How to Shade Zentangles and Zendoodles

Updated on January 2, 2018
theraggededge profile image

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

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 and shading to my drawings. If you have the same problem, then follow along with this short tutorial.

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 step-by-step tutorial, 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 drawings 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 harder graphite will not blend nicely.


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


Adding shading and shadows to your work 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 drawing, 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

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Bev G

    Do You Doodle Too?

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      • theraggededge profile image

        Bev G 4 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, pstraubie! Appreciated every which way :)

      • 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 G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

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

      • lupine profile image

        lupine 5 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 G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        My pleasure, Natashalh.

      • 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 G 7 years ago from Wales, UK

        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.

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        jafabrit 7 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 G 7 years ago from Wales, UK

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

      • lindacee profile image

        lindacee 7 years ago from Arizona

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