How to Draw Stencil-Guided Doodle Art

Artists love doodling because there are no rules–but tons of fun techniques! Get a sneak peek inside the pages of our latest Zen Doodle Workshop magazine, which is included in this exclusive Year of the Doodle kit (which also includes Year of the Doodle: 365 Drawing, Collaging, and Mark-Making Adventures and the premiere digital issue of Zen Doodle Workshop!)

Mixed-Media Doodle Art by Mary Beth Shaw (

Creating formal doodles has always appealed to me, but I don’t follow instructions well and I’m easily distracted, so I invariably end up with something much messier than I intended. As a long-time mixed-media artist, it’s difficult for me to limit myself to paper and pen. I simply can’t resist using tons of supplies, and before you know it, I’ve layered paint, pens, markers, and stencils with no restraint.

Doodle art by Mary Beth Shaw |
See Mary Beth’s demo for organic free-form doodle art in Zen Doodle Workshop magazine.

That doesn’t mean I don’t doodle–I’ve simply found other ways to create doodled designs that let me use my mixed-media supplies. In order to somewhat rein in my mixed-media self, I generally work in one of two ways: I create organic, free-form doodle art that is loose and fluid and lets me play with broad gestural marks, achieving a calligraphic and painterly look that is still doodle centric. Or, I use a stencil-guided doodle method that gives me more precision, but still allows me to work free form with lots of room to improvise.

how to draw doodle art | Mary Beth Shaw,
(See the full article for figures 1-3 on how to draw organic doodles.)

Stencil-Guided Doodle Art

1. Select a palette of 3 colors, keeping with analogous colors. Using a palette knife, apply a skim coat of each of the colors across your paper. I spread the colors around, blending some while still wet, which created layered sections. I also left some sections with just one color. (Figure 4) Allow to dry.

how to draw doodle art | Mary Beth Shaw,

2. Use stencils to create a composition across the page. I created large design areas first with a grid stencil, (Figure 5) and then added patterns with smaller detail stencils in the grid spaces. (Figure 6) The effect was like a coloring book page. Some large stencils, such as flower designs or mandalas, are so stunning on their own that they can serve as the entire design.

3. Once the main design has been created, you can complete it over time. I usually journal while watching television, and that is also when I doodle. I work little by little to fill the areas with doodles, using black markers and paint pens in a variety of thicknesses (see featured image at top). Most of the time I improvise, but you can also use established designs to fill the spaces. ~Mary Beth

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