Nichole Carter - Tips for Practicing Sketchnotes

Nichole Carter - Tips for Practicing Sketchnotes

Sketchnoter Nichole Carter an innovation strategist in the #edtech community, shares her sketchnote story and tips for practicing sketchnotes she shares with students and teachers…

A couple of years ago I went to the ISTE conference in Denver, this is a massive educational technology conference held every June, and started seeing a lot of people talking about sketchnoting. I went to one panel session and I was hooked.

I actually went and found a power outlet and huddled up against a wall and started watching youtube tutorials and practicing right away. This was back in 2016, I have been practicing sketchnoting ever since.

When I teach sketchnoting to teachers and students, I am constantly telling them that they have to practice. “You aren’t going to pick up a pencil and immediately be able to draw The Mona Lisa, you have to practice.” is something I often say during a lesson.

As I am nearing the end of my summer vacation I am looking back on the month of July and some of the things I have intentionally done to practice sketchnotes. I thought I would break them down in a few easy to follow tips.

  1. Join an online community challenge to get some prompts! I do these when I can, the online community is incredibly supportive, and there are many challenges to join. Consider: #doodleaday #sketch50 #snchallenge #365daysofsketchnotes #oodlesofdoodles #doodlewithdiane @therevisionguide 52 week visual vocabulary and many more! This month I jumped in to the #365daysofsketchnotes by Kerrin Perry.

  2. Get inspired, follow other sketchnoters on twitter, instagram, and flicker. I am constantly seeing how other people compose their sketchnotes and think about what I would like to work on in my next composition. For this particular sketchnote I saw a sketchnote by Mike Rohde a week previous where he did a color fill at the top for his title. I catalogued it into my brain to try and remember to do at some point. I saved his instagram post to a category for sketchnotes to come back to later.

  3. Digital or analog? Once you have your prompt make a decision if you are going to be doing your sketchnote on paper or digitally. I typically go digital for sketchnotes. I love analog for my bullet journals but tend to stick with digital for my sketchnotes.

  4. Get the title down first. I typically will take a bit of time to get a title down first- it is usually bigger than the other writing on the page, and in this instance I also wanted to provide a bitly to the video I watched in case someone else wanted to watch it too.

  5. Power of the pause button! If I am listening to a podcast or watching a video I get to pause it when I need to. So I will listen for awhile- I might even speed up the podcast or video (but don’t forget you can do the opposite too- you can slow it down to half speed if that helps) and pause it to add the next bit of info to my sketchnote. Also, sometimes if the video or podcast is short I will watch/listen all the way through before drawing so I can wrap my brain around different things I might need to draw for the topic.

  6. Learn some drawing tricks! When I am drawing digitally it is also easy for me to grab and reuse previous containers, in this sketch I have a post-it note “taped” to the page, and a binder clip group of pages. Those are both something I had in another sketch and just copied to this one. I also like to find pictures of people and draw over the top of them to create the characters. So in this instance I grabbed the characters throughout the history of Jell-O and traced over the top of the photos. Because I knew I was drawing about jello before I even started the video I drew the jello mold, the jello snack cups, and the box of jell-o hoping I could make them fit into the sketchnote somewhere. Now these are all tips that work well if you are drawing digitally. But what about analog? One of the best things you can invest in as you are practicing in analog is a tracing LED light box, I got one for fairly cheap and it sits on my desk ready to be plugged in! If you have a print out of some of the items you are attempting to draw you can pop them on the lightbox and trace them into your sketchnote. If at any point your brain can’t figure out how to draw something a quick google image search can be helpful, I usually will use the words “hand drawn” or “illustration” in addition to my keywords (i.e. jello mold illustration). I use them as a reference when I am drawing my images. Usually for me after I draw something once or twice it sticks in my brain and I can draw it from then on.

  7. Know when to stop. It is safe to say ahead of time I knew I would be drawing a timeline of sorts. I wanted to try and draw an actual timeline, in my head as I began I wanted to do that. It just didn’t organically happen. I looked at the sketchnote afterwards and thought about how I might move things to make them fit in a standard looking timeline format, but I also looked at this and realized, this is how my brain interpreted the content- I’m going to let it be. As I teach this concept to students I am constantly asking them to think about how their brain is working. If your brain is interpreting the content in a certain way- sketchnotes are so powerful because they are yours- then maybe we shouldn’t fight our brains to fit into a pattern that someone else deemed important?

Want more ideas and tips?
Follow Nichole on Twitter @MrsCarterHLA or visit her website.

— Steve

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