Sketchnoting 2

Where do you start?

May 2015

The following information will help you to sketch your ideas, talks, processes, etc., and take visual notes of whatever you would like to document in an easy and fun way.

Take the leap and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. The next line you draw will improve on the previous one. This seems pretty obvious but the more you draw the safer and freer you will feel.


Where do you start? 

Remember that you can go digital (drawing with your computer or your tablet, for instance. Paper is a great tool for the later) or analogic, which is what I prefer: one fine-tip pen (Pilot 0.5 is my favourite) and another a bit thicker, along with a colour for shadows and highlights (Copic is a great brand for colours).

You can experiment with some of the basics that you will use again and again in different sketches: typography (headlines, paragraph styles), lines (dividers, connectors, arrows), containers (square frames, containers for thoughts, highlighted ones), attention points (bullet points, highlighted elements, numbers, stars), basic shapes (squares, circles, triangles), etc.

Once you tried these basic shapes you can work on a more complex ones like people (different facial expressions, different postures, from the front, from behind, profiles…). Other complex shapes that are worth some exploration are logos (social media ones that you will use for sure or others more related to your current sketch), and iconography (related to different disciplines that could be useful in your theme).

In addition to shapes, other elements to consider are colours, sizes, textures, and the relationships between shapes. It is helpful to take the time to learn a bit more about the Gestalt laws of perceptual organization (similarity, proximity, continuity, closure) at this point.

Page layout design can be very diverse: linear from left to right, from top to bottom, as a spiral, beginning in the centre moving outward, etc. I tend to draw the title in the centre and display the different concepts around it.

One of the things I found most difficult to master was how to handle the paper: knowing the length of a talk is one thing, but understanding how much space you have on paper for each concept and ending up with a final sheet with the elements displayed smoothly around the page is another.

I do two different kind of sketches: one more direct, and another a bit more elaborated. For the first one, I take notes in real time with corrections as I sketch. For the second one, I take notes on paper in real time and then translate those notes into a more elaborate design. I do the same thing when applying the colours: sometimes I shade directly on the paper, but I prefer to scan the black and white sketch and then apply the colour in Photoshop.

Here there are some exercises you can do to practice and improve your sketching skills. I recommend “timeboxing” your exercises in order to make the most of them (it’s also a good idea to keep all these exercises in a notebook in the size of your preference as a personal library which you could refer to and use anytime you need).

  • Fun exercises to start (general drawing):
    • Draw an apple on different sheets of paper in different ways. Experiment as much as you can (square shapes, round ones, basic shapes, shaded, without shading, etc.). 3-4 minutes
    • Draw a car without lifting the pen/pencil from the paper. 1-2 minutes
    • Draw the same car with your eyes closed.1-2 minutes
    • Draw the same car using straight lines. 1-2 minutes
    • Draw the same car with no lines and only blocks of colours. 1-2 minutes
  • Basic shapes exploration: Dedicate one day to each of the basic shapes we’ve seen before (lines, containers, bullets, etc.) 15-20 minutes. After that, try adding new shapes every day. Just 5 minutes will be enough.
  • Sketch something that happened to you during the day. It could be a feeling, an idea, a funny fact (e.g. cold, stress, having drinks, busy commuting, etc.) 10-15 minutes
  • Practice drawing some logos that you will probably use in your next sketches. These are most likely social media logos: Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube…or any others that you think you might use. 10-15 minutes. Try to add new logos each time you practice.
  • Sketch some shapes/icons specific to different fields (utilities, travelling, food, banking, etc.) 10 minutes for each theme.
  • People: faces. Draw different faces (sad, happy, nervous, etc.) with basic shapes. (5-10 minutes)
  • People: body. Draw different postures and behaviours (seating, standing, thinking, crying, profile, from behind, etc.)
  • People: variety. Draw different genders, ages, races, cultures, etc.
  • Sketch your day.
  • Sketch how you prepare your favourite meal.
  • Sketch your next meeting.
  • Sketch an interesting TED talk.
  • Sketch abstract concepts.
  • Sketch products.
  • Sketch services.
  • Keep sketching…