Free Handing a Mandala


Let me start by saying this, I am taking a class from Dion Dior, learning how to use Twinking H2O paints. Dion uses the free hand mandala in one of the early lessons. Dion makes her living from art classes she teaches online, and it would not be fair to her to share class information here with you. So, what I did was check out youtube and watched a couple free hand mandala videos. That information is what I am sharing today. The finished mandala above is maybe the fourth or fifth one I’ve drawn.  I still get stumped trying to figure out which little line or squiggle to make next, so I started a chart in my notebook with little sample lines and squiggles. When I get stuck, I can look at my notebook.

I would consider color a vital part of a mandala. (Of course, I am all about color, so that doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot, haha!) When I do use color, I like to lay the color down first. Sometimes it makes a difference in the design I draw. For this particular one, I used simple watercolor pans from the school supply section at WalMart. Yes, I am still at my daughter’s and my art supplies are in Florida. 

Well, this stinks. Right here I realized I didn’t take any pictures of what I am about to describe. So, I stopped and made a new background for you. For this one I used my Koi Water Colors Field Sketch Box. Use some good heavy paper that can handle water. I am using my Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Sketchbook. It handles water and color manipulation great! I used a large paintbrush (3/4″ wide) and coated the page liberally with water. Then I took my watercolors and with that same large paintbrush I dabbed down color here and there. You can stroke, you can dab, you can splatter, whatever you prefer. Just get 2-3-4 colors that work well together onto the wet paper. Then sit back a minute and watch the magic begin.

This is an excellent example showing how the colors will feather and bleed when you have the right amount of wetness present. Let them spread and mix.

I used four colors – I can honestly say I’ve never used red before. Like ever. Not a fan of red. This little Koi kit doesn’t have pink or purple or teal. I’m sure I could take some time and mix them up, but I just went ahead with these colors. If you aren’t getting enough mixing and feathering, spritz a little more water over the top and wait a few seconds.

Then, to mix things up even more, tilt your paper to one side and let the colors run. Watch out that they don’t get muddy on you. If that starts to happen, tilt your paper in another direction. I do this with my whole sketchbook.

Once your get some results you can live with, stop. I love that water line around the left and bottom edge where the colors all ran together. But I thought it was a little heavy, so I lightly touched it with the corner of a paper towel and wicked off a tiny bit of the water.

There were a couple areas where I had pooled water that I didn’t want to turn into mud, so I lightly dipped the edge of a paper towel along the wet places and wicked up some color. I like the white lines it laid down, giving some new texture to the background. This doesn’t always happen, but it did this time and I like it.

 Completed background. I just left it sitting on the table to dry. Make sure it is completely dry before you move on.

Pretend this is a picture of my beautiful background. (Because I did this backwards, although it still works.) Begin drawing your mandala. Start in the center with a dot, or a circle, or a spiral – something to pinpoint your center from which you will build your mandala. To help keep your mandala on track, make small pencil dots towards the edge of your paper to mark the center point on each side – top, bottom, left, and right. This gives you a direction to draw your designs towards, to keep everything straight, so to speak.

From your central point, draw four lines of equal length as you see above.

 Then draw four more adjacent lines. These lines can be any length you want. They can all be the same size, or the main lines can be longer, or the adjacent lines can be longer. I’ve done this both ways, but you really need your main lines to be one length, and your adjacent lines to be one length. Now back to my planned mandala.

 From those eight central lines, start laying in some patterns. Some designs, some swirls, some triangles, some brackets, some circles, triangles. Anything works, just remember what you draw on one line, draw it on the other like lines. Main lines all get the same design, adjacent lines all get their design. Sometimes you will use that one design on all eight lines, like I did above using betweed inside all eight lines, and the pink brackets connecting all the lines.

Keep drawing, and adding, until you feel like your mandala is complete. Then, if you want to add more color – feel free. This one has been completed with twinking H2Os, but I also like using At You Spica pens from Too Marker Products, which I believe is part of Tsukineko.

If you notice that your color has covered up some of your black ink lines (see three photos above), you can simply go over the lines with more black ink. Then finish up your mandala like you would any tile you may draw. Some highlights and some shading.

I know this was a long post, I really need to learn how to do video, but you can see that the steps really are very simple. Like I said, the hardest part for me is deciding what little lines and squiggles to draw. Why don’t you give it a shot? It’s really so much fun! For now, I think I’ll go work on that red one I whipped up in the middle of this post :).

The Creator's Leaf

16 thoughts on “Free Handing a Mandala

  1. Brilliant & down to earth! Love the watercolour info – so useful. Especially the fact that you cover which paper you're using…….vital info!!Paula (PEP)

    • thanks, paula, one way to get discouraged quickly is to use the wrong kind of paper. or to have it fall apart when you are coloring it

    • you should definitely try it out – there's nothing to it! and you don't need expensive supplies – although they are nice when you can afford them 🙂 some of my favorite backgrounds were done with children's watercolor paints 🙂

    • thanks, diane, i am finishing up the red one today. i've never used before, but i'm finding i like it 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for this – like the idea of the watercolored background first =I have twinklings but rarely use them – reach for my simple childrens watercolors – 8 to a tin – made by Prang – they are the metallics and are wonderfully softly glittery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.