Sketchnoting Can Turn a Layout Into Visual & Playful Journaling

Nikki Kann
Nikki Kann

Are you a lover of words and stories? Do you enjoy looking at your photos and then crafting the lengthy tale with all the details? Do you avoid words altogether, only using visuals because writing feels like a chore?  Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle, depending on your energy level or mood? This month the Scrap Happy team will be providing you with  journaling inspiration. 

Introduction to Sketchnoting
During the month of March and April, I participated in a free online workshop called Sketchbook Revival. Most of it was art technique classes, but one class really inspired me. It was called Introduction to Sketchnoting by Emily Mills. I have added the link for Emily’s free Introduction class, but she also offers other helpful classes on that website, some for free. 

Letting Go of Perfectionism
For years, I wanted to create a travel notebook in the sketch style, but found myself overwhelmed by perfectionism. The fear of the blank page struck again. This class helped to break down the steps in an easy, visual way and made the concept much less intimidating. I kept repeating to myself, “Done is better than perfect!” Even though it was kinda scary, I kept drawing.

My Sketchnote Process
So, the timing was impeccable to experiment with sketchnoting as journaling. I decided to create a layout about my roundabout college journey to three different colleges in five years. This is an experience that I have never documented. Here was my process:

  1. Wrote lists of the highlights of the 3 experiences. (As I wrote, so many memories came back that I forgot!)
  2. Drew a sketch for the desired look of the sketchnote. (at right)
  3. Printed out a Google Map of the directions from 1st college to last. This north to east to south pathway served as the anchor of the sketchnote and the first thing I drew (as a roadway)on the grid background paper. 
  4. Added geotag symbols in approximate locations based on the map.
  5. Wrote out the names of the universities in caps as subtitles
  6. Wrote out bulleted lists of the details and highlights under each of the three titles
  7. Googled the logos of each university (from the time period I attended) as reference for sketching them, then drew them with pencil near the name subtitles. Traced over the pencil lines with an extrafine point Sharpie.
  8. Randomly sketched visuals that represented details. I tried not to overthink this part or plan too much and just have fun with it. The mountains, snowflakes, t-shirt, mortar board, dollar signs, house and dome were easy shapes to create straight with the Sharpie, but for the others, I Googled the various “icons” as a reference.
  9. Added tiny arrows with Sharpie, where applicable.
  10. Drew boxes around college name subtitles to help them stand out in the hierarchy.
  11. Added color with colored pencils. Emily Mills suggested choosing 3 colors plus gray to keep it simple. I picked red for Rutgers, orange for Syracuse and a complement as blue. She pointed out that it is perfectly ok to not color “realistically”.  Added a red shadow to the subtitle boxes instead of inside the boxes for a different effect.
  12. Added the main title “My College Journey” in red letters to the upper right corner. Then created a unique shape in black Sharpie behind it to help it pop.
  13. Colored in the empty white space in the middle left with black cross lines.
  14. Backed my sketchnote grid paper onto black cardstock.
  15. Chose a colorful, artsy Vicki Boutin background paper. Adhered and stapled the backed sketchnote to the scrapbook paper.

Having Fun With It
This was such a fun, playful process in contrast to all the digital scrapping that I have done recently. This allowed me to let go of self-imposed constraints and rules. I allowed myself to embrace imperfection. If the idea of drawing images feels intimidating, check out this interview with Emily Mills on YouTube

Whether you tend to avoid journaling or not, hopefully the idea of sketchnoting will be intriguing enough that you learn more about it and give it a try. It really helps to loosen up your creativity. Stay tuned each week for more journaling inspiration from the ScrapHappy Creative Team.

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