Coloring a Mandala

Do you know what a mandala is?

In common use, it has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically,  a microcosm of the Universe from the human perspective.

It's also a Sanskrit word that means "circle".

A couple of years ago I was searching for some interesting Wacom painting projects to add to the website and came across these amazing pieces of art.

"That's perfect", I thought back then but soon discovered a problem.  It was impossible to locate any digital blanks to paint with my Wacom tablet.

I tried to draw my own - t'was a miserable failure!

A few weeks back I stumbled across a site about Zentagles (deliberate doodling) and one of the links on the page was to a mandala site.  Naturally it piqued my curiosity so I followed the link ...

... and found some nice jpeg mandalas to download and color with my Wacom tablet.



So now that we know they are out there perhaps you can find some to download and paint yourself with your Wacom tablet and Photoshop Elements or just visit this site - Coloring Page Mandalas.

There are also some fabulous ones here ...



Mandala Coloring Tips


At it's simplest, painting a mandala with a Wacom tablet is really easy.  Just grab your pen, choose a color and start painting.

This is not the best way, however.

The best method is to add a layer set to Multiply Blend Mode for each section you are working on.

This is a copy of one of the layers from the art work in the previous section.

As a review, some of the advantage of using layers with Photoshop Elements are ...

1. It's easy to erase mistakes on a layer, and
2. The Opacity of the layer can be lowered.

And that's it - select a hard edge round brush, set the pen to change size with pressure and choose a color scheme.  Create a new layer for each section and start working.  If you go beyond the lines for each section then grab the eraser and remove the rogue colors.

Brush Dynamics

This is where things get really interesting.  Elements makes it easy to change the way the brushes work with a Wacom tablet and the program includes some really neat brush tips.

It's easy to see the subtle color changes in the different sections of this mandala.  While solid colors are nice, the variations in the greens, blues and oranges are more natural and much more interesting.

The variations were created by setting the brush strokes to change their character with pressure and this is how it's done ...

Modifying Brush Dynamics

When the Brush Tool is selected this is part of the Options Bar at the top of the screen ...

Here's how to set things up 

The Airbrush options is in the little red square - make sure it is selected.  This option applies gradual tones to an image, simulating traditional airbrush techniques. 

Brush Tablet Options

Clicking the arrow in the little yellow square will open the Brush Tablet Options palette ...

For the mandala project these are the settings I selected ...

Size - the brush size will change with pressure applied to the Wacom tablet.

Hue Jitter - Sets the rate at which the stroke color switches between the foreground and background colors. Higher values cause more frequent switches between the two colors than lower values.  This is the setting that creates the subtle changes in color.

Additional Brush Options

Now click on the brush tool icon in the little green square to bring up this palette ...

You can mess with all of the settings but there's only one that really creates those subtle differences and that's the Hue Jitter setting.

As you can see, my brush is set to the maximum for this setting -> 100%.  This setting can be lowered to decrease the amount of Jitter.

Remember - the Hue Jitter sets the rate at which the stroke color switches between the foreground and background colors. Higher values cause more frequent switches between the two colors than lower values.  This is the setting that creates the subtle changes in color.

Another one of interest  is at the bottom of the palette - the Angle and Roundness.  

You can work your project with a round, hard edge brush but why use that boring setting?  There are some really great brushes in Elements so why not try them out?  In my project I selected the Spatter Brush.

Color Selection

To create those subtle hues in your coloring project some consideration needs to be given to the foreground and background colors for each selection.

The reason for this is that the resulting color will change according to the pressure you apply to your Wacom pen.  If there is a wide difference between the foreground color and the background color then the resulting color may be a bit more garish than you wish - or maybe not.

If you would like to review these dynamics in more detail then spend some quality and informative time on the Digital Coloring page ...

When I was selecting the foreground/background colors I made sure they were close to each other but different enough to see the difference when painting.

I summary - here are the settings to create those neat subtle changes in hue ...

  • Airbrush selected in the Options Bar
  • Select an interesting brush from the Brush picker.
  • Size and Hue Jitter selected in the Brush Tablet Options.
  • Hue Jitter set to maximum.

Now you're ready to create your first layer set to Multiply Blend Mode and start painting

Taking if Farther

Once you've finished painting with your Wacom pen you're finished, right?

Well - yes - however, there's more you can do to and that's to apply a striking finishing touch with one of the filters in Photoshop Elements Filter Gallery (Filter > Filter Gallery ...).


The painting needs to be flattened (Layer > Flatten Image) before applying any filters.  If you don't flatten the painting then the filter will be applied to the top layer only and that'll look kind of silly, won't it?

Here's a mandala I painted - let's try out a few filters on it.

The most appealing filters are in Filter > Filter Gallery > Texture Folder > Texturizer.

There are four in the set  ...

  • Brick
  • Burlap
  • Canvas
  • Sandstone

Plus the last one in Texture Folder > Grain

Of course there are a whole lot more filters in the Gallery but these ones seem to provide the best look with the mandala.  Take some time and wander through the different filters - you may discover something you really like.

Adding a Frame

One last thing - let's add a simple frame just to finish off.

This is a simple thing to do and here's how.

Select Image > Size > Canvas Size ... to bring up this dialogue ...

Place a check mark in Relative and then choose how much larger (in pixels) the new canvas will be in the Width and Height boxes.  I chose 30 pixels for each setting.

At the bottom of the dialogue is the Canvas extension color: selector.  Click on the little color swatch to bring up the color picker and either ...

  • select the color you want, or ...
  • move the cursor off of the color picker over your mandala.  It will change to the eyedropper tool and all you need to do is click on any color to select it as your canvas extension color.

Click OK to accept the color and then OK in the Canvas Size dialogue and there you go - a nice little frame around your work of art.

The blue frame color was taken from one of the blue areas in the mandala.

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