Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to take your mandala drawing to the next level, I hope you’ll find this guide to mandala drawing tools useful.
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Mandala drawing tools guide
The basic list of equipment I give all my students is as follows.
- Geometry compass
- 30 cm clear ruler (and ideally a shorter clear ruler too)
- Thick white paper (for my classes A4 is perfect)
- Smudge-proof fineliner pen (not strictly necessary for my class but needed to complete the drawing)
I’d also recommend having either a cutting mat or an old magazine to hand to place under your paper when you are using the compass so that you don’t make a hole in your table or desktop. You might also find this smaller rubber/eraser handy for rubbing out smaller details.
The one item on this list that proves the most problematic is the compass, so please do read the section below on compasses, even if you skip over everything else!
Best compass for drawing mandalas
There’s a huge range of geometric compasses available costing anything from one or two pounds to £50 or more. Below, I recommend three compasses ranging in price from around £10 to £40. Please beware of really cheap compasses as you’ll find it impossible to draw an accurate circle with them.
What to look out for when buying a compass?
Historically, the best compasses were used by architects and were made entirely of metal parts. Sadly, as architects now use computer software to do their drawings these professional compasses are no longer made but if you can get your hands on a vintage compass I’d highly recommend it.
The problem with modern compasses is that they have plastic parts which invariably wear out. Worst still, really cheap compasses are available that are so badly made that they are not fit for purpose. So what should you look out for when buying a compass?
Faber-Castell 174607 Compass
I use this Faber-Castell compass and I’m happy to recommend it. It has all the following features.
Look for a compass with a sharp point or better still, one like this one with a shouldered point.
I’d recommend buying a compass with jointed legs. These allow you to keep the legs of the compass parallel to each other (and vertical to the paper).
Rapid adjustment buttons
These two buttons allow you to quickly change the radius of your circle. You can then use the wheel for finer adjustments. These aren’t essential but they are useful.
Some also come with a useful, if rarely used, extension arm for drawing larger circles.
Universal pen adapter
More important is a pen adapter, which is essential if you want to draw a circle using a pen or a mechanical pencil, which I often do. YOu should be aware though that a technical pen adapter is not the same thing as it can only be used with some technical pens. You want to look out for a universal pen adapter as this will take a variety of pencils and pens.
Less expensive alternatives
The Staedtler Compass Mars Comfort 552 02 Promo also has adjustable legs and a pen adaptor but it does not come with an extension arm and it has rapid adjustment buttons. I’ve not used it myself but it has excellent reviews. Even without the extension arm, it draws big enough circles for all my classes and beyond. It has a sharp point but it is not a shouldered point.
The Staedtler Noris Club 550 02 School Compass also has adjustable legs and comes with an extension arm and a pen adaptor. It’s a smaller compass but still perfectly big enough for most people needs and all my classes. I’ve not used it myself but the reviews are again excellent. Again, it has a sharp point but no shoulder. It does not have rapid adjustment buttons which means it will take longer to change the radius you are using. However, it may well last longer than ones with rapid adjustment buttons as eventually, these can wear out. Personally, I like being able to change the radius quickly and if I eventually need to buy another compass so be it.
Best pencil for drawing mandalas
You can use any type of pencil but personally, I prefer to use a mechanical pencil over a traditional pencil. The point stays nice and sharp, making it easier to draw intricate designs. This one is a good value mechanical pencil but I’ve recently treated myself to this top of the range mechanical pencil. Both have rotating self-sharpening HB leads that are 0.5mm thick. I’m completely in love with mine. It glides across the paper.
What grade of pencil to use for drawing mandalas and geometric art?
If you don’t want to invest in a mechanical pencil, a traditional pencil is fine. You don’t need any particular make what’s more important is the grade of pencil.
HB or B, such as these ones, is a good choice for drawing mandalas and other geometric patterns, Celtic knot designs etc. They will not smudge too easily, neither will they leave a hard indent in the paper when rubbed out. Read on if you’d like to know more.
The ‘Graphite Scale’ measures the softness/hardness of the lead in a pencil.
Graphite is naturally soft so the clay is mixed with it to make it harder when it is used in a pencil lead.
Soft pencils have a high graphite content and make a darker mark. They can also make more of a smudge on the paper. Soft pencils are graded with the letter B to indicate the blackness of the mark they make. A 2B lead is softer and darker than a B lead. A 3B lead is softer still and so on.
Hard pencils have a higher clay content and make a lighter mark. They also leave more of an indent in the paper when they are rubbed out. Hard pencils are graded with the letter H to indicate how hard they are. 2H is harder than H and leaves a lighter mark. 3H is harder still and so on.
In the middle of the two ranges lies the HB pencil (hard black). This is considered a standard pencil. However, there is no industry standard and one HB pencil from one brand will not necessarily be the same as an HB pencil from another brand.
Best pen for drawing mandalas
I always use Sakura Pigma Micron Pens for drawing mandalas. They come in various sizes and colours but most people start simply using black ink. The size I use most is the Micron 05 (0.45mm nib). For finer lines, I use a Micron 01 (0.25mm nib) and I use the Pigma Brush in the same range, also in black, to fill in larger areas.
These Sakura pens don’t bleed or smudge so are fantastic to use for drawings. They are also archival quality, and won’t fade so they are ideal for work you want to keep. And, being waterproof, you can go on to paint over them if you wish.
Best rulers for drawing mandalas
I use two rulers. A 30 cm clear ruler and shorter clear ruler too. The longer ruler is useful when drawing the template and the shorter one is easier to use when using it for smaller details. I like this particular ruler as it has a raised edge on one side and a bevelled edge the other. The raised edge means I can draw a straight line with an ink pen and not smudge it.