Tips! 50 Themes to Brighten Up Your Sketchbook

Featured image by Liz Steel

Do you find yourself constantly asking, “What should I draw?”

If you sometimes skip drawing because you dread having to choose a worthy subject, themes might be the solution for you. Even if your main sketchbook doesn’t follow a theme, keeping one or two on the side that stick to a theme could give you a break from thinking about drawing, and more mental (and physical!) space to actually draw.

Fakulty member Liz Steel paraphrases Buddha when she says, “The creative journey is more important than the traveling.” So worry less about producing a flawless book of perfect drawings, and focus more on drawing as much as you can! See below for some themes that might spruce up your sketchbook or take you in a new direction.

50 Suggestions for sketchbook themes:

  1. Illustrated poetry (your own or your favorites written by other people)
  2. Handlettered quotes
  3. Illustrated recipes
  4. Painting the sky (this is fun to see progression through the seasons)
  5. Self portraits
  6. Continuous line drawings
  7. Sketches On-the-go (tiny sketchbook that will fit in your bag)
  8. Traveling
  9. Experiment with materials (only new things you have never tried before)
  10. Cars/vehicles/ things that go
  11. Sketches in public
  12. Exploring your neighborhood
  13. Watercolour-only
  14. Black ink only
  15. Reduced palette or pick one color to stick to.
  16. Meals (drawing the actual finished plate, not the recipes)
  17. Animals
  18. People
  19. Trees
  20. Flowers
  21. Your pet(s)
  22. Portraits
  23. Gesture drawings / Body language (strangers or
  24. Buildings and Architecture
  25. Objects you use every single day
  26. Copy exercises of favorite artists
  27. Dip pens-only (or other objects like sticks or reeds that aren’t pens)
  28. Record the things you choose to eat to track your diet
  29. One Sketch A Day
  30. Shadows
  31. Chairs
  32. Feet or hands or one specific body part as your focus (imagine a sketchbook filled with noses!)
  33. Urban Sketches
  34. Shoes or an accessory you collect like bags or jewelry
  35. Things around the house (Draw your messes instead of cleaning them up!)
  36. What you wore today
  37. (Grand)kids
  38. Grocery lists
  39. A shared family sketchbook
  40. Blind contour drawings
  41. Toys
  42. Kitchen items (or items limited to your favorite place in the home- like hardware items from the garage or toiletries from the bathroom)
  43. Drawing from the TV
  44. Maps (of your home, the places you go, of your mind…)
  45. Drawing from imagination
  46. Drawing memories
  47. Ballpoints-only
  48. Drawings from (old) family photos
  49. Musicians
  50. Drink and draw – combine meeting friends and sketching
What are some themes you have used in your sketchbooks?

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