Sketchnote Basics: The “Sketch”

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Last week I talked about the “notes” of sketchnotes. This week I want to share about the “sketch” part of sketchnotes. Drawing!

“I could never create sketchnotes because I can’t even draw a stick figure.”

You CAN draw. Your problem isn’t your drawing ability, it’s that you’re too preoccupied worrying about what everyone will think of your drawing ability (or assumed lack thereof.) Instead of saying “I can’t,” I want you to have an open mind and consider the possibility (ahem, REALITY) that you can. What I’m about to outline are basic principlesanyone (YOU!) can learn.

Drawing basics:

All drawings start out as basic elements- the dot, line, and shape.

A dot is a single point, a line is a dot that got extended out farther, and a shape is a line that met itself where it started.Drawing is knowing how to use combinations of dots, lines, and shapes to create anything.

If you feel intimidated by the phrase “Draw a house” remember to go back to your friends, the dot, line, and shape. No one expects your to draw a realistic house. In fact, for sketchnotes, the most important thing is that the drawing is Recognizable over Realistic.

What are the basic elements of a house? I’d say the bare minimum would be walls, a roof, a door, and windows. Stick with the bare minimum and add on features as your confidence builds and you get faster. See the examples below of ways to draw a house from bare minimum to complicated drawing. Note that all of these drawings are made up of dots, lines, and shapes.

“I can draw basic doodles like this. What I can’t draw are people!”

No problem! There are countless ways to draw people. Again, with sketchnotes, you’re going for Recognizable over Realistic, so no pressure! Here are a few different ways to draw people:

There are easy ways to level up your drawings of people as you get more comfortable. Take a look at this sequence of “adding-on” to see what I mean. Each addition improves the drawing just a little.

So, start with stick figures! As long as your drawings are recognizable, you’re good to go. As you practice, you’ll find yourself making more and more beautiful drawings over time.


  • Recognizable over Realistic
  • All drawings can be simple, made of dots, lines, and shapes.
  • Add on to drawings to level up!
  • Add on to drawings to improve them

Sketchnote Academy

Basic drawing is expanded in Sketchnote Academy, the online course I am developing. The basic drawing lessons will outline more practical drawing tips and exercises to help you develop your drawing skills. If you’d like to get updates on the launch date of Sketchnote Academy, subscribe here.

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