Sketching is a skill, just like any other. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
The chances are, when reading about sketching, you‘re probably thinking, “Sketching won’t work for me. I can’t draw.” If you’re avoiding sketching because you have doubts about your art skills, rest assured you’re not alone.
1. Face your fears
You need to overcome your fear of being judged by the quality of your drawings. It’s helpful to remember that the goal of sketching isn’t to test your art skills, but to explore different ideas and then communicate them to others. So, as long as you can draw lines, boxes, arrows, and circles, you can sketch.
2. Practice makes perfect
Sketching is a skill, just like any other. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Get in to the habit of sketching and this will help you level-up your skills.
If you’ve just started sketching, practice drawing basic shapes like lines, triangles, and circles. Those elements are the building blocks of any sketch. By nailing those frequently used elements, you’ll establish an excellent foundation for your sketches.
3. Don’t focus on the visual quality
Focusing on the visual quality of your sketches can hinder you. When you focus on how “pretty” your sketches should be, you can easily forget the problem you’re trying to solve. Remember, in most cases you’ll throw your sketches out at the end, so they don’t need to be polished. Clarity should be your top priority. Instead of thinking, “Is this sketch pretty enough?” think, “Is this sketch clear enough?”
4. Use colours and shadows
One of the basic rules of sketching is that it’s better to create sketches in grayscale, to prevent being distracted by colours. However, it’s possible to use a limited number of contrasting colours (say, one or two) to draw attention to specific elements (i.e. make certain elements pop out) or as visual signifiers (e.g. you can use blue for links and other interactive elements). If you do use colours, be sure to use them consistently.
Similar to colours, adding shadows to interactive elements (such as buttons) will help people better understand the meaning of your elements.
5. Learn to draw long lines
When sketching long lines, consider moving your arm and pen with your shoulder, rather than your elbow, or wrist. This will allow you to draw longer, straighter lines. This technique easily translates to drawing on a whiteboard.
6. Sketch in layers
This is a great tip from the article The Messy Art of UX Sketching by Peiter Buick. Peiter advises starting with a light grey marker and using a darker pen for each successive layer. When you’re ready to finalise the sketch, use your darkest grey pen. This technique helps you to create your sketch step-by-step, outlining the structure of your sketch first, and the details, after.
7. Rotate the page
Professional sketchers frequently turn the page, to get the drawing position they need. This helps them to get straight lines, with the least amount of effort. Next time you need to draw a vertical line and find it difficult, simply rotate the page 90 degrees and draw a horizontal line instead.
8. Use templates
Using a template while sketching, will save you time. You won’t need to redraw common elements each time you sketch a new layout.
You can also use a photocopier to create templates from existing sketches.
9. Try digital sketching
While sketching implies using a pen and paper, it’s also possible to sketch using digital devices, such as an iPad with an Apple Pencil. Digital sketching eliminates eraser dust and stacks of used paper. This is a great option for people who work from different locations, making it easier to organise and access your sketches quickly, at any time or place.
When it comes to sketching, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Everybody has their own sketching style. If you’re new to sketching, take your time to experiment and try new techniques. Don’t be afraid to try different formats, styles, and methods. You’ll soon discover what works best for you.
Sketching is a time-tested approach to explore, refine, and communicate your design ideas. It’s a critical element of excellent user experience. Great sketching skills will save you time, help you to think clearly, and find better solutions to problems.