Cut Your Own Zentangle Cards

My arms have been bothering me for weeks with tendinitis and shoulder pain. So I’ve been pulling back to making small things.

On my sketching blog I hauled out some zentangle books because the human bone and muscle I was drawing seemed to suggest patterns. I enjoyed that so much that I thought I’d try to work in pieces of art and pattern.

I bought three additional books. They aren’t expensive and I suppose I didn’t really need more than one but the creative inspiration appealed to me. I’ve had an idea for a large watercolour with a galah bird and beetles for years and this might work in there.

The book The Beauty of Zentangle is an attractive book and shows many examples of the method applied to regular art. Doing squares never appealed to me but this does.


Two weeks later I was speaking to someone about mandalas and meditative aspects of zentangle work in the round and bought these two. They are to augment my other three books on mandalas. Zen Mandalas is more of the same but she has some interesting things on colour and design.


I thought this one was quite different as it encourages drawing things like cats and using a theme with that and adding mice and fish, whatever you feel goes there. It’s more about drawing themes and symmetrical composition, with examples of spreading out into borders and various colourations.


Zen Doodling Mandalas leaves all the baggage of “certified” teachers and “correct” or proprietary patterns and official die cut shapes, bought from official teachers, and the constraints inherent in such systems of correctness, and encourages you to create your own patterns and drawings. It also has more pages, 128 rather than about 50 found in the official zentangle books, and costs about the same.

The circular die cut cards for these are small and cost (including shipping) something around $40 to $50 depending on what set you buy. Some of them are pre-printed with linear strings to fill in. Not terribly inspiring for me at least, and only 21 cards.

I’ve been trying circles on different paper. The official zentangle cardstock is Fabriano Tiepolo which is 100% cotton printmaking paper, weighing about 140 lb or 290 gsm. If I buy a sheet I could potentially cut 20 to 30 circles for 1/4 to 1/2 the price depending on the paper.

I can’t buy that paper in Canada so I’m trying:

Strathmore 300 Bristol 100 lb / 270 gsm
Arches Hot Press watercolour paper – 140 lb / 300 gsm
Rives BFK Printmaking – too light, think I have the lighter 65 lb / 175 gsm.

I could try a heavier Rives BFK or a Somerset printmaking paper which is $6 a sheet. Or I could buy a sheet of Arches 260 lb hot press paper which is $15 but yields a versatile paper for more projects. I tend to like heavier paper. As long as I can cut circles with a pair of scissors it’s not too heavy. I have already made a template and if you cut carefully the shape is actually neater than the die cut examples I’ve seen.

Buying a sheet allows me room to also cut larger dimensions for larger pictures. I’ll have to get down to Curry’s at some point so I can feel the paper. The grams per square inch (gsm) conversion with Imperial paper weight in lbs is a bit tricky and depends on the paper, which is why anything that isn’t 140 lb watercolour paper needs to be felt by the hand.

I needed to pick up a few odd sheets of Canson Mi-Teintes for experimenting with gouache, so I’ll add a sheet of art paper too. Sometime in the next couple of weeks.

My paper tests (click to enlarge):


Rather surprisingly, the Rives performed much better. The Arches paper is the natural not the bright white paper so the colour was softer. It did fine with the Micron pens, but the Rives did better with both. It does have a bit more tooth but not as much as cold press watercolour paper.

The Micron pens did not work well with the Bristol because they took much longer to dry and thus smeared. The colour was more subdued. For coloured pencil it would probably be fine but not with ink or watercolour.

If I can get the printmaking paper in a heavier weight I’ll get that. Actually I might get two types, the Somerset and the Rives in different weights. It’s handy to have extra paper and I’ve never tried the Somerset before, it has a satin or textured finish, so I need to see it.



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2 Comments on “Cut Your Own Zentangle Cards”

  1. Very interesting, I enjoyed the book reviews and the paper trials. Looking forward to seeing more of what you do. Karen

    • JJ ColourArt Says:

      I thought this would be pretty straightforward Karen but it’s not!

      Curry’s has a few more types and weights of paper but you have to special order them in from the warehouse and I’m not making two 3-hour round trips. I always thought the Arches would be best for my stuff, but I’m rethinking that.

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