You don’t have to be an artist to do UX sketching. I’m firmly convinced that my passion for sketching does help me in my work as a product designer because as a child I spent hours alone in my room sketching and painting. Aquariums, landscapes, animals, house plans…. Nothing that didn’t interest me. But this wasn’t art at all.
Pencil, watercolor or ink, I experimented with so many things and found fun in everything. And even today I still like to sketch. Sometimes with pen and paper, sometimes on the iPad and with the ApplePencil. I’m skilled at using a pencil – whether offline or digital and can quickly sketch something that is even recognizable in the end. 😄
Why, with what, and how you should sketch as a UX designer is what we’re talking about in this blog post.
✏️ Why sketch as a UX Designer?
There are many reasons why you should sketch regularly as a UX Designer. First of all, UX Design is very iterative. From a problem to a finished design, it can be a long way and there are many steps. Often quick visualizations are needed to discuss ideas and get feedback. Instead of already wasting time with low-fidelity prototypes made in a digital tool, sketching is the faster and therefore often cheaper alternative.
It’s also easy to get lost in the details of digital design tools, whereas sketching by hand is the perfect way to quickly visualize and understand ideas.
“The hand is the window on to the mind.” — Immanuel Kant
It also provides better access to your own thoughts as you first have to think about the things you would like to put on a paper – once drawn, they cannot be changed. This slows your visualizing down and supports your thinking process because your thoughts don’t have to compete with a digital tool.
✍️ Learn UX sketching
What you need:
Actually, you don’t really need that much. If you’re sketching offline, white or dotted paper is perfect. Your pen should not be too thin. A medium-thick felt-tip pen or even a sharpie is best.
You can use colored pens to add highlights, and a slightly thinner pen for lettering is also helpful.
How to do it:
Practice makes perfect, so be sure to pick up pen and paper regularly as your sketches will definitely improve.
With simple exercises you can enhance your technique and for UX sketches it definitely doesn’t take much. Often the basic shapes are enough
- Circles and ovals
Draw a few basic shapes to loosen up your hand, then get started.
As you draw, make sure your hand doesn’t tighten up, and if you want to draw very loosely, hold your pencil from the top up on the page, rather than holding it to the table as if you were writing.
📱 Sketching interfaces
When sketching interfaces, you can think about some basic components in advance, just as you would for a design project. Think about what you might need and draw these components once, e.g. an input field, a button, a search field, a tab navigation or an open drop down menu.
When drawing a web interface, it is also helpful to have a basic scheme for your browser. A rectangle, a dash and three dots are all you need – and your browser is ready. Super simple, super fast and recognizable for everyone.
If you don’t just sketch interfaces for yourself, but share them later, it’s important that you label them as well. For simplicity, always put your labels horizontally above, below or next to your drawing and indicate with strokes or arrows what you are describing and if your handwriting is not too clear, it helps if you write in capital letters.
✨ 5 best UX sketching tips
You can follow some quick and easy tips to do UX sketching like a pro as a designer. Here are my advice for you:
- Use thick pens
By using thick pens or sharpies you cannot tend to draw a lot of details. The idea behind UX sketching is to visualize your ideas in the quickes possible way. With thin pencils you will tend to sketch details and more text which holds you back from just showing high-level design ideas.
- Create your library
If you’re sketching an interface with iterative components, create or better say sketch a small library first – like a mini sketched design system. These can be input fields, card designs, different buttons, headings or navigation elements like tab elements. With these components in mind and visible on a separate paper your sketches will look more consistent.
- Sketch fast
Your sketches don’t have to win a price in a drawing competition. Their only reason is to show the concept behind an idea. With some practice you can sketch every interface really fast. When of drawing your elements slowly and trying to be very accurate, they will become crooked and sloping. But when sketching fast your lines will be more straight and look better.
- Use few colors
Your main sketch should be in a good contrast to the paper you’re using, namely white paper and black pens. To highlight some few important details, you can use one or two colors, but not more. Don’t get lost in details and color choices.
- Labeling in capital letters
When you label your sketches with some text notes, always do this horizontally and in capital letters. In this way, it will be much easier for others to read the text and your handwriting (I’m sure it’s beautiful).