There’s something intriguing about working on black tiles.  I think it’s the sense of working in reverse.  I’m old enough to remember photo negatives and what it looked like to see familiar faces and images with dark where light should be, and tangling on black tiles always reminds me of that.

What happens when you take a familiar tangle and put it on black paper with a white pen?  And how do you deal with shading?  Black tiles are a great chance to focus on highlights instead of shading.

What about tools?  I have to say I prefer the black Zentangle tiles, but you can certainly use black cardstock, sketch paper, Artist Tiles or Strathmore tiles.  As is the case with black-on-white Zentangle process, use the back of your paper and experiment a bit with the materials you’re going to use so you know how they will work on the paper you’ve chosen.

Black microns and graphite pencils aren’t going to cut it on black tiles – at least not in the way we’re used to.  Graphite ends up looking gray and shiny, and black micron lines disappear altogether (although they are useful in other ways).  You can still use your graphite pencil to create your dot, border and string, but then we usually switch to a white gelly roll pen for the tangles.

What tangles can you use?  Pretty well any tangle you already know – remember that the white gelly roll line is thicker than a 01 Micron, so you’ll want to make sure your tangles aren’t too tiny, and because the ink is a bit thicker, you’ll need to draw a little more slowly.

As you draw your tangles you’ll notice they look quite a bit different in reverse!  Areas you used to fill in with black are already black.  Do you fill them in with white?  This is where your own style shines.  Do the photo-negative thing and fill in Crescent Moon with white, for example.  Or fill in the orbs in Onomato so they look white.  Your choice.

Shading is more of a challenge on black tiles – it can be done, but what will really make your black tile stand out is applying highlights with white charcoal pencil, Zenstone, or even white coloured pencil.  Again, you can do the photo-negative approach and simply apply white where you would have applied shading.  Or do exactly the opposite.  Ignore the corners where you would have applied shading, and add some white right in the centre.

There are a number of other techniques you can use – add dark gray for shading, use other colours of gelly roll pens for your tangle lines, or for colouring sections.  You can even apply coloured pencil carefully – just watch the wax content of the pencil if you plan to use gelly roll pens on top.  The back of your paper is a good place to try it out first if you’re not sure.

Give it a try!  Working on black opens a whole new way of exploring your creativity.  Look online for some help, or check out classes with your local CZT. 


If you’re in the Parksville/Qualicum area, come take a Black Magic class with me.  My next class is June 30, from 6-9 pm and you can register online here.  We’ll cover all this – and more!