The adult coloring book craze has been around for many years and inspired busy grownups to take a moment and create—without deadlines or expectations. But if you’re an avid colorer who’s looking to change up your creative routine, we have something new to try: a zentangle. Like coloring, zentangle art is easy to do and offers a relaxing way to engage in art making. Rather than filling in someone’s drawings, however, you are the one producing the patterns.
Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas are the founders of the Zentangle Method, which is the foundation that the activity is built on. As its origin story goes, Thomas would idly draw patterns atop a manuscript that she was working on. In speaking to Roberts, she said that during these moments, she felt a “freedom and well-being and complete focus.” Roberts, a former Buddhist monk, identified this as meditation, and the two then created a system so that others could experience the same bliss. The Zentangle Method was born.
Don’t let the fact that there’s drawing involved intimidate you. Zentangles are created with repetitive patterns and are meant to be abstract. Above all, they’re supposed to encourage mindfulness, intuitive thinking, and empowerment by proving that you too make beautiful works of art.
Zentangles are often built on structure. Typically, these are small, blank squares or circles that have guiding lines; patterns are then drawn on and within those spaces. Some sites, like Tangle Patterns, offer templates you can download. Alternatively, you can buy a grid notebook to map out your own shapes. But once you get comfortable with zentangles, challenge yourself with more unconventional shapes—or even make entire compositions comprising “tangle” patterns.
If you enjoy coloring books but want to switch up your creative routine, try zentangle art.
It has the same calming effects as coloring but involves drawing—specifically simple, abstract patterns.
While many people create detailed zentangle drawings, the Zentangle Method is much simpler than that. Here’s how you start one:
Begin by drawing a simple shape like a circle or square. Then, fill it in with whatever patterns you like:
That’s it! Just let yourself draw; zentangles are all about “freedom, well being, and complete focus.” You should feel lighter after finishing one.
Here are some more advanced zentangle ideas that combine it with elements of realism.