What if I can’t draw?

I hear this from people all the time.

It’s a common refrain because we’ve confused drawing, doodling, and sketching with fine(r) art. But it’s simply not the case!

You can draw just fine for sketchnotes, because it’s about communicating ideas , not creating fine(r) art. I’ve written about a couple other ways to get started quickly, or there’s a free email course about it.

But let’s put that aside for now, and deal with the excuses.

I’m going to clear out any excuse you have for not sketching because you can’t draw.

Stop trying. Fine. You’re not any good.

Feel better? Probably not.

Do this instead.

Instead of drawing small icons and stressing out about your stick figures, define and emphasize the parts of the content that really stand out to you.

Here are 5 non-artistic shapes and styles you can use to sketchnote without drawing.

  1. Lines (and arrows)
  2. Boxes
  3. Bubbles
  4. Make it bigger
  5. Make it smaller

Now, when you are hearing, watching, or thinking about something, use these styles to define and emphasize what stand out to you. Here are a few examples…

  • Take important instruction or details and make them bigger on the page, or smaller
  • Create a box around the piece of content you want to remember.
  • Use arrows and lines to connect ideas.
  • Put the quotes in a bubble to remind yourself how you heard it!

You can take meaning from words just by changing how they’re written. Take the word grow for example.

By making each letter bigger than the last, I can demonstrate growth while simply writing it differently.

You see? If you insist that “I can’t draw”, fine . What has really changed?

  • Why you sketchnote hasn’t changed (to communicate important ideas)
  • How you do it changes a little (no more icons and stick figures)
  • What the finished sketchnotes look like is different, but still effective.

I can almost guarantee that if you try to sketchnote without drawing at all, you will try and draw a little. Most likely a simple face here and there, or an everyday item.

This is great, you’re starting to think visually!

Even if you consider yourself a solid sketchnote draw-er (is that a word?) I challenge you to create a sketchnote without drawing!

Here’s mine… (click to watch the talk, it’s under 6 minutes)

Ok, I couldn’t quite do it without a little icon for each!

Either way you go with it, the exercise will stretch your mind and skill, and that’s a good thing!

So next time you think “I can’t draw”, just remember that’s it’s no reason you can’t still sketchnote!


This is a part of my Saturday morning sketchnote series. To get these by email and join my free course, just click here!


My name is Matt Ragland. I work at ConvertKit on Customer Success & Education. I’m also a visual thinker that loves to get people thinking outside the box. Creating sketchnotes for writers, speakers, and events is my ongoing side project. If you’d like to work together, let’s talk!

matt[at]mattragland.com

twitter.com/mattragland

ideasnotart.com

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