Tips & Tricks


Have been wanting to get this reference online for a wee while now – hope this list helps you with the ‘plain’ and the ‘quirky’ tangling terminology!

Anything is possible…one stroke at a time! ® This is a core Zentangle principle. Concentrate on making a simple line in the here and now. Don’t worry about the final picture.

Apprentice Tiles which are larger and made of smoother paper; pens which have a plastic nib so cope with more pressure than a micron pen with a felt nib.

Aura A line or series of lines drawn round a tangle’s shape or element. Drawn closely around the initial tangle/ shape, like a ripple in a pond.

Background Some patterns can look ‘anchored’ with a black background, i.e. fill in the spaces between the leaf shapes or with ‘poke root’ the gaps.

Biggify Taking a tangle you know and drawing it on a bigger scale.

Bijou Imaginary high-travelled snail from Paris, who inspired the name for the smaller tiles.

Blossoming Tangles which have central core and work out – some other types of tangles can be drawn in this manner e.g. flux.

Border First four lines on the tile to join up your corner dots.

Border tangles Tangles that can be drawn along a string line, to create a frame or border.

Corner dots First marks on the tile to build your Zentangle.  (You can choose not to start with corner dots, but they make an easy start into the tile.)

Contrast Sharp difference between two adjacent tangles. e.g. grid beside organic 

CZT Certified Zentangle Teacher, a person certified by Rick and Maria to teach Zentangle.

Deconstruct Reduce the tangle pattern to its elemental strokes so it can be recreated by repeating those strokes one at a time in a simple structured sequence.

Dewdrop An enhancement technique for advanced tanglers, a circle drawn on the tile, section tangled, and inside the circle the tangle is enlarged/distorted, then highlighted, shaded and outlined.

Dingbatz A Zentangle within a frame, often suited to the end of section or book, often drawn with more flair, flourish, embellishment or enhancement.

Dingsplatz A Zentangle within a frame related to dingbatz, but the string resembles a splat of paint, and you tangle inside and outside of that string. 

Drawing behind The act of lifting your pen when you meet an existing element, imagining where the line would appear the other side of what you encountered, and draw again your line after it emerges on the other side. May also apply to edge of one section/tangle hiding behind the one next to it.

Echo line A line similar to an Aura line, but starts at a point goes wide and comes back to a point. Used in Toodles, Ravel, Rumpus and Bales.

Elegance of Limits Having defined boundaries of a border or string to inspire a level of creativity that would not exist without these limits.

Elemental stroke The five basic strokes that combine in specific sequences to form tangles. Called because like atoms, they combine in specific ways to form the molecules of tangles. They are dots, straight lines, simple curved lines, reverse curves and orbs. (icso)

Enhancement An enhancement technique of embellishing and/or adding to a basic tangle.

Ensemble Two or more tiles that, when placed together share a common string that is drawn across all the tiles as if they were one big tile.

Erasing Just as life has no eraser, there is no eraser in the Zentangle method.  Even what you believe to be a mistake, can often lead to new insights and opportunities. So be creative with your wayward lines, rather than try to ‘erase’ them.

Fragment Drawn element of a reticula, used by rotation, reflection, and/or alternating.

Gelly Ink Pen Easy flowing coloured ink pens. White for drawing on black tiles, or other colours to create colour within a ZIA piece of artwork.

Gradation A gradual blending of value from dark to light.

Gratitude It is always worth taking a moment to transition from the hustle and bustle of life. Breathe. Relax. Appreciate the time you have and materials you are using. (not just in Zentangle😊.)

Grid tangles Tangles formed in a grid structure.

Hybrid Tangles or “Tango Tangles” – A type of tangleation created when you combine elements from two tangles into one tangle. Combining these is done with intent – not a morphing one to another like a Metamorphosis

Interstices The small spaces between or within tangles.

Icosahedron Twenty sided dice used with a legend as a random number generator.

Legend A numbered list of twenty tangles. Roll your icosahedron and then draw the tangle that corresponds with the number on the legend. Create your own legends. Helps you try new tangles and stops the ‘choosing dilemma’.

Mark/ Chop A creative version of your ‘signature’.

Maze Tangles Tangles that expand to any section/shape e.g. Ibex, Nekton, Hollibaugh.

Metapattern An image that results from drawing one or more tangles touching or near touching, that their combination reveals a new shape or pattern.

Metamorphosis – Or Morphing or Transitions. One tangle gently changes into another one – works easily with some grid patterns, once you become more familiar with more tangles you will find others to morph into each other.

Micron Pen Traditionally used for Zentangle. A fine felt nib pen, usually black, and various nibs sizes available from 005 to a brush style or with a plastic nib, PN.

Mindfulness (in a Zentangle context) Finding a moment of calm, to use the soothing nature of concentrated focus with simple, repetitive strokes to slow down and be creative.

Mirror To draw a stroke or fragment next to a similar stroke that reflects the previously drawn stroke or fragment.

Missed Takes No Mistakes” is a mantra used in Zentangle that allows us to see every line as an opportunity and embrace every mark that is ours as artists. Whether intentional or not, with this perspective, one can learn to see the beauty and potential in whatever mark we make and whatever path our artistic journey takes.

Monotangle or Megatangle A tile which only has one tangle on it, but can be enhanced or embellished.

Mosaic Refers to two or more completed Zentangle tiles placed together.

Mosaic App Free App for a smartphone which lets you see other’s artwork for inspiration and reference information from Zentangle HQ.

Nature tangles Tangles that look organic, or are inspired by nature.

No regrets Even if a tile does not turn out as you expect, there is always another tile, another day, another opportunity and another stroke.

Non-representational Zentangle has no up or down it can be rotated, viewed, drawn and displayed on any orientation.

Opus tile Large square tile for producing a bigger piece (equal to 9 original tiles)

Organic Patterns that have a foliage or plant like feel.

Paper stump An alternative to a tortillon. A solid roll of paper sharper at the end. You can remove build up of graphite or reshape with sandpaper or emery board.

Patterns Tangles are derived from patterns observed both from nature and the physical world created by humans.

Pearl Shading a circle so that it appears 3-D, just like a pearl.

Pen A permanent marker to draw a tangle.

Pencil A guiding marker used to draw dots, border and strings, & to add shading. 

Perfs Enhancement technique which involves small orbs around the outline of the tangle.

Pre-strung tiles Come with pencil-like strings preprinted on them. They are useful when you don’t want to think about what strings to draw.

Project Packs Various project sets from which have been put together to follow a particular project sent via youtube videos.

RAZ Random acts of Zentangle. Inspired by the Random Acts of Kindness, leave a completed tile for someone else to find – left anonymously.

Redefine the line To trace over an existing line, as seen in Nzeppel.

Renaissance Colour of tan tile, based on the renaissance art look, where you can darken with a graphite pencil and highlight with white charcoal.

Reflect Used interchangeably with ‘mirror’.

Relaxed Focus The phase when you have settled into tangling and focus with each stroke of your pen.

Reticula A fine network or netlike structure – used in Zentangle by rotation or reflection, often a part of a tangle pattern to be highlighted, or turned to a meta-pattern.

Rotate To turn your tile under your drawing hand so you draw similar strokes in a similar relaxed manner. To turn a fragment within your reticula.

Rounding Embellishment technique to benefit geometric tangles by rounding the edges. It can create visual layers to a tangle.

Romanancy  an exploration of wrapping tangles, border-like, over uneven surfaces, e.g. columns

Shade With a pencil to add graphite to create an illusion of depth and dimension, add emphasis or interpretation, by change in contrast, gradation or value.

Sparkle Interrupted lines when drawing the tangle which create a shiny reflective area to a tangle’s elements.

Spill out Technique of drawing a small area of a tangle drawn early on the tile away from a bigger section of the same tangle, so it looks like they ‘spilled out’ over another tangle you subsequently draw behind it (try with Tipple). 

Step out Instructions of the tangle broken down into its various steps to be able to replicate the tangle again.

String Random line or lines drawn in pencil that divide the tile/ surface into sections to be filled with tangles; it gives you a supportive matrix to work with.

Stroke A line. E.g. “One stroke at a time”®

Swap Exchange forum for tanglers/ tiles.

Take off and land Technique to smooth the transitions between elemental strokes within a tangle, by retracing the adjoining elemental stroke as you start a line before heading off somewhere else with your pen.

Tangle As a noun, tangle is the word for a Zentangle pattern that can be drawn with a particular sequence of elemental strokes.

As a verb, tangle means to draw a tangle. You tangle a tangle as you colour a colour or dance a dance.

Tangler One who ‘tangles’ – You

Tangleation A variation of a tangle, adding an element to produce more than the deconstructed steps. Basic tangles are like primary colours, tangleations are the result of altering a tangle or mixing one or more basic tangles together, just as you would mix two colours to make a new one.

Tango A type of tangleation created when you combine elements from two tangles into one tangle. Combining these is done with intent – not a morphing one to another like a Metamorphosis

Tessellation A pattern created by repeating identical shapes that cover the surface without gaps – cadent or paradox.

Texture tangles   Tangles that give an overall effect of texture e.g. Tipple, Nekton, Keeko.

Tile Small piece of paper for drawing on. Called ‘tiles’ because you can assemble them into a ‘mosaic’. White, tan, grey or black, and in various square sizes, circle, rectangle or triangle shapes.

Tortillon A tightly rolled paper tube with a tapered end for blending/smudging pencil lines on your shading. If the point blunts, gently push some wire (straightened paper clip) down it’s middle to push the point back out. (also see Paper Stump)

Transitions or Metamorphosis or Morphing. Start with one tangle, and through a series of steps morph it into another tangle. Three ways are creating this move ‘bridging’ using elements from both tangles to move from one to another, or by ‘extension’ using an elemental line to use in the tangle next door, e.g. extend a hollibaugh line. Some tangles which look very similar can have a ‘natural’ transition.

Tranzending A technique for adding layers of tangles to your tiles, with pen and white charcoal.

Value In shading – the lightness or darkness of a colour/ graphite.

Weighting Increasing or decreasing pen pressure to increase or decrease the line width, or adding an extra stroke to thicken the line in parts.

White Charcoal Used for shading or highlighting on a black, grey or renaissance tile.

Zenbossing A way of shading and highlighting to make it look like you have embossed on the tile – usually done on grey tiles.

Zendala A circle tile usually symmetrical style known as a “mandala”.

Zendoodle A two dimensional drawing, with a hint of meditation. (can contain the same outcome as a tangle, but got to via a different process.)

Zentangle® Mainly used as an adjective. The drawing of structured patterns to create a non representative art work with spatial depth. Zentangle art is something you create according to the Zentangle teaching method.

Zentomology Zentomology is to patterns as entomology is to insects.

ZIA Zentangle Inspired Art. Any artwork drawn by the Zentangle method, but may be more representative of something else. E.g. a shape, animal silhouette; also using a drawing surface which is not a tile.

3Z Triangular shaped tile.

Sources: Zentangle Primer, and all the Zentangle and CZT community who help identify and label repetitive ways & processes of the Zentangle Method to help others.