IDEA: Zentangle – what is it? why do it?

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What is it?

Zentangle is a process of creating an abstract image using a patterned yet unplanned sense of consciousness. It is easy enough that anyone should be able to participate in the process, leaving the artist with “an increased sense of wellbeing”.

It is: intuitive, fun and relaxing, with unexpected results, ceremonial, celebratory, timeless, portable, of quality, non-technical and empowering.

A zentangle should always be created with black ink on a 3.5 inch squared white paper tile. There should be no up or down so that the image has no orientation. It should not be representative of recognisable objects and maintain an abstract stance. Zentangles are meant to be portable, so that they can be created at any time, when the mood strikes the artist.


Zentangles are not doodles because: the Zentangle method requires utmost focus and it is a ceremony of what beauty can be achieved.

Said benefits of using the Zentangle Method are:

* relaxation

* simple and quick access to mindfulness

* non-verbal journalling

* decreased insomnia (improved sleep by creating Zentangle art before bedtime)

* self-esteem

* inspiration

* decreased panic attacks (e.g. for fear of flying, do a Zentangle art before take off)

* modification of behaviour

* nurturing and development of creative abilities

* relieve stress

* improve hand/eye coordination

* develop/rehabilitate fine motor skills

* therapy

* anger management

* increased attention span and ability to concentrate

* problem solving

* design inspiration


The Zentangle Method:

1. Draw a border by hand, sketching it lightly (in pencil) as it is not supposed to be visible in the finished piece.

2. Lightly sketch a string inside your border. A string is a simple curved line/squiggle that will lend structure to your design as your pattern will emerge accordingly from the contours of the string. The string elegantly divides the border into sections.

3. Start creating a tangle. A tangle is a pattern drawn in pen along the contours of the string. Your Zentangle may only have one tangle, or it could have a combination of different tangles. This pattern should be whatever naturally comes to you, remember that there is no right or wrong move when creating a Zentangle. Tangles should be composed of very simple shapes, lines, dots, squiggles. You can add pencil shading to the tangles which can create more depth and visual interest.

4. No erasing mistakes – there are no mistakes with a Zentangle (especially as you are using a pen). Every tangle is built stroke by stroke, so pay good attention to each stroke and build the pattern in a deliberate way. Remember to focus as this will free your mind, like meditating, of any worries or problems.

5. Keep going until you are finished. You will know when this is. Keep your Zentangle safe or frame it/display it for enjoyment.


Why do it?

What does the research suggest?

An article of psychology today suggests that preliminary research shows positive indications that engagement in Zentangles provides relaxation benefits that are measurable.  There are no links or references to this research however.


A CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher), John Nordell, blogs of  research carried out by Nainis et al (2006) which noted the positive effect of art therapy on cancer patients – reducing both physical discomfort and anxiety. Nails et al’s study seems to have motivated him to implement his own research surrounding Zentangle. His findings: despite potential issues with the implementation of the study, suggested that Zentangle decreased 16 out of 21 patient’s anxiety (although 3 increased), and therefore he concluded it was likely to increase a patient’s well-being.


Meredith Yuhas’ (Ph.D., of Saint Joseph College, West Hartford, CT) preliminary results were encouraging and have been blogged on the internet. They were indicative that the Zentangle Method is a highly effective tool for supporting and nourishing a state of mindfulness. Here is her summary: 

Zentangle: Evaluation of a Mindfulness Activity
A recent pilot study concluded that Zentangle is a mindfulness activity. Also, when comparing a group of post test scores after 1 hour of Zentangle instruction, including 10 minutes of independent practice, the participants experienced mindfulness process post test scores equivalent to a group who participated in a 1 hour a week 16 week mindfulness focused treatment. Thus, the Zentangle process appears to be an efficient way to create a state of mindfulness. Consistent with the increasing amount of recent mindfulness research, the practice of Zentangle as a mindfulness activity could benefit the individual both mentally and physically. Such benefits include but are not limited to psychological wellbeing, decreased mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and stress. In addition to being useful in the treatment of chronic pain, fibromyalgia, improving brain function and immune response, blood pressure and insomnia.


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