Mandala’s are beautiful. There’s something cathartic about creating them. They herald from Hindu and Buddhist symbolism representing the universe, and Jung believed they were a dream symbol, representing the dreamer’s search for completeness and self-unity.
There is a neat app called Amaziograph that lays out the star grid for you and allows you to focus on creating the mandala on one of the axes while simultaneously duplicating what you draw across the rest of the axes. Procreate, at the moment anyway, doesn’t have this functionality*, but you can create mandala’s using this tool anyway – you just need to focus on one axis then duplicate and rotate it until the circle is complete. Why would you want to use Procreate when Amaziograph will do a quicker job? Well, Procreate has some pretty amazing brushes that add a lot more depth and details to the mandalas. But there are a few things you should know before you start.
Edit: Version of 4 of Procreate now as symmetry functionality making it a lot easier to create mandalas without the grid guide mentioned below.
Make the canvas high resolution
If you’d like to print these out or make them available for sale online you need to make sure these puppies are high res from the start. Procreate is a raster program so it’s not going to scale well if you have to make it bigger. So start off big. Set the dpi to 300 and work out how big you want the final print to be. If you want it around A4 size, 3000px x 3000px will give you some wiggle room. Keep the width and height the same size so it’s square.
Set up a guide
To make sure your mandala looks symmetrical you need a guide to follow. You can have as many axes as you want, but around 8, 10 or 12 work well. Anything evenly divisible by 360 will work. Draw in some concentric circles. You can draw these directly in Procreate on a separate layer but it will probably be easier to import them. I have a few templates you can download. To do this, on your iPad, open a browser, open up the links below, save them to your photos. In Procreate, click on the actions icon (the wrench) then under “image” select “insert a photo”. If you want to cut out and place part of the guide on a new layer to adjust the layout, follow these steps:
- Make sure you’re in the guide layer.
- Select the selection tool and outline the area you want to copy leaving plenty of room around the area you want to copy. Make sure “Freehand” at the bottom is activated.
- Press the “copy to new layer” icon at the bottom of the screen.
- You will see that the selection has been copied to a new layer. Erase the parts you don’t want to use.
Keep the guide sections on separate layers
Keeping each collection of patterns on its own layer will help you make adjustments later on if you’re not happy with the way it came out. If you forget to place a section on a different layer, then move that section to a new layer, to do this:
- Use the selection tool to outline the section you want to move, being careful not to touch any other sections.
- Swipe down with 3 fingers and you’ll get a pop-up menu.
- Select “cut” then “paste” from the pop-up menu.
- If you look in your layers palette, you’ll see your selection has been moved to its own layer.
To keep each axis of sections tidy in the layers panel, put them in a group by tapping and sliding each layer incrementally to the right so it highlights to dark blue then tap the group icon (the three lines at the top of the layers panel).
Draw in negative space
Filling in a shape with a colour then erasing or drawing in over the fill with a different colour is a great way of adding details to your mandalas. For the paint tool to work properly, you need to make sure the shapes you fill are properly closed off and there are no gaps in the lines, or the paint tool will fill the area of the next enclosed space.
Duplicate and flip sections for symmetry
Symmetry is important when drawing mandalas. If they look off in part it will throw off the whole design. Remember, you’re only drawing on one axis so if you draw something on one side of the axis and you want to have the same thing on the other side, don’t draw it again because it won’t look exactly the same. First, duplicate the layer of the section you want to copy, then hit the selection tool and then the flip horizontal tool at the bottom of the screen. Keep the “magnetic” option selected at the bottom of the screen as that will help align the section when you move it into place. To fine tune it’s position, turn “magnetic” off and turn on “freeform” and tap outside the selection (anywhere on the screen) on the side you want to nudge the selection. For instance, if you want to nudge it up, tap above the selection and you’ll see it move incrementally upwards with each tap.
Rotate a whole axis
Once you’ve completed one full axis, pinch the layers together to merge them. You can’t rotate the layer on its own as it will rotate from its centre. You want it to rotate from the centre of your guide layer. To do this:
- In the layer panel, select the guide layer so its blue.
- Nudge your art layer slightly to the right so it turns a darker blue.
- Tap the selection tool and you’ll see the full area of your guide layer selected.
- Tap the rotate tool at the bottom of the screen and you’ll see the full segment rotate 45 degrees.
- Repeat by duplicating the original segment and then rotate twice (see below).
Always use the original segment to duplicate
As mentioned before, Procreate is a raster program, and if you’re familiar with photoshop, you’ll know if you transform or rotate raster images they eventually degrade in quality and become fuzzy. The same thing happens in Procreate. When you duplicate rotate a segment it will every so slightly loose quality. If you duplicate and rotate the duplicate, then it will become even fuzzier and so on. So it’s very important to duplicate only from the original segment. Don’t duplicate any of the copies. Always using the original segment will ensure each segment of your mandala is crisp.
Use a reference layer to colour in
It’s a good idea to keep your layers separate while you work on the details so you can erase lines non-destructively. Keep our outlines on one layer and use it as a reference layer. To create a reference layer:
- Open your layer panel.
- Select the outline layer that contains all segments.
- Tap this layer and a pop-up will appear next to it.
- Select “reference” from this pop-up layer.
- Apple iPad Pro
- Apple Pencil