The word mandala comes from Sanskrit and literally means 'circle.' Therefore, a mandala is a circular design with repeating patterns within the circle.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol that represents the ideal from of the universe. A mandala begins at the center, and grows outward with symbols and designs related to Buddhist beliefs. The center represents the start of an individual’s journey towards knowledge, wisdom, and enlightenment.
That’s how mandalas came about and how they were used. Today in popular culture, mandalas have become more commonplace and are no longer only reserved for religious meaning.
Mandalas have become a form of artistic expression with many artists' portfolios showcasing their own mandala creations. For the everyday person, drawing mandalas have become a method of stress relief as drawing repetitive patterns can be quite meditative.
Once you start drawing, your mind becomes focused on creating the designs; you can get lost in the patterns and enter a kind of meditative state. If distracting thoughts appear, acknowledge them but then set them aside and focus back on the mandala.
In addition to drawing the mandalas, coloring them can also be a form of stress relief. That is the reason that adult mandala coloring books have become popular.
But the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to drawing or coloring mandalas is that you’re not looking to create majestic works of art. Instead, sit down with a paper and pencil, relax and get lost in the repeating patterns.
Now on to the the good stuff -
The great thing about drawing mandalas is that there’s no need to go out and get expensive tools. Really, all you need is a piece of paper and something to write with – a pencil or pen lying around the house. That being said, if you’re like me and need things to be a bit more precise, the following list of tools can aid in creating more precise and symmetrical mandalas.
Any type of paper works, but the smoother the paper, the easier it is to draw on. And if you’re using felt tip pens, smoother papers tend to be less destructive for your pens. I use HP Premium LaserJet Paper (32 lb. or 12/m2), which you can get 500 sheets for relatively cheap.
No need for a fancy compass. As you can see in the photo, my compass is like those that we used to use in elementary school. It has a pointy tip on one side and a pencil on the other and it draws perfect circles. If you want to buy one, I like this one.
Again, any cheap old protractor will do (sensing a pattern here?). You can't tell in the photo but mine's all scratched up and numbers are wearing off, but it still does the job. Don't have one at home? This one will work.
Long enough for you to draw lines across your circle.
Mechanical, those that you need to sharpen, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure when you erase them, they don’t leave marks behind.
Fine tipped pens
I think the most important tool of all is the pen. Though you can draw with anything, I think fine tipped pens (e.g., Sakura Pigma Micron Pens or Tombow Mono Drawing Pens) help draw crisper and cleaner lines. These come in different tip sizes, the small, the thinner the tips. I tend to make general outline in a 05 and fill in details with a 01.
Step 1 - Draw Guidelines
Though not necessary, it can help make your drawings more symmetrical and precise. It also makes drawing them easier, especially if you’re first starting out.
1. Decide how big you want your mandala. The bigger the circle, the longer it will take you to complete it, so if you’re very stressed, a big one might be a good idea! But also keep in mind that you don’t have to complete a mandala all in one sitting. You can space it out and draw a ring every day or every other day. Whatever suits your schedule.
2. Once you’ve decided the size, draw the circle with your compass. This will be the outer edge of your mandala.
3. Next, draw concentric circles, all the way down towards the center of your circle. Stop about an inch from the center of the circle. The concentric circles don’t all have to be equally spaced. Different spacing can allow for different patterns/designs and affect the overall look of the mandala. However, if you’re just starting out, practice with equidistant concentric circles about 1 inch apart.
4. Use your protractor and draw lines equidistant apart. I generally make mine 5 degrees apart since it allows for a more detailed mandala, and you can choose while drawing if you want to make your designs wider.If you don’t have a protractor, roughly divide the circle into quarters then eighths. It doesn’t have to be precise, just for you to get a rough idea about the size of your designs.
Step 2 - Start Drawing Your Custom Mandala - Finally!
There is no right or wrong way to draw your mandala. Go with the flow and how you’re feeling at the current moment. Want to start from the outer most ring and work your way to the center? Go for it! Want to start in the middle ring and then work your way in then out? You do you! Seriously, there is no wrong way to draw a mandala.
The following are some tips to help get you started.
• If you’re feeling nervous putting pen directly onto the paper, you can draw with a pencil first and then go over it later with the pen. (I sometimes do this because I have commitment issues and get nervous and inevitably screw things up.)
• Start from the middle and draw outwards.
• Try to keep the designs the same in each ring of the circle and the same size.
• Instead of drawing patterns in the center where the lines are very tight together, you can color in the middle or draw a shape, symbol, flower, etc.
• One popular type of pattern is flower petals (rounded or pointed). You can then fill in the petal with different patterns, color them in, or leave them empty.
• Geometric shapes are another popular good pattern – circles, diamonds, triangles, etc.
Some techniques you can use to add more details to your mandala include:
Stippling – using dots to fill in an area (time consuming but looks fantastic). The more dots, the darker .. so you can do gradients by going from lots of dots to very little dots/no dots
Crosshatching – drawing parallel lines in various directions (mostly a cross-like pattern)
Hatching with parallel lines – same as crosshatching but all in the same direction
Contour lines – draw lines that follow the shape of your pattern
• If you’re stuck and need inspiration for patterns, take a look at how other people draw their mandalas. There are many accounts on Instagram showcasing their mandala creations. Including our own - IG/artlyco.
• Or look around you – particularly in nature. Lots of things have repeating patterns, especially flowers.
Once you reach the outer most ring, you’re done! Erase the guidelines.You can leave it as is or color it in. Color pencils are the easiest tools to use. When you’re first starting off, using two colors is the easiest. Too many colors can make the mandala look even busier and get confusing for you. You can choose a predominate color that’ll be used for most the mandala and an accent color for the smaller details.
Next Steps for Drawing Advanced Mandalas
With more practice, you can stray from the circle option. Choose any shape you like – heart, star, animals, etc. Draw the outline of those shapes, but then still use your compass to draw concentric circles within the shape.Just remember – your mandala doesn’t have to be perfect. The most important is to relax and have fun!
The point of the mandala is to help relieve stress, not create it.And for those of you who don’t want to draw mandalas but would rather only color, you can check out our free mandala coloring pages here.
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