Sketchnote Layouts: The Ultimate Guide

My biggest obstacle to sketchnoting was arranging information. For a long time I stayed making “Sketchnotes lite”where I had text (with occasional colour) broken up by the odd image. Discovering sketchnote layouts changed all that. Suddenly the shackles were off and my notes radically shifted.

This may not be the case for you; there may be a different area that holds you back like drawing. But understanding sketchnote layouts can help you plan and organise the content in your sketchnotes.


Although some people confuse mindmaps with radial sketchnotes, there is a subtle difference. Regardless, this layout has a central element and then spokes coming out from the centre. Radial mindmaps are great if you have a core topic or concepts.


The grid layout divides the page into squares with each square containing a single aspect. This is great for talks where there are clear division in content and works well when there are four or six items covered.


Columns group information together from top to bottom. You can use these a bit like a spreadsheet to show the same information for different items. It also works well for panel discussions.


The popcorn style involves random chunks of information across the page. This can be very handy when there isn’t perhaps a clear structure or logical flow (for example, question and answer sessions). It can help you gather your thoughts as well.


The portrait layout involves a large, central image that the whole sketchnote is connected to. This works well for biographies of people as well as for food sketchnotes…can you make a portrait of a meal? Well you can with a sketchnote.


The path style shows progressions and time as we move from the start to finish. This can happen in a variety of different ways like a giant U, Zig Zagging, spiraling in to the centre, or out from the centre, or just randomly across the page. This can work well to show how the order of a talks or the chain of events.


A storyboard is used in cinema and TV to represent key parts of a story with image and dialog below. For sketchnotes, this involves equal squares or rectangles with space for text below.


Comics are very similar to storyboards expect each frame can be a different size depending on the importance or requirements of the frame. This can lead to more dynamic sketchnotes.


There are more variations and unique ideas for layouts that grow all the time. The layouts above provide an overview and framework that you can adapt. And you can invent your own unique layouts too. What is your favourite sketchnote layout?

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