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How to Draw a Zentangle or Zendoodle

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

Learn to draw a Zentangle.

Learn to draw a Zentangle.

An Active Meditation

Zentangles or Zendoodles—the terms are pretty much interchangeable—are abstract drawings created with pen and ink. These drawings are created from sections of patterns, often called 'tangles,' which are, in turn, built with small repetitive strokes. The wonderful thing about a Zentangle is that anyone can do it. You don't have to be an artist; all you need is to be able to hold a pen. If you can write your name, then you can create intricate-looking drawings like these.

Be careful, though. Doodling in this way is addictive!

You will find that, as you draw, your mind gently drifts off; it is a most relaxing and pleasant way to while away half an hour.

Note: I am not a Certified Zentangle Teacher and my method is somewhat different from that taught by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts in their courses. For more information, go to

Create a structure for your Zendoodle by drawing a grid.

Create a structure for your Zendoodle by drawing a grid.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Zentangle or Zendoodle

This Zendoodle was drawn on a small piece of smooth watercolor paper—about 3.5" square. It's best to begin with small designs as then you won't become too overwhelmed.

Most drawings of this kind require some structure or framework. All you really need is a 'string' or random line within a defined border. In this example, I have used a wavy grid of double lines as my structure. I have used a very heavy pencil line in order for it to show up on the scan. You should use an HB or B pencil and draw your lines lightly.

Other supplies you'll need are pretty simple:

  • Support, i.e. paper or card
  • Black fine-liner pen
  • Soft (HB or B) pencil
  • Eraser.

If you prefer to get your supplies and tools as a simple kit, then I like this Zentangle kit by Sakura. I've used it for months now and am about to reorder another one.

Add tangles to the grid by beginning to doodle your patterns.

Add tangles to the grid by beginning to doodle your patterns.

Start Your Tangles

Now you can take your pens and start adding patterns. Fill in the negative spaces and also your grid lines. You can find more patterns in this article: How to Find Tangle Patterns for Zentangle & ZIA.

Take your time, put on some music or an audiobook or radio play. While I drew this one, I was listening to Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and read by Richard Burton. I was immersed in village life at Llareggub as I doodled.

Don't worry if you go over a line or make a mistake. There are no mistakes, only 'happy accidents'.

Play some relaxing sounds while you draw and continue to fill in the tangle patterns.

Play some relaxing sounds while you draw and continue to fill in the tangle patterns.

Are You Relaxed?

I can tell that you think you should stop. There are chores which need to be done but you just can't, can you? There is something very addictive about doodling with intent.

Of course, you can always put it to one side and come back to it later. Or, as the materials you need are so portable, just put everything into your purse and take it with you. Zendoodles are wonderful for passing the time while you are waiting for your kids.

Feel the Zen.

Feel the Zen.

Finding Zendoodle Patterns Everywhere

Still looking for inspiration? You can look on Flickr for some beautiful examples or you can simply look around the room you are sitting in. Once you start, you'll see tangles everywhere. I spotted a great one on TV while watching an interview. I had to make my hubby pause it so I could quickly copy down the pattern of the wallpaper behind the interviewee!

I have a few favorites which seem to appear over and over in my 'Zens'. I promise myself that I won't keep using them but they just want to insinuate themselves in as usual.

This piece is almost finished and all tangled out.

This piece is almost finished and all tangled out.

Finishing the Filling

This doodle is almost done. I have added a few 'thorns' and twirly ends. You go ahead and be as imaginative as you like. Make sure that any solid blocks are completely colored in properly with no white missed bits.

You are either loving it or wondering why you wasted your time at this point. I had mixed feelings about my first Zentangle. I'd rushed it rather but could see the potential in the art form. I often combine these kinds of drawings with my art journaling, using them as borders or to customize collage pieces.

It looks a bit naked when you're done and have erased the pencil guidelines.

It looks a bit naked when you're done and have erased the pencil guidelines.

Erase and Turn

Once you are happy with your Zentangle, use your eraser to gently rub away the guidelines. Suddenly your drawing pops. The white space where the pencil was acts as a contrast to your tangles.

You may spot gaps that you want to add more tangle to so go ahead.

Now, turn your drawing around and see how different it looks from another angle. Which way up should yours be?

After you shade your Zentangle, don't forget to sign it.

After you shade your Zentangle, don't forget to sign it.

Shading Adds Subtle Nuance to Zentangles

You can leave your drawing as it is or you can add some delicate shading. Decide which direction the light is coming from in your drawing and add shading to the 'underside' of your grids and tangles. I like to use a torchon, a special wand made of paper, to smudge my pencil shading—it's okay to use a fingertip.

I find that shading can alter the character of a drawing and it's a good idea to prop it up where you can see it because, often, you'll begin to see other shapes and places to add or remove shadow to get the effect you want.

That's it. Your Zendoodle is done.

I bet you can't wait to start the next one, and I know what you'll be dreaming about tonight.

© 2010 Bev G


Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on December 17, 2013:

It's a lovely activity to do while the TV is on in the background. Have fun... but try not to get addicted!

Fiona from South Africa on December 17, 2013:

I want to try these tonight - I always get bored just watching TV and this looks really cool.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 20, 2013:

Welcome to HP Maya, I am honoured that you left your first comment on my hub :)

There is a lot of controversy about Zentangle. People have to remember that it is only the name, the kit and their specific way of teaching that are trademarked and copyright. They don't claim to own the actual tangle patterns. Having said that, they did issue a request not to use the name Zentangle in conjunction with the word 'doodle', which I think is a step too far!

Maya D on January 20, 2013:

I have been doing this sort of doodle since I was a teenager, I think that Rick and Maria are taking the mickey a little by trying to turn it into a money-making scheme. But your articles are excellent, and have motivated me to get back into this, and maybe produce some on a larger scale. Many thanks for inspiring me! BTW, this is also my first comment as I've only just joined up :D

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 14, 2013:

Thank you, Georgina. I am terrified of large scale - drawing or painting. I need to lose the fear!

Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on January 14, 2013:

I also like this article. I'm a big fan of black and white drawings (mine are often on a huge scale!). Rating up and sharing.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 13, 2012:

It's fun and also very relaxing :-)

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on November 13, 2012:

Thanks! This looks like a fun way to play and create.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on October 08, 2012:

Perhaps you could publish them on a blog? Or on Flickr under a Creative Commons license? A Kindle book? A series of Hubs, even? I'd love to see them, so if you do publish somewhere, let me know.

Rick and Maria haven't copyrighted the style, merely the teaching method that they use - though there is some controversy surrounding all that :-)

Good luck with your art!

Delstuart1963 on October 08, 2012:

I've been drawing something sim;ar to Zendoodle/tangle/ZIA's for over 35 years. I've given away so many and have saved some, as well as coloured in some of them. I'd go as far as saying that the art style I use, isn't what Maria Thomas & Rick Roberts have copywrited, but the description of Meditation, from either making or colouring my artwork in, does happen. Kids love colouring, and so do many adults. I have 185 examples available, and make afew most weeks. I've been known to make up to 4 aday. I'd really like someone to help me, make some of the better designs available, so others can enjoy colouring them in also.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 01, 2012:

Thank you, GaelicQueen.

GaelicQueen on July 01, 2012:

Nice article, beautiful pic.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 13, 2012:

Oh that's lovely!

chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on June 13, 2012:

My 11 year old followed your directions on this article and created her first zendoodle last night:)

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 13, 2012:

Good suggestion, Moonmaiden.

Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on June 13, 2012:

Now that summer is upon us, it's a great time to get the kids busy doodling with simple and inexpensive supplies. Some print shops will even give you scrap paper for free or nearly free, especially if you are a teacher or tell them its for children.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 12, 2012:

Thanks Karen and Coucous - keep doodling on!

Karen Creftor from Kent, UK on June 12, 2012:

How awesome!! I've been Zendoodling and never even knew it :P

Wonderful hub ragged, *voted up*

I like to use a dip-pen and ink and then colour with watercolours...I'll have to scan some and upload them :D

You're so right, it really is a fantastic way to relax. I've always struggled with 'normal' meditation but can doodle for hours and feel so relaxed after. Great for sorting your thoughts out.

~Kaz x

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 12, 2012:

Very calming, Chrissie, and lovely to do if the weather isn't so good.

chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on June 11, 2012:

I went to a conference this year and another teacher was telling me about this and she was zendoodling during sessions. I think my kids need to do some of these over the summer, so unique!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 11, 2012:

Tell your teacher I am very flattered :-) And yes, absolutely, Zentangle can be done in different colors. Have a look at and Also Google Zentangle-inspired art. Good luck!

Stranger on June 11, 2012:

Im in 7th grade and my Art teacher taught the class how to make Zentangles and she taught it exactly the way you did it. She even mentioned something about this website and credited you. I have a question for you- Can Zentangles be instead of black, white and grey be in differnet colors?

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on May 19, 2012:

You'll love it, Natashalh!

Natasha from Hawaii on May 19, 2012:

This stuff is so awesome! I'm glad I found your Zeentangle pages. I'm waiting for a trade-in on Amazon to get processed, but as soon as it does, I will be spending my Amazon credit buying some of the things on this page. I can't wait!

maggiemae on April 12, 2012:

Great instructions to start zendoodling with. I'll try it out before I enrol in our local community college class. It may save a $$$ or more.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on March 25, 2012:

Thank you :-)

louromano on March 25, 2012:

Greeting.! Great hub.

Eileen Gavin Larsen on January 30, 2012:

I have decided to really give my Right Brain its due in my life. In the process, I came across ZenDoodles, and am pleased as punch...with the process AND the results. Not trained in art, but have always fancied myself to be an artist. Zendoodling seems to be meeting my need to express myself artistically. I feel so PLEASED with the results! I take it one step further and watercolor my ZenDoodles. Love the experience of painting... Your site is truly inspiring and comforting. Thx!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 16, 2012:

Hi Karen, thanks for your comment. Yes, there's a fair bit of controversy around the subject at the moment.

Karen Ellis from Central Oregon on January 15, 2012:

I love doing these. However, I first did this form of art back in the late '60s in high school art class. Then, some lady decides to give it a name and claim that she came up with the idea.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 15, 2012:

Happy doodling, Zabbella. Thanks for stopping by.

Zabbella from NJ-USA on January 14, 2012:

Thank you for this! I have always doodled and I do some along with music and I am so glad to know there is a name for this and an actual art form. Cool stuff!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 13, 2012:

Hello Moonmaiden and Jewels. Lovely to meet fellow zendoodlers!

Jewels from Australia on January 13, 2012:

Nice hub. I think I've been Zendoodling for a long time! I love my doodles, amazing what comes out on a page. Love the term.

Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on January 13, 2012:

Ooh. I've been making zentangles lately too. I'm doing a painting of one now. Then I want to paint one on a t-shirt. Fun fun fun.

I have to say all my Zentangle blocks have been set side by side. But I also have drawn many patterns with overlapping snakes or Celtic knot work. But I never thought to combine the two techniques like you have here of having overlapping shapes and then filling them in with designs. That opens up a whole new world of possibilities to me.

candy1057 on December 29, 2011:

i love zentangles

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 30, 2011:

Hi Hezmyjoy, yes, shading makes a big difference and it is worth taking the extra time. Thanks so much for your visit and comment. xx

Lenora Brown from United States on November 30, 2011:

I do a lot of mehndi designs and I have been watching the zen-doodle thing. The reason I took time to comment is I never thought about shading it. I looked at the progress of your design and because of the shading, it took on a 3-D quality. Excellently done and great idea!

Ella -rose on July 06, 2011:

wow this is awsome I never thought I was good at art but now I know I am!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laura Ross on July 01, 2011:

I'd never heard of Zentangle art before seeing it here in your hub. Its very interesting and you've done a beautiful job with it. I love the unique designs you've chosen for each strand, very nice work. I might try doing this with colored pencils for fun. Wish me luck.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on May 18, 2011:

Thanks, KeithyB. I am flattered but, no, I don't sell my artwork. Most of it is small stuff done in Moleskine and similar journals. I do post the better ones online - at Squidoo and on my blog. Oh, I do have some Zazzle designs but don't do a lot with them either :-/

KeithyB on May 18, 2011:

You reminded me how relaxed I felt when I was doing something like this. It may help me recharge after a portrait is done. Do you sell your own work? If so, I want in. Maybe my folks will like some on their wall more than I will on mine,

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 13, 2011:

Once you have tried a few, you'll find that it will flow easily. Look at places like Flickr for inspiration. Thanks for your comment and good luck with your Zentangles.

lillieruby on February 13, 2011:

Great instructions! I've just this week tried out the zentangle, but trying to come up with a pattern is hard. What you posted will help me!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on October 07, 2010:

Wot he said...

To be honest, I have no idea when I start, how the thing will turn out. It's all pretty random.

Thank you!

MannyLee on October 07, 2010:

When several shapes are arranged in a similar direction they intensify each other. If the shape is simple the more forceful it appears to move. Add some complex shapes and convoluted or diffuse their boundaries. Add textural gives you control over the momentum. love this hub very much thanks!!!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 05, 2010:

Thank you, Kathy x

kathymcgraw from California on September 05, 2010:

I remember the first time you wrote about this...I loved it then, and love it now. This is so perfect for a Doodler!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 21, 2010:

You will enjoy it, cmraihi. Thanks for your comment :-)

cmraihi from Wyoming, Michigan on August 19, 2010:

This is pretty awesome I never heard of it before and of course I will have to give it a shot, I love to sketch and draw and this looks like it could be a lot of fun, thanks for the info

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 29, 2010:

Whispering...{{{{Ohhhhh okay}}}}

Simon from NJ, USA on July 29, 2010:

theeaggededge: shhhhhh but I think I 'met' you before on Squidoo!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 28, 2010:

Simey... I just visited your profile and you lived in Tonteg! We live about 5 miles from there and my eldest was born in East Glam Hospital, which used to be in Church Village. Small world, eh?

Hop over to my (shh.. Squidoo page - link is on the other hub), the step-by-step is much simpler on there.

Simon from NJ, USA on July 28, 2010:

You've inspired me to do a step-by-step guide! Look for it in a few weeks!!! As for Zentangling - it's far harder than it looks - you truly have talent! thanks for sharing!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 28, 2010:

Thanks for commenting, SimeyC. That sounds interesting - have you any images of them anywhere? Would love to see how it's done.

Simon from NJ, USA on July 28, 2010:

I'm going to try this myself- it looks pretty amazing and you make it look easy! I do a similar thing - but rather than drawing triangles etc - I shade blocks using a pencil and then smudge them - I use an eraser to create solid 'lines' and often erase part of the smudge so I can get a layered effect - it's pretty cool and relaxing! Thanks for the step by step technique - I doubt mine will look as good as yours though!!!