Sketchnote Tip #8: Break Up Skills

Sketchnotes are a culmination of different of skills: Layout, listening, writing, drawing, and design. That’s a ton of skills to juggle all at once! If you’ve struggled to practice sketchnoting and feel like you aren’t making good progress, it might be time to break up your skills and practice them individually.

First, make a list of the 5 skills:

  • layout
  • listening
  • writing
  • drawing
  • design

Next, rate your confidence or how pleased you are with your abilities on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being worst or least confident.

Next, rank your skill list in order of worst to best.

Now that you know what you’re least confident in, practice your skill list and start at the top!

“wait, how do I do that?”

Ideas to practice each skill individually:


  • Plan your layouts more beforehand. Use concepts from The Art of Visual Notetaking like Layout Lines and Time Blocking. 
  • Come up with a layout that you’re comfortable with and can use for EVERY sketchnote. Being consistent with your layout means it’s one less thing to think about in the moment. 


  • Skip the layout, drawing and design parts, and just write your notes. After you take your notes ask yourself:
    • Are my notes clear?
    • Did I take too many or too few notes?
    • Did I get the major concepts, themes, and ideas? 
  • Practice listening with your eyes and look out for the physical listening cues like the speaker using their hands to gesture and watching the audience reactions. 
  • Start practicing your listening in everyday settings, and take notes when you don’t have to: in a meeting, at a social gathering, at a club or hobby group, at church, etc. 


  • Practice your handwriting and lettering skills
  • Practice using hierarchy (Drawing headlines larger or differently than sub-points)


  • Take my free beginner drawing class
  • Come to the monthly Community Hangout (we often practice our drawing skills!)
  • Practice the drawing styles of other artists by copying their work. BIG NOTE HERE: Do not copy another artist’s style and then call it your own. This is an exercise to expand your horizons and practice doing something different. It’s okay to borrow ideas or techniques from another artist as long as you then make it your own by adapting it or changing something to be unique to you.
  • Participate in graphic jams or host your own
  • Make a list of things that you find hard to draw. This can be in the front cover of your notebook or on a note app on your phone. Intentionally practice those hard concepts that stumped you or ask friends for help. 


  • Look at others’ sketchnotes and notice how they use color. Try to do the same thing in your notes to practice.
  • Notice how other sketchnotes photograph or edit their sketchnotes to share. Hoe can you learn from them? 
  • Be intentional about refining your sketchnote when you finish. (erasing pencil, coloring, adding containers or connectors, guiding shapes, adding illustrations, etc.)
sketchnote of say yes by scott erickson