Twelve Tips for organizing your sketchbooks


Over the past few years I’ve been trying to get into the habit of keeping a visual journal or sketchbook, but now I find myself wondering how to deal with the rather disorganized pile of sketchbooks I’ve accumulated. So I posted the question on my last post of how to organize them, and was surprised at all the helpful suggestions I got in the comments section. Here’s a short summary:

  1. Date your sketchbooks and individual pages (several people suggested this, and I now when I look back to older sketches, wish I had done it.)
  2. Cut and Paste –“Forget neat signatures and just cut and paste to your heart’s content until you get the cohesive story you want” thanks to Kristin.
  3. If you use spiral sketchbooks, you can take the coil out and reassemble them in a different manner, said Gwen.
  4. Leave the first 2-3 pages in the book blank to leave room to write an index to specific pages. “On ‘continuing saga’ projects, I also write all the pg#s and ntbk info at the top of each page. Sounds kind of anal I know, but I got tired of hunting all over the place for patterns and design solutions.” said Ceci. (some people also wrote an index at the back of each sketchbook, or just inside the cover.)
  5. “scan spreads and then upload and tag them on Flickr so they can be organized by topic/theme, etc.” said Carolyn.
  6. Several people mentioned that they keep different sketchbooks for different topics — i.e. art quilts, travel, home decor ideas, book design, etc.
  7. “Sticky note tabs to mark specific projects within a book.” said Loreen
  8. Scan or photocopy sketches to assemble into “new books of their own (japanese-style, maybe), or make them into accordion books. These can be organised by project, or topic, or date, or whatever” said Margaret.
  9. “Got a bad journal page?- rip it out, paint it black or paste something else over it.” Sounds like a Rolling Stones song, but good advice, Sandy!
  10. If you add or paste stuff into a sketchbook that is hard-bound, cut out a few pages to allow room for the added bulk. (I’ve been thinking about pasting in some of my fabric experiments.)
  11. Use different sizes and journals with different types of covers to distinguish them for different projects or trips. Or make different looking covers, suggested Dijanne.
  12. “Sew the signatures together…and cover it…you might try this” wrote Margaret.

Almost forgot to say, Thanks everyone for all your comments and suggestions!

14 thoughts on “Twelve Tips for organizing your sketchbooks”

  1. Thank you for sharing all of these ideas. I always have a couple sketchbooks going, but don’t have a very good organizational system. I think I’ll use a couple of these ideas to keep organized. Again, thanks for compiling and sharing!

  2. Hi Anne & Alexandra,

    Thanks for the comments!
    I really enjoyed sketching in Mexico, but haven’t done a lot since I got home. Sometimes travel can really inspire me, but it’s hard to shift gears when getting back home.

  3. Pam – I found your blog through Kirsten Kukal and love reading it and especially looking at your sketches. The ones from our trip to Tlaquepaque brought back such great memories as one of my favorite parts of the trip was watching you sketch. It was interesting to see how you captured the moments. Thanks for sharing them online.

  4. I never date individual books or pages. Periodically when I go to national parks I will use their passport stamps to stamp and hand drawn image at that park. But I think the books have a life, time and place that is not verbal. Originally I began visual journaling because an important person had taken my written journal and read some of it. Now only I know the significance of each each and it’s emotional content. That aside, I am for the most part monogamous with my books, though because of the Book, I do have two journals in the pipeline right now. I work to make sure like every page. If I do something that rubs me wrong, I will glue, paint, or cover it over, this satisfies me. By the time my books are complete, they are falling apart. This sort of bums me out, but is the price of pasting.

  5. Great list. I love seeing how people think. Thanks, too for including my humble suggestions. I think I’ll go make some fiber envelope style covers for my notebooks before they spill their contents all over the universe. Thanks for sharing all this.

  6. Great list! thanks for including my suggestion – sad to say I have yet to do it with my various half-empty disorganized journals but Flickr has been a useful tool for organizing & sharing my photos and scanned art ;o)

  7. Thanks for putting up the list. They are very helpful. I also love the link that you posted here & on Twitter. I will have to give that a try! thank you

  8. You’re so right, Kristin, I almost forgot to thank everyone for the great comments and suggestions, but just went back and added that to the posted list!

  9. This is a great list of ideas. Thanks to all your readers for coming up with them, and thanks to you for sharing with all of us! (Thanks for the shout-out too.)

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