What is Sketchnoting?

What are sketchnotes and how to get started?

Sketchnotes (aka visual notes) are hand-rendered visual records of information or an experience using drawings and written text.

Drawings and Written Text:

Sketchnotes are not just drawings…. that’s called illustration.
Neither are they just words… that’s standard note-taking. 

Sketchnoting uses both elements to create something new and powerful! Information and Illustrations work in tandem to create understanding and clarity. The illustrations are there to help you understand the text, and the text is there to help you understand the images.

What can I sketchnote?

There are two types of sketchnotes:


Lecture-based visual notes are taken when one party actively shares new insight or information with another party. Some examples are conferences, school classes, church sermons, panels, work meetings, and workshops.


Experience-based visual notes are taken when you experience or learn something personally on your own time. Some examples are traveling, making a recipe, trying a new restaurant, journaling, watching something on TV, and researching.

Lecture-based visual notes need to be taken live in the moment, and Experience-based visual notes need to be taken later or after the fact.

You can sketchnote just about anything! You could try sketchnoting:

  • your classes
  • a process or routine
  • a new recipe you’re making
  • your experience trying a new restaurant
  • a sermon at church
  • a summary of your favorite TV show or movie
  • a conference lecture
  • a video on youtube
  • a book you’re reading
  • your goals, resolutions, or word of the year
  • your tasks at work
  • your personal journal or diary entries
  • a vacation or trip you took

Who can sketchnote?

Sketchnoting is for anyone who can write.

“Wait… don’t I have to be able to draw, too?”


That’s right, you DO NOT HAVE TO BE AN ARTIST to sketchnote!

“But I can’t even draw a stick figure!”

Yes you can! You’re just scared of sharing your drawings and being judged, or perhaps you’re embarrassed of your drawing ability despite your age. I have good news for you: Sketchnote drawings are all about being recognizable, not realistic. You don’t have to draw like Michelangelo or a Disney Animator… all you have to do is master a few basics (Take the FREE “Beginner Sketchnote Drawing” course here) like the dot, the line, and shapes, combining them into simple, easy-to-understand pictures. Our brains remember the picture and what’s happening in it, not the quality of the art.

Think of these sketchnote drawings as communication, not artwork. These drawings have a job of telling a story… they aren’t there to be beautiful, so pressure’s off!

If you can write, you can sketchnote. I’ve heard of teachers using it in 2nd grade all the way through high school, and university students have adopted sketchnoting for class notes or creating study guides. You’ll find sketchnoters in all sorts of fields like education, business, law, and science!



What tools do you need to sketchnote?

All you need is paper and a pen!

Paper: You can use whatever paper you want! I prefer blank myself, but many people like lined, dot, and grid paper. Use whatever you prefer. Remember, we’re not showing off our art skills, so the canvas doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re just starting out, I recommend you start small: post-it’s or index cards are perfect! A large blank page can be intimidating.

Pens: I prefer quick-drying gel pens like the Pentel Energel .5 and .7 The ink looks darker than most ball-points and doesn’t take as long as a brush pen to dry. The gel ink also doesn’t bleed as much with my colors.

Markers: I love Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Neuland Fine Ones, and Crayola Super Tips for the budget option. (Learn how to master color in your sketchnotes)

Avoid pencils and stinky permanent markers (alcohol or solvent based.)


The Benefits of Sketchnoting:

  • Multiple studies prove that pairing relevant images with text increases your retention rates. (you’ll remember and recall better)
  • Can help distracted or ADD students focus on a task while listening, and helps dyslexic students take notes without having to stop to spell everything… they can draw it!
  • Engages multiple areas of our brains for better learning.
  • Easy to read and skim and fun to look at. We’d much rather read a comic than a long wall of text! Our human curiosity is piqued when we see drawings.
  • Allows self-described “non-artists” to be creative

That’s your introduction to sketchnoting! If you’d like to jump in with learning, check out Sketchnote Academy’s online courses, workshops, and PDF downloads here.

Get Started with Sketchnoting!

Get Started with Sketchnoting!

Get simple how-to techniques, tips, and tutorials that focus on visual notetaking for business meetings, workshops or conventions, lectures, and sermons. You’ll be sketchnoting in no time! Buy Now