Learning in public – Digital Sketchnoting

How to start sketchnoting with pen and paper

I started sketchnoting in 2016 right after I learned the basics of visual facilitation from Xavier Quesada –Bikablo style- during a Scrum Product Owner certification course by Agilar.com. Long before that, I had been using mindmapping for years (courtesy of my English teacher, in prep for Edinburgh University access requirements), and taught myself to draw with Betty Edwards “Drawing on the right side of the brain“. Well, just enough to know I could draw better if I wanted it.

My first steps were to start copying as much as I could, from free resources like Xplane “Visual thinking ebook” (free download) and Mike Rodhes book “Sketchnoting Handbook“. My materials, A5 notebooks, A4 print paper, and the regular Pilot black pen… no fuzz. I got a tiny bit fancier later with grey and coloured brush tip pens, but only later. After copying most of Xplane’s drawings and some of Mike’s, I went on corporate icon library and translated these into hand drawings, just to expand my visual vocabulary to that of my workplace.

It was about that time I discovered the Doug Neill’s Verbal to Visual Youtube Channel, and website, which served as an inspiration for some sketchnoting recording of my own (they call this style “videoscribing”):

I strongly recommend you to visit the Verbal to Visual Youtube Channel, since it is full of free resources to dig deeper into the sketchnoting world.

All this time, I have used sketchnoting to learn, to share concepts and ideas, to brainstorm, and also to take notes at conferences, even at corporate events. Now that I want to take it further, I have joined the beta course Digital Sketchnoting at Verbal to Visual, where I hope to develop specific digital skills, as well as get in touch and learn from other sketchnoters out there.

How to go digital sketchnoting

I am drawn to digital sketchnoting because I love my iPad 2018+ pencil, I carry it everywhere, and the workflow from thinking to sharing is quick and efficient.

  • In the course I’m taking, we start stating the purpose of Digital Sketchnoting within the great scheme of things… or our grand plans. And I do have grand plans.

I am a visual thinker, so I use sketchnoting among other visual and manual techniques to learn and think. I want to use them to share, inspire and teach people creativity skills in a differentiated way, so it is part of my brand, I guess… still in very early stages, but with great ambitions to change the world 🙂

Then, we have shared the tools we use:

What app for beginners?

I would start with Paper by Wetransfer (formerly by Fiftythree), no matter what use you are going to give it, because it is free, it works nicely even with your finger or one cheap stylus and has limited space, limited tools. You can keep it to two-3 types of pens, and limited colours. I use it all the time for live sketchnoting where I don´t want to fiddle with tech, just listen and take notes.

Drawing

  • I use Paper  (all the time, for everything visual), because of its simplicity
  • I use Procreate (some times, for live sketchnoting) because of screenrecording
  • Other apps fall in between Paper and Procreate. I may give Concepts a second chance, because of infinite canvas 

Notetaking

  • I use GoodNotes because of the filing system (and simplicity of tools)
  • I bought Notability because of the recording option 

Whiteboard

  • I use Miro for collaboration (they have an app with limited drawing options, but works well enough for brainstorming visually)
  • I may try Explain Everything because of the screencasting option

Device

  • iPad 2018  (on offer last year 270€)
  • first generation pencil (second hand 60€)
  • Paperlike screen protector (34€) – the most budget friendly combo for the best quality

My recommendation:

You can get by to get started with almost any tablet that can run Paper app (by Wetransfer), and the cheapest stylus. When I was starting out, I tried lots of different apps: sketches, taysui, concepts, and more, and I settled with Paper because it was hassle free… with almost zero learning curve: you get in, pick a tool, start drawing.


Now I am in the middle of the development of CreativeSensei brand look and feel, and it is about time my sketchnotes start being more consistent. The exercise requesting a style guide has been timely on this. Here is my first attempt done in Goodnotes:

Another part of the exercise is to decide on canvas size. Doug’s recommendation is

When in doubt, use screen size. (Doug Neill, Verbal to Visual)

I follow that for live sketchnoting, but I am drawn to infinite canvas for mindmapping and brainstorming, as it lets you expand without borders…Still, work in progress.

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