Sketchnoting tips with Bits and Bytes

Myself and fellow sketchnoter Luise Freese were recently shared our sketchnoting stories with the Microsoft Tech Community. In this blog post I expand on that story with some extra detail for sketch-curious folk.

Tech Community sketchnoting feature

See the article on tech community for a summary of advice from myself and Luise Freese.

How to Sketchnote Like The Pros | Microsoft Tech Community

Sketchnoting sketchnote

Sketchnoting with Microsoft MVP Bits and Bytes
Sketchnote of sketchnoting tips for Bits and Bytes. Long form and text summary to follow on the page.

My start in sketchnoting

In 2013 I attended a seminar and workshop with amazing sketchnoter and graphic recorder Matt Magain. The workshop was about UX sketching techniques and sketchnoting was a part of it. It was like a reawakening of all the doodling and drawings I had made on my school notes that were so frowned upon. From there I was introduced to Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook. If you want to start sketchnoting you should definitely check out Mike’s book. It is really practical and has a lot of lovely examples.

I think sketchnotes are for everyone, but particularly worth exploring if you think you can’t draw and want, to or think you may be a visual learner. It is really common for people to say they love sketchnotes but wish they could draw. That’s actually what’s great about sketchnotes and why I encourage others to do it. Sketchnotes are notes, with visual bits. A summary. And drawing is a skill which can be practiced and improved on. It’s a great way to help with learning and embedding ideas. I recently started studying again and have been using sketchnotes for my course notes. I share a lot of my sketchnotes but mostly I do them for me to help me learn.

Here is a blog I wrote about my experience with sketchnoting back when I first encountered it: Intranets2013 – UX Sketchnoting – Rebecca Jackson (

Community engagement

I really enjoy attending conference and industry events to get knowledge but have always struggled with networking and breaking the ice at community events. Sketchnotes changed things for me as it was a great conversation starter. At the very first event I sketchnoted I tried to hide because I felt embarrassed. But it’s hard to hide and people approached me with genuine curiosity and kindness.

Recommended tools

I recommend starting with what you have and what you feel comfortable with. I started sketchnoting on paper and have many notebooks full of sketchnotes. Today I am mostly digital. There are pros and cons to each which I have shared in a sketchnote that I created for UXMas 2018: Sharpie vs Stylus?

Analogue: A nice notebook, a fineliner and something to do shading with are a great place to start. If you like colour, break out the markers.

Digital: I use both iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4. On the Surface Pro I use Microsoft Whiteboard and OneNote. On the iPad I mostly use Procreate, but also Paper.

My only caution is that being addicted to stationery AND technology is dangerous for the bank balance (from experience). Test and invest wisely.

Sketchnoting has helped connect me with the Microsoft community, I created my first digital sketchnote at the 2014 ShareThePoint conference with support and encouragement from fellow MVP from Darrell Webster. It was on Darrell’s Surface Pro 3 and he shared it live with attendees via a shared and synced OneNote notebook. Darrell had seen my analogue sketchnotes and saw the potential of OneNote and the Surface Pro. I still sketch in OneNote to this day and love sketching in PowerPoint and other Office apps.

Whether it is someone curious about sketchnotes or wanting to discuss perspectives on the content I had many great conversations, met new friends, and even found career opportunities through sketchnoting.

Top tips

Practice: To start a habit or improve anything you need to practice, sketchnoting is the same. I have notebooks full of experiments with different handwriting and font styles, common images and icons to build visual vocabulary and I still will use videos or podcasts to do a little sketchnoting practice.

You CAN draw: Drawing is a skill and a perfect illustration is not necessary to convey an idea or embed a concept in memory. There are heaps of online resources to help prompt you on how to draw basic objects and concepts to include in your own notes.

Less is more: I used to get caught up in the idea of capturing everything, but that is not what it is about. It’s a visual summary. A representation of what you think the key messages are. Focus on what you think is useful and important and you will get the most value.

I have a blog post which covers a very high level guide to getting started: Get visual and start sketchnoting – Rebecca Jackson (

Text summary of sketchnote

Title: Sketchnoting with Microsoft MVP Bits and Bytes

My start in sketchnoting

  • A seminar and a workshop inspired me
  • A great guide and online community encouraged me [Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook]

Community engagement

  • Knowledge sharing
  • Making connections

Recommended tools

  • Just start > Use the stuff you like > Then experiment
  • Analogue
    • Markers, pens, pencils
    • Shaders
    • Paper or notebook
  • Digital
    • Tablet
      • iPad
      • Surface Pro
    • Stylus
    • App
      • Whiteboard
      • OneNote
      • Procreate
      • Paper

Top tips

  • Practice, practice, practice
    • Writing in different styles
    • Common images and icons
    • Sketch videos and podcasts
    • You CAN draw
      • Simple is better
      • “ideas not art” – Mike Rohde
    • Less is more
      • Visual summary

Sketchnotes by Rebecca Jackson @RebeccaJLJ #MVPBuzz #Sketchnotes

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