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“Fill a sketchbook every month.” I have seen this advice all over the internet, but personally, it takes me a long time to fill a sketchbook. That’s why I put together these tips to fill up a sketchbook!
Sketchbooks are mostly the main way of improving your art. You use them to practice every day, in the best case, and the advice to fill one a month is not bad at all. What this really means that you should be drawing at all times, nonstop. However, sometimes, I run out of inspiration, I don’t know what to draw, and it can take days until I get some ideas.
My first ever sketchbook, took me almost half a year to finish. That’s why I gathered this list of tips that can help you (and me) fill up more sketchbooks in less time while improving our collective art skills in the process. Without further ado, here are my top tips on how to fill a sketchbook for every artist!
There are a few approaches to drawing from a reference. To find a reference, pick what you want to draw, and look for it on Google. Generally speaking, you will find what you need sooner, rather than later.
The first thing you could do is to take the picture and draw it in your own style. By doing this, you learn a lot about the thing you are drawing, while improving on your style.
You could also browse social media, such as Instagram, and look at other artists’ drawings. By copying them, you learn a lot about their styles, which can inspire you to improve your style a bit. My favorites to look at are Jake Parker and digitalbobert.
Last, but not least, a fun challenge to try is to print out a photo, cut it in half, glue one half in your sketchbook, and try to recreate the other half while staying true to the first half you glued to your page. By doing this, you can learn about symmetry in art (which can be both good, and bad).
Do you want to draw something difficult and complex, but are afraid of failure? Try making some smaller studies before starting your main piece. For example, let’s say you want to draw a jungle with some wild animals.
To start, you should draw a few different trees native to jungles from a few different angles. Then you can study animal anatomy and facial expressions to help you convey emotions in your main piece later on.
While making studies, you can also educate yourself on color theory, and really understand how to combine colors and what emotions do they evoke in people.
Drawing from Life
Pick up an object you see in front of you and try to draw it as realistically as possible. This forces your brain to think about 2d representations of 3d objects, which is a very useful skill you cannot train in almost any other way.
With this approach, you can practice your shading (you can even draw the same thing under different lighting), animal/human anatomy and movement, etc.
Design an Original Character
Creating your own characters can improve your art skills, while actually pushing your worldbuilding along with it. Characters can range from normal humans to anything your wildest fantasies can imagine. Original characters definitely deserve their own blog post, so I will not go into much more detail here.
However, designing an OC can help you get known on social media (as people tend to like OCs), as well as lead to bigger, better projects, such as comic books.
Once you’ve designed your OC, you can draw them in many different positions, in different situations, and with many variations. For example, you could draw their morning routine, draw them as a vampire, draw them as a baby, draw them brushing their teeth, learning to drive, etc.
You can also try out some art prompts (I will be talking about those in a bit). I’ve actually made a database of over 100 drawing prompts, specifically made for OCs! You can find them in the Discord server connected to my Android app, Art Prompts. Join the server through this link!
Maybe you have been sitting on an interesting character idea for a while now, or you just want to get some stuff out of your mind. Brainstorming can be useful when trying to find new and interesting designs. Just set yourself a theme (for example “Mad King”) and draw whatever comes to mind first. And then second. And third, and so forth.
This way, you look at the idea from different angles. The first iteration might be clichéd because it’s the first thing that comes to mind. The next iterations can spark creativity, force you to think out of the box, and come up with something more original.
If not sure what to draw, you can try some challenges. I generally sort these into two main categories and that’s long-term and short-term. Long-term challenges, such as Inktober, last multiple days and have set constraints. Inktober is a 30-day challenge, in which you have to draw with ink each day. There are benefits to this long-term approach to challenges; if you really complete a full 30-day Inktober, you learn discipline, drawing with ink, you can practice skills you need to practice, plus you come out of it with 30 full drawings you can post on Instagram for views. People like #inktober.
Short-term challenges, such as the 10 minutes, 1 minute, 10 seconds challenge, can last anywhere from a few minutes, up to a few hours. In the 10 minutes, 1 minute, 10 seconds challenge, you draw a picture in 10 minutes, then you draw the same picture in 1 minute, and lastly, you guessed it, in 10 seconds.
Unlike the long-term challenges, short-terms are great because you can try them over and over again. However, you won’t gain as much from a single completion of the challenge.
I have written a short list of Art Challenges, so feel free to check it out here.
Try out Drawing Prompts
Around the internet, you can find a ton of various drawing prompts. You can find these on online generators, such as ArtPrompts, in lists on Pinterest, or just with a quick Google search.
Prompts can give you the inspiration you need to start drawing, and they can get you to think creatively over topics you wouldn’t otherwise consider.
Recently, I’ve actually created a whole halo of apps regarding art prompts. There’s an Android app, a Discord bot, a newsletter, and most importantly, a free-to-use, ad-free web app! Check it out, it includes over 750 unique, original prompts.
Repeat to Practice
Find an area you’re not at all comfortable with and draw it again and again, from different angles, different scenes, etc.
In 2019, I did this with rocks. In about 2 months, I finished one hundred little scenes with rocks in them, which greatly improved my drawing skills in this area. It also filled about 20 pages in my sketchbook.
You can do the same thing with literally anything. Can’t draw hands? Let’s face it, who can? Set yourself a goal to draw a ton of hands as quickly as possible!
Draw in Other Styles
Do you have favorite artists? Whether on Instagram, DeviantArt, or any other platform, find some art from the artists and study their styles. Do they use outlines? How thick are they? What colors do they usually use? What shapes?
By asking questions like these, you can begin to understand what makes their style what it is. After that, you can try to replicate it. If you pick one drawing and try to draw it in the style of a different artist, you can learn a lot about styles, which might even help you find your own style.
Learn New Skills
This is, personally, one of the best ways to fill sketchbooks – not only are you improving your art through practice, you’re also learning wholly new skills.
There are plenty of ways to learn; of course, art school is one of them, but not everyone wants to dedicate so much of their time to art. My favorite way to learn is online – articles, videos, and courses.
For videos, I would love to recommend a few art-related channels on YouTube. You can check them out, take inspiration from their videos, and try some of their guides out;
For courses, I can wholeheartedly recommend Skillshare. You’ve probably heard about it from the many sponsorships on YouTube they did, but it’s a genuinely awesome platform for learning. You can get Premium access to all the courses for free for two months through one of the following links; here are some of my favorite art courses on Skillshare;
- You Can Draw Cute Animals! In 3 Simple Steps by Yasmina Creates
- Watercolor in the Woods: A Beginner’s Guide to Painting the Natural World by Rosalie Haizlett
- Mastering Illustration: Sketching, Inking & Color Essentials by Jazza
Try to draw how you feel right now, or draw sounds. These things do not have visible representations in the real world, so you can have fun trying to imagine and draw what they would look like.
For a more in-depth guide to abstract art, check out this great guide by Tara over on her website. While it does talk about abstract paintings, I think these tips should apply to most types of abstract art.
Chances are, you have been drawing for a long time. If not, this tip might not apply to you, so feel free to skip it. But if you have several sketchbooks filled with your old drawings, pull one of them out and try your best to redraw some of the drawings. After you are done with that, compare the new versions with the old ones. Note the improvements you have made along the way, and try to find areas to improve even further.
Generally, the older the drawing you’re redrawing is, the better, because you can see the most improvement in the new picture.
Step-by-step Drawing Tutorials
While step-by-step tutorials are not always the best way to improve your art, sometimes it’s good to go on a bit of a marathon and binge-watch a few of them. By doing this, you can take your mind off of “what you should be drawing”, and just draw. Follow the tutorials, fill up a few pages, relax a bit, and you might even learn something about drawing specific things. Just be sure to take breaks from time to time.
Frames from Movies
This idea comes from Kesh on Youtube (you should check him out), specifically from his how to fill a sketchbook video.
When watching movies or TV shows, screenshot scenes that look interesting. Later on, you can draw these frames in your sketchbook. Because these scenes are made by people who have studied cinematography for their whole lives, you can really learn a lot by studying their composition, color theory, angles, etc.
Pareidolia Effect Drawing
This term was, as far as I can tell, first used by the ArtistsJourney. Basically, you scribble randomly in your sketchbook, and you let your subconscious mind fill in patterns that are not actually there. I would highly recommend checking out his video if you have the time.
If you are a beginner or an intermediate artist, you are probably used to one material. You either use pencils, watercolors, ink, pens, maybe even combine some of them together, but you have not dabbled in some of the more “unknown” materials. So why not do exactly that?
You can even go a step further and try digital art (if you’re used to traditional), or vice versa. However, do note that if you want to try digital art, you are going to need a drawing tablet. My personal recommendation (for an artist on a budget) would be the Wacom Intuos.
I do a lot of sketches in school and just because I can’t bring my sketchbook there, I sketch on random loose papers. I used to either throw them out or just leave them lying somewhere around. Recently, I started gluing them inside the sketchbook. This prevents me from losing a bunch of perfectly fine additions to the sketchbook.
If you find yourself drawing a loose stack of papers with drawings, consider gluing them to your sketchbook, or putting them all together in a neat file to stay more organized.
Other Resources to Help You Fill Sketchbooks
Of course, I am not the only one to write an article or make a video that is supposed to help artists figure out how to fill a sketchbook. That is why I wanted to end this blog post with a list of other resources you can check out if you’re interested in more about this topic.
- 10 Ways to Fill Your Sketchbook by JelArts (video)
- 8 Ways To Fill Your Sketchbook by Mario Martín (article)
- 10 Easy Sketchbook Tips So You Can Make Art Now on ArtistsNetwork (article)
- How to Start (and Finish) a Sketchbook on SamBeAwesome (article)
- 5 Ways to Fill a Sketchbook: Fun Drawing Ideas and Sketchbook Hacks by Windy Iris Art (video)
Sketchbook Checklist and Other Exclusive Resources
Welcome to the end of the blog post! I know, it was a long one. But I do hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I do have a free bonus for you, as a reward for making this far. I have made a sketchbook checklist, as well as over ten more exclusive resources you can get when you sign up for my newsletter (by the way, there’s also a secret Discord server you get to join once you have been signed up for a month). Sign up below to get your exclusive bonuses!
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Do you have another tip for filling a sketchbook? How long does it take you to fill one? Feel free to post your stats to the comment section!
How to Fill a Sketchbook FAQ
You can draw anything in your sketchbook, but here are some tips on what to draw:
draw using references, draw studies, design an original character, draw something from life, try an art challenge, find some art prompts, draw something in a different style, or draw a frame from a movie.
While there are many ways you can fill a sketchbook, one of the fastest ways is to pick a thing you want to get better at drawing (for example, hands), and draw that a lot.
I, personally, use only one side of my sketchbooks, because I think it looks much better. However, there’s nothing stopping you from filling in both pages, if you want to.