Zentangles : A Review

In my pursuit to find fun and new ways to express my creativity on paper, I stumbled across a new art-form called Zentangles. A zentangle is a method of creating images from imaginative patterns. You start by dividing off sections of a small piece of paper and then you draw repetitive doodles and designs within each section. (These are known as tangles). Each doodle and design has its own special and unique name and of course, you're welcome to make up your own tangles. When you are done filling in each space with a different design, you've completed a unique piece of art.

The Zentangle website provides extensive information on the benefits of this art form, where they came from, and how to get started with one of their kits. In my haste to start utilizing this simple-yet-elegant art-form, I ordered one of their Zentangle Kits for $49 USD. Each kit comes with 34 tiles (pre-cut pieces of thick, watercolor paper), 2 Sakura Micron pens, pencils and a sharpener, an instructional book and DVD, a 20-sided dice, and a small Legend that contains 20 tangles to get you all started with.

The Zentangle Kit comes beautifully packaged. It's the size of a thick hardcover book and was designed to fit on any book shelf. Inside the box, everything has its own place in the divided containers within the "book". Everything about the kit screams quality. The creators choose archival and high quality paper to use for the tiles as well as spending the time and money to pre-print one side with your artist information. The Micron pens are also art quality and archival, which means your art will last a long time and not fade.

The DVD is interesting. It takes you through the process of creating 3 zentangles in real-time. There are no words and no sound (although, another reviewer said that their DVD had music, so I'm guessing that I wasn't able to get sound on my system due to the strange set up my hubby has). It's fun to watch and shows you the infinite variety and combinations that you can go about stringing each tangle together to create and appreciate your art.

After flipping through the small book, I immediately jumped in and set to work on creating my first zentangle. The paper is thicker than I'm used to and a bit small but it's surprising how the smaller sized artworks tend to help free our creativity more. Fifteen minutes later, I completed my first piece of art. And set off to do another... and another and another.

It's really hard to find a flaw with the Zentagles idea. They're fun to make, unique and relaxing to do. The kit, on the other hand, seems a bit sparse for $49 but the money is well spent considering all the high quality tools that come with it. The DVD is a mini-disc that requires a tray loading player to view) and the instruction book does get you going, but the limited supply of tiles to start with means that after a few hours of playing with the tangles you must either "graduate" and move onto using different types of paper or go back to the website to order some tile refill packs. Of course, this is more of a nitpick for me than a deal breaker because I have a notebook just waiting to be filled up with more of my own tangles.

Bottom Line: Zentangles are fun to create and quick to do. Creating tangles does not take any expertise and anyone can create one. There's no messy cleanup and this becomes a totally self-contained art hobby. I love that I can immerse myself in creating a single zentangle and feel good about having produced something. I can totally see the tangles becoming a new variant on Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and have also considered creating or scanning in tangles to use as personal business cards. I also can't wait to try my hand at creating larger zentangles inside my journals or even on large sized butcher paper. For more ideas and what people are doing with their own tangles, check out the Zentangle website galleries.

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Wow, it actually has a name.


I've been doing stuff like this for years, just on a smaller scale, on plain old notepaper. I particularly like doing this kind of stuff on grid paper. Didn't realize it had a name.

Of course, I wasn't making 'art', I was just doodling because the meeting was boring.. :)

Try having some matte board cut up into pieces the size you want at your local craft store. :)


And it's called doodling.....

My $49 for a doodling kit! That's certainly clever.

I guess the paper is of better quality than the paper my meeting agendas are printed in but I'm still in awe of this. What a great wheeze.

I guess the diy planner template for this would be a blank piece of paper ;-)

I do love doodling though, it is art.....

Added value


After reading basically the entire web site, I get the price. The added value is the 'guided' doodling, the approach, and the cool case.

The pens, pencils, and paper are certainly not extremely expensive. The 20-sided die is readily available at gaming and comic book stores (I have several already). It's the suggested doodle patterns on the 'legend' card, plus the DVD and case, that make this a cool unit.

Yah, I would hope for more paper in the package. Having been in the die-cut biz myself, I know it's not that tough to run a sheet through the cutter, so there's not much added value there. The rounded edges you get from die-cutting never really struck me as a 'feature', so that's clever marketing there. :)

I am, actually, considering cutting up some stuff I've got (I think I have some nice heavy drawing stock here somewhere) and grabbing a pen the next time I'm out. In the meantime, I've got oodles of 3x5 cards and ordinary pens that will work for 'practice'. :) I wonder if a metallic pen would look cool on black paper.. :)

I can attest to the focus and mindset you get while you're doing these. That never really struck me as a 'benefit' but I wasn't doing it with purpose in mind.

Anyway, I think the idea is cool. I would love to see downloadable doodle guides to use with the 20-sided die, that's a nifty way of picking a pattern.

I dunno how much of a cash cow this would end up being, but it's definitely a neat idea.


Two made


I made two using the technique described on the web page. It was interesting, and the doodles ended up looking rather cool, I think. They make good bookmarks. :)

I began to make my own 'legend' and got out a 20-sider from my old dice bag to use it on my second. I looked at the flickr postings for ideas for patterns to put on the legend. I have four more blocks to finish. The variety of zentangles people have posted on flickr is pretty amazing--apparently this stuff has been around for a while. :) I find the animal shapes very interesting and cool. Some tangles have very interesting use of white space, too. I'm less inspired by others' use of color, though I haven't tried it myself yet. It seems to me it should be possible to use color in the pattern itself, rather than just as filler after the pattern is complete. I want to try it, but I don't have any fine colored markers.

Today, as I was unloading some overhead bins (so they can be moved to a more reachable location tomorrow), I found some of my old art markers--four shades of cold gray Prismacolor pens with fine and wide points, and two black Lumocolors, one with a small point and another with a medium point. Those are water-soluble, not good for permanent works, but good enough to use for now (if they're still wet after being stored since 1992). If I actually run these out of ink, I can go to the craft store and find something more suitable for 'art'. And I dug out my rainbow of colored pencils, too, those might be cool for colorizing some.

I guess I've missed making my own art. While I wouldn't necessarily call this high art, it's also not as time consuming as my portraits. It's also more forgiving of being out of practice controlling my fingers. :) I am learning some interesting things about doodle design, too.

I may have to incorporate some zentangles on the tabs in my various books.

Better uncap those pens and see if they still work!


added vakye

I first saw zentangles on a craft show, and having a lot of other art supplies was able to start immedetely. At my local craft store they have packages of artist trading cards that fit the bill nicely. They come in a few different types. I am currently using the textured stock. They also have Bristol board. The idea with these is to create a small picture and share your art with others.

Dad and Papa

My doodles like this. I believe he picked it up from his Dad. And I used to doodle on my jeans and canvas sneakers during class.

Step one: Find a new angle

In this case, it's the "zen". It's always been there if you've concentrated on what you're doodling, but these guys were aware enough to notice and market it.

The other part is the cool factor. Like Starbucks and the idea to charge $4.00 for a cup of coffee, even though everyone else has done it, you get cool points for belonging to the "club".

Great idea and something I may play with for relaxation. Also, do a search for "Zentangle" or "Zendala" on YouTube. ;)

This reminds of the

This reminds of the blackwork embroidery technique. It's been around for a couple of centuries and it's down with some of the simplest stitches - running stitch and back stitch to create designs. It can be used for both abstract and pictorial pieces.

zentangle on fabric

I drew a zentangle on cotton fabric, embroidered some of the lines and applied it to a background quilted
piece. put the whole thing on a gallery wrapped canvas frame. lots of fun, not perfect but a new idea for fabric art. (I use are loosely)


What is the 20 sider used for? O.o

I like doing this kind of 'doodling'... been creating small things like this for years. it is very therapeutic... just have to get lost in the lines.

my artwork | my blog


The D20 is used as a randomizer aspect. Included in the kit is a legend of 20 tangles. You use the dice to roll out as many tangles as you have sections for.


Great name from doodles

Though I like the word "doodle" I think Zentangle is a great name for the same thing, and it makes it feel a bit more artsy, huh? I'd copyright it if I'd come up with it and make a kit that keeps selling to people who needs a bit of help getting started! :-)

I liked the info on their homepage and I think it's enough reading that and then just DO IT! I've blogged about this too, in a post called Zentangle meditation and wet paper painting! :-)

Be happy, be creative!

my creative blog and my homepage ihanna.nu

Good idea...

...whish I'd thought of it. This kind of doodling is of course nothing new, and neither is drawing as a form of meditation, but these people have found a way of making money from it by packaging it cleverly and adding a coolness factor. Good for them.

Ugh, I can't help but feel

Ugh, I can't help but feel the use of "zen" here is just gratuitous. Reading through their website is actually sort of disturbing, it gives me the unclean feeling of pop psychology and horribly abused metaphors.
That said, it's a perfectly good idea. A friend of mine from high school used to do something like this on her notebook dividers, mostly spirals and curving zigzags (more or less), but used one of those three-color pens. Not especially complicated, just a couple of patterns involved, but with parallel lines in overlapping colors, and no hard borders or lines, they were quite nice.

forgot to mention this about the Zentangle DVD

Nothing wrong with your puter - the DVD is actually a silent DVD!!
I played it on my puter at work, which has reliable sound hookup - and it is just silent!
No words, no explanations, just the movement - how absolutely refreshing!


Good to know


Thank you for letting me know this. We've been having some wonkiness on DVDs with our player so I was not sure if it was a silent thing or something my machine was doing.

I agree tho, I did enjoy watching the DVD and seeing how another brought their work to life.


I heard the music on my

I heard the music on my computer. It was flute-playing.