Art Projects and Techniques

50 Sketchbook Ideas and Tips For All Humans and Some Really Creative Squirrels

sketchbook ideas
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sketchbook ideas and a printable drawing ideas list

Photo by Rachael Gorjestani

There you are, hanging out with your sketchbook, ready to get all arty, and suddenly your brain freezes. Your gnarled fingers clamp down on your pencil, and you let out an awkwardly loud screech of angst. You need ideas.

I’ve got yer sketchbook ideas, fella. All the sketchbook ideas you could possibly want (well 50 of them, at least.) Plus, an extra bonus section for tips on how to switch up your sketchbook to make it even more exciting and fun.

These ideas will appeal to current sketchbook-lovers as well as those just getting started, and you weirdo art students and teachers will find all sorts of easy drawing ideas that you can make more complicated to challenge yourselves further.

Let’s jump on in to the sketchbook ideas, including a printable drawing ideas list download you can access. Further down the page you can find tips for breathing some new life into your sketchbook if you’re in a rut or tend to approach every page the same way. (Guilty)

50 Sketchbook Ideas

  1. 3 animals wearing clothes
  2. a long, full page of a worm
  3. Practice drawing your thumb in different positions
  4. Blind contour drawing of your bed
  5. Draw your dinner
  6. Cut a rectangle out of a piece of paper, tape it to a window, and draw only what is inside of the rectangle
  7. Set up an impromptu still life using 5 things in your pantry or cabinets
  8. Trace around your hand and then go in and try to make it look like something other than a hand drawing
  9. Draw a mug with someone or something peeking out of the top
  10. Make up some underwater creatures
  11. Fill a page with only a section of an animal
  12. Turn your initials into a drawing of some sort of food
  13. Separate your entire page with 6 lines, then fill in the spaces with different patterns
  14. Draw something using only dots
  15. Clouds
  16. Underwear
  17. Draw a self portrait using pencil, and smudge it with your fingers so it’s as blurry as you can make it
  18. Big huge cartoon eyes
  19. Draw the outline of something without using lines. You have to just use the edge of a pencil to shade around where the object outline would be
  20. Draw a skeleton the best you can, just from memory
  21. Stacks and stacks of cars
  22. Draw the simple house shape you used to draw as a kid, but then fill it in with tons of details
  23. Half your face, half someone else’s – it can be a magazine face
  24. Draw something (object or still life) using all cross hatching
  25. Fill your page with stars, then color in all the negative space
  26. Cut out eyes, noses, and mouths from a magazine, tape them onto your page, and copy them
  27. Draw a basic face shape on your page, then separate it into lots of geometric shapes to color in or draw patterns in
  28. Write your name in the center of the page, then draw things, people, ideas, whatever that you love around your name
  29. Splatter ink, watercolor, tea, what-have-you on your page and turn it into something cool
  30. Cut shapes out from magazines and use them to ‘draw’ something on a sketchbook page
  31. Find an image of an old master painting, and copy it into your sketchbook
  32. Make a simple line drawing, then write all over the top of it- try to ‘draw’ the words with beautiful lines
  33. Find some texture that you like and do a few close-up studies of it in your sketchbook
  34. Use liquid ink or a Sharpie to draw a black animal silhouette then use a white gel pen to draw its skeleton over the black
  35. Draw all the flowers you can think of without looking at any reference pictures (or flowers). Make ’em up if you wish
  36. Make a page full of copied logos
  37. Start with a tiny circle in the center of your page, then draw outward, filling your page with tiny drawings
  38. Hands, hands, and more hands
  39. Fill the page with a grid and draw as many insects as you can think of (or make up)
  40. Draw the cover of your favorite book or album art
  41. 2 circles- shade one to look like a ball, and the other to look like a hole
  42. Draw an object, but personify it by giving it a face
  43. Spoons and forks
  44. Inside corner of a room
  45. Outside corner of a building
  46. Marbles
  47. Crumpled paper – bonus points for shining a light on it from the side so yo have dramatic lighting
  48. Glass of water with or without ice
  49. Scribble, scribble, scribble
  50. Tree and fill in the trunk area with a really unusual pattern

Printable Drawing Ideas List

Click here to download a printable version of this list.

Tips for Making Your Sketchbook More Fun

Try to limit yourself to shorter sketches on some of your pages, especially if you tend to approach each sketchbook page like it needs to be a masterpiece! You can set a timer for 5 minutes for a few pages, and limit yourself to filling 5 pages each in 5 minutes time. (You can always go back in later and add more.)

Try your hand at different media. Sometimes it’s fun to sketch the same thing on 3 different pages, in 3 different materials: try pencil, pen, crayon.

Switch up your style sometimes. Usually draw Manga? Try setting up a small still life or doing a self portrait as realistically as you can. Always draw landscapes? Draw a few pages of your beloved sleepy dog. (You don’t need to show anyone these pages if you hate them.)

Change your position. Try standing up and drawing with your sketchbook propped up on the wall, and drawing with your non-dominant hand. We tend to get comfortable and closed up while sitting with our sketchbook nestled up close to us, and just making these physical adjustments sometimes can make us approach our sketching session with fresh eyes.

Warm up your hands and brain by making some big, stupid scribbles on a piece of paper for a minute or two before you tackle the sketchbook.

Take 10 deep breaths or meditate for a few minutes before you begin. You want to approach your sketchbook with a sense of presence and actually enjoy what you’re doing.

By all means, go check out my list of 100 drawing ideas for kids, because you’ll no doubt find some more great ideas there you’ll want to try.

sketchbook ideas and a drawing ideas list

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  • I really really really like your ideas – have been following you for a while. Keep em coming!
    I have been teaching art for 27 years and sometimes it is nice to see fresh ideas – or ideas in a new way. Thanks!

    • I am so glad to hear this- I have a million zillion ideas, so I’ll just keep on shoveling them on out. 🙂 Also, I am so impressed that you’ve been teaching art for 27 years. #artteachersrock

  • Ohhh such good ideas spout from your massive brain. Thank you for recording them on paper for us to be inspired by. I want to draw a worm, a section of an animal and underwear. Maybe all at once…

    • I will obviously and most certainly be needing to see what you draw, so don’t forget to show me. Especially if you mix them all up. Why would you NOT want to draw those three things together, anyway? 🙂

  • I don’t really find these tips very helpful. I am the type that does not really like weird things and these tips are weird to me! Keep trying it will get better!?‍♀️