Doodling Inside the Box - Square Mandala

Doodle Therapy - Square Mandala - Patricia Kay
  What is your doodle style?  Do you doodle big and bold or tiny and delicate?  Are your designs linear and orderly or curvy and flowing?

Some people are prolific doodlers.  Put a pen in their hand and they just start doodling.  Others may approach doodling like a puzzle - contemplating each section of the design and figuring out what to do next.

Whether you have a highly developed doodling technique or prefer simple design, doodling's expressive nature can provide you with more than just a creative outlet.  As I have mentioned many times in my posts, doodling can be used to become more creative, for creative problem solving or to express yourself in a visual journal.

In the following exercise, try your hand at creating your design inside a framework.  You will be creating a square mandala.  Yes, I know mandalas are round, and you can stick to the circle if you prefer.  But this is about trying something new - stepping outside of the box.  Except in this case, you will be doodling inside the boxes!

The concept of the mandala is that everything is contained in the circle - it symbolizes wholeness.  Mandalas have long been used for healing and transformation, which is why they are perfect for doodle therapy.  Your creation will provide you with a tool for reflection and meditation.

In traditional mandalas, the circle is either methodically divided into sections or randomly divided with a general theme or concept that may not be apparent at the start.  Designs are usually repetitive, but can be done in any way that you like. 

If you would like more information on mandalas, I highly recommend, Mandala, Journey to the Center, by Bailey Cunningham.  This book is a beautiful collection of illustrations and photographs that document mandalas throughout history and in nature.  It is truly an inspirational and uplifting book. 


This a great project for doodlers of any skill level.  If you are an advanced doodler, try this exercise to showcase and expand your doodle style.  If you are a newbie doodler, this is an excellent tool to develop your technique by using more manageable squares to make the design process easier.  All you need is to fill them in.
  • To set up your mandala template, make a nine inch square divided into nine 3 inch squares like the one above.  Of course, you can make them any size you want, with any number of squares.  Just keep in mind that the center in a mandala is the focus, so you will want to have an odd number of squares to create the balance of a circle.
  • Use pencils, markers, crayons or whatever you like to create your design.  A variety of Sharpies and Micron pens were used in the example above.
  • You may want to fill in your center square first with whatever you feel the urge to draw.  This will give you the direction or the general look of the mandala.  But, I always recommend to start wherever you feel is the best spot to start.  If you follow your intuition, the rest will flow.
  • You may want to further divide up your square into triangles, smaller squares, rectangles or diamonds to create a more complex design for advanced doodlers or more manageable sized doodling spaces for beginners. 
  • Your design can be simple or intricate - it's just a matter of taste.
  • Continue to fill in the areas until it's finished to your satisfaction.
  • If you like, embellish your outer edges as well.  You may even feel compelled to put a circle around the design to make it a traditional mandala.
Once your mandala is complete, take the time to reflect on the design you created.  What have you placed in the center?  What insights or feelings does it bring up?

As you make more mandalas, you may notice recurring themes or symbols.  You may see subtle changes in your style and technique as you progress and grow. 

In her book, Creating Mandalas for Insight, Healing and Self-Expression, Suzanne Fincher, provides a chapter on colors and symbolic meanings of the motifs you may find in your mandala.  This is an excellent book on creating and interpreting your design.

If you find that this exercise has piqued your interest in mandalas and you're ready to take it to the next level, a must read is Judith Cornell's book, Mandala, Luminous Symbols for Healing.

I first read this book more than ten years ago.  It has been a huge source of positive energy for me.  No matter how often I open that book to reflect and contemplate the beauty I find in these illustrations, I continue to be inspired and mesmerized by the light that illuminates from them. 

The technique she showcases in this book uses colored pencils on black paper.  To get the highly illuminated effect, she uses a white pencil to create various gradations of white as a foundation underneath the layers of color.  The effect is awesome!

Whether your are interested in mandalas or art in general - get this book!  It's not a once read - you'll refer to it over and over again, and be inspired each and every time!

Why not become inspirational yourself?  Try her techniques and the ones described here on this site.  Try some of the experimental art exercises and see where your creative journey takes you. 

And don't forget to keep up your Daily Doodle Journal to keep those creative juices flowing.

Happy Doodling!