Sketchnoting (or visual note-taking)

(Click here for a presentation called "Sketchnoting for Beginners". Click here to see my sketchnotes on Flickr.)

A while ago, I participated in a Google Hangout on Effective Feedback with @lisegaluga, and I was impressed with her icons (slides 23 - 42):

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She told me that she made them with an iPad app called “Paper by fifty-three”. Well, I immediately downloaded the app and my journey into sketchnoting began.

Sketchnoting is simply a way to take notes in a more visually attractive way than bullet points. Some people use traditional pen and paper, but my tech-inclined self prefers the iPad version. You may notice conference tweets including a sketchnote image or two, as this has become quite a popular method of taking notes.

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(By Brad Ovenell-Carter. Click here for more of his. Click here for a great Sketchnote primer video he made.)

Many teachers are using sketchnoting with their students. Glen Downey, an English teacher at The York School blogs about it here. Here's a great slideshow about drawing in class by Rachel Smith. Royan Lee’s students’ have also created amazing sketchnotes.

As I did more research on sketchnoting, my interest really piqued. Two educators who have wonderful resources and have really helped me are Silvia Tolisano and Karen Bosch. (Also check out Kathy Schrock’s resources on sketchnoting.)

Silvia: Slideshow and video. Her sketchnotes.

Silvia’s preferred app for sketchnoting is “Paper by fifty-three”, while I preferred FlipInk when I first started out because you can upload photos, type text, add lines for guidance, and change the thickness and lightness of your pen. More recently, I have been drawing with Tayasui sketches which allows you to import and draw on top of images (which allows you to trace images). It also allows you to you layer images which lets you resize and re-position images on your drawing.

Other educators with AMAZING sketchnotes are Rebeca Zuniga (Flickr) and Rachel Smith (Flickr). Take a look at her great TedX talk here. Matt Miller also sketchnotes a lot. You can see his drawings here.

When I began sketchnoting, I became frustrated because:
  1. I couldn’t figure out exactly how the apps worked
  2. I didn’t have a proper stylus
  3. I’m a terrible artist and I wasn’t sure that I had the skills to be proficient.

Here is how I resolved my issues:
  1. When you open Paper by Fifty-Three or FlipInk, you will see some notebooks. When you touch a notebook to open it, you need to touch the page to draw on it. Then, to close the page or to start a new page, you need to squeeze two fingers together, then hit the plus sign. Sounds simple but it took me forever to figure out, and I couldn’t even find a YouTube video to explain it! Another important tip that Karen and Silvia gave me is that to do finer details in your drawings, spread 2 fingers apart on your screen. This will enlarge the drawing area significantly.

  1. I recommend that you purchase a good stylus for your drawing, as finger drawing is not very accurate. After much research and trial and error with different models, the Musemee Notier is my current favourite because it allows for very fine lines.

  1. With practice, I eventually saw my drawing skills begin to improve. Practice, practice, practice! If you google “Sketchnote” fonts, you can find lots of fonts to practice. Here is a screenshot of one of my practice sessions:
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Try googling “Sketchnote icons” and “stickmen” to practice more drawings. Also, TheNounProject is a great website to find simple-to-draw icons. Here is a great tip sheet by Carol Anne McGuire. (Also check out her wonderful sketchnotes.) (Thanks Karen for showing me this!)


(Click here to download the original.)

I have not yet tried to sketchnote during a conference, but here are some of my first sketchnotes.

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merry Xmas.png

The Connected Educator.jpg
Global school.png
(Quote by Kevin Honeycutt)


(Quote by Kevin Honeycutt)

School vs Learning.jpg
Jenny Magiera.jpg

How to sketchnote

7 stages.JPG
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5 stages of innovation.png

GAFE train.jpg

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4 stages.png



25 keys.jpg

Have fun with sketchnoting!

Post script: My Facebook friend, Lauri Taparluie has started sketchnoting, too. Here is one of her creations.


  1. Sylvia I tweeted about you today and I hope you don't mind... at least I think I tagged YOU and not a different sylvia. I'm in the Facebook group as well and was very intrigued so have come to see and am IN LOVE! Thank you so much for sharing all you've learned and some examples!

  2. I was getting called “old school” for sketching during meetings. Recently our department held a sharing session on….sketch noting! Guess that validates this old school method! Thanks for highlighting what every grade schooler knows: a picture is worth a thousand words!

  3. Love your work Sylvia. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sketchnoting, in its purest form, is creating a personal visual story as one is listening to a speaker or reading a text. I also believe the interactive notebook, which includes the process of taking "regular" notes" while listening to a speaker and later creating a sketchnote of the text notes, would also be considered sketchnoting.

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  6. Essentially they're about transforming ideas into visual communication; structuring thoughts and giving hierarchy to concepts can be completed with strictly text and a few lines.