Today’s episode is to give you ideas for sketchbooks to make them look more interesting. We’ve got lots of sketchbook ideas that you can experiment with to make your sketchbook more fun.
Type of sketchbooks
One of the first things to consider is the type of sketchbook you are going to use. You want the paper to be suitable for the type of art you want to create. So don’t go for something with thin paper if you are going to use water. But also don’t go for a sketchbook that is so beautiful that you are scared to use it, otherwise, your sketchbook ideas won’t see the light of day. Tara has a leather-bound one on her shelf that she is too afraid to mess up.
Choosing a sketchbook
The benefit of a ring-bound sketchbook is that you can pull the pages out. So if you make something you really don’t like you can pull it out and no one needs to know. You can also flip the cover right back on itself which makes it easier to handle if you’re sketching outside. The only problem is that the rings can get in the way, especially if you’re left-handed. It’s also difficult to make a sketch across two pages as you’ve got the rings down the middle. They are also bulkier to carry and things can get stuck in the rings.
Paperback sketchbooks are useful in the studio for roughing out compositions and things like that, but they’re really easily bent and damaged if you carry them around. That said they are nice and light to carry.
Hardcover sketchbooks can last for years, they can take a real battering in the bottom of your handbag and they are easy to create a double-page spread. They’re much easier to carry around because you haven’t got those bulky rings. The only downside is you can’t easily remove pages, if you want/need to, but you can always stick things over them.
For art challenges, you might consider a small sketchbook which is quicker if you are drawing every day. Alternatively, work on larger paper, but put multiple drawings on a page.
Colour and Toned Sketchbooks
Remember that you don’t have to use white sketchbooks either. You can get toned sketchbooks from Strathmore in tan, grey and blue. You can also get sketchbooks with pale pastel shades of watercolour paper from Bockingford.
Sketchbook Cover Ideas
Creating a unique sketchbook cover is a way of adding some personality to your sketchbook. You can get some really interesting reverse canvas covered sketchbooks made by Reeves. They’ve made them ready to create your own unique cover. The only problem is that the paper may not be able to take anything more than a pencil or pen.
A simple sketchbook cover idea is to wrap your sketchbook in brown paper and then put one of those old fashioned post office tags on it. Then you can write your name and address in case you lose it.
You can also cover your sketchbook with newspaper, pages from a novel, or sheet music. Another idea which sounds a little crazy is to cover it with old shopping lists or other scrap bits of paper you find with handwriting on. You can also doodle patterns on the cover.
Another cover idea is to use napkins with designs on them. Tear off the top layer and glue it down with clear glue. This was an idea we saw on Youtube. If you don’t want to use ready-made napkins you can paint tissue paper and do a similar thing. And of course, the glue will help seal and protect the cover too.
You can also use fabric and fabric paints or acrylic paints to cover your sketchbook. Handmade paper would work nicely as a cover too.
You can also create a bespoke sketch for your sketchbook cover, a silly selfie could be fun.
Don’t forget if you are using a hardback book you can also decorate the spine or write what the contents are.
Create drawing backgrounds in your sketchbook
If you feel daunted by the blank page, you can always create a background on your sketchbook pages first and then draw over the top. These pre-messed up pages are less intimidating to draw on.
Watercolor or acrylic sketchbook backgrounds
You can try laying down a random wash of watercolour, or acrylic before you start, as a drawing background. Make sure you’ve got a book that takes that kind of medium, such as a mixed media or watercolour sketchbook. You can do that to all of the pages before you even start using the book if you like.
More drawing background ideas
We have a few more ideas that came from our Facebook Group. You can try using cling film on top of watercolour to create a nice effect. Start by laying down a watercolor wash. While it’s still wet, lay some scrunched up cling-film/cling-wrap over the top and leave it to dry thoroughly. Once it’s completely dry, remove the film and you’re left with a lovely effect.
You can also try sprinkling salt onto watercolor to give interesting ‘sparkly’ effects. Ideally use something coarser than table salt, such as salt flakes. Again, make sure it’s thoroughly dry before brushing away the salt.
You can use stamps in your sketchbooks to make backgrounds. You can get all sorts of patterns. You can also get ones with dates, or you can make your own. You can also try covering bubble wrap, lace or string with paint and then using that to make marks on your sketchbook pages
Ideas for different drawing surfaces in your sketchbook
You can stick different surfaces onto your pages with double-sided sticky tape and draw over them. For example, try sketching over a music sheet, the page of a novel or on a sheet of a newspaper.
Sandra – I once saw somebody do some beautiful charcoal figure drawings on a sheet of newspaper. Then she framed them and they were gorgeous.
You can also work over patterned papers, like origami or Japanese papers. Coloured paper is another option. Not toned paper like we mentioned before, but brighter coloured paper.
Tara – You can buy sketchbooks that have a variety of surfaces, for example, one I saw contained burlap, canvas, watercolor paper and Kraft paper. You can also make your own with a mix of papers.
Ideas when you don’t know what to draw
If you can’t think what to draw in your sketchbook, make lots of boxes on a page and fill them with all the different marks you can make with your medium. You can learn a lot from that mark-making exercise. Just by changing the angle of your pencil, the mark you make can be very different.
If you’re stuck, doodle something random. Draw an odd shape or squiggle and then use it as inspiration.
Another thing you can try is to take some coloured paper and rip or cut it into random shapes as a starting point. Then stick two or three shapes down on one page of your sketchbook. Create a few pages of those and then come back to them another day. Draw over the top of them with a simple continuous line drawing, based on what you think the shapes can be. Some of the lines can go over the coloured blocks and some over the white paper.
Draw or paint with unusual tools in your sketchbook
You can also try using something completely different to what you would normally draw with. So for example you can apply paint or ink using different tools like sponges, twigs and feathers. It’s a great way of experimenting in your sketchbook.
Spraying and wax resist techniques
Also, try things like spraying Inktense pencils or watercolor pencils with water. You can also look at using wax resist. Use a candle or white wax crayon, draw on your page and then apply a wash over top. Wherever you’ve got the wax resist, the paint won’t stick. You can do a similar thing with masking fluid as well.
Adding collaged elements to your page
Use sweet wrappers, tickets, or receipts as a starting point, and then work over the top of it.
Overlapping, borders and sticky notes
You can also add more than one drawing on a page and let them overlap. If you’ve got several sketches on one page you can draw a border around each of your sketches. Then fill the space between them with black or a color. That makes each sketch stand out. You can also make your sketches overlap at the border so it looks like it’s coming out of the box. So for instance, imagine a square border that’s been drawn around a plant. Let some of the leaves come out from the border. It can make it look like they’re popping out from the page.
You can also cover sketches you don’t like with post-it notes. For instance, if you have a sketch that you like, but you can see that the eye isn’t right, cover the bad part with a post-it note and draw it again over the top.
Use words in your sketchbook
Flip through a magazine and cut out any interesting phrases or words that you see. When you’ve cut out lots of words, put them together and make an interesting phrase or sentence. You can create a design to go with it too. You can stick the cut-out words in your sketchbook, or if you are good at calligraphy, you can rewrite them.
If your handwriting isn’t great, you can try creating some descriptive text using a dip pen. Then embrace the splodges. Or you can do what I have done before and emphasize your bad writing. Make it even more haphazard and wobbly so it looks more deliberate.
You can also take an ordinary image but make it more interesting or funny by adding words to it.
Tara – So for instance I drew a pair of Wellington Boots. Then I put a line saying, “love is your partner cleaning your Wellington boots…PS if you’re reading this, they’re dirty again.”
You can also use words that mean something to you, or maybe a snippet of conversation that you might have overheard that day. You can do it in bubble form, like the bubbles you get in like a comic book or you can turn it into a journal page and write a bit about your day.
The back cover of your sketchbook
Just like creating a design for the cover of your sketchbook, why not come up with an idea for the back cover of your sketchbook too.
This weeks question
How do you get over the fear of the blank page?
We’ll read out the best answers in the next episode.
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