What Is Sketchnoting? - Doug Neill, Verbal To Visual, visual note-taking, sketchnoting in the classroom

What is Sketchnoting?

Are you curious about what sketchnoting is and how you might use it?

Here’s an overview for you, pulled from a resource kit that I built called Sketchnoting In The Classroom, and followed by a collection of videos to help you get started.

Sketchnoting Defined

Sketchnoting is a form of note-taking, hence the “noting” part of it, but as you might guess it involves bringing more visuals into the process compared to typical note-taking, hence the “sketch” part.

Sketchnoting Defined - Doug Neill, Verbal To Visual, visual note-taking, sketchnoting in the classroom

The whole idea behind adding sketches to your notes is that it taps into parts of your brain that would lie dormant if you only use words to explore ideas. It’s the combination of the two that’s most powerful – using both words and visuals while taking notes.

That’s what will fully light up your brain.

Customize Your Note-Taking Process

What’s nice about sketchnoting is that it’s not a strict format.

It doesn’t say you have to take notes this way.

Instead, it presents you with a variety of tools for you to choose from and create your own customized note-taking process, one that works well with your learning style and your personality.

Customized Note-Taking Process - Doug Neill, Verbal To Visual, visual note-taking, sketchnoting in the classroom

So for the doodlers out there, your notes might be heavy on the sketches. For those who prefer working with words, you might stick mostly to that, but maybe bring in some diagrams here and there to help you organize those words.

And there’s plenty of room for everyone in between those two ends of the spectrum.

A Guide to Get You Started

If you like the sound of sketchnoting and want to get your feet wet, I’ve created a free guide to help you get started developing your own sketchnoting skills:

You can pick up that free guide here: Getting Started with Sketchnoting.

Drawing Basics for Sketchnoters

For many folks, it’s a fear of drawing that keeps them from giving visual note-taking a try. In this video I’ll help you overcome that fear:

Sketchnoting in Action

To help you get a sense for what sketchnoting can look like, here are a few examples of different applications and techniques.

In this video I share how you might weave visual note-taking elements into a method you might already be familiar with – Cornell notes:


Here’s the process that I use for sketchnoting an entire book!


And here’s a breakdown of some sketchnotes that I took while listening to a podcast interview:

Sketchnoting Tools & Materials

When it comes to the pens and notebooks best suited for sketchnoting, I encourage you to lean into the materials that you most enjoy using.

If you’re looking for some good ones to start with, here are my favorites:

You can find links to those tools here.

Sketchnotes Don’t Have To Look Good

Since taking visual notes involves the use of drawing, and since many folks sharing their sketchnotes online tend to be good at that, it can create the perception that your notes need to look good in order to be useful.

As I share in this video, that’s not the case:

A Resource for Educators

If you work in the education setting, then you might be interesting in the resource kit I’ve built called Sketchnoting In The Classroom.

What I do within that kit is introduce you to a variety note-taking tools, encourage you to experiment as you combine them in different ways to help you take better notes in class, study better outside of class, plan projects more effectively, and ultimately become better at working with and presenting ideas.

I’ve broken down Sketchnoting In The Classroom into three parts:

Part 1: Sketchnoting Skills - Doug Neill, Verbal To Visual, visual note-taking, sketchnoting in the classroom

Part 1 will focus on individual sketchnoting skills. These will be the tools that make up your note-taking toolkit. You’ll learn how to use handwritten fonts, arrows, stick figures, icons, colors, and many other things that will make your notes more dynamic and more useful.

Part 2: Sketchnoting Processes - Doug Neill, Verbal To Visual, visual note-taking, sketchnoting in the classroom

Part 2 will focus of specific sketchnoting processes. Here we’ll start to look at how you can combine the individual tools from Part 1 into a cohesive note-taking process. We’ll explore things like flowcharts and mind maps and other ways to get ideas out of your head and onto the page.

Part 3: Subject-Specific Sketchnoting - Doug Neill, Verbal To Visual, visual note-taking, sketchnoting in the classroom

Part 3 will explore how to apply your growing sketchnoting skills to specific subject areas, so that you know what tools and processes work best in science class, compared to language arts class, compared to math class, and many others.

My hope is that the core note-taking skills that you can learn from this resource kit are skills that you’ll carry with you so that no matter what challenges you face in the future, be it in another school environment, or at a particular job, or even with your own personal projects, you’ll have this creative sketchnoting toolkit to pull from to help you tackle those challenges.

A Resource for Everyone

If you work outside the education setting and want to develop this skill for use in meetings, at conferences, and within your own personal learning projects, then An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking is probably a better fit:

For other learning resources, check out our full course library.

I hope you enjoy exploring the use of this versatile skill!