Zentangles Self Portraits

Grade Level: 4th+


  • black permanent markers
  • 9×12” white construction paper

Take the time to display, and even practice drawing some zentangle designs before you begin. See ideas/definition here.

With the zentangle method students are encouraged to not have preconceived ideas of final results.


  1. Lay the paper vertical.
  2. Direct students to draw with their sharpies. (Drawing in pencil first, then tracing over with sharpie isn’t necessary, and can lead to young artists feeling quite overwhelmed.)
  3. Start by drawing a large U-shape or oval in the bottom half to the bottom 2/3 of the paper. This will be the head and chin.
  4. Neck and shoulders can be drawn next. Add simple facial features (Eyes, nose, lips are a must. Ears, eyebrows, eyelashes if desired.)
  5. Add a curved, wavy, or jagged line on the forehead to show the hairline or bangs.
  6. Next the simple outline of hair can be drawn, to be filled in later with zentangle designs.

Tip: For kids with shorter hair, simply encourage them to exaggerate the “volume” of the their hair.)

The coolest thing about this project is that there’s no wrong way to do it! Kids can explore the elements of design (line, direction, shape, size, etc) and make their zentangle designs as wacky, creative, artistic, linear, or plain as they’d like.

Teachers, you can require kids to extend some wild zentangles to the papers’ edges or you can ask that kids only “zentangle” their hair. Either option will have a neat effect!

I highly recommend that you, the teacher, create your own zentangle self portrait to use as an example.


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