What is Zentangle?
Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher

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How to draw three types of grids for your Zentangles

Tips, Tools, TechniquesRecently in the comments on how to draw Miasma, tangler Suzanne asked for some tips on drawing grids: “General Question: how best to practice making grid based designs. I’m having difficulty establishing an equal base grid.

My response to Suzanne’s question prompted her to suggest it would make a good tips section. Thus this post and for future reference, you can find it on the Tutorials tab in the alphabetic menu bar.

In the Zentangle® method we don’t use rulers or other straight edges or any other type of “mechanical aids”. As soon as you get out a ruler, you’re into planning and measuring – and that’s not Zentangle. The small size of a Zentangle is perfect for drawing freehand and eliminates anything but a pen and pencil as the “tools” needed for tangling.

Below are the steps for creating three types of grids for your tangles. At the end I’ve included a link to a free 1-page PDF containing all three for you to download.

Basic Freehand Squared Grid

Here is an easy way to get a pleasing basic grid established for your tangles. Whether you want to have straight lines, or “warped” or curved lines as the basis for your grid there are just a few steps.

  1. To establish the start of your grid, draw a horizontal line in the center of the selected section on your tile.
  2. Add a vertical line across the center of the previous line – basically you’re forming a cross in the middle of the section. (Steps 1 and 2 are interchangeable, you can start with either one.)
  3. Then you can eyeball where you want the rest of the lines to go by evenly spacing them on either side of the vertical and horizontal baselines.
  4. Don’t worry if some of your grid lines look a little wobbly – mine often are, you can tell when I’ve been drinking tea. When you add the next steps of your tangle, the wobblies disappear into the tangle, much like a Zentangle string magically disappears.

How to draw a Freehand Square Grid for your tangle patterns

The lines can all be wavy or straight, whatever type of grid you choose. For a warped grid, start with curved baselines in Steps 1 and 2 to establish the grid and simply mirror those shapes outwards in the section.

Freehand Diamond-Shaped Grid

On CZT® Sandy Hunter’s blog in her steps for her Veezley tangle pattern, she refers to “an old cookie-decorating trick” to demonstrate a foolproof way to produce a freehand grid with diamond-shapes instead of the squares we see most frequently. It’s basically the same concept but it uses an X in the chosen section instead of a cross.

When I finished the steps below for the diamond grid, I was thumbing through Saturday’s Wall Street Journal and came across this reminder that there’s a variation of this grid which I’ve added it in Step 6 below.

Wall Street Journal puzzle

Here are the steps for the diamond grid and variation.

Steps for drawing a freehand diamond grid for your tangles

Freehand Ogee-Shaped Grid

This may be a technique that’s old news to some of you but I accidentally stumbled on a cool way to draw it when I was practicing one of the tangles I was adding to the site. I think it might have been Groovy. In any case …

I was trying to figure out a way to draw a nice uniform wavy line like a sine wave, and after much trial and error I came up with this.

I’d completely forgotten about my discovery until the question of grids came up so this is a good time to share it in case it’s useful to others. This grid-shape is seen less often but it’s fun to draw and many cool tangles grow from it.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: The placement of the first 4 dots determines the size of the ogee shape – you can visualize the points of a diamond that indicate where the top and bottom and endpoints of your onion shape will be. Compare Steps 1 and 4 and you’ll get the idea. Increase or condense the spacing as desired, but try to be consistent unless you’re going for a different (eg. graduated) effect.

Steps for drawing a freehand ogee grid for your tangles

  1. Lay out a grid of offset pen dots – make them small, like a stipple dot. In my illustrations here I’ve exaggerated them so you can see them, but just touch your pen tip lightly to the paper to place the dots. (Unless you want dots/orbs/pearls/beads to be prominent in your grid/tangle and that looks pretty cool too.)
  2. Then turn your tile as needed and connect pairs of dots in the right-leaning diagonal using shallow S-shaped strokes (Step 3).
  3. Turn your tile and connect pairs of dots in the left-leaning diagonal using shallow “backwards” S-shaped strokes (Step 4).
  4. Voilà, Linda’s Ogee Grid! The ogee shape magically appears, ready to be filled with strokes to your heart’s content.

How about you?? What tips can you share about drawing grids that might assist your fellow tanglers?

Free PDF of these techniques

Here’s a free PDF of all three freehand grids for your reference, with my compliments. Right click the link to save the file to your computer for printing. Enjoy!


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12 comments to How to draw three types of grids for your Zentangles

  • Cheryl Cianci

    Great info! Thank you! Cheryl :)

  • How cool is this? Thanks for a great tutorial. A very useful resource that is worth saving for future reference.

  • Great resource! Thanks for sharing the processes – I’m sure I’ll be using more grids now!

  • Sharon Brown

    this is so helpful to a beginner like me.

    I have been printing out the how to’s so that I can keep referring to them.

  • Peg

    Thanks so much for these- and ALL the great stuff I have collected from you! I have been enjoying it all so very much.

  • Thank you so much for providing this wonderful information in downloadable PDF form. I love this site and how helpful it is. Your hard work and amazing organization of the exponentially growing number of Zentangle patterns and blogs are very much appreciated. Keep up the great work! Cheers… ~Christina~

  • sybil

    I just love this stuff!! I’ve only been doing this for about 6 weeks and am so hooked. I’d love to find someone in Los Angeles, CA that’s into Zentangle. I’ve been teaching myself, as most of us do, but am looking forward to going to a workshop some day, they look like a lot of fun.

  • Linda, thank you so much for doing the PDF file. I have a file on my desktop where I store all of the new patterns, strings and related info. Now I can find it when I need a little help. I have been doing my grids a different way, but this is a much better way to do them!

  • victoria

    Hi Linda thanks so much for the PDf flie,I have just stumbled acrossed zentangle and love it but i had no idea where to start but this helps loads.

  • Sharon

    Linda, thanks for these. I’m tangling in Australia and it’s very hard to find information on Zentagles here. We don’t even have books in the library! Your web site is a fantastic source. Thanks :^D

  • Judy Lisette Martin

    I’ve just discovered some amazing French ink cartridges by Herbin which are really for calligraphy- they come in little tins of six cartridges of one of the twenty fabulous colours. Also they make a roller ball pen to take the cartridges, and an adaptor to use your favourite ink. In UK, Hobbycraft keep them, but you can find other firms using Google. I’m joyously doing ZIA’s but a Cloud grey and ‘pearl black’ give fav.mid-tones to any Zentangle as a change from a pencil.  Oh, best of all, even for a pensioner like me, with £25 pocket money a month they’re not expensive.
    The adaptor or cartridges fit most pens except Parker for some reason, and are great in Rotring Artpens if you still have them.

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