Enough people have asked me about the mechanics of drawing (somewhat)
symmetrical mandalas that I thought I'd try taking still pics of all the steps to give you an idea of the process. So here we go. I did each successive ring in a different color, to (hopefully)
make it easier to see the way I work. I'm happy to answer any specific questions, just email or ask in the comments!
step one: set up a "round grid"
if you're aiming at symmetry, it will help to have some way of measuring your space, both side to side (working around the circle) and also working from the center, outwards. this is the easiest way i've found. (ordinarily, i would draw this lightly and erase it at the end, but i wanted to make it nice and dark so you could really see it!) mark the center of your paper both horizontally and vertically. the intersection of these is the center of your page, and of your mandala. once you have the center, you can make several rings using a compass or circle-scribing tool. you can also divide the four quarters of the circle further. i've gone with eighths on this one, but obviously you could make as many or as few as you'd like.
step two: make your first ring
ok, yeah, i realize it looks like i made TWO sets of petals with my hot pink pitt pen, because my shapes overlap. i added six tear-drop shaped petals, each centered on one of the "spokes" and stretching from the smallest circle at the center, to the next ring, about an inch further out. the bases of the petals meet the next spoke over, and there's a very slight curve to the shape. i personally don't use a template for drawing my petals, but you could if you'd like. i also don't pencil them in first, but lots of folks do. for that matter, you can avoid curves and use a ruler to connect up nice straight lines. (the result of straight vs. curved lines will be more like a starburst, but still very cool!)
step 3: second ring
for this set of blue half circles, each one fits between two pink petals, stopping just a hair below the next "ring" of the grid. this time, i used one of the circle templates in this helix circle maker
that i found pretty cheaply in a stationery store. you definitely do not need a special tool to draw mandalas
, but this one is quite helpful. it can even help you to divide a circle into lots of different sectors, by dividing the 360 degrees into smaller equal segments.
step 4: a ring of green petals
this set of marks starts at the next outward loop, dead center between two spokes. you can measure that distance and make a little dot, or just sort of wing it. the lines, which end at the base of the blue circles from the last round, are not quiiiiite straight, they flare just a bit at the bottom, to accomodate the blue circles. as with all of the rings in any mandala, they could, theoretically start anywhere and end anywhere. the thing that makes them symmetical is that they are consistent.
step 5: another set of overlapping petals
the next time i draw a step-by-step mandala, there will be NO shapes that overlap, i promise! and i apologize if the overlappiness (yes, that's a word!) is confusing in this case. on the other hand, if you want to create quite a complicated-looking mandala pretty quickly, overlapping lines work really well. this ring of shapes, drawn with a teal pitt pen, is an echo of our first ring of pink petals, and it's one of the classic mandala shapes. this set is again centered on the spokes. each gently curving line starts at the end of a spoke and winds up right next to the base of a green petal. but, as you can see, each completed teal tear drop brackets TWO green petals.
step 6: squaring off
ordinarily, when i am this far into a mandala, i'd be erasing the pencil marks of the original round grid. but this time i made them extra dark, for visibility. also... i thought they looked kind of cool, so i left them. i added a ring of small petals and a smaller circle at the very center. i also drew a square that's perfectly centered between the largest ring and the second largest. partially because i left the grid lines which are ruler-straight. also, most mandalas in the buddhist tradition incorporate a square or two. again, there are no particular rules you have to follow. if you think a square might look cool, try adding one. if you dislike the square, by all means, leave it out!
step 7: getting fancy
ok, yes... this is really more like steps 7-12, because i added quite a few more details, in the form of dots, doodles and more circles. but since i consider them cosmetic rather than structural, i've lumped them all together. obviously the mandala could have been considered "done" after step six. but i added the doodles, because, for one thing, they are FUN! for another, they're the perfect way to correct any wonky lines! they boil down to three basic styles of detail, that i use in a lot of my mandalas: echoes to lines that were already there, hashmarks or chevrons to "fill in" some of the open spaces, and dots. by varying the size shape and color of each, you can get many different looks.
and that's about it! i hope this has given you some sort of an idea of the basic steps, and maybe even inspired you to dry drawing your own mandalas! ♥