Learn How to Create Beautiful Zendoodles
Welcome to my zendoodle workshop. What's a zendoodle? Well, it is a drawing created by filling pre-defined spaces with repeated patterns. Some people call them Zentangle® or Zentangle-inspired art, but this workshop is not connected to the Zentangle method taught by Rick and Maria of Zentangle.com. I am not a certified Zentangle teacher (CZT) so this workshop is just a guide and a nudge to get you going. If you really want to get into this art form, then I highly recommend you visit Zentangle.com and consider taking the course.
This workshop is spread over a long page. Scroll down to see sections on materials for creating zendoodles, a short step-by-step demonstration, videos, a gallery of Zentangle and Zentangle-inspired drawings and a whole plethora of similar pages that showcase various aspects of Zentangles, including books and further information.
Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.
What is the Purpose of Zentangles or Zendoodles or Whatever They Are?
Well, they are beautiful. You will be surprised how easy they are to create and how lovely your very first one will be. You will be eager to make another and may find they are addictive!
One of the unexpected benefits is that as you work on your drawing, you will find yourself becoming calm and relaxed. If you can find 30 minutes of free time, without interruption, you may find yourself entering a quiet contemplative, meditative state. Drawing in this way, without trying to prove anything or worrying about getting it right allows your mind to take a break.
Creating Zentangles can improve your creativity in other areas of life. It can improve your confidence - after all if you can produce artwork like this, then you can do anything! Almost all creative tasks can be broken down into zendoodle steps. One small mark on the paper will lead to more.
You can frame and display them. Zendoodles look wonderful hung together in one place. Or how about you transfer your new skill to decorating your home? People have Zentangles on their walls, floors and even their toilet seats!
What's With the Name Thing?
Zentangles, Zendoodles, Xentangles, Tangles... ?
Zentangle(R) is the name of the art form and method taught by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts. You can learn their method by subscribing to their newsletter, visiting the website or by taking a course from them or from a Certified Zentangle Teacher. Other people have coined similar names to describe their work. I created some Zazzle products with my designs and labelled them 'Xentangles' to avoid infringing the trademark.
Rick and Maria have connected certain words or terms to their method, such as:
Tangle ~ the pattern formed by making repeated strokes of a pen. They have assigned names to all their tangles. I can't remember names so I don't use them. There is a great website which catalogues tangles, as created by Rick and Maria and also by other people. See the last page for links.
String ~ is the initial line drawn that provides a framework or structure for the tangles.
Tile ~ is the paper or support on which the Zentangle is drawn.
Doodle ~ is something Zentangles are not. Doodles are random, mindless things. Zentangles are purposeful and mindful. I do take issue with this. Many people have commented on a blog post of mine that they have been 'zentangling' (whoops.. not supposed to use it as a verb) for years but called their artwork 'doodles'. So, to me they will always be 'structured, contained doodles'.
It has been suggested that we call our outside-the-box stuff 'Zentangle-Inspired Art or 'ZIAs'. That's nice... I like it.
First Steps in Zentangle
Gather Your Materials
I have listed below what you need to get started. It isn't much. Zendoodles are created with the most basic materials: pen and paper. You can hop over to Zentangle.com (no affiliation whatsoever) and purchase a ready-made kit. I have one and it really is lovely. However, you can put together your own kit much more cheaply.
I have also added some information about creating a special or sacred space for drawing. It is a very personal choice and I have some suggestions to turn your zendoodling time into something very special.
NEXT ~ Zentangle Materials
Zentangle Zendoodle Materials
...And a Place to Use them
You need surprisingly few materials to create zendoodles. A pencil, pens, paper and an eraser will do. I also like to keep a tortillion/paper stump nearby for smudging and shading right at the very end of my Zentangle.
Another important point to consider is, if you intend to use this process as an active meditation, then you need to create the right place to work. I'll touch on that a little later. First - the pens!
Sakura Pigma Micron - Personally Recommended by TheRaggedEdge
The best pens you will find for Zentangles, doodles and many other applications. And... at around $10 for a set of six pens, you can't go wrong. Sakura Pigma Microns are archival, bleed-free and waterproof. Use the 005 and 01 for tangles. Use the higher numbers for filling in. They also work on many surfaces.
Fine point pen ideal for drawing and writing
Pen doesn't clog or dry out
Waterproof ink; dries quickly; feather or bleed through papers; fade proof
6-Set contains (1 each): black 5-1/5 millimeter; black 1-1/4 millimeter; black 2-3/10 millimeter; black 3-2/5 millimeter; black 5-1/2 millimeter; black 8-1/2 millimeter
Sakura 11-Piece Zentangle Set
This is the perfect, all-in-one, complete Zentangle kit for beginners or experienced zendoodlers. How can you resist trying Zentangle now?
Buy the Sakura Zentangle Kit in the UK. Check delivery costs though, you might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere.
This zentangle set includes a pencil and pens plus zentangle tiles upon which you can create fun and relaxing art
There are 5 pens with 4 tips sizes (0.25-mm, 0.35-mm, 0.45-mm, 0.5-mm)
The micro pigment ink is waterproof, fade proof, and acid free
The pencil is pre-sharpened and the drawing tiles measure 3-1/2-inch square
Includes 5 pens, 1 pencil, and 5 zentangle tiles
You only need a couple of ordinary HB pencils for Zentangles. However, this is the set I have right next to me now. I like the fact that there are charcoal pencils included. I would like to know which member of my family has walked off with the sharpener and erasers!
These quality drawing pencils are equally capable of producing quick sketches or finely worked drawings. Of all drawing media, pencils are the most immediate, versatile and sensitive. These pencils can be used for soft, delicate qualities or bold, crisp sharpness and the selection included in this set is perfect for artists of all skill levels. Included in the set: ~ Sketch pencils in H, 2H, HB, F, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B ~ Charcoal Pencils in 2B, 4B, and 6B ~ 1 Sketch Stick in 6B ~ 1 soft charcoal stick ~ 1 medium charcoal stick ~ 1 white plastic eraser ~ 1 kneaded eraser ~ 1 charcoal sharpener ~ 1 pencil sharpener.
Moleskine Watercolor Notebook Pocket
The sketchpad version of the Moleskine is excellent for Zentangles. However, I do prefer the heavier paper in this watercolor notebook. I often revisit my drawings and add watercolor or other media to them and I need something that will stand up to the extra punishment.
If you can get hold of one, a Fabriano Satinata Fadpad 8 x 6 inches (A5) is even better as it is Hot Pressed paper and is lovely and smooth. Alternatively, if making 3.5 inch tiles for Zentangles, buy Fabriano Artistico HP in large sheets.
The Moleskine Watercolour Pocket notebook is the portable atelier for painting and drawing with watercolours. A heavy 200-gram, cold-pressed paper is identical on the both sides and was created especially for Moleskine. Every Moleskine product is thread bound and has a cardboard bound cover with rounded corners, acid free paper, a bookmark, an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket that contains the Moleskine history.
A few other Zentangle bits & bobs
Get yourself a good eraser - not for mistakes but to erase your initial pencil string. You may think it isn't visible but if you gently use the eraser over the drawing, you will see how it suddenly pops. Then you will want to add back some judicious shading.
A tortillion or paper stump, often used by pastel artists, is very useful for softening shading.
And, of course, a pencil sharpener. Try to hide it from your kids!
A Special Place to Zen-Out
Zen-doodle on the go
Actually, if truth be told, I don't have anywhere special to do my zendoodles. I have a corner of a large bedroom, where my computer, printer, art materials and workspace live. I usually do my drawings here. I also do them while sitting in front of the TV. Okay... I also do them over the play park, at the beach and when we go for a walk and the children want to go off and explore.
That's the beauty of Zentangles; you need so little that you can do them anywhere.
Deliberate doodling - Zentangle as meditation
However, when I am settling down to some serious doodling (there's an oxymoron), I like to create the right conditions. It is lovely to shut the door, play some relaxing music and chill out. Sometimes I substitute the music for a good radio play - BBC Radio 4.
I like incense, so will often light a stick to get me in a creative mood. If you have a good, directed desk lamp to draw by, then light a candle or two around the room, otherwise, natural daylight is best.
Try to create some time when you won't be interrupted.
Begin by closing your eyes and grounding yourself for a few moments. Visualize roots spreading from your feet, into the floor and down into the earth. Breathe deeply and relax. When you feel calm pick up your pencil and begin your drawing. Don't plan it, just allow your hand to guide itself as you draw the initial dots, lines and string. Start to add tangles with a pen. Focus your mind on the movement of the pen as you fill in the spaces, hear the noise it makes and feel the texture of the paper. If, in due course, your mind wants to wander then let it go. Enjoy.
NEXT ~ Zendoodle Step-by-Step
Although the images in this Zentangle-inspired workshop are all very different, they usually start out in exactly the same way - a single line drawn on paper. The nice people at Zentangle.com call this a 'string'. This string forms the structure of your drawing.
For this workshop, we're going to go the traditional way, with a single line drawn on a 'tile' - a piece of paper or card 3 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches (8.5 cm x 8.5 cm).
The image shows the back of a Zentangle tile from my kit. The paper is lovely and perfect for zendoodling. However, eventually, you may find this size is just too small so move onto a watercolor pad or loose paper.
Step One - Dot and Border your Zendoodle Tile
Take your tile and make four dots with your pencil; one in each corner. You don't need to be precise about this. Join the dots with a wavy line. You can even put loops in it but it's not compulsory. Keep your pencil marks light - mine are heavy so they will show up on the scan.
Once you have drawn a number of these, you may find yourself dispensing with the border altogether. Some people like to fill the whole tile. For now, we'll go with the border.
Step Two - Draw your Zentangle String
Put your pencil tip at one edge of the border and draw a random curvy line. You can see that mine looks like an inverted 'V' and an elaborate 'S'. You can make yours more or less complex.
It's a good idea to practice drawing strings on scrap paper. Many people have problems with strings, including me. Watch the videos in the next section to see how effortless Maria makes it look.
Again keep your pencil light. I had to go over mine to make it visible, hence its scruffy look. No matter, it will be erased when the drawing is almost done.
Step Three - Start Tangling
Begin to fill the sections with tangles with your 01 Micron pen (or use the finest black pen you have). For now, keep to a single simple pattern in each section. I have provided some examples below and you will find more on the videos and the links in the last part of the workshop. I recommend you sign up to the Zentangle.com newsletter as they often include instructions for new tangles.
Also take a look at my other Zendoodle pages, again, they are all listed on the last part of the workshop. You will find ideas everywhere.
This is where the relaxing starts. It is the sheer repetitiveness of making small marks on paper that enables you to enter a meditative state. Put on some tinkly music and you'll be away.
My tile seems to want to keep turning around and that's okay too. A true Zentangle can be viewed any way up and it will always look good. Zentangle-inspired art, which is a slightly different thing, can be all manner of tangled shapes, such as hearts, birds, hands, faces - anything, in fact.
Step Four - Erase the String
I've filled all the sections that I wanted to. You can leave as much white space as you like. As I was tangling, I could see that there was a heart-shape going on so I extended the top-right border a little to complete the heart.
Now it's time to erase the pencil lines.
Zentangle - pencil lines erased
Step Five - Add Shading
I like this part best of all. It's quite simple to add shading to your drawing. Turn it around until you are looking at it the way you like best. Then decide which way the light is coming to it. From top left or top right usually works well. Mine is going be top left.
Begin to shade the sides of your tangle sections to make them look three-dimensional. Shade under 'leaves' and 'pebbles'. You can always erase if you don't like it. I always use a tortillion/paper stump to soften the shading.
And don't forget to sign and date your work. It's really interesting to go back and see how your skills develop over time. You can see more on Zentangle Shading
Here is the finished Zentangle:
Do Zentangles Have to be Black & White?
Yes... and no
Purists will say, yes, they do. However, ZIAs (Zentangle Inspired Art-ists) will laugh and say, of course not. Color your creations beautiful using pencils, watercolor pencils, watercolor paints, acrylics, ink... anything that works for you.
Another Zentangle-inspired page: Zentangle With Color. Supply list and examples.
NEXT ~ Zentangle Videos
I've selected five videos to help you develop your zendoodle skills. As you can see, different artists have different styles. Yours will develop, the more Zentangles you create. For now, sit back, relax and enjoy this collection.
Maria Thomas of Zentangle.com demonstrates 'Mooka', a tangle based on the art of Alphonse Mucha. This is a lovely video and I am so glad that Rick and Maria decided to go YouYube with this. You can see how Maria draws her 'strings' to get started.
Oh... and don't adjust your speakers. Maria's voice comes from one channel and Rick's from the other.
A definite keeper!
Another superb demonstration from Rick and Maria. This time showcasing the very dynamic 'Betweed'. This would be a great tangle to start with as it is so simple. I also love the circles/orbs in one of the Zentangles - they are my favourite element.
Zentangle Alphabet - by Suzanne McNeill
Letters and numbers make wonderful 'strings' on which to tangle. It is one of my favourite techniques and is particularly useful in journals and for greetings cards and gift tags. Suzanne is the author of several Zentangle books.
Zentangle Masterclass Part A - Just to show you how it's really done...
Suzanne McNeill introduces one of Rick and Maria's CZT masterclasses. This is a really nice one to watch because many artists demonstrate tangles that they have developed themselves. There is also a Part B to this video.
Milliande's Zendoodle Sampler
I couldn't leave out Milliande, who, I think, coined the term 'zendoodle'. Here she shows how to create a zendoodle sampler. I love her accent and the music she often uses on her videos. You'll trance out just watching her.
See more at Milliande.com
NEXT ~ Zendoodle Gallery
"Harmony" Zentangle-Inspired - Guest tangle by KNM
Zentangle-Inspired Rapunzel - by KNM
More Zentangle-Inspired Stuff
On this next section, I have gathered some links to other sites, links to my own pages and anything else that might be useful to you. Don't forget to let me know if you have enjoyed this Zentangle workshop by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear from you.
Photo: I used a zendoodle to decorate an art journal page. The entry was about a lovely spring walk that my kids and I went on and this Zentangle seemed just right.