Tips & Tricks

Pen Care

This information came from the Sakura of America website, but the information is great, so I have replicated it here, hopefully the more you know the more it helps look after your pens. (Note though – I have had success with putting Gelly rolls in hot water for a short while to get them going again – so it maybe depends on the cause of the fault. I have had success with unclogging a micron with use of dipping it in rubbing alcohol – you can buy a wee bottle at your local chemist.)

Gelly Roll Pen Care
Gel inks need to be kept sealed away from air so it is very important to put the correct cap on the pen between uses because unlike regular ballpoint pen ink, prolonged exposure to air will cause the gel ink to dry-out in the tip/ball chamber. (removing the barrel end plug will have the same effect)

In our Gelly Roll ink system there is a tiny silicone ball inside the cap that touches the tip and helps prevents any air from drying out the gel in the ball chamber when the cap is on. If this silicone ball is damaged or removed, the pen will eventually dry out and not work.

Gelly Roll can be stored horizontally or vertically because of the properties of gel ink. If you choose to store them vertically, just be sure that you don’t drop them into the pen cup as this can cause air bubbles to form in the gel, which will disrupt the ink flow.

The best way to see if a Gelly Roll pen can be revived is to scribble in circles and/or firmly tap the tip of the pen on a pad of paper. The motion makes the tip (ball) roll and causes the gel ink to be pulled into the ball tip chamber. It might take a few tries, but may help to revive the pen. There is no guarantee though that this will start the pen again. Heating a Gelly Roll tip or shaking the pen will not correct the problem of a clogged nib. This technique only works for oil-based ballpoint pens.

Micron Pen Care
Micron’s best use is on paper, so be aware that alternative surfaces may contribute to a bent or clogged nib.

Why is my Micron nib getting clogged?
A Micron nib may clog from use with partially dried paint or primer, wood dust, fabric dust, starches and protections on fabric surfaces and very fibrous paper. Micron nibs are small plastic tubes which allow our pigment ink formula to easily flow from the barrel to the paper. When any foreign matter clogs these tubes, the Pigma ink flow is blocked.

Why is my Micron nib so delicate?
Microns are designed to be used at a 90° degree angle. The smaller point sizes (003, 005 and 01) use very delicate nibs to create the extra fine line, so they need to be used with a very light touch, no more than the weight of the pen itself. Microns require very little pressure to provide a flow of ink. If you experience a bent nib, switching to a thicker nib size, and/or using lighter hand pressure when writing, should resolve the issue. Our Gelly Roll or Pigma Micron PN pens provide an alternative for a more durable point and are ideally suited for everyday writing use.

Why is my Micron leaking?
A leak near the nib holder or ink wick could be caused by dropping, inadvertently shaking, or accidently applying centrifugal force to the pen by spinning it in your hand. Be sure to handle your Microns with care to prevent leaks from happening.

Why did my Micron pen run out?
Although Sakura strives to make a durable Pigma product, it is considered a “disposable pen”. Our standard product performance is based on a 24 month shelf life. Most of our Pigma products can last longer than the 24 months (with the exception of running out of ink or damage to the nib) under ideal use conditions.

image of my Christmas pens and tags kit
Tips & Tricks

The Aura of an aura

“The distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing or place”.

One of the main enhancement techniques is adding an ‘Aura’ and what a powerful technique it is. It gives a bridge, a gap, a space, a pause between a line or section or tangle.
Here’s some techniques/ prompts to try:
– drawn slowly so it’s tidy and exact,
– has big flare with a wide or wobbly line
– added sparkle as you minimise the ink and instead of a continuous line make some dashes or dots.
– boldly exaggerate it, add some weighting or rounding to the line.

Using an aura enhancement gives a deliberate decoration around a section, tangle or tile. It gives your tangling a special atmosphere. There are many tangles which are built with the aura, Diva Dance, Hurry, AuraKnot and Arukas, to name a few – they all thrive on using aura to make up the tangle, and add a repetitive ‘space’ to the tangle.

So when you’re next tangling – appreciate the aura and use it once in a while on a tile.
Tips & Tricks

Grid based tangles – ways to play

Dragonfly wing – what a beautiful piece of inspiration for a ‘grid’

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, you find it attached to the rest of the world.”

John Muir

One of nature’s grid which influenced a thought or two about grid based tangles. You can have a grid which looks like it’s straight out of a maths exercise book (and has been drawn exact, parallel and even) or alternatively you go a little ‘crazy’ with curved and loopy lines all over the place to mix up your matrix.

With Zentangle it doesn’t matter which you do – there are no mistakes, just whatever works for you to gain pen flow. These beautiful dragonfly wings, clearly weren’t using a ruler or any type of maths, but they enable the insect to fly, If for only for a rather unfair short lifecycle.
When starting a tile using a grid based tangle is a nice warm up, where using a grid is a simple tool, (a extra simple string if you like), to ease into a tile. So next time you want a little grid play if you are feeling organised, then do a regular even grid. Or once you’ve warmed up, perhaps try just something a little different with the grid lines. Maybe they are organic – with irregular shapes and directions, curves and sways of the line. Or use perspective – with the lines growing outwards from narrow to wide or in concentric circles. Perhaps they are cracked – have some irregular straight lines in a multitude of directions. Or optical – using a circular 3-D shape to wrap the grid lines through the space so they give the illusion of a 3-D object on the paper.

When you apply the philosophy of no mistakes with Zentangle, you can make your own ‘grid’ to tangle. Here’s a play with Florz and some wayward “grid” lines, inspired by the dragonfly, gone from living nature but still attached.
Tips & Tricks

Switching the Elements

Thinking about the wonderful simple strokes that make up Zentangle lines – a dot . a curve C, a double curve S, and a line I.
Spend a bit of time thinking about the fun you could have switching them up. A simple way to create some tangleations (variations of the tangle) is by switching the elemental stroke you use.
It’s a great way to play with tangling, as you don’t need to learn a new tangle, you can choose some you already know well and have fun playing switch with your elemental strokes. So where there is a straight line – draw it curved, and then try vice versa. Instead of a single curve can it work with a double curved line?

It doesn’t take too much thinking once you get into it. You can still be mindful with your pen, no decision making (other than not doing the elemental stroke you usually do) , as you know what your next step of the tangle is going to be, as you already know that tangle; it is easy to let the structure flow. So the switch from curve to straight or the straight to the curve and relish the ‘opposite’ creative results.

So here are my opposite element tangleations on Flux, Arukas, Henna Drum and Jonqual. A fun pair of tiles.

Wall Tangling in Christchurch

Have you ever wanted to draw on the wall?

TangleatioNZ and Life in Vacant Spaces have joined together for a creative community project over five days in September, to ‘tangle’ some patterns on the wall at LiVS’s site in Waltham. So…..

  • Do you tangle? Have you considered going BIG scale? – If you already tangle, come and add to this collaborative group work on a larger scale, and add your favourite tangles, and learn some new ones!
  • Do you not know what tangling is? Well come and see what it’s all about – and bring a friend too! If you can hold a pen and have a spare half hour to do something creative that will make you feel better, then join in this free community collaborative project to ‘tangle’ a wall. Ildica will be on site to guide you through how to ‘tangle’.  Even if you don’t think you can draw, you may find you take to this wonderful drawing system easily with its step by step process.All materials, full instructions and inspiration given.

If you are a beginner or just starting out, I will be on site to guide you through how to ‘tangle’. For those new to it, Zentangle is a an easy to draw pattern based drawing process, – so bring yourself (or selves) and we’ll get your creative juices showing on a large scale. Full instructions and inspiration given. Even if you don’t think you can draw, you may find you take to this wonderful drawing system easily with it’s step by step process.

Tues 28th, Thurs 30th September and Sat 2nd, Tues 5th & Thurs 7th of October from 2pm – 7pm each day. 

35 Hassals Lane (site of the old Seven Oaks School) in Waltham.

Tips & Tricks

A simple play with the Method

As New Zealand moved into lockdown having been free for 6 months, I thought I’d head back to making things simple. So a nudge to not making life complicated, something to do when you headspace isn’t quite focused. One tile, one tangle, often known as a Mono-tangle. It’s an ideal vehicle for going back to the mindful roots and focussing on the here and now of Zentangle, as you reduce the decision making, putting down one stroke at a time, especially easy with a tangle you know really well. This produces a flow from your pen and encourages your creativity. If you feel under pressure you might just build the tangle on the tile, slowly branching on each element, stroke by stroke, great ones to try are Tripoli, Munchin or Huggins. or you could go a little ‘Crazy’ Huggins……
Or perhaps you want to play, like this wee tile with Printemps. A gorgeous spiral tangle, beautiful for filling in many odd shaped sections of your string. So take each section and draw it with a different attribute, so by the time you have finished you’ll have many tangleations.

Here are some prompts to think about if having an easy play with the tangle Printemps:

– weighted lines
– big and small together
– overlap
– grid like
– round
– ovals
– egg shapes
– with sparkle
– with drama
– with background,
– different rotations,
– heavy dot in the middle – and we haven’t even got to shading options.

Take a moment and a little space for yourself and pick up a tile your favourite tangling pen and enjoy tangling with your favourite tangle!

Tips & Tricks

Pens & Inks

Thought it would be a little bit of fun to explain what exactly a ‘pigment’ ink is, and why it’s the best ink for tangling.

A little background – there are two types of colourant in ink  – dye and pigment, and either of these two can be used in a carrier/binder, be that oil, solvent, water or a gel.  Please note it’s not quite a simple recipe of two items, various things can be added like gelatin, lubricants, surfactants, solubilizers, resin, gum, shellac, soot – the list goes on!


A ‘dye’ colourant has smaller colourant particles, is water soluble, and can make vivid bright colours. It’s cheaper than pigment inks, but doesn’t have the same fade resistance as a pigment.

A ‘pigment’ colourant has a larger particle size, they are waterproof, although may use water as its binder, but once dry won’t move. Although not as bright colours can be achieved, on most papers they will produce a sharper line, as the pigment tends to stay on the surface not bleed.

Small Note – Paper also matters, as a basic rule high ‘cotton’ based not ‘wood pulp’ based paper also helps stop bleed.


Oil-based – generally used in ballpoint pens, thick and sludgy, great for working on rough surfaces or glossy paper, but does take a wee while to dry on some surfaces – so don’t smear it, but it’s a cheap versatile ink, but often with limited colours.

Solvent-based – used in permanent markers (you know the type – they smell) – e.g. alcohol based pens, made with dye ink as they hold a more vibrant colour range. 

Water-based – probably the most common – used in fountain pens (dye), for drawing pens (dye), Pigma Microns (pigment), India ink (pigment), calligraphy (pigment), rollerball pens (can be either pigment or dye, so check the label).

Gel-based – used with a large roller ball pen system but will normally use a pigment colourant, so will give a strong colour and smooth line. Excellent for working on porous surfaces (pigment will sit on top rather than bleed into the surface).

So what does all this mean from a tangling perspective?

Most well known fine liners are pigment based (Sakura’s Micron Pigma, Staedtler’s Pigment Liner, Copic’s Multiliner, Derwent’s Graphik). Using a pigment based ink will give a crisp non-bleeding line on most types of paper, and once it has dried, it won’t be moved, no matter what you put on it (which makes it an excellent thing to note when doing mixed media work).  These pens are more expensive due to the pigment colourant, but they have a long life and are pretty fade resistant.

Where a fine felt pen might not be the best tool of choice is with a surface that lifts off, or other pen ink isn’t quite dry yet. For example a glitter based paint, as the small glitter particles can clog up the felt nib – so either use a black gelly roll (thicker ink, different binder) or a plastic nibbed pen. (You may still require a pigment ink not a dye ink, if being waterfast is required.)

If you want to work on more than just paper, a gel based ink is not a bad choice, its thicker properties mean it adheres to the surface (although will take longer to dry) and so is pretty versatile for various ‘odd’ surfaces. Note that you should keep all your gel pens stored flat, and the lids tightly on when you finish with them – they won’t work if they get a chance to dry out or clog – although if you find a pen which has dried out and there is still plenty of ink, try wiping it with rubbing alcohol (you can buy it from a chemist), and heating it slightly with a hair dryer or immerse in hot water for a few minutes and you may get it moving again. the gel binder can make it clog up faster, so extra care needed on putting on the lids/ caps.

If you are adding graphite / shading and go over your black ink, you can always take your Micron over the graphite to make it black again. (But note the paragraph above – don’t clog up your fine nib).  If you are wanting to colour after tangling, make sure it’s pigment based ink pen for your tangling – an easy route to colour instead of shading is to use some watercolour pencils and then a water brush, as any pigment based ink won’t run. You can also use chalk pencils, but be careful any fixative applied doesn’t then dull the lighter shades of chalk.

Many gel pens have extra ingredients (think Metallic or Stardust ranges), so as the pen manufacturers come up with new and exciting things to add – who knows what effects we’ll be able to pull from our pens in the future! 

Whichever pen you choose to use – have fun!

Tips & Tricks

Tools for Colour Tangling

The Zentangle Method is about reducing the decision making to make it easier to flow, and therefore  ‘relax’ as you are drawing.  Concentrating your focus on one elemental line, where it is going, here and now,  not worrying about the outcome or the bigger picture. 

However, one thing starts to come up, people love a little colour in their life – and in their tangling.  So once you have got confident with some tangles, have mastered some shading techniques, and are happy using tangling as a relaxing tool, the next stage is often that you want to add a little colour to them.. Maybe you want to decorate a gift tag or make a card, something with an end product in mind, and up comes the idea of adding colour…

When I am teaching about adding colour to tangles, I will often say to stick to the method, but there are certain tools which I would say are helpful to tanglers who want to add some colour easily.

For beginners, If you are not so confident with adding colour, or this is your first foray into adding it, I would recommend buying yourself a set of watercolour pencils (a set of 12 is plenty) this means you can add lots of depth of colour by applying a little colour with a ‘dry’ pencil and then using a fine brush with some water to  ‘blend’ out the colour. An easy method to play with, treating your brush as if it’s the tortillon.  If you then add the coloured pencil to a ‘wet’ surface it acts more like paint/ ink, so you can get a deeper colour. (Bonus the archival ink pens won’t bleed with the water.)

If you are blending and using colour with normal coloured pencils you will find they are near impossible to blend with a tortillon or a stump, even high waxy content ones, as neither of these paper based products is an ideal tool for the hard pigment/ wax/ binding agent or additives they contain.   So instead I recommend using a colourless blending pencil for normal coloured pencils, you can also use a white – but note if working with dark shades, it will (obviously) lighten them a wee bit..

However if using a chalk or soft pastel coloured pencil (they are powdery and are made of pure mineral pigments,) you can blend with a tortillon or a stump. The issue here is often having lots of different blending tortillons or stumps for each colour, so you spend your time constantly changing, or mixing your colours on the tool. (Why often I have a collection of purple ones). So keep these tortillons like a set of coloured pencils. Note – the finished art will need a fixative.

Using coloured gelly pens, this can be pretty effective at adding highlights, and they work brilliantly on black and coloured tiles. The Gelly pen Metallic or Moonlight ranges from Sakura are perfect for this with their vivid colours and white. Reduce your decision making by limiting your colours, you only need a few to be very effective.. Or use these gelly rolls instead of your black pen.

Paper washes, if you want to have all the colour in your prep – then use some inks or watercolours to preload the colour on your tile before you even start to tangle – you can use the different colours as if they were your string. – Yup, keep to the method as much as you can to make it easier for yourself.  There are lots of ways to do paper washes, but I think that’s for another post..

And of course, you can always be bold and treat your colouring of your tangling like a colouring book – but this time you aren’t colouring in between someone else’s lines – they are all your own! 

Tips & Tricks

Tortillon or Paper stump?

Paper Stumps and Tortillons are delicious tools and both have their own merits, and I will sit on the fence as to which I recommend as I think it depends on the situation – so read on and work out which is better for you and your project!

Tortillon – a rolled up short paper blending tool with a hollow core.  

Perfect if you are confident with your pressure, a great delicate fine tool, easy to load with graphite and move it into an exact spot, angle, curve or line when you use it flat to the paper.  It’s French for “something twisted’ – and this is exactly what it is, a short piece of paper twisted up.  

Be warned if you hold this like a traditional pencil you will end up drilling the point inside itself.  Hence why they are short in length – so hold it tucked inside the palm of your hand as you use it, and that also makes it easier to see exactly where the point is going.

You can’t sharpen these, so if you find the point is disappearing, to bring it back to life (despite using it flat, you can’t use no pressure), you can use an unwound paperclip, and insert the length of metal down the middle hollow core and gently push the point back out, and therefore extend its life.  But note, it is a ‘not very expensive small bit of paper’; it doesn’t last for lots of sustained use, mine last me a couple of months, although it does not survive the washing machine when left tucked in a pocket.

Paper stump – a robust, shortish pencil length blending tool with a solid core.

Perfect if you are not so confident with your pressure, or a beginner at shading, and a great tool for children as it’s more robust than a tortillon. It is much easier to hold traditionally like a pencil/pen.  Various sizes available to cope with fine, medium or large scale work. These too, I am afraid do not survive the washing machine cycle…

Neither can you sharpen these in a pencil sharpener, but instead use a piece of sandpaper or an emery board to re shape/clean.  I switch between using sandpaper at home and a metal nail file if I’m out and about.  Once you have a point again, off you go.  These do last longer than tortillons, as they are not as delicate a construction.  Really suited to those not used to working with light pressure and they are perfect for bigger scale.  If tangling on a tile make sure you have one of the smaller sizes.

Thin or Small size – better suited to small work and those who might otherwise use a tortillon, but who like a solid feel when shading, or are not so confident at the start.

Medium size – I usually recommend this for kids, as this is a robust item, and can work with various pressures from different abilities and ages.  They can hold it like a traditional pencil/ pen. The medium size is great for working slightly larger than a traditional tile, and ideal for shading large areas.  On a bigger piece I might switch between a medium size and then a smaller tool (both tortillon and stump) for finer areas.

Large – if your mantra is go big or go home, then this is the tool for you, it’s large so you can cope with expansive areas and larger scales – I used this when I did a piece two metres tall, so if this is the scale that you love – go for it. Needless to say totally useless on a traditional Zentangle tile!

Whichever you choose for your project – they are fabulous blending tools for graphite – no more smudging that graphite with your fingers!