How do I do a sketch

Learn sketchnotes - that's how it works!

Reading time: About 10 minutes

To deal with visualization in the form of Sketchnotes It doesn't really take much to be able to work, because anyone can learn sketch notes. Do you remember how as a child you just started drawing? With joy and without much thought? It is similar with sketch notes. Anyone can just start drawing with very simple shapes.


What are sketchnotes?

Sketchnotes (Sketch + Notes) are visual notes, so more than the normal text notes that we have all learned to create. With sketch notes one prepares Content visually and adds visual elements, e.g. small drawings, frames, arrows, letterings etc. In the end you have "notes with added value".

Sketchnotes help to prepare content visually and make it easier to understand, and information is better remembered.

Often people mean »Sketchnotes« but also any form of visualization, the terminology is often mixed up: graphic recording, sketchnoting, digital scribbling, doodling, visualization, illustration and and and. I guess that's because »Sketchnotes« are currently a trend topic and are therefore on everyone's lips. I understand the problem of imprecise terminology, especially in an industry that is becoming more professional; but mainly welcome that so much is being done with visualization in the meantime that I am bothered by the imprecise terminology.

I explain the exact difference between sketch notes, graphic recording, visual facilitation and illustration in this article.


How does sketch notes work?

Sketchnotes from classic notes in the sense of transcripts basically work as follows: Through trained listening you take in information of any kind (acoustic information can be supported by visual information, e.g. on slides of presentations), filter it for yourself (What is particularly important to me? What do I want to remember / hold on to?) and then make a note of it Text and images.

Sketchnotes can also be used as a kind Use "Review", so do not make it live but, for example, looking back on a day, an excursion, a book - in short, a special content that you want to summarize or reflect. These are also sketch notes, but they are not created under time pressure.



Why Sketchnotes?

When you work with sketchnotes, you make use of the image superiority effect, which is based on the dual coding theory. In a nutshell, this means: Verbal and visual information is processed in the brain in different but similar areas. Consequently, information obtained from text and picture exist doubly coded (hence dual coding) and thus stick better. This is exactly why sketchnotes work so well as a tool for learning and oversight.

  • Sketch notes helps get stuff better to remember
  • Sketch notes helps to focus better
  • Sketchnotes supported Active listening
  • Sketch notes makes you incredible have fun

Generally one can say: images the brain can grasp faster than text, they can be a good door opener in a subject. Images are used to anchor information in the brain emotionally differently than with plain text, since we are very visual beings. This makes remembering and, above all, reflecting on content much easier.

Sketchnotes or general visualizations on flipcharts, whiteboards, in presentations or as a summary in the form of graphic recording help to better recognize content and connections.

What do I need for sketch notes?

Here's some good news: Not much - pencils and paper will do just fine. Whether this is a pencil or a special fineliner or the iPad is entirely up to you.

I have put together my favorite pens for you on my material page.


Sketchnotes Basics - a little guide


For many beginners, this is Visual alphabet a good starting point. I first encountered the visual alphabet in Sunni Brown's "The Doodle Revolution". It wasn't that new to me as someone who's always been drawing, but I've noticed that it's a great way to start drawing for many.

The Visual alphabet consists of a few basic forms like Circle, square, lines etc. with which you can actually draw anything. It is not a fixed alphabet, for some it only consists of five forms, some have a few more. I recommend Eva-Lotta Lamm's article if you want to delve deeper into the subject: "The Choreography of Sketching - A metaphorical view on visual alphabets"

If you now start to "break down" simple symbols in such a way that they can be drawn from a few lines, drawing symbols is no longer that difficult. It is important not to get lost in details but to use really simple basic forms. Of course, you can still draw »more«, but it helps a lot to focus on simple basic shapes.

There are more example symbols for tracing in my freebie starter set and extensive templates and drawing instructions in the "large symbol library".



Personality in sketchnotes is mainly achieved through the use of figures. There is no need for exact drawings for people; for most cases, simple stick figures will do just fine. These can be set in motion perfectly

Most emotions can be represented with the combination of eyebrows and mouths. Here, too, it doesn't have to be more than simple lines - after all, we don't draw exact portraits. (We don't even have to).

Frame and container

For the structuring within a sketch note you can use a few basic elements, each of which is very varied:

  • Frame and containerto summarize or separate content
  • Speech bubbles for what is said
  • Arrows for connections
  • Flags and banners for titles and highlights
  • Action elements
  • Fonts and letterings

How do I build up a sketch note? - layout and structure

Personally, what I particularly like about sketch notes is the complete freedom in how to divide and design the format.

You start drawing in one corner (or in the middle) and stop where you stop. It can help to come up with a rough basic structure in advance. For example, I like to start with the name and title in the left corner and then see where the sketch note goes.

Sometimes I follow a path, sometimes it is rather confused and the individual "chunks" of content simply end up all over the page. Tidy sketch notes are perceived as such because they follow a clear structure or visual hierarchy: Conspicuous title, important larger, unimportant smaller, clearly separated areas, etc.

You can find detailed instructions for creating sketchnotes here: Bringing structure into sketchnotes! This is how it works - Part 1 and bring structure to sketchnotes here! Three examples - part 2

By the way, it is important that good sketch notes do not have to be "beautiful". This checklist will help you check yourself out.

What can you use Sketchnotes for?

I myself started with sketchnotes at conferences by visually recording lectures. That was basically my gateway drug to the topic.

In the course of time (and practice) I noticed that sketchnotes can do a lot more and can be used in a wide variety of ways (which is why my first book is also called »Visual Notes for Everything).

Example of a shopping list

You can use sketchnotes for:

  • Visual minutes at conferences, presentations, meetings or events of any kind (such as parents' evenings, no joke!)
  • as part of your presentations or on flipcharts, e.g. at work
  • to prepare events such as parties
  • private notes and transcripts at school, university, job
  • for bullet journals or general visual diaries
  • for shopping lists
  • for recipes
  • for all kinds of processes such as operating instructions

I want to learn sketchnoting - how do I start?

I always think books are the perfect introduction to a topic, it just so happens that I have a few to choose from for sketchnotes. The quick start block is ideal for getting started. He introduces the topic with many small exercises and exercise sheets, which are quite easy at the beginning and then increase a little. At 10.99 euros, it is also super cheap.

If you need specific drawing instructions and templates, "The Large Symbol Library" is just the thing for you. It will be published in March 2020.

Oh yes, I also give workshops, both in-house and openly. You can find more about this on my offer page.

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