How to CREATE a tangle pattern step-out – DETAILED !


These post will be VERY detailed! I like to enable people to create really nice step-outs for their patterns. What aspects are important to create a good step-out?

  • The instructions must be very clear and easy to understand.
  • The step-out must be visually appealing.
  • Because we talking drawing by hand, step-outs need to be hand drawn!
  • Avoid text – people from all over the world should be able to understand each step.
  • A good sample of the completed pattern should be included. Not everyone that is tangling is really an artist! That’s the whole point of tangling – enabling non-artists to create beautiful pictures 🙂
  • EACH step must be explained individually. You cannot combine multiple steps in one instruction block.

So, what exactly is a step? Opinions probably vary … I am always trying to enhance the zen effect. Repetition! We want people to get into zen mode and this is accomplished by emphasising that each step should be drawn on the entire layout before moving on to the next step.

One step

Do you want people to draw ONE line in each block? Or rather draw both lines before moving on to the next block?

Sometimes it is easier to draw 2 lines per block before moving on to the next step, sometimes it is not! There is only one way to find out: Try it yourself! How do YOU draw the pattern?

In the example above I personally find it more confusing to draw both lines in one step. It does look easy if you look at a single block, but once you see 4 blocks in a row you notice that the short line in the top row extends to the long line in the block below. Do you want the person to draw just one long line there? What if the pattern is drawn on a warped grid? Will it still be so easy? All these things need to be considered when creating a good step-out!

The next question pops up: What if I think people should draw 2 shapes, even if they are different from each other, in one step?

Sample 2

Well, you try yourself! Can you get into zen mode if you change from drawing a straight line to drawing a spiral, back to drawing a straight line?

Just look at the spirals in the first example. They are not even! Even the direction of the spiral changed. That is confusing!

Look at the second example. Each shape was drawn as a separate step. It allows the drawer to get into zen mode: Repetition of the same shape = ZEN

There is a difference in ‘allowed shapes’ between the method used on pattern-collections and the method described by the trademarked tangling.

The ® method (ask me in a private message if you don’t understand what I mean!) allows only orbs, lines, S-shapes and C-shapes. On pattern-collections more shapes are recognised!

Shapes used in Tangle Patterns

Spirals for example are extensively used in our patterns – the same as hearts, drops and rice corn shapes. Yes, a drop is made up of a lazy S-shape combined with a C-shape. But that is way too difficult to grasp for a new tangler! That’s why I increased the number of shapes to what I believe are ‘basic shapes’.

With these shapes you can draw ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Should a pattern require anything that cannot be explained by using these shapes, then it’s not a tangle pattern. As simple as that! 🙂

Well, for simplicity I should have added a square and a triangle. Oh well ….

Okay, back to drawing 🙂

BEFORE you draw a step-out of the pattern, draw the pattern at least 3-5 times. It will allow you to warm up to the shapes used in the pattern and you might even notice different ways to draw the pattern. Count the steps!

If your pattern has 4 steps – let’s say as part of a grid, draw 5 grids on a plain, white piece of paper.

Step 1

See, this is just ordinary white paper – A4 size

Step 2

Add Step 1 in red – then repeat this step with black marker in all the other frames. Made a mistake? Draw an extra grid and cross out the one with the mistake.

Step 3

Do the same with Step 2 – first in red, then repeat the step in all other blocks.

Step 4

Repeat the same with Step 3 and 4. In the last block, mark the shading in green.

Step 5

This shows what I do with your step-outs. I will remove unwanted parts, make the green greener, the black blacker.

Step 6

You should provide artwork to show the pattern in an unmodified way. If you want to, you can also include additional artwork featuring a variation.

Let’s talk about variations.

To better understand patterns and variations you should have completed Lesson 1-3 of the Grid Journey!

Step 7

These 2 drawings above are NOT variations!!! Why not? Because the person looking at the step-out will not easily figure out that each block is rotated. Some people may understand, but some do not. As a good pattern designer we have to assume that the person looking at the step-out does NOT understand!

Each one of those blocks require their OWN step-out and examples!

And that brings us to the naming of patterns. If you create all 3 step-outs for this pattern, then please keep the names similar. I always try to ensure that in a listing, these 3 patterns are listed right after each other. Let’s call this pattern Tomi. I would name the first one Tomi, the second one maybe Tomi-Flip and the third Tomi-up-and-down – it’s late … I can’t think of a better example ..haha.. But you get the idea and that is the important part.

Let me explain why I think you should try your best – and then a little bit better – when creating a step-out:

How many people look at your artwork? 10? 100? 500? You think that’s a lot?

How many people will look at your pattern step-out? A LOT MORE THAN 500!

Everyone is happy to spend a day on a simple tile to post on Facebook or their blog. But when it comes to pattern step-outs, some believe it can be done quickly. Yes, a step-out can be done quickly, but don’t expect your pattern to be used by other people often! And isn’t that what you want? Seeing the pattern you created used by others? I can tell you, it is a GOOD feeling! So let’s get to work making your pattern appealing to all the tanglers out there!

Be prepared to spend a few hours on your first step-out! Yes, HOURS!
I will use this pattern to demonstrate:
Part 4

Draw this pattern 5 times in a row – SLOWLY! This is your warm-up only. Count the steps required to draw the pattern:

  • Heart
  • Arches
  • Drop
  • Dots
  • Aura

You think it’s 5 steps, right? No, not if you want to create a GOOD step-out! I show you 🙂

Part 5

The image above may seem good enough. It does not show the importance of the location of the the first arch!


Part 7

This step-out would make it clearer. And I guess it is save to assume people will understand the importance of the first arch. In the case of this particular pattern, I would go with this option. Sometimes however it is really important to point out in extreme detail where a step should start. In this case I would go with this option:

Part 8

THIS step-out really shows in extreme detail the importance of the first arch! But we don’t want to overdo it. 🙂

With this particular pattern I will stick with this option:

Part 7

I am not only splitting the arches in 2 steps because of the starting and ending point though. If I would give a class on meditative drawing, I would explain that when drawing 5 heart shapes in a row, you would do each step on ALL hearts. The person is instructed to draw EACH step on ALL shapes. When you draw the arches on the heart, you come to a stop when finishing the right side. You need to lift your pen AND change the drawing direction to draw the arches on the left. The arches on the left should only be done once all arches on the right sides are completed. More repetition – more zen! (This is really extreme detail – however, thinking this way will increase the aspect of meditative drawing in a lot of patterns! – maybe not so much applicable to this particular pattern, but a good way of explaining the finer details.)

Now we have determined that this pattern consists of 6 steps. In order to keep everything nice and even looking, draw the first step in red and 6 more in black. Just as you would when drawing the pattern itself. Leave enough room between the shapes to allow room for the subsequent steps!

Part 9

Draw Step 2 in red and immediately repeat that step on each heart in black.

Part 10

Why? Because this will ensure that each step looks the same. Continue the same with all the other steps.


Part 11

Please, don’t think that my page looks all this neat! Many, MANY hearts have been drawn until I got the final 7 done perfect like this!

Slowly but surely I am trying to incorporate at least one shading option to the step-outs. Anything drawn in pencil – and that includes shading – is drawn in green.

Part 12

What about variations? Now THAT is a sensitive topic! What is a variation and what not? Here is my personal opinion: If the variation is too difficult to understand and requires instructions, then it is not a variation. Filling a shape with circles for example, is easy enough to understand from looking at the picture. Additional auras – easy.  But now look at the image below:

Part 13

Can a new tangler figure out how to create this variation? The fact that the dots have changed into a shape is easy to figure out. But the overlapping arches on the outside are not easy to understand for a newbie. It would be part of the ‘family’ (thank you Melinda for this lovely term!). This variation requires an additional step-out, unless you can include the EXTRA steps required on the same step-out page. Once the pattern looks completely different, it needs a family name and separate step-out. A very good example is the pattern Carry.

Carry Flower by Agneta Landegren Carry Leaf by Agneta Landegren Carry by Agneta Landegren

Now we get to the most important part of presenting a pattern: The artwork showing off what can be done with it!

Lace Heart by Ina Sonnenmoser

I strongly believe in creating a monotangle or artwork showing ONLY the pattern in UNMODIFIED form. Even a variation should be visually appealing. In this case, the shading instruction already shows beautifully how the pattern looks when completed. I like stacking my freeform patterns – or warping grid based patterns.

And  guess what! I forgot to mention that you should check if a pattern like that already exists. (I will only post the pattern when I am satisfied that it’s truly new and unique)

Naming a pattern

Naming your pattern is a subject where my views and the Zentangle® method take different directions. Zentangle® insists on patterns being non-representational. The naming too. But how do you remember hundreds of pattern names if the pattern itself does not give you clue to what the name could be?

I can easily remember Calvin – because it reminds me of Calvin Klein – the logo.

Calvin by Ina Sonnenmoser

Ytterbium – no way! I don’t even know how to pronounce that word!

Ytterbium by Ina Sonnenmoser

I named it out of desperation – no pattern was listed under the letter Y. I can guarantee you that not many people will use the pattern – and all that because it has a stupid name! Isn’t that sad?

So, think HARD before naming your pattern!

If your pattern is part of a pattern-family, make sure that it would be listed within the same range in an alphabetical listing. A-Heart, B-Heart doesn’t work. Heart-A, Heart-B does!

If you have deconstructed an existing pattern, try to source the original name. This applies especially to quilt patterns, bricklayer patterns, and ancient patterns. It drives me nuts when you call ‘The Flower of Life‘ anything but ‘Flower of Life‘.  I also don’t like calling a checkerboard pattern ‘Knightsbridge‘!

Creating the pattern-family

Before someone else takes your pattern to pieces, do it yourself! Create the pattern family by playing with variations of this pattern. If the variation requires a new step-out, then it requires a new name! Look at the variation – will a new tangler understand how to draw it by following the original step-out? Yes – then it’s a variation. No – then it needs a name and step-out!

Uploading your step-outs:

  • The best way is to SCAN your paper at 300 dpi and send it to Nicole Dreyer by email (nicki @ Submitting it on Facebook will reduce the pixels down to 72dpi – producing lesser quality and grainy images.
  • If you don’t have a scanner, then take a photo in daylight!
  • And if all fails, contact me – we WILL get your pattern up! It may take time, but it will be awesome – guaranteed! I can be found here:

∞ Ina