How to Find Tangle Patterns for Zentangle and Zentangle-Inspired-Art

Updated on November 27, 2017
theraggededge profile image

Drawing, doodling, painting, art journaling, sewing and crochet - just some of my favorite things to do.


Zentangle® creators, Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, have shared a plethora of tangles (patterns) with which to create Zentangles or Zentangle-inspired art (ZIA). However, while they are beautiful, after a time, you notice that your drawings are looking like a zillion others and, frankly, it becomes a little dull. The best way to make your Zentangle art look different is to design your own patterns. You can probably use your own imagination to develop a few, but there are plenty of places to look to find unlimited inspiration. It's also fun and ever so slightly addictive, as you realize you are surrounded by patterns. Use your camera or smart phone to record likely ideas and you can even carry a notebook if you have time to sit and doodle a few designs when you are out and about. Here, then, are some suggestions to help you find those tangles.

I am not going to post images of every suggestion – there's not enough room on the page for that and also, I think it's important for you to go and find your own rather than using 'ready-made'.

Hessian weave inspired tangle.
Hessian weave inspired tangle. | Source
Bookshelf inspired tangle.
Bookshelf inspired tangle. | Source

Tangle Inspiration Around the Home

The first place to start is right where you are. While looking around for Zentangle ideas, my gaze lit upon my bookcase. As I looked I could see the books made quite an interesting pattern. I started scribbling down a rough design and lo and behold, there was a very usable tangle. You will see it used in the final ZIA on this page but you would never recognize it as books. As you incorporate your 'found' tangles, they will morph and change... and so they should. Your creativity will step in and transform them into your own unique style.

Check out your house plant leaves or look in your yard. Even your child's toys can throw up some ideas. A really good place to look is your closets – examine the print of a shirt or blouse in detail, don't just look at the overall pattern, I find that it is often the individual elements of a design that hold the most Zentangle potential.

Don't forget the TV either – sometimes you will catch a glimpse of an interesting pattern that's just asking to be tangled. Having live TV pause is so helpful. I have infuriated my partner many a time when watching a movie by pausing and then trying to take a photo of a likely looking wallpaper.

Wander around your home with a small sketchbook or camera and really look at objects to see if they inspire a tangle pattern. Don't think you will find any? Okay, look down at your keyboard. Can you see a tangle right there? I can. Here's my sketchbook page showing my experimental doodles of my laptop keyboard.

Keyboard-inspired tangles
Keyboard-inspired tangles | Source
Old roof tiles (Morguefile free license).
Old roof tiles (Morguefile free license). | Source
Tangle inspired by roof tiles.
Tangle inspired by roof tiles. | Source
Drain cover with a built in tangle right around the edge (Morguefile free license).
Drain cover with a built in tangle right around the edge (Morguefile free license). | Source

Tangle Patterns in Architecture

Buildings are a rich source of tangle ideas. Look at these great Mediterranean-style roof tiles in the photo. They make a brilliant tangle design for a border or narrow area in your drawing. You don't have to keep to the rigid row format either. Let your tangle experiments wander around the page. Try out different ideas. What looks wrong in one format might look completely right if you add some curves or figure out how to make it turn corners or circles.

Check out walls and windows, pathways and sidewalks. Look at drain covers – some have intricate cast designs. Keep your camera handy. It helps a lot if your camera can take reasonable macro (very close range) shots. I use my smart phone camera and it does the job well.

Ferns (Morguefile Free license)
Ferns (Morguefile Free license) | Source
Tangle inspired by ferns.
Tangle inspired by ferns. | Source

Zentangle Inspiration in Nature

Zentangles are everywhere in nature. Go for a walk and see what you can see. I have a folder on my computer with lots of close up shots of tree bark, leaves, ferns, flowers, moss and anything else that takes my eye. While we on that subject, why not use one sketchbook as your tangle library – then you can turn to it whenever you need inspiration.

The beach is a good place for tangles – shells and pebbles, and how about that wave pattern that is forming near those rocks as the tide comes in? Don't forget the man-made influences – ice-cream cones, that cast iron balustrade on that lovely old house overlooking the beach or how about the edging on a beach umbrella? Boats! Lots of tangles there – nets, chains, sails and rigging all supply tangle opportunities. Oh... I just went off nature and into something else.

Vegetables are good sources of inspiration. Look closely at the produce in your fridge. You might be surprised at the variety of tangles they indulge themselves with.

Zentangle-inspired pattern using elements of fern, book and tile tangles.
Zentangle-inspired pattern using elements of fern, book and tile tangles. | Source
Books of textile samples are great sources of Zentangle ideas
Books of textile samples are great sources of Zentangle ideas | Source

Patterns in Fabric

Fabric is a great tangle inspiration. Not just in the pattern, but in the weft and weave. Old lace, printed cottons, knitted and crochet--all are fair game when you are looking for patterns that can be reproduced in your drawings. You can take a motif or just part of one. It's just a question of being observant.

One of my favorite fabric pattern resources is a book I spotted in a sale a couple of years ago, Textile Designs Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period. It is a hefty tome, and is jam-packed full of Zentangle goodness. I've even found several ideas in one fabric sample.

My favourite fabric book
My favourite fabric book | Source

More Tangle Ideas

The internet is a wonderful source of inspiration, but instead of looking at other people's designs, use it to find your own. Photographic sites, such as Flickr, Morguefile and Pixabay are rich in Zentangle ideas.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Bev G

    Scribble in my Notebook...

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      • mythbuster profile image


        4 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

        This is the first I have heard or seen "Zentangle" anything. Thanks for sharing. Zentangling is probably something I will do from time to time as it does look like it will be relaxing.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Anytime Bev.

      • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

        Bev G 

        5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Many thanks, Kristen. x

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Bev, this was an interesting hub on zentangles. I've heard about it for a couple of years and always wondered about it. Voted up for interesting!

      • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

        Bev G 

        7 years ago from Wales, UK

        Would love to see some of yours - you should do a hub, Joy. x

      • Joy56 profile image


        7 years ago

        i saw zentangling at a show in Dublin, and loved it straight away, i have done a good bit of it, and got some more ideas from your hub ............ thanks for sharig.

      • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

        Bev G 

        7 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, DreamerMeg.

      • DreamerMeg profile image


        7 years ago from Northern Ireland

        Great. I looked at your workshop - very interesting.

      • WritingPrompts profile image


        7 years ago from The Garden of Eugene (Oregon)

        These look so cool. I would never have thought I could draw one though. I'm going to try after reading a couple of your hubs.

      • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

        Bev G 

        7 years ago from Wales, UK

        And very easy to do, DreamerMeg. Thanks for stopping by.

      • DreamerMeg profile image


        7 years ago from Northern Ireland

        Wow! Never seen or heard of any of those before. Really interesting.

      • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

        Bev G 

        7 years ago from Wales, UK

        LOL! Thank you!

      • Judi Bee profile image

        Judi Brown 

        7 years ago from UK

        I love this - don't know when I am going to get time (it would go on my bucket list, but you've already talked me out of making one!), but I these are my new doodles. Pinned for future reference.

        Voted up etc.

      • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

        Bev G 

        7 years ago from Wales, UK

        You are so lovely. Thank you :-)

      • GoodLady profile image

        Penelope Hart 

        7 years ago from Rome, Italy

        For your Notebook........I liked it so much I Pinned it on my 'Weird and Wonderful' Board and the tangling looks really good there. Clever Hub! I also thumbed it and think it is beautiful. Nice one.


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