Wee Crafty Crow – Adventures In Art

4 Basic Zentangle Supplies

Basic Zentangle supplies kit, as demonstrated by Lisa Crow CZT, a Certified Zentangle Teacher based in Glasgow, Scotland.

I have been tangling since 2017 so I’ve had plenty of practice and experimentation with different Zentangle supplies. As a Zentangle teacher, I’m often asked what the best supplies are to use.

 

 

There are so many types of pen and pencil out there, so if you’re debating Microns or Uni-pins, or you don’t know your H pencils from your B types, read on and I’ll let you know everything you need to know to get started on this wonderful mindful drawing art form.

 

 

First things first, Zentangle in its purest form is intended to be a way of relaxing and escaping so please don’t get overwhelmed at the vast choice of potential supplies. All you really need is basic supplies. Anything else is more advanced, and absolutely not necessary.

 

 

PAPER

 

Zentangle-branded tiles are traditionally small, square pieces of paper. The standard size is 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches. According to a Zentangle blog post from December 2017, Rick and Maria knew right away that they didn’t want their paper surfaces to be too big.

 

 

“The idea behind this was to help conquer the fear of a large blank surface that may seem overwhelming. And so Rick and Maria tested to see how much surface you could cover with tangles in about 15 minutes or so – the length of a standard coffee break. 

 

 

“They found that a 3.5″ square was a nice size to allow you to create something beautiful in one sitting. We all know now that you can easily spend much more than 15 minutes, but the idea was that you could develop your practice within these parameters.”

 

I appreciate the higher quality Zentangle supplies

Why square? That’s because part of the Zentangle philosophy is the concept that there is no up and down in a Zentangle tile. Due to the art form being non-representational, the idea is to be able to view it from any angle without perceiving a “correct” way up.

 

Rick and Maria preferred the Fabriano Tiepolo paper because it is high quality and they believe that if you have superior products, you’ll take more time with your art and respect it that little bit more. I know that I appreciate the higher quality Zentangle supplies over working on a cheaper surface like printer paper. 

 

I find that using the original Fabriano paper makes you slow down your strokes as you’re inclined to be more careful so you don’t “spoil” your tile.

 

You might be interested to watch this short video clip from the Fabriano website on how they make their paper.

 

 

A selection of Zentangle tiles including the classic square tile, Zendala, Phi tile, Bijou, 3Z, Apprentice and Opus

 

 

You’ll find that some pen and paper combinations don’t work as well – the cheaper the paper, the more likely the pen will bleed on the surface and it won’t feel so satisfying to draw using them.

 

With that said, Zentangle is such a transformative process that it would be a shame for anyone to be put off trying it due to the cost of pens and paper.

 

Instead of buying Zentangle-branded paper, you can buy big sheets to cut at home yourself. There’s also an option of using watercolour paper or a good-quality sketch book. If you only have the option of printer paper and a biro, though, use them. Use the best that you can afford.

 

 

Beautiful results using just a regular Bic pen

You can actually achieve beautiful results using just a regular Bic pen and paper. The tile below was drawn using just an every day Bic pen. I think you’ll agree that it still looks quite effective even without the use of a pencil for shading.

 

 

A Zentangle tile drawn by Lisa Crow CZT, a Certified Zentangle Teacher from Glasgow. The tile is drawn just using a biro pen and is sitting next to the pen used to draw it.

 

 

 

Pens

 

 

Micron pens are the go-to brand for many Zentangle artists, given the fact it’s what Rick and Maria use and recommend. Unlike some other fineliner brands, Microns are known for their fine tips and their archival-quality ink, which is waterproof and fade-resistant.

 

The most commonly used sizes are 01  and 05 but having a variety of sizes can be useful for adding different levels of detail to your work.

 

A selection of Zentangle pens recommended by Lisa Crow CZT for use when drawing Zentangle

 

 

Micron alternatives

 

While Micron pens are popular, other fineliners can work just as well. Look for pens that offer consistent ink flow and won’t bleed through your paper. Brands like Staedtler, Uni Pin, and Faber-Castell also offer high-quality fineliner pens suitable for Zentangle. You can have hours of fun just testing out different brands of pen for yourself.

 

While I personally really like using Microns, they are more expensive than other brands which I find just as good and offer the same benefits of being fade proof and waterproof. One of my favourite Micron alternatives is the Uni ball Eye, which is available in a range of colours. I personally like using the “micro” and “fine” nib sizes in this range. 

 

It is worth noting that the ink takes a while longer to dry with these pens. However, the fact they have a metal nib means they are sturdy and hard-wearing for those who are heavy handed when drawing. Confession time – I fall into that category.

 

Sustainability is important to me

I can also vouch for the Derwent Line Maker range of pens. You might find a different brand that you like.

 

A curve-ball of a Micron alternative is my Lumos refillable pen, sold by Tom’s Studio. As much as I love my Zentangle practice, I have been all too aware of the amount of plastic pens that I have gone through previously. It’s hardly sustainable – and sustainability is important to me as an individual and as a business owner.

 

A drawing by Lisa Crow CZT. Next to it is a Lumos refillable pen, Lisa's favourite pen to tangle with. 

The answer to that issue was the Lumos. A refillable pen compatible with a wide range of colours of ink, it’s sold with a variety of nib sizes. Even better is that it’s incredibly easy to use. I absolutely love it. The ink flows beautifully and it’s comfortable to write with.

 

I have the single-tip Lumos although you can also purchase a dual-tip. I highly recommend this pen.

 

Pencils

 

A standard graphite pencil is essential for shading your Zentangle designs. As much as you might expect to have to buy a pencil specific for sketching, Zentangle Inc actually use an HB pencil, which is the most common type of pencil you’ll find. It balances hardness (H) and blackness (B) perfectly so it’s perfect for writing and sketching.

 

Eventually, you might want to progress to softer pencils, but an HB is all you need at this stage. I’ll write another blog about the individual types of pencils you can purchase.

 

Blending Stumps and Tortillions

 

You’ll also need a blending tool, such as a tortillon or blending stump, to smooth out your pencil shading and create gradients. Sometimes affectionately described by Zentangle as a magic wand, I love the impact these tools have on my Zentangle creations. It’s incredible the difference it makes using these. Suddenly your work is transformed from a beautiful but flat drawing to a dimensional piece.

 

Basically, blending stumps and tortillions are just compressed or rolled paper used to aid shading. If you don’t have access to one of these, you can also smudge your pencil lines with a finger, or a cotton bud can be helpful, too.

 

WHAT YOU DON’T NEED:

 

Erasers

 

On occasion, you may see people using erasers while creating Zentangle-inspired artwork. Classic Zentangle, however, discourages the use of erasers due to the fact that if you make a perceived mistake, you actually have an opportunity to take your art in a direction you might not previously have anticipated.

 

The “No Mistakes” concept doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to make mistakes, it’s more about adjusting your perspective, leading to the motto: “No mistakes, only opportunities”.

 

Compass, Ruler or Stencils

 

Much like the fact that you won’t find an eraser in a Zentangle kit, for me any artwork that uses a tool to aid precision can’t be called Zentangle as much as it may resemble it. The beauty of this wonderful art form is the fact that you are not on a quest for perfection.

 

If you watch any of the videos on Zentangle’s YouTube platform, you will never hear them talking about drawing circles. Their terminology includes such words as orbs instead, as the word circle may put people under pressure to create a perfect circle. The more hand-drawn Zentangle looks, the more beautiful it is, in my opinion.

 

I think you’ll see by now that you don’t have to spend lots of money on Zentangle supplies – though a lot of tanglers happen have a treasure trove of stationery – or is that just me?

 

With a few basic tools — quality paper, fineliner pens, a graphite pencil, and a blending stump — you’ll have everything you need to get started. As you become more comfortable with Zentangle, you might find yourself wanting to experiment with additional tools and materials such as watercolours and gelly roll pens… but that’s another blog post!

 

Feel free to share your Zentangle creations with me. I love seeing different people’s interpretations of Zentangle. What is your favourite pen to tangle with – have you tried the Lumos?

 

Happy tangling!

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