• Although analogue sketchnoting tools like pen and paper are great, you’ll probably want to use some digital sketchnoting tools at some point, especially if you are thinking of using what you or your students create online or in a digital medium.

    As such, you’ll need some digital sketchnoting tools. There are two broad groups, those where you make an analogue version and then digitize it so you can use it digitally, or those tools where you make a digital version of a sketchnote from the start. I’ll look at both starting with scanning tools which you can then adapt.

    Scanning tools

    Although you could use a flat-bed scanner or a DSLR camera to scan sketchnotes, the easiest tool for most people is their smartphone. It’s something that is so widespread that most people have them where ever they are. Plus the fact that they are a mini computer with an internet connection lets you get your scan where it needs to quickly. There are a lot of different scanning apps that you can use but I’d recommend checking out

    • Scanbot (for sending scans to different locations and the ability to turn scans into PDFs)
    • Adobe scan (you can send this to a graphics editing program as a vector or a picture. This is more useful for editing.)


    There are lots of different hardware options for making sketchnotes but there are two options that stand above the rest in my opinion

    Wacom tablet

    These plug into a laptop or desktop computer and allow you to use a pen as your input style. They come in a wide range of sizes and styles with different features. If you want to write and draw directly into your computer, this is probably the best option.

    iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

    Personally, I use an iPad Pro for everything I do, not just drawing but it is exceptionally good at helping to make sketchnotes and doodles. The Apple Pencil is an incredibly accurate stylus and the portability of the device makes it great to use at a desk, at home on the sofa or on the go.

    Of course, there are some android tablets (and windows ones) which also have styli. Some of which are apparently very good but seeing as I’ve never used them, I can’t vouch for them.

    iPad Sketching Apps

    I’ve tried a few different sketching apps on the iPad and I honestly don’t think there is a best app, there are just apps which are better at different things than others. Some of these are more expensive than others and they can all help. Here are some options

    • Paper by WeTransfer (simple, few options and fun. The pen tool works well. Plus it’s free. If you have a non “pro” ipad, you can buy their stylus)
    • Linea Sketch (Slightly more complex than the Paper app, there are useful built in templates and layers)
    • Concepts (free with an in app purchase. It uses vectors letting you adjust afterwards, not a wide range of brushes)
    • Procreate (multiple layers, beautiful brushes, lots of options, can record videos. My personal favourite)
    • Adobe sketch (one that I don’t really use but apparently it is good and support Adobe’s creative cloud apps)
    • Affinity Designer (an vector based app that has a mac app to go along with it. Really powerful)

    Personally, my favorites are Linea Sketch and Procreate. I use Linea for quick sketches and unimportant items, and Procreate when I want to make something really special.

    Icons to use in graphics

    If you really “can’t draw” then you can steal icons that other people have made and use them in your own work. There are a few services and sites out there which offer this service but the best is the noun project. They have a wide range of icons which you can pay to use royalty free, or give attribution and use for free. A great way if you really can’t do a good drawing of something tough. It’s also a great source of ideas for nouns (both concrete and abstract) which you can then adapt.

    Check out these great digital sketchnoting tools!

    These aren’t the only tools but they are a great start that will help you get ahead.

    Do you know of any great digital sketchnoting tools?

  • The Essential List of Analogue Sketchnoting Tools

    Okay, let’s talk analogue sketchnoting tools. While tools aren’t everything, getting the right tools can help you a lot. They can add an enthusiasm for creating you and your students’ sketchnotes. Ultimately, you only need a pen and paper…or pencil…or whiteboard marker. But these analogue sketchnoting tools can open up some creative options and different effects in your notes.

    Pens and pencils

    There are hundreds of variations around pens and pencils. Strange for something that many of us use everyday. These variations can lead to different styles and looks on paper as well as different feelings when we use them. As such, you may never find the perfect pen or pencil, but you can have a lot of fun playing with different ones.

    Basic pen or pencil

    Although pencils are great for sketching, I prefer using a pen. It means I can’t spend too long on each icon or doodle and have to accept my mistakes, this is really important if you’re trying to follow a talk or lesson. It’s also easier to read. Of course you can go with a pencil first and then use a pen later if you like or whatever.

    For Pens, I really like the uniball air pen line. They have a good amount of bite in paper and have a nice inky look. I tend to use a black pen with a second red one for highlights. These are my go to tools.

    For a pencil, I tend to use a mechanical 0.75m pencil, though I don’t mind using a typical classroom HB pencil. Recently I have been playing with using a lead holder as an alternative as well.

    (Psst, you might want a lead pointer for those as well as an eraser and an eraser shield)

    Chiseled pen

    Pens which have a chisel end, these let you experiment with switching between thicker and thinner ends. Useful for creating different containers or fancy typography. These can be great for creating more text, headings and dividers.

    You could use a fountain pen, or certain permanent markers to get this effect, but chisel tip calligraphy pens are great for small scale work.

    Adding some colour

    As great as black ink on white paper is, adding some accent colours can really help key elements standout and make your notes more interesting. Personally, I really like using just a black and a red pen with perhaps a grey shading pen, but it’s completely up to you. Maybe you want all the colours you can get your hands on.

    Brush pens are great for adding some paint like strokes, but simple felt tips can go a long way as well. Personally, I also keep a red uniball air to provide some variation to my main red pen.

    Dry markers

    If you have a non electronic whiteboard, then you probably have some dry markers. Personally I love using dry markers with a whiteboard as you can erase elements as you go, meaning you can draw a picture, rub out part of it and then redraw to create a completely different image. Like a face which changes from happy to sad and so on. They’re great for practice and evolution over a period of time.


    Of course you need something to use your pens and pencils on. While any old paper will do, if you don’t want the paper to bleed through and appear on the other side, there are some choices that are better than others. In addition, paper comes in different forms and these forms can help lend to certain tasks and styles of notes.


    I have a bit of a thing for notebooks (it’s all my dads fault after her gave me one when I was 14 to keep myself organized and it turned into my external brain. I usually prefer ones with a hardcover so they survive traveling in my bag, things like Moleskine or even better Leuchtrum notebooks are the best (in my opinion) but there are some good rip offs that you can find too. My other top tip is to use dotted square paper. This has the benefit of providing guidelines for where to write or draw, but fades into the background unlike using squared or lined paper.

    Index cards

    I love using index cards to write down quick notes, practice an icon idea and to break down different bits of information which I can rearrange later. There’s nothing magic about these small bits of paper…but there really is. I recommend getting a set and keeping it by your desk and at your teaching table.


    Similarly, postit notes have a magical nature to them. They are so useful to hand out to students and let them create a graphic, write a sentence or whatever and then stick it to a larger piece of paper or somewhere in the room. You could use bits of paper with some glue or tac, but postits are much easier.


    Betabooks are basically a mini whiteboard book. I don’t know about you but I love whiteboards as whiteboard pens are fairly easy to draw and write with and you can wipe parts out and then start again. Betaboards lets you have a mini whiteboard you can take in a small bag. Mini whiteboards are cheaper and are great to have in the classroom, but a beta book you can take anywhere.

    What Analogue Sketchnoting Tools do you like?

    There are a lot more analogue tools that you could check out and you can experiment to find the tools that you like. In the meantime, try out some of these tools mentioned about and see what results you can get (or even just use what you have on you and get started now).