Since 2008, I have used paper sketches actively in all aspects of my work as a designer. I started out with a notion that paper sketching was generally good, but at the time I had no idea how to actually use it in live projects. Like most designers nowadays, I felt more confident using my computer as my preferred sketching tool.
I realized rather quickly just how fantastically useful paper sketches are when you quickly want to communicate the essence of an idea without being caught up in details. Based on my own experience, I would even go so far as to claim that when designers open the lid on their computers, they start producing and stop thinking.
My initial fear that clients would frown upon my new way of working proved to be unfounded. As it turns out, they were more positive towards the ideas when sketched on paper. I have since then realized that clients actually feel more involved in the process when they evaluate paper sketches, compared to computer sketches that look too finalized too early in the process.
Over the years I have tested tons of sketching material thoroughly and have found the material that works best for me. People often ask me what tools to use. When I started teaching my technique to others, I therefore created a sketching kit that has been very appreciated. Here is what I recommend and why I recommend it:
The clip board
A simple one sided cardboard clip board is the most convenient arrangement for drawing and organizing the sketches. I use ordinary A4 printer paper found in most offices.
I have found that there are two kinds of paper – interactive and analogue. The analogue versions are any conceivable arrangement of paper that are glued together on one side. Of course, this is handy in some ways, for example it does not fall apart. However, it has proven to be utterly unpractical when sketching grand ideas and presenting them to others.
In order for paper to be interactive, you have to be able to constantly rearranging the order of your sketches and present the sheets in front your audience to visualize a complex line of thought. The perfect solution seems to be a simple, A4 size, one-sided clip board. It is lightweight and has the same size as your laptop. I avoid the kinds with a lid that folds over to the back when drawing, since the lid tends to get in the way.
Go for ordinary printer paper
I believe it is important to not get too comfortable with fancy art material. If you do it right you will soon run out of paper. I am content with ordinary printer paper since you can get hold of it everywhere. Just visit your local grocery store or blag your nearest printer and you are good to go. I find A4 sheets will also be very easy to scan or reproduce when you want to share your sketches to a wider audience.
I have found only two pens qualifying for my own sketching kit. Pitch black and reliable. I never leave home without them.
In order to express your ideas in meetings with others, what you draw needs to be instantly visible and cannot suddenly run out, having to be refilled or needing to be sharpened. This narrows down the types of pens I will look for. I never use pencils since they draw pale lines and make my creations hard to scan.
Since I started in 2008, I have tested most pens on the Swedish market and I have fallen in love with two of them, complementing each other very well:
Pilot V-Ball 0,5 Black
This pen is suitable for drawing very sharp lines and smaller objects with greater precision
Pilot Green Ball 0,7 Black
This pen feels almost like an old school chalk marker. It leaves slighty jagged edges and is suitable for more creative drawing, bolder lines and larger objects.
Limit detail & remove color!
One of the coolest things with concept sketching is that you do not have to pay too much attention to details. By focusing your efforts on details in the key elements of the sketch and at the same time being more brief on the less essential parts, you can work more effectively and at the same time do a better job. As it turns out, by simplifying, your audience will focus on what you wish to convey. This is also true for colors.
On the internet you might find numerous examples of sketches in great color. These are great to look at but for most people adding color in this way it takes way too long time and requires more skill and equipment. In situations where colors are a key component of the idea, explaining your intentions or showing examples such as a mood board works so much better. If your client approves of your idea, there will be plenty of time to explore color options later. Therefore, I go for only pitch black ink in my sketches. On rare occasions I use some gray marker to create light shadows. That’s all.
Ctrl-z in real life! With the correction tape I can afford to make mistakes and correct them immediately.
Yes, people still use Tipp-ex! Thankfully, the small bottles with a tiny brush attached to the lid and life-threatening disolvents, have been replaced with easy to use correction tape in a tiny dispenser. I usually try different approaches when I sketch so I tend to use a lot of correction tape. Almost like Ctrl-Z in reality. I have found the best product being Correction mouse from Tipp-ex. This specific product has the best adhesive qualities and leaves the least residue.
There is in fact one more thing you can do with correction tape. If you use it first and draw on it later, you can create a more smooth surface than the paper itself letting you draw extremely fine lines and details in your sketch.
So, get busy sketching on paper! If you are interested in ordering a kit of your own just send an e-mail and I will send payment and delivery information. The price is 22€ and it is available for immediate shipping world wide. If you are interested in attending one of my courses in conceptual sketching technique, Just let me know!
Here are some words from my sketching course attendees:
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