orange guoache mandala finished

Mandala tutorial – symmetry, pattern and form

You can draw anything you put your mind to.

Mandalas are a great way to start yourself drawing especially when you’ve always thought you couldn’t draw to save your life. There are basically just 2 main ways to draw a mandala. One, you may want to construct it using a pair of compass and a protractor so that you get the divisions and dimensions just right, and to your liking. Or, you could just do it freehand going with the flow.

Here, I have shown you both ways of drawing a mandala and using 3 different types of colouring medium. Except for the Derwent Inktense pencils which are a bit costlier, the rest are easily available and affordable at the Popular Bookstores. I particularly like the Marie’s brand of Chinese gouache paints and they are a good alternative to the relatively more expensive artist-quality gouache from Windsor-Newton. The OMNI brand of aquarelle colour pencils offer the choice of water-colouring. Then there is the really cheap but vibrant poster paints that our kids use in schools here. I bought a box of 12 tubes that’s from Pentel and they are good enough as a starter.

For the lines, I like the liquid ink black markers from Sigma Flo which I have in various nib sizes. These inks are brilliant black and gorgeous.

  1. Marie’s chinese gouache. For substrate, I chose to use Chinese rice paper pasted onto tag board (aka cardstock). Using ruler, protractor and compass I then constructed the mandala in pencil. I then went over the pencil lines with the liquid ink black marker (thick and thin nibs). After that, I coloured in the spaces with the gouache using minimal shading as I only wanted a solid opaque look that’s unique to this sort of paint. It’s really a paint-by-numbers sort of thing so you can’t go much wrong. The point is it should be calming and fun which it was. The only ‘hard’ thing is working the brush into the sharp corners and picking up just the right amount of pigment. Just play around with the paint and see how you like it.

I think even I wasn’t prepared for how gorgeous it turned out. Look at that orange! The hues remind me a lot of the Tibetan thangkas that have more or less the same gouache look. In India, I have seen some amazing street artists use nothing other than the Sakura brand of bottled poster paints. In the shops here, I saw a whole range from Reeves that cost $1.50 a small bottle but in the end, I decided to stick to a box of 12 tubes from Pentel and no regrets. They were super vibrant and had that powdery effect when you water them down just right. The cobalt blue background is from the Pentel poster paints. Gorgeously vibrant.

2. OMNI Aquarelle colour pencils. First, I need to let you know that I applied a coat of Gel Medium to the mandala after I had finished inking it. That way, I could create effects as I put in the washes of colours and I could lift the colours, working and re-working the surface without fear of tearing it or having it turn ‘hairy’ on me. That’s because the gel medium coating essentially seals and protects the drawing below. It provides a plastic-like surface so that the pigmentation is minimal giving me the lightened look I wanted.

See how pale the colours turned out as I lifted more and more of the colours away. It’s also a great way to create a shadow effect. The background blue is Cobalt and Prussian from the Pentel poster paints. Again, very vibrant.

3. Derwent’s Inktense colour pencils. Truth be told I don’t really like these pencils much. I am more of a squeeze-from-the-tube and mix-as-I-go-on-the-palette sort of person and so these pencils aren’t the thing for me. Still, I bought them on a whimsy because I was curious so, what eventually happened was that I find myself lifting colour from the pencil tips and then applying to the paper. Ah well, still, it was a good attempt at getting the effect I wanted with this third mandala. Colours are more intense than the OMNI Aquarelle pencils and I used the Vermillion for the centre background. For the side borders, I wanted a greenish sort of brown and I got it by mixing the Vermillion with Green.