There are several different ways to draw a mandala with a compass. Mandalas are essentially a circular, repetitive pattern that traditionally represents the ordinary world being uplifted into something better. They are intended to engage the mind, sooth wayward emotions, and to create a focus for meditation. Or they can simply be lovely, decorative patterns. They are fun to draw, and an easy way to engage in a creative activity. Using a compass or other mechanical drawing tools reduces the need for skill in drawing to make something beautiful. All you need is a little imagination, time, and patience. Your mandala can be as simple or complex as you wish to make it.
Learning how to draw a mandala with a compass is not difficult and the two examples given below can be done with the tools and supplies used in any middle school geometry class. A mandala can be simple or complex depending upon its purpose and the desire of the artist creating it. If you are not a skilled artist, you can use designs copied from a coloring book or stickers from a journaling or scrap book set to enhance your work.
Although mandalas were originally associated with Hinduism or Buddhism, you can find similar circular designs around the world, such as Celtic knotwork, Navajo sand paintings, or Mayan calendar designs. Carl Jung introduced the idea of drawing or creating mandalas as a form of personal expression or a means of refining concentration.
While creating specific religious mandalas can have specific rules, your mandala that you make for your own use does not have to follow any particular rule and can be composed according to your creative inspiration. Mechanical drawing tools, such as a compass and a twelve-inch ruler or a protractor are handy, but you can even freehand your mandala if you prefer. However, some basic tools will make it easier to create symmetrical, repeating designs.
In addition to tools, colored pencils, watercolors, crayons, or similar means of adding color will be useful. You can use all the skills you have acquired creating other art projects or even those used with coloring books to help make your mandala beautiful. Decorate it according your personal taste and use it to fit your needs. Like most personal coloring or art projects, making your own mandala is about relaxing, focusing, and most of all, about having fun.
Directions for Making Mandalas with a Compass
- Set the compass to the widest setting possible to draw a circle on your available paper surface.
- Place the anchor point of the compass at the planned center of the mandala and draw the largest circle you can manage on your paper.
- Keeping your compass on the same width setting, place the anchor point of the compass on the outer rim of the circle.
- Swing the marking end of the compass to create an arc that goes from edge to edge of the circle.
- Place the anchor point of the compass on the mark.
- Swing the marking end to make another arc.
- Continue around the circle in this fashion. It will create six petals.
These petals form the basis for your repeating mandala design.
- Next reduce the span of the compass and use it to draw a concentric circle inside the original circle. Reduce the span again and draw another concentric circle.
- These circles can either be your pattern, or they can be guide marks for freehand drawings or designs inside the basic mandala pattern.
- You can use your compass to add some more design elements, such as smaller petal shapes inside the original petal shapes.
- Widen your compass back out so that it reaches from one of the petal points to the center of the second concentric ring.
- Draw an arc inside the petal shape.
- Move the compass to the next petal point and repeat in all petals. (or not. You could do every other one if you wish)
- Reverse the compass, and go back around in the other direction so that you have a smaller petal shape in the center of each larger petal.
- Using a sharpened number two pencil or a fine-line mechanical pencil, add some free hand details. These will help keep your mandala from being too static and mechanical.
- Use your pencil to sharpen up line and a good quality eraser to clean up any lines that you do not want to keep. Remember that markers, colored pencils, and water color all tend to be translucent – lines will show through them. Crayons, on the other hand, will cover up pencil marks.
- Add some color. For simplicity’s sake, the example here will be colored pencils.
- Select the lightest color that you plan to use and color in the places you will want it first.
- There is no set way to add color, but if you start with the center and work out you will be less likely to smear your work.
- Start with lightest colors first.
- Add background soon
- Add accents, highlights, and erase, cover, or transform mistakes.
- Erase – colored pencils can be difficult to erase, but it is possible. They will usually leave a smudge of color, and erasing will change the surface tooth of the paper.
- Cover – the beauty of doing light colors first is that you can cover or trim up mistakes using a darker color.
- Transform – turn a mistake into an ornament. Using a slightly darker color, make a strayed mark into a leaf, vine, flower, or other added detail.
- Use shading and highlights to add interest to your mandala.
- Measure your work paper, from side to side, top to bottom. Divide each measurement by 2 and use the results to draw lines to divide your workspace into four quadrants. Measurements for this page (see illustration) are 12” by 8 3/8”. That is an unwieldy space, so I measure in 3/16 of an inch on each side and make marks so I have a nice 8 inch workspace that can be divided into four inches.
- Open your compass and set it to ½ the shortest width of your workspace. In this case, four inches. A compass such as Mr. Pen brand is excellent, but you can use an ordinary classroom compass as well. The Mr. Pen compass will easily hold a consistent measurement, but the classroom marker can have different color mediums used in it.
- Place the anchor point of your compass at the center of the workspace, where the lines cross each other and draw the largest possible circle for your page.
- Place the anchor point of your compass on the place where a cross line bisects the circle line. Draw an arc.
- Place the anchor point of your compass on a place where the arc crosses the original circle. You can work to the left or the right, but it is good to be consistent so that you do not miss a section. Work your way around the circle, moving from one arc to the next.
- Reduce the span of your compass to three inches. Place the anchor point of your compass at the center of your design. (Original anchor point.) Draw a concentric circle inside your original circle.
- Reduce the span of your compass to two inches.
- Repeat 6 and 7 at each of the outer points.
- This will give you a lovely, busy design, ready to be interpreted using color.
- As always, start with your lightest colors. While not essential, it is good to start with a color scheme plan. If you have made color swatch cards for your pencils, pens, or crayons, now is a good time to use it to help keep track of your colors.
- Select your colors. If you have sorter tray, it will help keep your colors in their own themed areas and prevent them from rolling off your workspace.
- Use lightest colors first.
- Work from the center out – but don’t neglect those dark corners.
- Add color until it seems right or the paper won’t accept any more layers – whichever comes first.
Learn more about mandalas HERE.
Using your Mandala
Mandalas are commonly used as a meditation focal point, but you can also use them for decoration. There are many options for mandala designs. You can add other geometric shapes to the circles. If hand drawing details is just Too Much, you can use small stickers or ornamental cutouts to decorate your basic design.
Your mandala can be hung on your wall, framed or unframed. If it turns out well (when you are starting out, you might not like every mandala you create, but that does not mean you should stop making them) you can even give your creation as a gift. It is a thoughtful way to help cheer up someone who needs something colorful or soothing, or who would simply appreciate a gift from you.
Do you have to have a compass to make Mandalas?
No, of course not. You can use something that is round, like a plate, to create the circles. For the arcs, you can use a home-made compass using a thumbtack, pencil and string. It is not as easy or as accurate as a manufactured compass, but it will work.
Are mandalas always round?
The word for mandala comes from the Sanskrit word for circle, so it is probably accurate to say that they are usually round. However, they can sometimes be squares, and they can certainly incorporate squares, triangles and other geometric shapes.
Where did mandalas originate?
Mandalas grew out of artwork created for the Buddhist faith. They are a representation of a troubled world growing into enlightenment. The first ones were created around the fourth century of the Common Era.
Where might one see an example of a traditional mandala?
The Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art in Washington D.C. has examples of traditional mandalas, including the special mandala created for New York City after 9/11. This giant sand painting was created by 20 Buddhist monks who performed other healing rites for the distressed city.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult a legal expert or medical doctor to address your specific needs.