage of shading Zendoodle
First stage of shading Zendoodle | Source

Get Into the Shadow

With your pencil held at about a 45 degree angle or perhaps a little less, begin to shade the edges and sides of the tangles that are farthest from the light. Keep it as even as you can. You can see immediately, that the scaly-looking tangle here begins to take on a roundness.

Take a paper stump or tortillion and gently smudge the shading, bringing it out and away from the tangle to form a shadow. This is my favorite part.

Shadows makes other parts pop!
Shadows makes other parts pop! | Source

Zentangles® Pop!

Adding shading and shadows to your Zentangle® makes parts of the drawing recede into the background and causes other parts to stand out, like these pebble-like tangles.

I have added shading to the underside of the rows of 'beads' too. If you add shadow beneath them they would look as they are resting on a flat surface. I have chosen not to do that here.

Adding shade to the undersides of these 'beads' turns them into jewels.
Adding shade to the undersides of these 'beads' turns them into jewels. | Source

Continue working over the drawing, adding little bits of shadow where you think necessary. You can see I have shaded the 'leaves' by simply using the 'dirty' tortillion rather than the pencil.

Make it float!
Make it float! | Source

Add Lift by Erasing

This part is optional and should be used sparingly. When you have finished the Zentangle®, take a clean eraser and use one edge to carefully lift a little shadow from the edge of the tangle. This has the effect of making the tangle seem to float by bringing a little reflected light underneath. You can use this technique in any drawing or painting. It's very useful when drawing things like branches.

Finished Zentangle

Zendoodle done!
Zendoodle done! | Source

Do You Doodle Too?

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    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      My husband doodles. He is into geometric shapes. This is absolutely beautiful. Way beyond doodles. Great Hub!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 6 years ago from Wales

      Many thanks, lindacee. I can't do geometric zendoodles but there are plenty of people who can.

    • profile image

      jafabrit 6 years ago

      Your's is lovely. Many of the doodles remind me of middle eastern and indian patterns (some used for henna and embroidery patterns). One of the things I love about doing art and embroidery is the mediative quality as I work.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 6 years ago from Wales

      Thanks for stopping by jafabrit. Yes, some of the patterns are reminiscent of eastern traditions. If you take a look at "Totally Tangled" by Sandy Steen Bartholomew, she has a whole section devoted to them.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      This is amazing! I'd never even heard of Zeendoodles. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      My pleasure, Natashalh.

    • lupine profile image

      lupine 4 years ago from Southern California (USA)

      First I've heard of zen doodling, looks like a piece of jewelry. Will try to draw.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Yes, give it a go - it's so relaxing and lots of fun. Thanks for stopping by, lupine.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Wow. these are gorgeous. This is not my strength but I am inspired to at least try it. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and shared and pinned

      Sending Angels your way :) ps

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, pstraubie! Appreciated every which way :)

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