Category Archives: drawing

New free/pay what you want resource: Sketchnotes 2013; also, Emacs Dired rocks

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Get your copy of the Sketchnotes 2013 collection

Since people found my collection of sketchnotes from 2012 handy, I’ve put together a categorized collection of sketchnotes from 2013 as well. Enjoy! =)

Behind the scenes

This was how I made the 2012 collection:

  1. Create a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation. Fill it with high-res images. Resize and position all the images. Use AutoHotkey to save myself time and avoid going crazy.
  2. Create a spreadsheet with titles and page numbers. Add captions with liberal use of AutoHotkey.
  3. Create a manual table of contents and link to all the images. Mostly use AutoHotkey, except for the part where if you create a link to a slide number that consists of repeated numbers (ex: 55 or 66), you have to select it a different way, because typing “55” gets you #51 (and “555” gets you #52, etc).
  4. Save as PDF.

There was a lot of manual fiddling around involved in making that collection, so I’m experimenting with a different approach that may be useful. For Sketchnotes 2013, I wanted to see if there were ways I could simplify the packaging process while enabling people to do other things with the files.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I used Emacs dired-mode’s C-x C-q (dired-toggle-read-only) to go into editable mode, which allowed me to easily edit all the filenames to include #keywords. I used C-x C-q to save the changes.
  2. Then I used Emacs dired’s % m to select multiple files by regular expressions and R to move the files into a specified directory.
  3. Tada! Neatly organized files. I packaged it up as a ZIP and put it on Gumroad.
  4. Since Dropbox also allows you to share folders, I created a public link to the folder that had my organized sketches. That way, people can download a single directory if they want to, instead of downloading all 250+ MB.

It still might be interesting to make a PDF, especially if I can make one that can be published through something like CreateSpace. More packaging… =)

Free/pay-what-you-want resources for sketchnoting with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

I’ve written about how I use Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Windows-based Lenovo X220 tablet PC (which is a Proper Computer and everything, so I can run all sorts of other stuff in addition to drawing on my screen). To make things even easier, I’ve put together the light dot grid that I use for drawing consistently even when I’m zoomed in, a PSD that has the grid, and the brushes that I use to draw different widths easily.

You can download the ZIP of the resources from http://sachachua.com/sketchbook-resources. They’re best used with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (desktop version), but you can probably adapt them for use in other apps.

To import the brushes into your palette:

1. Open the brush palette if it is not yet visible.

Brush palette

Brush palette

2. Open the brush library by clicking on the icon of the three bars.

Show brush library

Show brush library

3. Use the radial menu to import the brushes. You can create a new brush set if you want, and then import the brushes into that.

Import brush set

Import brush set

4. Drag and drop the brushes into your brush palette (the long vertical one) in the order you want.

Brush set

Brush set

I use the first three pens for small, medium, and large widths. The largest pen is useful for colouring. I keep it there so that I can change the size easily without messing up the other three pens. I usually use the highlighter on a separate layer so that I can change my mind about highlighters afterwards, but if you need to highlight as you go, you can use the second highlighter (based on the Copic brushes) to highlight on the same layer.

Again, you can download these free/pay-what-you-want resources from http://sachachua.com/sketchbook-resources . Enjoy!

Thanks to Tom Diaz for nudging me to publish these!

Drawing in action

People often ask me how much time I take to draw notes of someone else’s presentation. I tell them it usually takes me maybe a few minutes more than it takes the person to talk, since I just have to save and post it afterwards.

It may be easier to understand if you see it in action. Over at HelpersHelpOut.com, a few people and I run this weekly live show with tips and tricks for Google Helpout providers. (Small community at the moment!) Last Friday, I hosted a session on copywriting for your listing, with Ramon Williamson as the guest. I was a little worried about whether I could juggle managing the Hangout on Air, interviewing the guest, and drawing the notes all at the same time, since one of my co-hosts backed out and the other was missing in action. Plus I’d just come back from a month-long vacation and hadn’t fully caught up on the topics from the previous shows. Anyway, it worked out reasonably well:

Here’s the image:

2014-01-10 Helpers Help Out 05 - Make Your Listing Better

Helpers Help Out 05 – Make Your Listing Better

Show notes

People also often ask me if they can hire me to do this sort of thing for podcasts and videocasts. The answer is no, although I’ll be happy to refer you to other people you can hire. Me, I really like being able to add my own questions and learn about the things I’m curious about too. =) So I might consider co-hosting if it’s a topic I’m really curious about, but I’m not going to simply illustrate. I’d rather spend the time drawing my own stuff.

The guest on that show and someone else I had lunch with that same day both said they liked the fact that I draw simple stick figures. I don’t draw as well or as elaborately as other sketchnote artists do (see Sketchnote Army for lots of examples), and apparently this makes the sketches less intimidating, more “Hey, I can do this too.” Awesome! Well, now you know how it’s done. Rock on.

More behind-the-scenes notes:

Post-production notes - HHO5 Make Your Listing Better

Post-production notes – HHO5 Make Your Listing Better

UPDATE 2014-01-31: In case you’re curious, I used Google Hangouts On Air for the web conference, with the Q&A module, Hangout Toolbox, and Cameraman (for controlling the view). For drawing, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on Windows 8.1 with a Cintiq 12WX display/tablet acting as a second screen. See how I set up Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for sketchnoting.

Exploring colours

Because it’s good to experiment and play.

2014-01-03 Exploring colours

I think I’ll focus on black text with colour for emphasis when I’m drawing on paper, with some light yellow or light blue highlighting added on the computer if the sketch needs it, and maybe some shading too. I don’t like highlighting on paper, as the colour is uneven and I’m worried about the ink smearing. On the computer, I’ll use brand-based colours if I’m matching a logo and the colours make sense. If not, I might play around with non-black text, just because I can do that on the computer easily. =)

If I use colour for structure and black for text, the balance feels right (and it would be wrong the other way around). Maybe that means darker boxes (more prominent) and lighter text, when I’m working with non-black text? It makes the visual hierarchy jump out more than it would with a light structure.

Hmm… Drawing on paper with red and black is annoying because red scans as pinkish (maybe the scanner’s trying to correct for off-white paper?). Blue survives the scanner better. Comparison:

Blue Flickr Blog
Red Flickr Blog

Okay, let’s see what it’s like with this as my default workflow!

Building a habit of drawing with colours

If I don’t think about colour, I tend to not use it. I draw with whatever’s handy: blue pens, black pens, anything I’m carrying around. So one day I talked myself into being okay with this. (Click on images for larger versions.)

2013-11-21 I've decided to stop caring about pen colour

Figure 1: I’ve decided to stop caring about pen colour

I think this is just me compromising with myself, though. I think there’s more that I can do, more that I can learn.

On the computer, different colours are just a click away, so I use them. Here’s something I coloured in while waiting for the speaker to get through a very long line of people who wanted to talk to him. It’s nowhere near as colourful as the graphic recordings on OgilvyNotes.com or @agentfin’s sketchnotes, but I like it.

20130611 How to Live an Amazing Life - C.C. Chapman - Third Tuesday Toronto

Figure 2: How to Live an Amazing Life (C.C. Chapman, Third Tuesday Toronto)

Actually, colour is a lot of fun. It goes a long way towards making the sketches more approachable, less intimidating, easier to visually distinguish. That’s handy when I’m looking at my Flickr photostream or through my print-outs. Besides, the coloured sketches feel more polished. They make me feel better. (Then I worry that they become intimidating… So maybe the mix is all right – coloured sketches and plain ones, all jumbled up.)

How can I colour more? How can I make it part of my workflow? How can I practise and get good enough at it that it becomes a habit?

2014-01-02 What would it take to make colour part of my workflow

Figure 3: What would it take to make colour part of my workflow?

After drawing that, I started experimenting with switching pen colours. Red and black are classic combinations. This one was fun to do, and it didn’t take that much more thought compared to a plain black one. No post-processing, too.

2014-01-02 Google Helpouts - Imagining an ideal session

Figure 4: Google Helpouts: Imagining an ideal session

Drawing on the computer still produces more confident lines and colours, though. Maybe it’s the pen width, and the ease of switching between background highlights and pen colours?

2013-11-29 Helpers Helpout 02 - Communicating with Clients Before and After Helpouts

Figure 5: Helpers Helpout #2: Communicating with customers before and after Helpouts

So… Hmm. How can I make drawing with colour more habitual?

  • When I draw on paper, I will keep red and black pens handy. I think that will prompt me to use red for highlights, and red is more vivid than blue. If I’m working at a table, it’s easy to slow down and switch. I can use that as thinking time.
  • When I draw on paper, I’ll try staying with the density of figure 4 versus figure 1 – write fewer words and leave more space. I might also try out 0.5mm or 0.6mm pens (currently on 0.4mm) to see if that gives me a different feel.
  • When I process scanned sketches, I will colour at least one of them each day before moving them into my Flickr sync folder. That usually gets me to colour the rest.
  • At least once a week (probably every Thursday), I’ll draw on my computer instead of on paper. I’ve been minimizing the number of events and presentations I do and focusing instead on my own content, so I’ve been drawing on paper more than on my computer. Setting aside some time to work on my computer will encourage me to keep tweaking the workflow, and I like the feel of my computer-drawn images more.

Did you teach yourself to use colour? How was that process for you?

Update 2014-01-03: Here’s a related post about different colouring styles I’ve used

A year of drawing my own content

If 2012 was the year of sketchnoting lots of other people’s presentations, this year was the year of drawing my own thoughts — and I loved it. There was a brief lull mid-year when I was focused on consulting, but now that I’ve made drawing my thoughts a step in my thinking/learning process (like the way writing and blogging are), I draw and post a lot more regularly.

2013-11-30 12_11_02-Flickr Search_ 2013

I really liked focusing on my own content instead of drawing other people’s ideas. For questions that helped me think out loud, I followed my interests and learned a lot more. For things that I drew to help others, I found myself building up a great archive of one-page guides that I could quickly share with even more people.

2013-11-20 More thoughts on drawing for others

2013-12-01 Drawing for others and drawing for myself - note-taking versus note-making

Want to see what I thought and drew about? Check out my Flickr collection of sketches from 2013. =)

In 2014, I’m planning to continue drawing my own content and refer requests for sketchnoting to other people… I’ve got the opportunity to do so and people find it useful, so why not? =) If you like what I’m doing, help me out by sharing your questions with me through blog comments, e-mail ([email protected]), or live conversations!