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What is Zentangle?
Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher


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How to draw RETRO

Zentangle pattern: Retro. Image © Linda Farmer and ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may use this image for your personal non-commercial reference only. The unauthorized pinning, reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.The lovely swirly Retro tangle was created by Elena Hadzijaneva, aka Belatrix29 on flickr. Elena’s first pattern on TanglePatterns was “90% inspired by some old, old curtains my mother was about to throw out. I only added some more curliness to it,” she writes.

Elena is from the beautiful 2,500-year-old city of Skopje, the capital of the scenic Republic of Macedonia located in the heart of the Balkans. Skopje claims it is the safest city in Europe and after reading briefly about its culture and history, I’m rarin’ to go. (And it’s so much fun learning a little about the places our Zentangle Zealots are from.)

When I asked about her interest in Zentangle® Elena replied:

I discovered Zentangle art by accident while browsing something totally different. I was and still am fascinated how easy, fun and inexpensive way of artful expression tangling can be. I love Graphical arts and take occasional adventures with making small mosaics, polymer clay jewelry and I also do some beading for my personal use.

In my explorations of this tangle I learned I had to make sure the initial Echosim-like stroke was spaced widely enough apart to fit the “curliness” into the v-shapes. I also added shading to my example here.

Elena demonstrates the step-by-step instructions for drawing her Retro tangle here. On that page you’ll find a link to a beautiful Zentangle-inspired piece featuring Retro.

Check out the tag elenah for more of Elena’s patterns on

Shading Tips

This may be obvious but I’m going to offer this tip anyway on the off-chance it helps someone.

I found that shading with a brand new or freshly sharpened pencil is difficult because the lead is too sharp to get the soft look I favor. So I use a scrap piece of paper to flatten out the tip a bit to an easier shape to work with – practice a few swirly strokes! The pencil tip on the right below is what I aim for compared to the brand new one on the left.

Pencil tips for shading

There are more shading tips here on TanglePatterns, and if you have some you’d like to share please feel free to leave a comment so we can all learn!


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8 comments to How to draw RETRO

  • chaun

    I love it! And thanks for the shading tip! I can use all the tips I can get!

  • Dee Ditler-Prindle

    Thanks for sharing Helena’s pattern, “Retro.” It is so beautiful. At first glance, it’s ornateness is intimidating but once I started going through the steps, it turned out to be an easy to pattern to draw! It will look great as a border, section divider, or as the main tangle. Retro can be very versatile in it’s use and variable in the ways it can be modified. I love Zentangling!

  • Connie Frey

    So lovely! I will try it soon. Thanks for sharing, Elena!

  • Dee Ditler-Prindle

    This tangle along with Elena’s other tangles are all so wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Dee aka GingerKatte

  • I recently started tangling my name and my family’s names as Zentangle-inspired art. I’m really happy with how they’re coming out.

    In the spirit of letting things flow and discovering things along the way, I found something rather pretty as I drew Retro around the “R” in Lori — as it goes around in a circle it makes a lovely flower!

    Thanks, Elena for sharing your beautiful tangle! (Click my name to see my artwork.)

  • Rebecca Adams

    This comment is in regards to the shading hint at the bottom, and sharpening then flattening the “lead” to get the softer shading you want. Another way to get soft shading, fine lines for outlining and all things in between, consider investing in pencils with varying degrees of hardness. We all gravitate to the #2 Pencil but having a number 1 -4 will give you lots of control.

    Another tip when sticking with just the number 2 (though this would be helpful with any pencil is the angle you use. Straight on the point for clear clean lines and angling to the side of the lead for shading.

    A cotton tipped swab, or the angular sponges for makeup application is always in my pencil case. They are invaluable for shading and for softening a line that should not have been so clear. Using them allows you to avoid the eraser which can wreak havoc on good shaded areas.

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