Create Colorful Zen Pop Art with Jodi Ohl

Want to take your doodle art up a notch? Turn it into colorful pop art by incorporating spray inks, PanPastels, and shimmery pigments! Artist Jodi Ohl shows you how in this technique tutorial from our spring 2016 issue of Zen Doodle magazine.

pop art
Art by Jo Ohl (Photos by Jenn Guneratne/Sharon White Photography)

Zen Pop Art by Jodi Ohl

When I’m doodling I find my happy place with a few pens, paper, and a little bit of time. While I love the simple contrast of black-and-white doodles, you can incorporate a bit of bling with the glimmer of metallic pigments, or a burst of color from spray inks. Tie your bling and color-burst effects together with some shading via PanPastels. These color mediums may be new to you, but incorporating one or more of them into your doodles is easy to do and no experience is needed. Even the simplest doodles look elaborate when color, shine, and shading are added.


  • Papers and substrates, a variety (I used watercolor paper, Art Squares by Inchie Arts, Bristol Strathmore® Artist Tiles, and scrap paper.)
  • Pens, black, waterproof (I used Faber-Castell PITT® Artist pens in a variety of nib sizes.)
  • Spray inks (I used Dylusions Ink Sprays from Ranger.)
  • Powdered pigments (I used Primary Elements™ Arte-Pigments by ColourArte.)
  • Glazing medium (I use Golden Artist Colors® or Liquitex® Professional brands.)
  • Paintbrushes (I used a small round brush.)
  • Stabilo® All pencil, black
  • PanPastel® Artists’ Pastels
  • Eye shadow sponge applicators
  • Gel pen, white (I used a uni-ball Signo® pen.)
  • Paint marker, purple
  • Optional:
    • Stencil

If you doodle with waterproof pens, you can create backgrounds before or after you draw your doodles. Spray inks add a burst of eye-popping color, and metallic paint adds a touch of shimmer.

1. Using the ink spray, randomly spray splotches on the substrate. The splatters lend a pop art look to your artwork. Alternatively, try spraying the ink through a stencil. If there is an area of the substrate you’d like to leave plain, mask it off with a piece of scrap paper before spraying, as I did for the color layers. (See opening image.)

2. Make your own metallic paint by mixing glazing medium with Primary Elements Arte-Pigments. Mix a small batch of paint at a time—a little goes a long way. Brush the paint onto your substrate, using a brush that makes sense for the size substrate or paper you are using. A small round brush will allow you to paint details,and a large flat brush will work well for background work. Metallic colors can be overpowering, so use them sparingly to enhance your design, unless you would like more shine. (Figure 1)


Let the line guide you
1. After you spray or paint your background, look for shapes on which you can start to draw doodles. Draw a few wavy lines on the paper where your color is. Begin filling the lines in with dots, circles, more lines, or any of your favorite patterns. (Figure 2)


2. Use a small pen and create crescent shapes that connect on a wavy line, creating a “worm” doodle. (Figure 3) This is a fun one to incorporate into lines you’ve drawn on a color burst. Try to keep your pen moving quickly as it connects one crescent to the other, with the crescents getting smaller as you go. Enhance the worm shapes by darkening the edges or darken where they connect with one another. (Figure 4)


Add shading
Add shading with a Stabilo All pencil. After drawing your doodle with pencil, go over the pencil line lightly with a damp paintbrush where you want to add shading. This creates a gradient shift from black to gray, and adds dimension to your doodles.

1. Draw a boxy shaped letter with the Stabilo All pencil and retrace the letter with a waterproof black pen. Activate both sides of the pencil line with a damp paintbrush. (Figure 5)


2. Apply PanPastel with the sponge applicator, blending the colors like you would makeup. PanPastels are soft pastels that come in a pan, and they can be used to add color or create shading. They blend easily, like paint, and will give your doodles a sense of depth. To use PanPastels, dab a small amount onto the sponge applicator before adding it to the paper. You can dab on the pastel if the area you are shading is small. For larger areas, allow the pastel to fade as you move away from the darkest part of your shading. Try layering color over color for unique blends and to make your colors pop. (Figure 6) If you are using just a small amount of PanPastel in your work, you do not need to seal it with fixative.

pop art

NOTE: For larger drawings and designs with a lot of pastel incorporated, I use a spray fixative to seal my work.

Don’t overcomplicate your doodles to the point of being stressed out. Notice how even a few simple shapes can look intriguing when you vary your line thickness, add a bit of shading, and add a pop of color. Putting all of these techniques together makes for some fun Zen Pop Art!

More art from Jodi
These pieces are part of my Word Art series, where I choose a word that is meaningful or uplifting to me. After creating the backgrounds, I position the inspirational word in the center or slightly off center, and create my doodles around it. Then I embellish the word and doodles with a variety of drawing tools and media.

pop art
“Flair”; 6″ x 6″ Bristol Strathmore Artist Tile; PITT artist pens; Dylusions Ink Spray (Bubblegum Pink), Primary Elements Arte-Pigments (Lemongrass), PanPastel (black)
“Grow”; 8″ x 10″ watercolor paper; PITT artist pens (black), Signo gel pen (white), Sharpie Paint Pen (purple), Dylusions spray ink (Fresh Lime), Primary Elements Arte-Pigments (Emerald Green), PanPastel (gray)

Jodi Ohl is a full-time mixed-media artist and instructor from North Carolina who truly dreams in color. Find her work and musings on her blog. Jodi welcomes your questions and comments. Visit her website at

Want to add doodles to a shirt? Click here for a tutorial! Plus, find more zen doodle inspiration below:

The Spring 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop will show you just how creative and daring doodle artists can be!
Tiffany Lovering’s book, Zen Doodle Unleashed, includes everything you need to know about freeform tangle art with patterns, coloring, and lettering techniques.
Create watercolor postcards spiced up with some zen doodle pattern drawing! Sandrine Pelissier shows you how in her Zen Doodle Postcards: Mixed-Media Texture Techniques video download.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques, Paper Art and Zen Doodle


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