3 CHEAP and EASY Techniques for Sketchbook-Making

Three cheap and easy techniques for sketchbook-making

I have never required my students to buy sketchbooks for my class. It is not that I have anything against purchased sketchbooks, on the contrary, one of my favorite smells is a freshly cracked spine of a new sketchbook.

However, besides the fact that I live in a semi-poor school district, I have always liked the idea of students creating their own sketchbooks. They have a sense of ownership in the process of the creation. I have some students who have kept all four sketchbooks from each year that they have been in my class.


There are several different ways that I have tried sketchbook making in the past, and there are pros and cons to each method. When I started out looking for a method for making sketchbooks, I was mainly looking at 4 things:


  1. Cost Effective. This was the main reason for making them in the first place! I considered what materials would need to be bought versus items which could be found in my art room.
  2. Time. I didn’t want something that would take days and days to create. I feel that every second in the art room is valuable and I want students to be creating things in the sketchbook or in the art room more than the sketchbook itself.
  3. Durable. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it can’t last the whole year! I had to consider the materials used, including the paper, in this decision. Cardboard is very good, but you could get away with a regular matt board as well.
  4. Versatile. I wanted something that could be used for a variety of classes (I teach both graphic and regular classroom art) and I wanted something that I could add paper to as we went along; ever the frugal one, I don’t like to see unused paper in a sketchbook!

In light of these things, here are the three methods that I have either tried and the pros and cons of each:

In the coming posts I will highlight each method. Let me know what you think in the comments below!


Using Sketchbook to Balance Digital and Physical Art

Sketchbook - Why it is so darned important

The name of my website may be “Digital Art Teacher” but I feel that actually working with your hands is very important. Being the only art teacher of a small school, I teach graphic design, fine art, and photography. While there is definite satisfaction in creating an awesome graphic on my computer, the pride I feel in using my hands to draw or paint or make clay creations is a feeling that no mere computer mouse can give.

Even if all I have time to do is sketch out a few ideas before I crack open the computer to work on something, that allows my brain to work through the ideas before the mouse hits the screen. That is what I ask my students to do as well.

I feel that the sketchbook is vitally important. I have both my fine art and my graphic design class keep a sketchbook for this reason. Even if they were a complete computer junkies and only ever created digital art, I would still tell them that they need a sketchbook.

It is my challenge every year to bring students to that conclusion as well. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

The main thing that I have found to help students at least appreciate the sketchbook is time and repetition. I have them write down 10 different ideas of ways that they could solve the problem that I have set out for them, and then make 2 to 4 quick sketches of some of those ideas. Over time, they come to realize that their first idea is hardly ever the best idea.

The other thing that I do is to keep a sketchbook myself and make it visible to my students. Again, I know how limited the teacher’s time is, but even if I only have an hour a week, 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, it can make a difference. It also serves to fill up my creative storehouses, too.

Do you keep a sketchbook? Do you have your students keep one? How do you manage the assignments you give? Comment below!

Creative First Day of School Solutions

1st day of school

Every teacher and their dog has their “expectations” for the classroom, but there are a few things that I like to do on the first day of school to get the kids oriented to my art classroom.

These tips are geared toward high school students, but some of these could be implemented for younger kids as well.

  1. Syllabus. Obviously, you have to go over your expectations for the year. Nothing could be more important then letting the kids know what will and will not tolerated in your class and how you will be grading them. 
  2. Name Tag. After the boring part of your first class is done, I like to let them do a little drawing on their drawer name tag. Some of them will really get into it, others will just write their name and call it a day. At this point, I do not push them. At this stage in the game, I don't judge, and I certainly don't grade!
  3. Drawing Game. There are several drawing games that I keep in my arsenal, but the one that I like to do on the first day is called, "Draw it, Pass it." I like to do this one because it works well with both large and small classes, and it is incredibly easy to explain. Simply give every student a piece of paper and a pencil, then set a timer for 30 seconds or a minute. Start the timer and tell the students to draw anything they want.  When the timer goes off, have them stop, pass the paper to their left, and add the the drawing. Continue drawing and passing until each person has their original drawing. View the results!
  4. Be yourself. This was one of the biggest mistakes that I made my first year. I wanted my class to know who was boss! Rules! Rules! Rules! I am certainly not saying that I am a pushover, my students know what I expect, I am just saying that you need to let them get to know you. Talk to them about your life, ask them about theirs. Whenever possible, be their teacher and their friend. 

My first day of school was last week on Thursday (I cannot believe how early we start!) and we had so little time due to assemblies, so I did not get to do the drawing game. I was exhausted when I got home...but that is to be expected. Especially considering that I am up at 4 or 5 every morning with my 8 month old son.

*sigh* Someday I will sleep in again...

Did you have your first day of school yet? Do you have any special or different procedures that you follow? Let me know in the comments!

What is Creativity?


Creativity. It is to art (and life) as chocolate is to milk. If art lacks creativity, it's only a pretty picture to hang on the refrigerator. Pretty pictures are nice, but a creative artwork is worth so much more.

Creativity is essential!
Creativity is essential!

You know you have made something creative when people actual stop to look at your work, rather than glance at it, then walk past it to look at the next pretty picture. When they bring a friend over to talk about it, you may have made something creative. When you have put part of yourself into the artwork so that you actually don't want to part with it, your creativity shows.

I feel that creativity is essential every artwork that I make, in the decisions I make, even in the way I approach each day. My goal in life is to live in a way that makes people wonder. I want them to wonder why I do what I do, and depending on my mood, I either tell them or I cock my head to the side and say, "What do you think?" (It's a teacher thing.)

I am not saying that making something pretty is a bad thing. I am saying that it is definitely not as good as creating something that shows how one feels and thinks. And it is my passion to always create with this in mind. Yes, it takes more time. True, it is not always easy, but it is always, always worth it!

Everyone can benefit from being a little more creative, no matter what they do or want to do. As an art teacher, creativity a major grade I give. I feel that if I can inspire a creative thought in another person, then perhaps I can open a door to some locked vault inside them. I know that sounds corny, but that’s how I feel.

I expect students to be creative in the work that they turn in, and I expect nothing less of the teacher! I have started this blog and website to create and produce tools that will help teachers and students become more creative and to have discussions with others as to how to inspire creativity.

If you don’t have creativity, there’s no use in creating anything!

Join me in exploring this fascinating topic. I plan to make sketchbooks/workbooks, read books about creativity and write reviews, and I am hoping to have conversations with like-minded people that will help me become a better teacher and a more creative artist.

As I gear up for the school year to start, I have been thinking a lot about how to inspire creativity in my students. I have created a creativity journal which I will be sharing on this blog soon. It is a carefree exercise which I have not even decided if I am going to grade yet. I don't want them to feel obligated to make things perfect to get the grade...but at the same time, I do want them to do it! I will let you know what I decide when the time comes.

Comment below if you have a sure-fire way of inspiring people to become more creative.

Be Creative Today!

1 Minute Illustrator Overview


Don’t make Adobe Illustrator this big ugly hard thing that you can’t do because you don’t understand it. Like all things worth learning, it is going to take some time to learn all the nuances of the program.


But here is a quick introduction to help you on your way that may make the learning curve shorten a bit:

  1. Tools - The tools are the core of the Illustrator program. The tool that you choose will determine what you are going to do on your open document. When something is not working the way you think it should, check the tool that you have selected. When you find a white line across the middle of your design, it may be that you have the Eraser tool selected when all you were trying to do is move an object from the left to the right of your document.
  2. Option Bar - This is related to the object that you have selected. For example, if you have a text box selected, then the option bar will give you options to modify your text (i.e. font, size, alignment, etc.). If you have a shape selected, then the option bar will give you options to modify your shape (color, stroke or outline, opacity, etc.).
  3. Palette - Think of the floating palette as a painting palette, only this one is customizable. Instead of just finding and selecting colors, you can also control stroke size, make gradients, store brushes and specific colors you are working with, and much more!
  4. Menu Bar - The menu bar is similar to the menu bar in many other software programs. This is where you go to open, save, and create new documents, but you can also find many of the same functions that the floating palette or option bar hold. Illustrator (and PhotoShop) tries to make it easy on you by having about 20 different ways to complete any given task you are trying to accomplish.


In the weeks to come, I will be diving into each of these topics in greater detail, stay tuned for more great content!


What do you think? What is confusing you about Illustrator?

Illustrator Menu Bar, the Nuts and Bolts

illustrator menu

The menu bar is like the nuts and bolts for the Illustrator program. You can find some of the same functions in the menu bar as well as you can in the option bar and the floating palette.

However, the menu bar is the only place that you can save, save as, open, create a new document, and all the document set up that you may need.

When you get more comfortable with illustrator, you may not even need to use the menu bar. If you look to the right of many of the menu items, you will find a keyboard shortcut. This can be really helpful when you are doing repetitive tasks.

Illustrator Menu Bar

This is the LAST blog post in my 1 Minute Illustrator Overview series (although, it may have taken you more than a minute...). These are the things I wish I knew when I was getting started.


If you want a more comprehensive Illustrator rundown, check out my free Graphic Design in Illustrator introduction video tutorials.

In the coming weeks I will be releasing my first 9-week set of lesson plans! I am really excited and hope that you will check them out! Pre-order now for a 50% off price:

Pre Order My Graphic Design Lesson Plans

IT'S HERE!!! High School Graphic Design in Adobe Illustrator Video Tutorial!!! FREE!!!


Disclaimer: This is an old post. If you are interested in graphic design lessons, go to the "All Lessons" tab to preview my lesson resources. Thanks!


They are finally finished!

Sign up for my email list below (or in the side bar) to try them out TODAY!

These videos outline the elements of design as the students learn Adobe Illustrator. It's like killing two birds with one stone! The lesson outlines line, shape, color, value, space, and texture. It also takes the students through the basics of using the Illustrator program: opening a page, adding new artboards, using specific tools, etc.

If you like these videos, you can pre-order my nine-week lesson plan pack which will be ready by the New Year (2016). These lessons include video tutorials, lesson plans aligned to the National Core Arts Standards, PowerPoint presentation, detailed Examples, and more!

If you try these video tutorials, let me know! I want to know if you like them or if there is anything which could be done better! Thanks in advance!