Any old writing instrument and paper can work for sketching. It’s an incredibly open-ended discipline, and that’s part of the beauty of it! But as I’ve sketched more and more, these three simple things have made my the time I spend on it much more productive.
Graph paper can help make your layouts feel more like precision documents than rough doodles, but not all graph paper is created equal. Some variants have lines so dark that you struggle to see your sketches on it.
The secret: find dotted graph paper rather than lined. The dots allow for some precision and alignment, but don’t compete with your sketches. (I personally love these hard-backed notebooks from Baron Fig, which are available with dotted pages.)
Typically, sketching happens with a pencil. In fact, every designer gets a beautiful Alvin mechanical pencil when they start at Arcweb Technologies. But while pencil has its place, consider giving pen a shot for your next sketch session. In my experience, the fact that pencil sketches are erasable becomes more bug than feature. A pen forces me to always keep moving, not stopping to erase mistakes. Plus, a pen’s indelibility makes for a good reminder to move forward and save all ideas, instead of erasing as you go.
As I look back through my sketching journal, the days often run together. I’ve tried dating pages by hand, but those hand-written dates tended to blend with the actual sketches on the page. The solution, borrowed from Philadelphia artist Mike Jackson, was to invest in a tiny date stamper. The stamps feel official and important but its true value is that it stand out from everything else on the page. Plus, there’s a certain Zen-like quality to the process of stamping today’s date at the top of a blank page.
These hacks came from spending lots of time sketching, finding out where my own friction points were, and removing them as simply as I could. They may or may not work for you, and that's okay! If you’ve got your own sketching tricks, tweet them at me and I’ll share them around. Good luck, and happy sketching!