Anna Frank
02-07-2019 Anna Frank, design

Sketchnotes: What materials should I start with?

Any pen is better than no pen

Sketchnotes are visually designed notes that present ideas in a particularly understandable manner – we published an introduction to this technique a few weeks ago. In this second installment, our expert Anna (Frank) talks about the corresponding materials.

You can use any kind of pen and paper to create a visual note. For example, when you’re out shopping and a thought crosses your mind that you absolutely want to remember. Just grab a pen and scribble it down on the back of a cash register receipt.

Everyone has to discover for themselves what writing materials are best for them. Although I’m from the online world, I’ve always loved pen and paper. As a result, I’ve got a lot of materials to choose from at home… meaning that I’ve already tried out a lot of options. But I still like to change it up, depending on my mood. My current faves include:

Sketchnotes pens.
  • Pigma Micron black (sizes 0.2, 0.3, 0.5)
  • Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pens N75 and N55 – gray (for shading)
  • Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen 055 – yellow (for color accents)
  • Tombow MONO graph (mechanical pencil – I love it!)
  • Edding 1340 Brush Pen (for frames and emphasis)

But even with an ordinary ballpoint pen (or any other writing tool), you can still sketchnote beautifully. Just try it out and see what works best for you. Remember, you don’t need to create a work of art: the main purpose of a sketchnote is to convey an idea. Everything else is icing on the cake.


For sketchnotes, I mostly use an A5 spiral notebook (dotted paper) or index cards (blank, in sizes A5 and A6). It simply depends on what I’m sketchnoting.

Sketchnotes paper.

Sketchnotes for meetings

For example, if I’m at a meeting and sketchnoting the presented information, I do this in my spiral notebook. This way, it’s all at my fingertips later and I can also flip through it again. I have a cover sheet for each meeting, making it quicker to find things again and keeping it all in chronological order.

Sketchnotes for work

For everyday work, I’ve got a notebook (dotted paper) where I jot stuff down chronologically, from to-do lists to meeting sketchnotes. Even with my to-do lists, I try to incorporate small icons, be it a customer’s logo or just helpful symbols. It’s good practice and the outcome doesn’t look any boring anymore.

Personal sketchnotes

If some idea is circling in my mind, or I’m practicing, or I’m brainstorming with sketchnotes, then I love doing that on index cards, because this keeps things flexible. The paper’s a bit thicker and it’s not permanently attached to anything. I like that.

Paper in general

Here, too, you should just try things out. First take the stuff that’s already lying around (e.g. photocopy paper). You always have the option of buying other materials. But sometimes it’s enough to simply be more creative in using existing materials. For example, if ordinary A4 paper is too big, then simply fold it half. You’ve immediately got an A5 sheet, or even a double-paged spread like in a notebook.

Happy sketchnoting – and have an eye on our Sketchnotes Meetup!