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Sketchnote Lessons: Drawing Emotions

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Want to make your drawings more interesting? Add emotions! Drawings of emotions can communicate so much more than words describing emotions, and they do so in an immediate, visceral way. For example, consider the list of words below, and the faces beneath them.

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Even if you don’t think you’re an artist, you can draw basic emotions easily. Simple combinations of eyebrows and mouths say a lot. You can show different degrees of emotions by emphasizing parts.

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You can combine emotions, too. For example, angry eyebrows + happy smile = evil overlord plotting to conquer the world. >=)

Play around, and you’ll find even more emotions that you can express with small changes to the face. For inspiration, you can look at smileys and emoticons.

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Icons and symbols let you be even more expressive. You can pick these up from comics and smileys.

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Emotions aren’t just expressed with the face. Posture can communicate emotions powerfully too. Explore the physicality of emotions by looking at how actors show feelings, or by imagining yourself feeling those emotions.

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You can also show emotions in how people relate to each other.

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Metaphors are fun to play with, too.

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Learning how to draw emotions isn’t just useful for sketchnoting. You can draw emotions in order to understand other people better. Mindmaps or empathy maps can help. You can draw your own emotions, too. When I’m faced with a difficult situation or a confusing tangle of emotions, I try to break down the different emotions I feel and the reasons why I feel that way. When you understand why you’re happy and sad and worried and excited all at the same time, it’s easier to move forward.

Want to learn more about drawing emotions? The best resource I’ve found so far is the Bikablo Emotions book, which has a lot of full-body emotions. Here’s a sample of the drawings I made based on part of the Bikablo Emotions book. (There are even more emotions in the book – check it out!)

emotions

Children’s books are a good source of emotions. I remember loving the Mr. Men and Little Miss series when I was growing up, and I look forward to discovering other wonderful illustrations as I go through the library’s collections. =)

Comics are another great way to learn more about expressing emotions, from the concise forms of newspaper strips to more elaborate drawings in comic books.

And then there’s learning about all these emotions in the first place, because it helps to be able to recognize the emotion and give it a name. Wikipedia has a few good pages: Contrasting and categorization of emotions, Emotion classification. HUMAINE proposes a classification of 48 emotions (see Wikipedia for an easier-to-read list) The Center for Nonviolent Communication lists 259 emotions in their feelings inventory.

I’m thinking of going through those lists and practising drawing all these different emotions. Want to join me? I’ll post stuff here once in a while, and I’d love it if you sent me links to your drawings!

Sketchnote Lessons: Banners and ribbons

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Banners and ribbons are a quick way to emphasize parts of your drawing. Instead of drawing the banner and then trying to fit the text into it, try drawing the text first and then drawing the banner around it. Here’s a step-by-step example.

1. Draw the text with plenty of space around it

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2. Draw a box around the text.

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3. Add two small triangles below the box.

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4. Draw horizontal lines extending beyond the triangle, and another set of lines the same distance from the top of the box.

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5. Add a ribbon edge if you want, or use a straight line.

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Want to get fancy? Add some shading, add more folds, and so on.

Here are some examples that you can practise with:

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Check out Kevin Dulle’s tutorial for other ways to emphasize things with shadows. Enjoy!

Sketchnote Lessons: Quick Lettering

This entry is part 1 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Here are some examples of different lettering styles that you can try. Some of them (like Chisel or Reverse) may be easier to do digitally than on paper. Click on the image to view or download a larger version, and have fun practicising. Enjoy!

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I write in print instead of cursive because this is easier to read. Computers seem to be better at understanding printed letters instead of cursive. (I use Evernote to search my notes.) For emphasis, I sometimes use Multiple (draw the same letter twice), or Bold if I can anticipate the need to switch pens.

Got any favourite quick lettering techniques? I’d love to see them! Post links below, or e-mail me at [email protected] .

Working around the limits of digital sketchnoting

“I could never draw on a computer – I like paper too much.” Lots of people shy away from drawing on a tablet or tablet PC because they feel limited by the technology. I like sketchnoting on my tablet PC – I feel like I can do so much more than I can do on paper! =) Here are some of the limitations I’ve come across and how I’ve worked around them.

It’s hard to see the big picture

When I draw on an 8.5×11 or a 9×12 sketchbook – or when people do graphic recording on 4’ rolls of paper – it’s easy to see the big picture. On a tablet PC, I usually work zoomed-in so that I can write and draw neatly, but this means that I don’t get a sense of how everything fits together.

This limitation depends on the tools that you use. I’ve tried using the “Views” feature in ArtRage 4 and the “Navigator” feature in Adobe Illustrator, but neither program was responsive and reliable enough for me to use for sketchnoting. Aside from a tiny thumbnail photo, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro doesn’t have that kind of overall preview (yet?). Instead, I work around this limitation by frequently zooming in and out. The pen-based controls make it easy to do so, although it means that screen recordings are a little “bouncy”.

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Another way I work around this limitation is to use a grid and pre-set brush sizes to keep sizes consistent. This means that even if I’m zoomed in, I don’t have to worry about accidentally drawing one part much bigger than the other, and the whole image still hangs together.

Since I don’t have a sense of how the page is laid out when I’m zoomed in and working on details, I usually leave plenty of whitespace around each of the sketchnote’s elements. If I need to visually balance the page, I can use the lasso tool to move things around.

Tools take up valuable screen space

Because I don’t see the entire image all at once and the toolboxes reduce how much screen estate I have available, I need to constantly pan or zoom. I get around this by organizing the user interface components in a compact, consistent configuration.

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Picking the right thing to compare it with helps a lot. If I compare it with the full screen size or an 8.5×11” sheet of paper, I feel like I’m missing out. If I compare it with a pocket-sized notebook, on the other hand… I get about as much space, but a ton more functionality. =)

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro has shortcuts for hiding toolboxes and you can customize a small menu for quick access, but I haven’t used them. When I’m drawing, I want to minimize how much I need to think about drawing, and I want my frequently-used tools to be one click away (not two, not three).

Battery life can be an issue

Although tablets can last almost a full day of drawing, powerful tablet PCs like the one I use can run out of juice pretty quickly. No power, no drawing!

If I’m going to sketchnote a 1-2 hour event, I can usually get by with my regular battery. I switch to low-power mode, turn off wireless, and dim the screen. If I want to upload the sketchnote right after the event, I turn wireless back on just before I’m ready to upload. This usually gets me through.

For longer events or for events where I want to make sure that I don’t run out of power, I bring an external battery. With the external battery, I can get through a day of sketchnoting without needing to look for a power supply. If I’m sketchnoting a conference, I try to scout out power outlets (either in the presentation room or in the staff lounge) so that I can recharge the battery over lunch, just in case.

Tablet PCs are heavy

The power and performance come at a price: my laptop/tablet PC is 1.76kg on its own, and 2.7kg total with the extended battery. Then there’s the charger, a backup sketchbook, a water bottle, some snacks… My bag gets pretty full and heavy!

If I can bike to the event, I usually load up my saddlebags and fasten things securely. If not, I’ll take a padded backpack with chest and waist straps. I might look like I’m going camping, but at least I’m ergonomically sorted out.

You can lose data if the computer crashes or if you make mistakes

… and believe me, this has happened before. I’ve had problems with Microsoft OneNote and Adobe Illustrator on my tablet PC, and with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Android tablet. That’s why I’ve settled on using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on a tablet PC, which seems to be a much more reliable

I’ve also made silly mistakes like accidentally moving instead of panning, which meant that some of my drawing went “off-screen” and was lost. To guard against this, I use Camtasia Studio to record my screen during important sketchnoting sessions. That way, I can export selected images from my recording, or I can use the audio to help me redo the sketch.

After the event, I back up, back up, and back up. I save sketchnotes to Dropbox, and I back up my computer weekly to an external drive. I also e-mail or publish sketchnotes as soon as I can, so then the event organizer has a copy.

It’s easier to forget about your sketches because you can’t flip through them as easily

One of the nice things about sketchbooks is being able to quickly flip through it and rediscover old sketches. You can lose track of digital sketchnotes on your computer and you don’t have those physical encounters to remind you of them. I get around this by saving my sketchnotes to Evernote (so that they turn up whenever I search my notebooks or Google). I also publish as many as possible on my blog, so that I come across them when reviewing my archive or when other people link to or comment on them.

How do you work around the limitations of the tools that you use? What other limitations are holding you back? Please share comments or links below!

Alex M. Chong (Visual Thinkers Toronto co-organizer) suggested that we share our experiences in overcoming limitations. Here’s my contribution!

Resources for getting started with sketchnoting

Updated 2014-01-13: Added sketches
Updated 2013-11-29: Added video tutorials

Lots of people want to learn more about how to sketchnote, so I’m working on building some resources for learning through sketchnotes (a book? a course?).

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Here are some excellent resources for getting started:

I’ve been putting together some drawing/sketchnoting tutorials too - check them out!

If there are gaps that you’d like to learn more about, or if you have any questions that the above resources haven’t answered, I want to hear from you! Comment below or e-mail me at [email protected] , and help me figure out what should go into this book/course/thing. =)

Sketchnote Lesson: Adding color

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

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:

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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:

image Highlighter
I like this because it’s super-easy to add quickly if you’re drawing digitally – just add a new layer below your text.
Visual Book Review: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast
image Color as accent for images
You can add this while drawing by switching between pens (on paper) or between colors (if digital), or you can use the Color layer trick in the video to add it afterwards.
How to use Evernote to improve your visual thinking
image Colors with meanings
Here I used red to indicate the path of my mistakes and blue to indicate what I could improve.
An embarrassing failure is the result of a series of unfortunate decisions, and that’s a good thing.
image Emphasis
Red is a great color for drawing attention. Coloring your headlines helps set them apart.
Visual Book Review: Running Lean – Ash Maurya
image Extra information
You can also use gray or lighter colours to include extra information that people don’t need to focus on.
Visual Book Review: The Start-Up of You – Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha
image Depth
You can use a lighter colour for shading or depth.
Visual Book Review: The Sketchnote Handbook
image Branding
Pick up colors from company logos or event materials to make your sketchnotes look more like part of the event.
Sketchnotes: #INNOTalkTO Innovatively Speaking
image Lots of colors
This is fun to do when you have more time. In this case, I colored in my sketchnote while waiting in line for an “autograph.”
Sketchnotes: How to Live an Amazing Life – C.C.Chapman

Sketchnote Army has a wide variety of sketchnoting styles. Flip through it, see what you like, and try playing around with those ideas. Have fun!

Like this? Check out the other sketchnote lessons and learn more. Feel free to suggest topics, ask questions, or share your own tips!