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mixed media

by JuliannaKunstler.com

Learning objectives:

  • image transfer
  • composition balance: circular design
  • composition contrast: shapes and color
  • repetition: pattern
  • line/shape stylizing
  • organic shapes vs. geometric shapes
  • Color theory: color schemes
  • mixed media color application:
    • colored pencils
    • watercolor pencils
    • watercolor
    • optional: gel pens

history of mandala

sand mandala
A mandala is a devotional, sacred sand painting done by Buddhist Monks of Tibet.

The monks use millions of grains of brightly colored sand to create the sand painting.

The ceremony of creating a mandala takes nine days.

The mandala represents the world in its divine form. It also represents a "map" by which the minds of people can be transformed from an ordinary mind into an enlightened mind.
After the mandala is completed the monks who created it, destroy it.

The destruction of the mandala is important to the ceremony because the destruction of the mandala symbolizes the temporariness of life.


The basic pattern of the circle with a center is found in nature and is seen in biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy.

solar system

Living things are made of cells and each cell has a nucleus - all displayed as circles with centers. The crystals that form ice, rocks, and mountains are made of atoms. Each atom is a mandala.

Within the Milky Way galaxy is our solar system and within our solar system is Earth. Each is a mandala that is part of a larger mandala.

Flowers, spider webs, and the rings found in tree trunks all reflect the mandala pattern. The "circle with a center" pattern is the basic structure of creation that is reflected from the micro to the macro in the world as we know it.

mayan mandala

So…… Mandala is a graphic, mystic symbol of the universe.


It is typically in the shape of a circle enclosing a square or a square enclosing a circle.


A mandala often bears symmetrically arranged representations of gods or deities. Many cultures embrace the mandala as a “circle of life” symbol, but in many cases it is often merely decorative.


materials used

paid links




find images

find images

1. A picture of an animal - at least a size of your hand


2. A picture of a man-made object (mechanical part, clock, car parts, etc) - at least a size of your palm.

trace images

Trace your images on a piece of a tracing paper.

Include as many details as you can.


You are going to use a square 15"x15" board to create a radial design.

Divide the board as shown.

Important: use a cold press, double thick (30-ply) board for better results with watercolor techniques.

transfer images

Then use a mirror to find the most interesting reflective shape for this particular image.

The image should have as many details as possible.

Use the mirror to draw the axis.

Trace the image onto the board (only one side - the one you used to preview in the mirror).

Align one of the diagonals on the board with the "cutting" line on the traced image.

Mark the center of the design on your tracing paper for a better alignment.

Flip the tracing paper and trace the mirror image.

Make sure center is aligned.

Repeat the steps 3 more times.

Trace your other image.

Position it to fill in the space around the animal.

Use a mirror to draw a cut off line

Mark the axis for alignment.

Trace the object carefully.

Do not trace over the animal - just the negative space - background.

Trace with an extra fine point Sharpie

Repeat the steps.



Stylize each corner in the design by filling them in and rounding them up (like you did in a practice worksheet)


This will add a “stained-glass” effect to your design.


divide mandala

Divide the board into 4-5 circular areas.


negative space


Fill in the negative space with designs/shapes between the circles.

background patterns

Change the design as you reach the circle.


watercolor pencils

When it’s time for coloring – you will have to use at least three different coloring media:

  • colored pencils
  • watercolor pencils
  • watercolor paint

Once you cross the circle line you need to switch to a different media.

Use the variety of colors. If you have a large area of the same color – use different shades and tones of that color to make the design more interesting.

Watercolor pencils:

Shade lightly, use multiple colors, small strokes. Blend with a wet watercolor brush.

colored pencils
Colored pencils:

Blend colored pencils, create gradients.

Watercolor paint:

Mix and blend different colors within larger shapes.

Stay inside the outlines

mandala coloring

Continue with coloring.

In my example (starting in the center section):

  • w/c pencils
  • colored pencils
  • w/c
  • colored pencils
  • w/c pencils

Remember, craftsmanship counts!

liquid watercolors
Concentrated liquid watercolors

Fill in background of the last section with small areas of paint, then - while the paint is still wet!!!! - sprinkle some salt over that area.

paint with salt

Continue with painting more areas and sprinkling salt.


Do not touch the surface until the paint is completely dry.

mandala center

Fill in the center of the mandala with a design or an image.

Outline with Sharpie, stylize corners.

Choose your favorite coloring/shading technique and medium.

mandala part

Repeat the steps for the rest of the design.



image transfer
complexity of the image
accuracy of the transfer (details, alignment, etc)
max area coverage
drawing and outlining
quality of the lines
stylizing quality
negative space is filled with patterns
color application
application of each medium (stroke size, accuracy, etc)
color blending quality (2+ colors or shades per shape)
color choice
background quality
Artistic quality:
Project is finished