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Tangling Tip du Jour

Tangling Tip du Jour

Our Zentangle journey's are not linear. We go up and down, forward and backward and sometimes all over the place. Some days we push limits, boundaries and explore new ideas and techniques. Other days, we stick with the tried and true and the comfortable.

If you tangle often, you may find that you go through phases of different tangles, styles and techniques that you focus on for a period of time and then you move on to something else.

In this blog series, we will periodically share some of the tangling trends that we, here are Zentangle HQ, are currently excited about.

Molly writes...

Over the past few months, Martha and I have taught two workshops that dug deep into working with just black, white and shades of gray. We utilized Sakura's Micron gray pens and played with Generals sketch 'n' wash pencil. I really fell in love with these tools and how they create layers and textures. I love the shading process of tangling and the gray pens really compliment the graphite. In addition to all the gray tones, I love to go back in at the end with the black Micron and finish it all off with General's charcoal white pencil. I am sure I will return to playing with color soon but for now this seems to be my go-to palette of choice. 

Martha writes...

We all have our daily habits, small moments of activity, nourishment, or pause that if missed, the rest of the day goes haywire. Habits, whether good or bad, eventually evolve over time. What once was a morning jog has become a morning coffee walk with the dog. In the past, I used to try to set aside a specific time to tangle each day and when I did, it felt wonderful! But when I didn’t…it felt like I had somehow failed. Recently I decided on a different approach. Like a lot of people, I spend most of my workday in front of a computer. I've shifted my “habit” of making a special time and place for tangling to always having a tile (or two) in progress right at my side. I’ve found that by adding to a composition throughout the day, I can draw inspiration from many types of influences. Toggling from screen to paper and back again gives me a sharper perspective of my work and leaves me with both a feeling of accomplishment and creativity. Having a tile that is an ongoing project has really allowed me to tangle truly unplanned with no expectations other than to enjoy the process.

Rick writes...

Maria turned me on to this technique as a way to add subtle graphite shading. Instead of placing the graphite with the pencil directly on the tile, place a large area of graphite on a separate piece of paper using the side of your pencil. Then rub that area to load your tortillion with graphite and use the tortillion to transfer the graphite to the tile. This gives you more control, particularly if you want only a hint of shading. Remember, you can always go back onto your tile to add more graphite with your tortillion or with your pencil. I like to use the back of a tile because the texture "holds" a lot of graphite, at least at the beginning. Once you've gone over that area with your tortillion it smooths out and you'll want to load up another area like on the tile in the picture. The reason for the blue tape is my tortillion started to unwind and it was still in good shape.


Julie writes...

Oh! I wish I could tell you, but I can't.. not yet! I have been completely consumed with the materials in Project Pack No. 18 and while I would love nothing more than to share with you all right now, my lips are sealed until August 12th!

Share with us in the comments what your current favorite tangle, trend or technique is and we will choose a commenter at random to receive a Zentangle Project Pack No. 18!





  • I have just recently discovered Zentangle and I’m in love.. like obsessed 😍

    It’s training my brain in sooo many ways, I’m already seeing benefits. I LOVE creativity so to have a whole community of like minded and humble (so so humble 🙌) people to learn from and share with.. is absolutely priceless! I’m learning to trust the process and tell myself.. no, that’s not a mistake, keep going. Currently, I’m obsessed with drama tangles. I love the inking & shading process. While inking, I can really get into that Zen place.. while shading, I can see the piece coming to life. ALL SO REWARDING! ❤️

    Bonnie Kenney on

  • All wonderful tips. I try to set aside an hour a day for zentangle. At the moment between classes, I am working on project four, the pioneer. I practice in my sketch first over and over until I am comfortable to put my tangle on the pin wheel. It’s still not perfect but I like it. I enjoy working with the watercolors pencils and intend to use them again. They’re terrific! I especially like fescu, bales and pokeroot. My teacher showed us a kooky way to do pokeroot Wednesday. Squarish with a link in the top and a frame within with a cutout.

    Eilee Boylan on

  • My favorite tangle these days is Paradox, and I love that it can be straight or curvy. I also like to use General’s white chalk pencil to create lift, lightness, and the illusion of curves or 3-D. Can’t wait to see PP #18!

    Leigh on

  • I love the shading technique of picking the graphite with the tortillion! I do it all the time and feel like it makes my shading smoother!

    jennifer matthaei cottrell on

  • To me, the most important tip is no mistakes. If I haven’t made a “mistake” in a pattern, I sometimes purposefully alter it in some way. I also have grown to appreciate when a line or stroke isn’t uniform. I like that my finished Zentangle art is clearly drawn by hand.

    Jessica M on

  • I’ve been exploring the use of the blue pencil on both white and black tiles. It’s so fun to have a hint of color. My favorite tangle will always be flux since it fits almost everywhere. Now I’m super excited to track down the gray pens mentioned!

    Wendy on

  • I am new, so I am still doing black on white, but the other day I tried adding color for the first time. I am on welfare because of illness and therefore have almost no disposable income, so I was very happy to find Zentangle doesn’t have to be pricy to enjoy.

    Milla Struer on

  • Thanks for sharing the tips! Lately I’ve really enjoyed going back to the basics with white tiles and black pens. Classic Zentangle is so relaxing.

    Barbara Langston on

  • Lately I’ve been exploring Reticula and fragments….especially Crazy Reticula. I love trying new ideas and “what if I try this?” Sometimes it works great, sometimes not, and that’s ok!

    Kim Turmel CZT36 on

  • Flux is probably one of my favourites as it just grows organically into almost any tangling or creative piece of art. I use flux in letters, envelopes, shopping notes and lists just because I can embellish it and get a second or two or practice regularly. The most elegant tangle which morphs like life itself is the mooka, which for me is usually accompanied with orbs and fescu. It took a while to master but it looks amazing Hollibaugh style using the General’s Sketch n Wash technique to create the shades of grey. Love it all and cannot wait for the next project pack release let alone the Zen Again experience! Woohoo, love the regular tangling journey – with much gratitude and appreciation – smiles.

    Veronica Hodges on

  • Like many others, I love Martha’s tip of keeping a tile nearby to tangle. I’m on the phone quite a bit and often tangle on paper. Perhaps I need a tile nearby, too? Hmmm…

    Barbara on

  • Tangling from time to time. It always gives me pleasure and calms me. Having tangling phases and love to have paper and pen next to my computer for a short break.

    Katrin on

  • When I can’t think of what to draw, i go back to just practicing lines or mookas (with which i still have trouble). This takes the pressure off creating a tile or a TIA. And it still gives me relaxing feeling of zen.

    Blythe Nicassio on

  • I am particularly drawn to Martha’s comment. My daily practice evolves and morphs. It is also a gentle practice in integrity – are my intentions, words and actions aligned? Without judgment, you can practice being in and out of integrity with your Zentangle practice. It builds a muscle for looking at integrity in all areas of your life which often leads to more satisfaction and joy!

    Rosemary Bogan on

  • I am particularly drawn to Martha’s comment. My daily practice evolves and morphs. It is also a gentle practice in integrity – are my intentions, words and actions aligned? Without judgment, you can practice being in and out of integrity with your Zentangle practice. It builds a muscle for looking at integrity in all areas of your life which often leads to more satisfaction and joy!

    Rosemary Bogan on

  • Tangle/trend/technique: my current trend is incorporating tangles in new venues. I’ve created tangled posters to decorate large, wrapped gifts; made ‘gems’ and sewn on costumes; tangled on large bones; and on tissue paper n then turned it into faux rice paper. My next project is to create tangled items (leaves, river, clouds, animals) fir my grand daughter’s felt board.

    Nancy needler on

  • Sadly, I have yet to discover a go-to tangle. I am still trying to reserve a time to tangle each day but first I need to decide what time that should be, and for how long…

    Joan Mitchell on

  • I find my go-to tangles tend to be those that Rick has shown, especially in the beginning (I have been following Zentangles since early 2009). I prefer those with straight lines and grids and find it very hard to relax into those with curves – Maria makes it look so easy.

    I think my all-time favourite is Rick’s Paradox – so simple to learn but with so many possibilities for variation.

    Donna Ritchie on

  • I recently took the plunge into color play with colored cardstock bookmarks, colored microns and colored pencils. My first attempts were… different. I went back to learn techniques from wonderful videos from instructors on YouTube and I’m happy with the progress. Basic black and white is still my love for comfort tangling but I like trying new things to see if they fit with my style. I love having the options to learn and choose. The Zentangle community is wonderfully helpful and supportive.

    Holly C on

  • August 12??? Public school starts that day in our area. . . I care for my granddaughter and step-granddaughters during the summer. The beginning of school signals the time that we only get to see the two school age girls every other weekend. . . Before COVID, I taught school myself. I miss it! So that date is very bittersweet for me. Having a project pack to look forward to is a TREMENDOUS BLESSING! Being a 64 year old activity director, cook, and housekeeper for 3 little girls limits my time to draw. . . I agree with Martha, having a tile or two available on my desk or beside my computer helps me to find random minutes to tangle. I picked up a pack of 3×5 cards with dotted grids on them at Walmart. I keep them by my computer also, so that I can use them to do mono tiles of new tangles that I find on Linda Farmer’s site. . . I can write the name and the artist at the top, and the dotted grid helps me with any grid tangles, but the light gray dots don’t interfere with the tangles. . . The pack is glued together at the top, so it is easy to keep them together. I have been debating on getting a Zentangle Shades Sketchbook. After reading Jessica Dykes comment about submitting her sketchbook to the Art show, I am going to order it soon!

    LLS on

  • Sometimes, when even taking out a blank tile seems too much, I pull out an unfinished tile from a pile or open up to a not-quite finished page in a notebook and add some strokes to what’s in front of me. No pre-thought, no planning but just the simplicity of watching ink flow onto paper. Before I know it I’m in another world.

    Margaret Clark on

  • Cadent has always been my go-to favorite, but I recently found a tangle called Saturday. I’m loving it!

    Nancy Wilcox on

  • I love the idea of a tangling tip du jour! I will definitely use Rick’s graphite tip on upcoming tiles. As for a favorite tangle…that changes daily. I love those with curves & swerves, straight lines, s’s and c’s, orbs and dots. They are all wonderful and I love the creative results that can be obtained by using them in Zentangle. Tangle on!

    Carol Roenbaugh on

  • My July Tangle group was canceled, I have PP 18 ready to go for Aug. 12. But it was still July, so I finally framed some Mosaics from other project packs and now deciding where to hang them. Have reorganized my supplies & binders…..I’m ready for Aug. 12. Meanwhile I’m tangling in blacks and grays. Might get that stretch & wash out and try some of that for a week.

    Johnifer Baker on

  • I love it all but I keep circling back around to the original black pen, graphite pencil and tortillion. Simple but sophisticated and elegant at the same time. Those are my most satisfying tiles.

    Jo Diamantes on

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