What is a mandala? According to the BBC website, it is a symbolic picture of the universe that is used in Tibetan Buddhism during meditation. Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle.
This Instructable will be easier to follow if you have a basic knowledge of photo editing software. You will need to be able to remove the background from a photograph to leave just the image you want, duplicate it, re-size it, copy it, move it, rotate it and create mirror images by flipping it. You will also need to be able to select colours from images to create a background with a colour gradient, and you must be happy about working with layers. There are plenty of tutorials out there on the Web if you need help with any of the above that goes beyond the instructions I have provided, which are based on the Gimp v2.6.11.
What you need
Photoshop, the Gimp or similar image-manipulation software
Suitable digital photos you have taken, or copyright-free images from the Web
Step 1: Choosing the images
You could create a mandala around a particular theme, such as a recent holiday, using pictures only from that holiday – perhaps a cocktail glass, a lizard, a sunset and an exotic flower.
The subjects you choose for your images should have clear outlines and fit into a square or round box rather than being too long and thin. All, or at least a substantial portion of them, should have a vertical line of symmetry, because some images will be placed centrally on the outside edges of the segment and will be “reflected” when it is copied to create the mandala. (If that makes no sense, don’t worry, it will when you get to Step 4.) The symmetry doesn’t have to be perfect, few things in nature are. Flowers, butterflies and most fruit (not bananas) work well and you may be able to cheat by re-colouring them if necessary. Pieces of jewellery, eg stud earrings, single stone rings, small brooches and pendants, can be good too as they give a bit of sparkle to the mandala. You could also try brightly coloured sweets (candies) or beads.
Look carefully at your pictures, there may be a small part that is usable such as a pretty button on someone’s coat or an interestingly shaped leaf on the ground. You will need at least 6-8 images for a small mandala like the example I show how to create (which is a little over 1,000 pixels in diameter on a 1,200 x 1,200 pixel background), ideally more for a larger one. The images should come in groups, ie 2 or more slightly different pictures of the same thing. You could use photos of 2 or 3 of the same item positioned close together as well as each one separately. According to Spoonflower, a resolution of 150 dpi will give a good quality print. This means that a 1,200 x 1,200 mandala can be printed at up to 8” square/diameter.
I decided to make a mandala to go in my kitchen which is white with splashes of lilac and fuchsia. The pictures in the Introduction show 2 versions of the end result, the second of which I show how to make here, step by step. There's also a mandala I created using images of orchids, raspberries and diamonds. In the end I took photos specially for the lilac/fuchsia project, taking as my subjects individual florets from lilac and fuchsia geraniums (pelargoniums), an opal ring and earrings with similar pinky-bluey colours and a pair of pink rosequartz earrings. If you are taking photos instead of using ones you already have, try to get good, well-lit close-ups against a white or contrasting background with no shadow, it will make Step 2 much easier. To photograph the florets I made a hole in a sheet of white paper and put each floret (one by one) on the paper with the stem through the hole so that it lay flat with minimal shadow on the paper. Doing it outside on an overcast day will avoid a directional light source and the resultant shadows.
The picture in this step shows the source images of flowers and jewellery that I started with.