3 Tips for New Sketchnoters

Today I’d like to share three important things for new sketchnoters to keep in mind as you’re developing your visual note-taking skills and applying those skills to work that you care about.

These tips actually come from a podcast interview that I gave recently on The Sketchnote Army podcast, hosted by Mike Rohde:

At the end of our conversation, Mike asked me to share some sketchnoting tips, which I decided to turn into the video above, with recap below!

Tip 1: Define Your Why

The first thing that I try to lead with and re-emphasize as much as possible is simply defining for yourself what you want to get out of the experience.

As many benefits as there are to being able to share your work online and see what other people are doing, that also makes it really hard to not compare yourself to others.

I think that when you define for yourself what your root purpose is – the root why behind your sketchnoting – and you write it down somewhere, that makes it a little bit easier to not compare yourself to others and instead focus on your own experience.

Tip 2: Set Up Constraints

With your why defined, I think it’s useful to set up constraints to your note-taking process.

Much of the instructional work that I do is just getting people to figure out their own sketchnoting process, a process that works well for them.

That process consists of some combination of materials, some approach to layout, and some balance of words and drawings.

One sketchnote at a time, choose for yourself the constraints that you’d like to set up for yourself so that you don’t have unlimited options when you look at the blank page, but instead have a handful of tools to work with when you’re capturing ideas.

You can experiment with that over time until you find a process that works well for you.

Tip 3: Make It Playful

This third tip is as much advice to myself as it is to other people: find a way to make it playful.

When you’re listening to big powerful ideas, there can be this pressure to express those ideas well (even if you’re just doing it for yourself). You try to make your notes match the power of the TED Talk that you’re watching or the book that you’re reading.

But that’s putting a lot of pressure on yourself, so if you instead find a way to make it playful, I think that relieves some of the stress and anxiety and allows you to get into a state of flow, when you’re in the zone with your work.

For me, at least, when I remind myself to not take myself too seriously, it makes it easier to get into that state of flow and enjoy the process a little bit more, and I think that can help make the notes themselves more meaningful and useful in the future.


So as you continue to develop and use your sketchnoting skills, keep these three tips in mind:

  1. Define for yourself what you want to get out of the experience (your why).
  2. Set up constraints to the note-taking experience (your process).
  3. Find a way to make it playful (seek flow). 

If you’d like to hear our full conversation about how I got into sketchnoting and the origins of this project here, check out the podcast episode page here. I think you’ll enjoy it.

And if you’d like to dig deeper into the development of your own sketchnoting skills, check out our course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking:

For additional resources, check out our full course library.

Good luck in all your sketchnoting endeavors!

Till next time,