The difference between tangling and doodling

Opinions vary when it comes to defining the difference between tangling and doodling. I asked the members of our Facebook group for their opinion … and here are the answers:

Samantha Mitterer: For me personally .. there can be more of a structure to tangling. You are thinking about what you are doing. That is what your mind is most involved with .. with doodling its more of a secondary thought process eg, while you are waiting on the phone there is an odd scrap of paper or phone book or what have you and a pen and you just start in a sense * making the odd random mark on the paper, it’s not what you set out to do in the first place… Where as with Tangling that is what you set out to do first.. If that makes any sense.
Sandra De Wit van der Zande: That is the way I see it too.
Anita Schrutek: I think doodling is more free formed.
Designers Zentangles® are not thought of … so it what you feel at the moment …  no thinking how this Zentangle® has to run or be related to the next one in this picture. It’s more freedom, less stress.

Sarah Tyler: Tangling is doodling with direction.

Debbie Rucker: Tangling involves more thought process, enhanced concentration, whereas Doodling is child’s play. Both are great to do!

Linda Brown Levin: I can agree with Samantha’s explanation.
However, to a degree I think they are one and the same. For one reason, they accomplish the same thing. Doodling may be our brain taking it’s own break and tangling may be a choice to give our brain and artistic selves an outlet. Two somewhat different paths leading to the same destination. I will also say that I believe the hunt for more, more, more and better, better, better takes away from some of the most important benefits. The rest, the relaxation etc…. Just my humble opinion.

DrShazia Azmi: It’s important to understand the difference between ZEN and DOODLE…
👉many people create doodles and sometimes really beautiful ones-in the margins of the note books or on a scrap paper..
👉doodles are usually created when the person is having trouble paying attention to something else.. let that be a boring lecture or a boring phone call
No wonder… some best doodles look more like awesome zentiles
👉In short… the art form that you can teach others is ZEN, that you can’t is DOODLE..
Sandy Moore: Strongly agree
Sandy Moore: Tangling and Doodling are so closely related, I have difficulty separating one from the other. In the world of Tangling, Doodling leads to the creation of new Tangling Patterns. So, I guess one can say, “Doodling is the mother of Tangling!”
DrShazia Azmi: Exactly Sandy…
Tricia Long: Hmmm…interesting question. For me doodling was what I did in my school notes when I was bored. Often times it was just random shapes, dots, lines, checkerboards, and 3 dimensional boxes. Scattered around the page not having a completed look. Using my ticky-tacky pattern as an example…an upholstery tack strip was the inspiration. I deconstructed it into an easy repetitive pattern. Looking down at the top of the tack was a raised flower design. I chose to do a side view and use curved lines to give an impression of roundness. The shapes are not individually drawn but first drawn in 2 lines of scallops. Would it be considered an official Zentangle®? Probably not as it could be considered too representational. The tick-tacky dancers I’m sure would not be considered an “official” tangle. Very representational however I think it can be considered a pattern. Starting with ticky-tacky I realized it looked like a dancers skirt with the “tack” being the dancer on her toes. From there it was going down the line and adding a circle. Each arm is one continuous boomerang shape. So…I wouldn’t consider it a doodle but I would consider it a pattern. I think that deconstructing into it’s simplest form, easily explained so someone else can replicate it’ makes it a pattern. Also some of the steampunk tangles we did would not be considered “official” but I still think of them as patterns. We used repetition and patterns that sometimes did become representational. The pattern “planks” used repetitive lines making it a pattern but when put together it looks like a wood floor. I think I’ve veered into trying to define patterns so back to the original question…I think doodles are more absent mindedly done than tangles. I like what Sandy Moore said, “Doodling is the mother of Tangling.”
Carrie Leffel: Doc is right on that. Zen can be taught, and taught to anyone. A natural doodler cannot be taught it just is/happens.

Chris Zar: Tangling has rules – doodling does not!

Melissa Sansom: I think it can be summed up in one word…intention.
Tangling is doodling with intention.
L.V. St.Clair: When I teach tangling I explain the difference between doodling and tangling this way. Doodling is patterns we make make up and often they are familiar shapes like flowers and leaves for example and often they don’t touch. Tangling is learned patterns that saves our creativity for building a design that touches and plays off other tangles.
While some people enjoy creating their own doodles I find it exhausting to keep coming up with them. I much prefer taking tangle patterns and seeing where they lead me.
I do find that some people doodle even in tangling tho. They take their patterns they learn and place them beside another and another.
This may be a good place to begin when learning a new pattern but the end result isn’t often very dynamic.
The best tanglers use it organically. Building a body – a singular image with many components and voices – like a choir.

Scrapping Chel: I think of tangles as what you put inside your shapes. Like you doodled a flower and tangled inside it.

Dawn Collins: I think Tangles are much more intentional – you actively choose a string and a pattern and build from there. When I doodle, I sometimes use patterns but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I draw faces or dogs or flowers etc. when I doodle I just do whatever comes out of my pen with no fore thought to pattern or design or flow.

Ruth Dailey: Perhaps the most simple is a doodle is done as a distraction and a tangle is done with intention. yes, there are rules and structure for Zentangles® with specific steps for tangles but rarely is a doodle or tangle truly unique. Patterns are all around us, in nature, in architecture, in music, in math, etc. this revived interest in putting pen to paper has also revived our ability to observe these designs and patterns.

Linda Motter: A tangle is the process of relaxing, clearing the mind, and stretching time …doodling is filling the time.

Tina Golden: Doodling is mindless while tangling is mindful.

Suzanne Robicheaux Beadles: Tangles are named and doodles aren’t?

Tricia Long: Oh my goodness. Went back and read everyone’s responses including my own. Should NOT answer questions on FB before having my first cup of coffee. Sure did ramble. Sorry.
Samantha Mitterer: lol ramblings are the best hehe

Barbara Watson: Doodling with mindfulness.

Sally Brady Simpkins: Doodling helps me sit still and focus on something else, like a meeting or a class. Tangling also helps me sit still and focus, but I’m completely focused on what I’m drawing.

Tracey Croft: Tangling for me is focused drawing, to achieve an effect. Doodling is random shapes/lines without focus. Doodling could be seen as an act of a bored, anxious mind. Tangling is more the act of a focused relaxed mind.

Sandra Strait: For me, the two are about the same. The main difference is in how much of the work is done with patterns.

Carla Szczuka: Doodling for me is mindless, drawing anything while on the phone etc. I always tend to have a house in my doodles, Tangling has patterns, is learned, more structured.

Jane Nichols: In my mind, tangling is still following patterns while doodling is just idly following whatever your hand decides to do.



As you can see, opinions differ slightly. Everyone agrees however on the following points:

  • Tangling involves patterns and is structured.
  • Tangling can be taught/learnt.
  • Tangling means you have a purpose/focus. You are fully concentrated on each line/shape without distraction.
Skip to toolbar