Learning sketchnotes – this is how it works!

In order to use visualization in the form of Sketchnotes it basically doesn’t take much, because anyone can learn to sketchnote. Do you remember when you were a kid and you just drew on it?? With joy and without much thinking? Sketchnoting is similar to that. With very simple shapes, anyone can simply start drawing.

Table of Contents

Sketchnotes Visual Notes

What are sketchnotes?

Sketchnotes (Sketch + Notes) are visual notes, so more than just the normal text notes we all learned to make at one time or another. With sketchnoting you prepare Contents visually on and adds visual elements, e.g.B small drawings, frames, arrows, letterings etc. You end up with "notes with added value" so to speak.

Sketchnotes help to visually prepare content and make it more understandable and information is better remembered.

Often people mean with "Sketchnotes" but also any form of visualization, the terms are often mixed: Graphic Recording, Sketchnoting, Digital Scribblen, Doodlen, Visualization, Illustration and and and. Probably that’s because "Sketchnotes" just a trend topic and thus are on everyone’s lips. I understand the problem of imprecise terminology, especially in an industry that is just becoming more professional; however, I mainly welcome the fact that so much is being done with visualization in the meantime rather than being bothered by the imprecise terminology.

Learning sketchnotes - this is how it works!

How does sketchnoting work?

Sketchnotes from classic notes in the sense of transcripts basically works as follows: Through trained listening you record information of any kind (acoustic information can be replaced by visual, z.B. be supported on slides of presentations), filter them for yourself (What is especially important to me? What do I want to remember/hold on to?) and then notes them down Text and pictures.

How does sketchnoting work?

In addition, sketchnotes can also be used as a kind of Use "Review", so do not make live but z.B. Looking back on a day, an excursion, a book – in short, a special content that you want to summarize or reflect on. These are also sketchnotes, but they are not created under time pressure.

Sketchnotes Starter Set Freebie

Why Sketchnotes?

When you work with sketchnotes, you take advantage of the image-superiority effect, which is based on the Dual Coding Theory. Succinctly summarized, this means: Verbal and visual information are processed in the brain in different but similar areas. Consequently, information that is Text and Image are encoded twice (hence dual coding) and thus stick better. Sketchnotes work so well as a tool for learning and oversight for this very reason.

  • Sketchnoting helps to remember things easier to remember
  • Sketchnotes helps better to focus
  • Sketchnotes supported active listening
  • Sketchnoting is incredible a lot of fun

In general, one can say: Pictures can capture the brain faster than text, they can be a good door opener into a topic. With pictures you anchor information in the brain emotionally differently than with pure text, as we are very visual creatures. Makes remembering and especially reflecting on content much easier.

sketchnotes or generally visualizations on flipcharts, whiteboards, in presentations or as a summary in the form of graphic recording help to better recognize contents and connections.

Why Sketchnotes?

What do I need for sketchnotes?

Here comes some good news: Not much at all – pens and paper are quite sufficient. Whether this is a pencil or a special fineliner or the iPad, is completely up to you.

On my material page I have put together my favorite pens for you.

Sketchnotes Basics – a little guide

Visual Alphabet


For many beginners Visual alphabet a good starting point. I first encountered the Visual Alphabet in Sunni Brown’s "The Doodle Revolution". For me as someone who has always drawn, it was not so new but I noticed that for many it is a good introduction to drawing.

The Visual Alphabet consist of a few basic shapes like circle, square, lines Etc. with which you can actually draw anything. It’s not a fixed alphabet, for some it consists of only five shapes, some add a few more. I recommend Eva-Lotta Lamm’s article on this if you want to go deeper into the subject: "The Choreography of Sketching – A metaphorical view on visual alphabets"

If you now start to "decompose" simple symbols so that they can be drawn from a few strokes, drawing symbols is not so difficult anymore. It is important not to get lost in details but to use really simple basic shapes. Of course, you can always draw "more" anyway, but it helps massively to focus on simple basic shapes.

Visual Alphabet Example

More sample symbols to trace can be found in my freebie starter set and extensive templates and drawing tutorials in the "Great Symbols Library".

Sketchnotes Starter Set Freebie


Personality in sketchnotes is mainly obtained by using figures. You don’t need exact drawings for people at all; for most cases, simple stick figures are quite sufficient. These can be perfectly set in motion

The combination of eyebrows and mouths can be used to depict most emotions. Again, it doesn’t have to be more than simple strokes – after all, we don’t draw exact portraits. (We don’t have to).

Figures and people in sketchnotes

Frames and containers

For structuring within a sketchnote, you can use a few basic elements, each of which has many variations:

  • frames and containers, to summarize or separate content
  • Speech bubbles for spoken words
  • Arrows for coherences
  • Flags and banners for titles and highlighting
  • Action elements
  • Fonts and letterings

Elements of Sketchnotes

How do I build a sketchnote? – Layout and structure

Personally, what I like about sketchnoting is the complete freedom of how you divide and arrange the format.

You start drawing in one corner (or in the middle) and stop where you just left off. It can help to think about a rough basic structure in advance. I start z.B. like to put names and titles in the left corner and then see where the sketchnote goes.

Structure and layout in Sketchnotes

Sometimes I follow a path, sometimes it’s rather jumbled and the individual content "bits" just end up all over the page. Tidy sketchnotes are perceived as such, because they follow a clear structure or a clear layout. Follow visual hierarchy: Eye-catching title, important bigger, unimportant smaller, clearly separated areas, etc.

Sketchnotes structure example Sketchnote Selfie

By the way, it is important to note that good sketchnotes do not have to be "beautiful". This checklist will help you to check yourself.

What you can use Sketchnotes for?

I myself started with sketchnotes at conferences by visually recording lectures. This was kind of my gateway drug into the topic.

Then, over time (and practice), I realized that sketchnotes can do much more and can be used very broadly (Which is why my first book is called "Visual Notes for Everything).

sketchnotes Bücher

Example of a shopping list

Sketchnotes you can use for:

  • Visual minutes at conferences, presentations, meetings, or events of any kind (such as.B. Parents’ evenings, no joke!)
  • As part of your presentations or on flip charts z.B. on the job
  • To prepare for events like parties
  • private notes and transcripts in school, study, job
  • for bullet journals or visual diaries in general
  • for shopping lists
  • for recipes
  • for any kind of processes like user manuals

I want to learn sketchnoting – how do I start??

I always think books are the perfect introduction to a topic, it just so happens I have a few to choose from for sketchnotes. The Quick Start block is excellent for getting started. It introduces the topic with many small exercises and practice sheets, which are quite easy at the beginning and then increase a bit. At 10.99 euros, it’s also super affordable.

Sketchnotes Quick Start Guide

Sketchnotes Quick Start Guide

If you need concrete drawing instructions and templates, "The Great Symbol Library" is for you. It will be published in March 2020.

Sketchnotes Symbol Library

Oh yes, I also give workshops, both inhouse and open ones. You can find out more on my offers page.

Get more excited about sketchnotes exercises and input? You would like to have the Sketchnotes starter page and exercise sheets as a PDF? Then sign up for the newsletter!

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