Sketchnoting Style Sheets - Doug Neill - Verbal To Visual - sketchnoting, visual note-taking, doodling, graphic recording

Sketchnoting Style Sheets

Do you get nervous right before a sketchnoting session?

If so, you’re not alone. There are many ways to approach visual note-taking, and the breadth of options can be overwhelming. So too is the blank page.

I’ve got a relatively simple idea for calming your nerves: create your own sketchnoting style sheet before you begin.

A style sheet is simply something that helps you make decisions about how you’ll get your ideas down on the page. Let’s dig into the details.

Sketchnoting Style Sheets - Doug Neill - Verbal To Visual - sketchnoting, visual note-taking, doodling, graphic recording

Step 1: Purpose

The first step is to remind yourself why you are taking these notes in the first place. As ideas are coming in fast and strong, your purpose will help you filter out the ideas that don’t matter to you and capture those that do.

After you’ve defined your purpose you can dig into the details of your process over the next four steps.

Step 2: Text

How will you use text on the page?

Do you like to use a bunch of different fonts, or just a few? Do you want to leave yourself space for some detailed handlettering, or would you rather just get down the words as quickly as possible?

Decide what fonts you’ll use and how you’ll use them.

Sketchnoting Style Sheets - Doug Neill - Verbal To Visual - sketchnoting, visual note-taking, doodling, graphic recording

Step 3: Layout

How will you approach the spatial organization of ideas on the page?

Do you like structure? Then cut the page in half or make yourself some grids.

Rather keep it free-from? Then at least have some idea of how you’ll fill the page: top to bottom and left to right; start in the center and move out radially from there; rough columns that you get to shape and fill organically; or some other approach entirely.

Step 4: Imagery

How will you incorporate drawing into your sketchnote?

Do you want to give yourself the freedom to draw elaborate scenes that tell a story about the ideas shared, or would you rather stick to icons and diagrams? Are you drawing just from memory or do you have a tool on hand to search for images as you go?

Step 5: Color

How many colors will you be using?

If just one, you’re good to go! (I even recommend this when you’re just getting started with sketchnoting – it removes one variable that you then don’t have to worry about.)

If you’ll be using multiple colors, then what is each for? Give each color a purpose so that you know when to use which color – consistency is key here.

Sketchnoting Style Sheets - Doug Neill - Verbal To Visual - sketchnoting, visual note-taking, doodling, graphic recording

Once you’ve jotted down your purpose and your process on your style sheet, then set it aside and get to sketchnoting!

Don’t feel the need to create a new style sheet before every single sketchnoting session – just for each unique application. You might have one process for live in-person sketchnoting and another for when you’re taking notes while listening to a podcast. Create a style sheet for each and then adapt as needed.

Style Sheets In Action

Want to see my own style sheet for live sketchnoting in action? Then check out the videos below in which I sketchnote a few episodes of the Creative Live series 30 Days of Genius. (My apologies for the lower video quality – it was because I was live-streaming to Facebook!)

Now It’s Your Turn

Time for you to make your own sketchnoting style sheet and put it to use!

Once you’ve done that, snap a photo and send it my way via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Good luck, and have fun!

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Want To Dig Deeper?

If you’re new to the idea of sketchnoting and excited to develop more visual thinking tools, I think you’d enjoy our foundational course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking.

If you’d like to make sketchnoted videos like the one you saw here, we’ve got a course for that too! Check out How To Make Sketchnote Videos.

And if you’re an educator interested in bringing visual note-taking into your classroom, check out Sketchnoting In The Classroom.