How To Draw Stick Figures That Express Verbs

Despite their abstract form, stick figures make for powerful additions to your visual notes. Let’s explore why that’s so and how you can incorporate them into your sketchnoting process.

Why Use Stick Figures In Your Notes?


Stick figures help tie your notes to the human experience. They make it clearer how the ideas that you’re capturing relate to you and others.

They also help you to capture stories in a memorable way. Stick figures are characters in the snapshot story that you can tell in your notes. Add in a few more images of what your character is interacting with and soon you’ll have a visual anchor to the set of ideas you’re working with.

In stick figures we see ourself and we see others. Even in this simplified version, the drawing of human beings allows the viewer the opportunity to enter the story you’re telling because they can see themselves in it.

How To Draw Stick Figures, Step By Step

How To Draw Stick Figures Step By Step - Doug Neill - Verbal To Visual

  • Step 1: draw the head as an oval oriented in the direction that makes the most sense for the action that you’re portraying.
  • Step 2: draw the torso as a single line, either straight or curved, again with the action in mind.
  • Step 3: draw the legs in one or two lines (pay particular attention to what’s going at at the knee) and then feet as circles or ovals.
  • Step 4: draw the arms in one or two lines (this time with attention to the elbow) and then hands as circles or ovals.

Examples & Prompts

Stick Figure Examples And Prompts - Doug Neill - Verbal To Visual

With the examples of standing, walking, power walking, running, stretching, talking and thinking – notice how subtle adjustments to angles and limbs have a significant impact on what your stick figure character is up to.

In many cases the addition of objects around or interacting with your stick figure will help to capture the set of ideas you want to remember in this snapshot form.

Now it’s your turn to put pen to paper! See if you can draw stick figures jumping, swimming, climbing, and dancing.

Then start building these characters into your sketchnotes!


Free Sketchnoting Guide

Want to continue working on your sketchnoting skills? Check out this sample of The Verbal To Visual Notebook:

That 100% hand-sketched notebook includes a set of prompts to help you put pen to paper and start sketching out ideas yourself.

You can get the free guide here.