The Mandala Guidebook: How to draw, paint and color expressive mandala art

The mandala craze that started a few years ago on the internet is everywhere these days. There are plenty of pretty mandala coloring books to chose from if coloring is your thing, but how do you get started if you want to create your own mandala – or develop the ones you are already drawing? One idea is getting Kathryn Costa’s book The Mandala Guidebook: How to draw, paint and color expressive mandala art. And that is actually a very good idea, if you ask me.

Book review of The Mandala Guidebook

I just read this book, and I can totally recommend anyone wanting to draw and doodle more, to check it out! Here’s my review.

The Mandala Guidebook is like a workshop where you will get plenty of inspiration, tools and ideas to work from on your own. Each project can be done in a lot of different ways, and if you want to this could be a life long exploration, or maybe you will be inspired to join Kathryn’s one hundred mandala project? I don’t want to commit to it personally right now, but as time permits, I am exploring mandalas as much as I can and learning a lot about myself as I go. Every time I browse through the pages of this guidebook I find new inspiration.

The first method of drawing a mandala is the freehand method, which is the first chapter of The Mandala Guidebook. That’s the one I’ve used the most. I love starting with a circle in the middle and then letting it grow from eight straws around it, creating different shapes as it grows until I run out of paper.

To me this is the most artistic way of drawing a mandala, where you have no plan from the start but let it evolve on its own. It gives you great freedom to explore different shapes and ideas, and you can be as exact or as wild as you want to be. That’s my favorite way of approaching any art – the wild and free way. But if you run out of petal-shape-ideas there is a step-by-step drawing guide to follow along with, and pages of patterns, shapes and ideas on how to connect your mandala petals in the book.

The other very common way to draw a mandala is by using a regular ruler, a compass (a pencil holder with two arms that helps you draw perfect circles) and a protractor (a ruler that is a half circle). With these tools you can draw an (almost) symmetrical circle and fill it in with the shapes of your mandala, straight or curved lines as you please. I say perfect with hesitation here, because even with a compass my mandalas are never very perfect. I’m too impatient for that, I wing it a bit even with a ruler, and that’s okay too. If I wanted a perfect mandala I could just print a coloring page from the internet, because there are plenty to choose from online. But coloring in someone else’s art is another kind of experience, and that’s not what this book is about.

From Kathryn Costa's book The Mandala Guidebook - review at

This book is about exploring lines and to master the mechanics of making your own mandala, to experiment with colors, patterns and forms on paper and finding out how a mandala can help answer questions, make you relax a bit and almost be like a meditation.

Without the step-by-step tutorial and help of the book, I would never have tried the geometrical measuring method, because I am not a person of rulers, and I simply hate math with a fire that started burning inside of me in my first year of school (it was just never my thing and I could not get the grownups to understand that)! But once I tried (using the measures Kathryn already did for me in the book), I found I enjoyed the process of drawing out the grid to fill in!

Oh wow, once again I find this truth: You do not know what you like until you try it (for the first time or again after a couple of years)! The only constant is change.

When you start coloring the mandala in, the imperfections you might have drawn in, are not as visible any more. And coloring your own artwork is always enjoyable to me. It is something very different than coloring in a coloring book. Following the book’s instructions, here is what my mandala looked like when I started drawing (I’ll show more of the process in my next blog post):

iHanna's Mandala - starting point for a geometric mandala

Next up in the order of the chapters comes “seed of life”, and “flower of life”, both consist of overlapping circles in different geometrical patterns. They look amazing and is what I’m going to try next. I even bought myself one of those circle drawing rulers, just for this project, because I’m a fan of circles as you might already know.

Book review of The Mandala Guidebook, more photos and the review at by @ihanna #mandala

So that’s the basic of drawing a mandala, the rest of The Mandala Guidebook has a more playful tone exploring Celtic spirals, mehndi mandalas, the color wheel, and it includes a whole lot of experimental mixed media projects like using the round gel printing plate, collage and exploring ideas for healing and self-expression. Like I said: a whole lot of ideas to explore, all through the summer!

Kathryn Costa has an inviting, warm style that will make you feel invited to play along. Her own mandalas in the book are beautiful and inspiring. She writes:

Mandalas are a form that welcomes everyone. I love watching beginners who don’t believe they can draw discover the joy of creating beautiful mandalas. For the experienced artist, the mandala is an invitation to explore the boundaries of designa nd form and to experiment with familiar and new mediums. Creating mandalas can be a warm-up exercise to activate one’s creativity before working on other projects, or it can be a satisfying final destination.

What is your favorite way to create a mandala? Let me know in the comments below!

Further Mandala Inspiration

* The Mandala Guidebook: How to draw, paint and color expressive mandala art – on amazon (affiliate link)
* 100 Mandalas homepage – home of Kathryn and her book on the web
* 100 Mandalas on Facebook
* iHanna’s Book Reviews – a list of the books I’ve recommended through the years
* My first mandala – I’m a long time fan of Kathryn herself, and it was actually she who first introduced me to the magic of mandalas (back in 2009!)

I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher North Light Books, and the links to amazon are as always, affiliate links. But of course all opinions and words in this and all my reviews are all my own. I always write my own truth.

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One Response to The Mandala Guidebook: How to draw, paint and color expressive mandala art

  1. Greets iHanna! I enjoyed reading your review of my book and your experiences with trying a couple of the projects. I’m all smiles that you discovered how fun it can be to design within a grid. I really enjoy drawing freehand within the grid as measuring lines with a ruler is a bit tedious for me. Each person is welcome to find their own way. I packed this book to give one hours upon hours of creative enjoyment. I can’t wait to see where these ideas take you. I know you’ll add your own style and spin to them.

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