A fun way to build your visual vocabulary is to explore metaphors and clichés. While you should minimize the use of clichés in writing, they frequently show up in speech, and drawing them can make your sketchnotes more visually interesting.
Here’s a sampler of metaphors based on an exercise I did in the Rockstar Scribe class. Some of them didn’t resonate as much with me, so I replaced them with similar metaphors. For example, I don’t really use “against the tide” that much, so I drew a stick figure rolling a boulder up hill. If you play around with these ideas, I’m sure you can come up with even more!
The Internet has lots of collections of cliches and figures of speech. ClicheSite has a searchable index. Metaphors.com focuses just on metaphors. There are plenty of ideas to practise with – Enjoy!
I’ve written about my process for breaking down inspiring sketchnotes and building a visual dictionary/thesaurus. Tom suggested that I put together an Evernote shared notebook where I can share examples with you. Since I can’t share my main visual library because it uses snippets of other people’s sketchnotes, I’ve been slowly building up a visual library based on my own sketches. As you’ll see, I have a very simple vocabulary! Here’s my process for building my vocabulary:
And here’s the actual library as an Evernote shared notebook. So far, it includes elements from my sketchnotes from 2013. I’m looking forward to adding more sketches from previous years and my daily sketches, and redrawing some of the more common terms I’ve seen in other people’s sketches.
This is what it looks like in Evernote:
Enjoy! I’d love to see your visual library/dictionary/thesaurus. Evernote looks like an excellent tool for creating and sharing these, and I hope you’ll put one together for yourself too. Feel free to browse through and use mine!
Instead of sharing a sketchnoting tip, I thought I’d write about a new habit that I’m working on forming: drawing my thoughts every day. It turns out that this is a great way to think about stuff and practice drawing at the same time.
I find it difficult to draw a visual journal because I don’t think the everyday details of my life are all that interesting. On the other hand, I really like the way drawing helps me think through stuff. Instead of drawing what I had for lunch, then, I pick an idea or question I want to explore, and then I start writing. Sometimes I’ll add little sketchnote-y doodles. Sometimes the page is full of text. I always end up learning a little more or having a clearer understanding, so it all works out.
The sketchnotes are more fun to create and easier to share than writing text notes or making simple mindmaps. They’re also easier to review. I scan my sketchnotes every day and import them into Evernote and Flickr, and I’ve flipped through my digital copies a few times already.
I fill way more pages when I use drawing as a tool for thinking instead of just as a tool for recording other people’s thoughts. I’ve been averaging 6 notes a day at about 20 minutes a note, and I consider it time well spent. As I get the hang of doing this, maybe my notes will be more creative and more elaborate. We’ll see!
Don’t limit sketchnoting to drawing other people’s thoughts or save it only for brainstorming on special occasions. Use it every day as a tool for helping you think! =)
It’s good to think about how you want to grow, collect examples, break down those goals into specific skills you can work on, and practise. You can see how I’ve been practising and sharing different skills in my sketchnote lessons. =) Focusing on one skill at a time makes it easier to try different variations and learn more.
By the way, if you would like to practise by making your own sketchnote lessons, please feel free to share your work with me and I can link to it or repost it in this series.
Color is a great way to add visual interest and guide people’s eyes to what you want them to focus on. Here’s Kevin Dulle’s sketchnote lesson on adding emphasis with shadows and color:
Reposted with permission – check out his blog for more tips!
If you’re starting out with sketchnotes, you don’t have to use color right away. Go ahead and draw with whatever you feel comfortable with, whether that’s a black technical pen, a 4-color ballpen, or a digital stylus.
You can always add color afterwards. On paper, you can use crayons, colored pencils, highlighters, markers, and so on. Make sure you test it in an inconspicuous area (maybe on a separate piece of paper) because your coloring method may interact badly with your drawing.
You can also add color on the computer. I prefer this way because then I can easily change my mind about what colors to use. Erasing is easier. Learn how to use the software tools that are out there. Here is a quick video I put together on how to use the free GIMP tool to add color by either replacing the ink that’s there (as if you changed pens) or adding color on top (as if you used a highlighter).
Okay, so that takes care of the mechanics. What about the styles?
Develop your personal style by looking for inspiration and experimenting with ideas. In addition to checking out people’s sketchnotes, look elsewhere for interesting color combinations: nature, art, product designs, and so on. Try different techniques and colors.
Here’s a sampler of different coloring styles I’ve played with in my sketchnotes: