It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw, creating zentangles is a relaxing zen-like activity that’s bound to lower blood pressure and get your creative juices flowing. With the aid of your iOS or Android device and an app called Doodle Patterns ($2.99), you can learn how to draw them and find inspiration for your own zentangles.
In the book Zentangle for Beginners, Tatyana Williams explains that “Zentangles are black and white miniature art pieces. They are abstract, unplanned, and are beautifully created through repeated structured patterns playing harmoniously together.” The artistic and meditative method of zentangles was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, and it’s traditionally done using a black pen and paper.
Before writing this article I started a playlist of jazz music and spent an hour creating my first zentangles using the free pen and brush app, Adobe Ideas and sketchnoting app Penultimate for the iPad. These apps work great on the regular size iPad Air, and I used a Proof stylus pen (the only one I had available) but we have covered several other options you may find useful.
Since Doodle Patterns is a universal iOS app, I opened it on my iPhone and used it as a guide to create my first zentangles on the iPad. Doodle Patterns includes 100 tangle patterns (plus additional packets for in-app purchase) with step-by-step instructions for drawing them.
You can filter the in-app content to find the types of patterns you want to start learning. I found the grid-based patterns the easiest to do, because my drawing skills are third grade level at best.
On the iPad version of Doodle, the library of patterns are presented in landscape mode, which makes it easy to tap on a preview of individual patterns and browse them.
You can view more zentangles on the companion Doodle Patterns website, which also features very detailed patterns by other artists and doodlers, as well as sample tutorials by the co-creator of Doodle Patterns, Katherine Newman.
Drawing On iPad Apps
Because I’m a huge paperless user, I’m happy to have the iPad for drawings, which allows me to make unlimited mistakes without wasting paper and ink. I mostly use the iPad version of Adobe Ideas for zentangles because it includes a layers feature which is useful for creating grid-based patters. Android users might want to try something like SketchBook Mobile Express (free) or Infinite Design ($2.99, lite version) or skip this and commit their doodles straight to paper.
I searched and downloaded a couple of grid and square templates to use a bottom layer for my zentangle pieces. Most of the patterns in Doodle Patterns are created in a square frame, so after tracing a frame to give it a more artistic pen look, I also saved it for re-use.
I found the pencil tool, at about 6.5 “ink” size, worked best for most drawings. The app also includes undo and erase buttons, which I definitely used a lot. There’s also a nifty fill feature that allows you to press and hold in the middle of a closed shape, which will cause the area to be filled with ink.
After going through several Doodle tutorials, I realized that it’s better to relax and let your drawings fit your own style and skills rather than trying to approximate the drawing patterns in the tutorials.
One of the advantages of Penultimate is that it allows for selecting and duplicating drawings. But I didn’t use this feature a lot, for drawing zentangles is not about precise duplicated patterns. It’s more about relaxing and letting your creativity flow.
Hooked on Doodles
After drawing about two dozen zentangles, I’m already hooked and eager to create more. I will eventually start drawing on paper, but in the meantime the iPad and the Doodle Patterns app make the activity easier and enjoyable.
Let us know what you think of zentangle art. If you have posted samples of your own work, feel free to share links to them in the comment section below.