Mandalas. Detailed, abstract drawings which have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. If you spend a significant amount of time online, chances are you’ve seen these designs. Today, I’d like to show you how to create them – on paper and digitally, on your PC. But before we get to that, let’s have a quick look at their origin. These widely used in contemporary art patterns were actually a thing thousands of years ago!
Traditionally, mandalas are spiritual and ritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe, but also life, unity and harmony. The process of creating and then destroying them symbolizes life – its beginning and its end. Monks would often spend days on making mandalas out of colourful sand, to then destroy them in a solemn ceremony. Some of the mandalas’ representations – namely yantras, present in ancient Indian religions – are considered to date back to almost 10,000 years BC.
The name “mandala” means “circle”. Traditional mandalas had a concentric (circular) nature and were placed within a square, where each side contained a gate. Those four gates were supposed to symbolize four directions, and the entire piece of art – a whole object and ways leading from the outside to the inside.
Traditional mandalas also had a political meaning. A document written at some point between the 4th and the 2nd century BC describes those circles with a common centre as friendly and enemy states surrounding the king’s state, acknowledging the existence of both positive and negative forces in the universe.
Mandalas have recently gained massive popularity in modern culture and art. The term refers to different kinds of abstract drawings – typically, but not necessarily, circular and symmetrical. Creating them can serve as stress relief or meditation, just like they were traditionally used. They’re also widely used in adult colouring books where they fit perfectly with their detailed patterns.
In this post, I’d like to focus on this contemporary use of mandalas.
Here are some of the mandalas I drew in the last days. There’s something soothing in creating these rich patterns from scratch and seeing them grow from the first line. That’s no surprise – creating mandalas was traditionally a form of meditation, after all.
Drawing mandalas on paper:
Drawing mandalas on paper requires a steady hand and a lot of patience. You’ll usually start with sketching a basic diagram – a few circles with the same middle point and symmetrical lines dividing the circles into even parts – usually 8, but the number of slices is up to you. First, make the vertical and horizontal lines, crossing at a right angle. Then, continue to further split each quarter into equal halves.
Note: draw the starting diagram with a pencil, so that it can be easily erased – you don’t want it visible in the final image.
Once you have the guiding lines prepared, everything comes down to your imagination. Draw your patterns so that they repeat in each slice.
Drawing mandalas on a computer:
Drawing mandalas on paper can be a tempting challenge, but one of the reasons why I wanted to draw them in the first place was that I wanted to give some love to my drawing tablet, which had spent a few months gathering dust. Hence, I decided to learn how to draw mandalas digitally.
I decided to use a program I’d used before for my digital drawing – Krita. It’s free, but feels like one of those expensive, fancy, sophisticated high-end professional drawing programs. I totally recommend it if you’d like to get into creating digital art! It may be a little overwhelming at first, but – in my opinion – it’s a lot more intuitive than many other programs I’ve tried.
Drawing mandalas in Krita is extremely simple. First, make a new project with a square canvas in the size of your choice (just make sure it’s square). Then, fill the background with a chosen colour – I recommend white, since drawing black on white is clear and comfortable.
Now, getting into actual mandala drawing: select a Multibrush tool (from the toolbox on the left or using a shortcut – q by default). On the right, below the colour picker, you should see a tab with Tool Options. Play around with the bottom pair of settings, trying out different types of symmetry and numbers of repeats. So far, I find switching between Symmetry and Snowflake with 8 repeats to give the best results, but you should try out various combinations and see what works best for you.
With Multibrush tool and the two settings configured, proceed to drawing! You’ll notice that whatever you draw will be mirrored a few times, around the middle of your canvas. It may feel strange, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
I drew my Mandalas using a drawing tablet (Wacom One, medium), but I’m pretty sure it’s possible to achieve a neat result with a mouse too – the slices are small and you’ll likely only draw short lines and small shapes. If you’re having trouble with drawing smooth lines, play around with the top setting in Multibrush Tool Options (line smoothing/stabilizer). Though it’s definitely easier to draw with a pen, I have to say.
Here’s a timelapse of a mandala drawing I did in Krita:
I’m currently working on a few little projects for this blog. I plan to launch a Downloads section, which (ideally, at some point) will contain a selection of mandalas/colouring pages for adults, colouring pages for children, printable planners and craft templates, and – last but not least – e-books with my creations from certain categories all neatly gathered in one document (I’m currently assembling a Christmas one containing all Christmas blog posts I’ve already published and those that are scheduled for Christmas 2019!). I hope to release the first batch of resources in a few weeks’ time. If you have any suggestions for other printable/downloadable resources I could include there, let me know!
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