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Zentangle: A Step-by-Step Guide to a More Peaceful You

Updated on April 28, 2017
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Kawai has battled anxiety for many years. Recently she has begun exploring Zentangle art for mindfulness practice and and stress reduction.

Zentangle step by step guide for beginners
Zentangle step by step guide for beginners | Source

Zentangle Art is growing in popularity, with many people using this simple yet intricate art form to practice mindfulness and de-stress. So what exactly is Zentangle Art?

According to the official website, "The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns."

The idea of Zentangle Art is to get individuals to dedicate a time to a specific task (i.e., drawing) and while doing so, they are practicing mindfulness which can help them to relax. This art form is very straightforward and it is something that can be learnt by anyone. You do not need to be creative or artistic to do it, as it requires only that one to learn basic and simple steps and techniques to create complex and intriguing designs.

I got a chance to attend a session on how to Zentangle for beginners at a conference and have never looked back since.

So here is a step-by-step guide for beginners:

What You Need To Start Your Zentangle Art:

  • A quiet place free from distraction (during my lesson, our teacher put on some soothing music and used an aroma diffuser for that extra 'Zen').
  • A pencil (ideally a 2B pencil).
  • Paper (I used a special Zentangle paper which is 100% cotton paper cut into a square shape during my lesson. However, I believe any type of acid-free paper will do). You can easily find cheap acid-free paper tiles to Zentangle in art shops or online.
  • Black ink pen (The brand of the pen used in class was a Sakura Pigma Micron. I believe this is the common brand used in Zentangle, but I think any smudge proof fine black pen will also do). You can use any kind of pen thickness, but to draw detailed patterns, it is easier to use a thinner pen tip. The Sakura Pigma Micron pen that I am currently using has a 0.25mm thickness but there are many types to choose from (i.e. 0.20, 0.25, 0.30, 0.35, 0.45 and 0.5mm).
  • Paper blending stump or tortillion (for you to do smudging to get a 3D effect).

The Zentangle Step-by-Step Process

The process involves 8 simple steps. These include:

1. Gratitude & Appreciation: Zentangle’s main aim is to help you achieve a calm and peaceful state – it is not to draw the best and most beautiful art piece. So the first and most important step is to prepare yourself mentally for the session by quietening your mind and heart. Appreciate where you are and what you are about to do. Tell yourself to be grateful that you have this special time for yourself. Bring your mind to a more conscious level.

2. Corner dots: Next, you can start the drawing process by first drawing a dot at each of the 4 corners of your paper.

3. Border: Draw a border by simply connecting the dots.

4. String: Divide the area within the border by drawing some lines. The lines can be drawn freestyle - it does not have to be straight (so put that ruler away!). You can search online for "Zentangle string" to give you some creative ideas.

My first Zentangle piece (tile on the right)
My first Zentangle piece (tile on the right)

5. Tangle: Start drawing patterns on each divided sections. You can draw any type of patterns that you like. If you have no idea what patterns to draw, you can get some inspirations online or refer to some of the patterns below from the pieces that I drew.

Examples of my Zentangle art (inspired by online designs)
Examples of my Zentangle art (inspired by online designs)

Update: I found this awesome website Zenlilymoon with tons of stunning Zentangle designs. Go check it out and be amazed!

6. Shade: In order for the patterns to stand out or "pop out," you would need to do shading to create shadows to give it a 3D effect. Shading is done by using the paper blending stump. When deciding on where to shade, imagine how the different areas look like when light is hitting at a certain angles. For example, is there a pattern above another pattern? If so, the top pattern will cast a shadow at the pattern below - so you should lightly shade a shadow.

In addition, if you draw round lines (e.g. circles), you can emphasize the shape by shading on one side (e.g. shading half the circle lightly along the line).

Note: Shading is not compulsory and personally I find some pieces look better with no shadows.

7. Initial & date: After you have completed your drawing, you will need to initial to acknowledge your creation (as all great artists do!).

8. Appreciate: Take some time to admire your art work. It is important that you really look and admire your work - this helps to give you a sense of fulfillment and achievement. Don't use this time to criticize your work – e.g., the line is crooked, there is too much shading, the circle is not round enough, the patterns are not unique. Just look at your art and appreciate the effort that you have put in.

And that’s basically it!

Have you ever tried Zentangle Art and do you like it?

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Zentangle Art Pointers

  • Your drawing does not have to be perfect. There is no right or wrong in your drawing, and any perceived "mistakes" you made may turn into new designs that may surprise you. That is why the use of erasers is usually not encouraged in this practice.
  • Be mindful of your hand posture. Feel free to rotate the paper around when you draw and don't twist your hand when drawing. It is important to feel comfortable and calm during the whole experience.
  • Zentangle is an abstract art form so don't plan too much. Just let your creativity be free flowing and spontaneous.
  • If, for some reason, you are stressed out trying to think of what to draw, you can also search online for Zentangle artwork done by others and just copy the design. You also do not exactly have to draw patterns within a square. You can also patterns on basically any outlines. Some of my favorite searches are "Zentangle animals" and "Zentangle outlines."
  • If you like, you can add some colors to your pattern.
  • Be comfortable while you are drawing. Don't rush yourself and just enjoy the process.

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step guide. Happy drawing!

Zentangle Step-by-Step Video Guide

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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 12 months ago

      This art form is creative and beautiful. I only wish I had the time to delve into this peaceful journey.