10 Easy Sketchbook Tips to Make Art You’ll Enjoy Now

Ever wanted to keep a sketchbook but you weren’t sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve been sketching for a long time but need a little pick me up. Take a look at these ten tips on keeping a sketchbook to help you develop your own sketchbook practice!

there are many sketchbook options

There are many sketchbook options available. –Image courtesy of Cathy Johnson

1. Make It Yours
A sketchbook doesn’t need to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be purchased in an art store. There are no rules about whether it needs to be hardbound, wirebound or softcover, or about what kind of paper is inside. The important thing is to use the sketchbook you like, and to make sure the paper will support your favorite art materials, whether they’re pencils, pens, paints or something else. Find your favorite sketchbook brand online, browse through what’s available at your local stores, make your own book, use whatever you have lying around, or discover one when you’re out and about. For that matter, if you prefer to use a digital tablet, you can go that route, too! As long as you love it and want to use it, it’s the sketchbook for you.

2. Keep It Portable

Danny Gregory's pocket-sized sketch kit

Keeping a portable sketchbook lets you sketch anywhere, anytime. –Image courtesy of Danny Gregory and Cathy Johnson

Decide what size sketchbook is easiest to carry around with you. Many people prefer pocket-sized sketchbooks, while others like them a little larger. Whatever your preference, make sure it’s easy for you to transport so you’ll have the opportunity to sketch anywhere you go. You can always find a spare minute standing in line, in a waiting room, or on a break to sketch something, provided you take your sketchbook with you when you leave the house. If you like, you can keep larger sketchbooks in your home and simply leave your on-the-go sketchbook in your bag or car to make sure you never forget it.

3. Relax and Accept Imperfection
Not every page in your sketchbook will come out exactly the way you plan, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to play around, capture ideas, or quickly draw what you see. Allow yourself to simply enjoy the act of sketching and the process of creating rather than worrying about the result. After all, if you decide you don’t like where the page is going, you can always turn to the next one. But don’t get into the habit of tearing out pages. Even the things you don’t like today might later become fodder for a new idea.

4. Draw Every Day
Use your sketchbook every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Consistent practice will improve your artistic abilities dramatically. Your accuracy, speed and visual vocabulary will improve, and with it your confidence.

ephemera for your sketchbook

Don’t be afraid to experiment in your sketchbook and include things like stamps, paper or other ephemera. –Image courtesy of Cathy Johnson

5. Experiment
Your sketchbook is a place to experiment and play around. Try new and unexpected materials and various styles. Make marks and messes. Add color, paper or other ephemera to your pages. Use your sketchbook to discover what you like and what you don’t. There are no rules except the ones you impose on yourself.

divide a sketchbook page into frames

Try dividing your sketchbook page into frames for a smaller focus area. — Image courtesy of Noel Rivera

6. Divide the Page
If having an entire blank page to work on feels too expansive, try breaking down the page into smaller shapes you can draw within. Post-it Notes are handy to use as templates. Just draw around them to get a smaller frame you can use to focus your sketch. Try filling an entire sketchbook spread with frames and capture quick moments or details of objects instead of trying to reproduce the entire thing.

7. Jumpstart Your Pages
Sometimes we just don’t know what we want to draw or how we should go about tackling that dreaded white page. If this causes you to avoid your sketchbook, try marking up the pages in advance to take the pressure off. Paint a few pages for a pop of color, make random lines to surprise yourself with later, or let someone else doodle or draw things for you to work around. If you have a young child, let them at a page or two with a few crayons. Once the pages are no longer pristine, you’ll worry less about making mistakes or playing around yourself.

Use your sketchbook to test new materials or make swatches. –Image courtesy of Cathy Johnson

8. Use It for Everything
Turn your sketchbook into a constant companion and use it for everything. You can doodle or sketch from observation. You can create patterns or practice hand lettering. Sketch out concepts for larger art pieces you want to create, or test art materials. Collect and attach things you like or don’t want to lose, like tickets, business cards, leaves or flowers. Paste in pictures or decorate your pages with washi tape. You can do anything–everything–you want to make your sketchbook personal and useful to you.

Make notes in your sketchbook about your subject or about other observations or thoughts. –Image courtesy of Jan Blencowe and Cathy Johnson

9. Write in Your Sketchbook
Not everything in your sketchbook has to be an image. You can make notes about drawings, or just keep notes in general, including grocery lists, to-do lists or calendars (wouldn’t they be fun to illustrate later?). Use it as a diary, make lists or collect quotes. Write down things that inspire you, observations you make and snippets of dialogue you overhear. Create a list of artists you love, techniques you want to try or things you want to practice. Keep URLs of websites you like to visit or that have resources you find useful. There are dozens of ways to utilize writing in your sketchbook, so don’t be afraid to include it.

10. Date Every Page
Be sure you date each page in your sketchbook. This will help you see your progression over time, and it will create a visual record of each year. Going back to look at the places you went, the materials you tried, and the drawings or paintings you liked (or didn’t) will be a rewarding experience and may even spark new creative ideas. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to sign your pages, too!

Ultimately, how you use your sketchbook is up to you, but the most important thing to remember is that your sketchbook should be personal and useful. It should be exciting to take out and play in your sketchbook, so loosen up, do what you enjoy and let yourself be inspired by the things you create.

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