So, I've read Sketching User Experience by Bill Buxton and several blogs discussion how to start the ideation process in a good way with sketching. I've also read about different pens, such as Copic and Sharpie, and seen showcases of UI sketches. But, nowhere have I found any resources about actually becoming better at the sketching craft specifically for UI/UX. Are there any?

  • To clarify, I am looking for a tutorial of some sort, telling me like "you should use shading like this" or "draw the lines twice for emphasis" or "this is a good way to sketch a button so that it looks like a button". Jun 28, 2011 at 15:10
  • What I am looking for is resources about "manual" sketching on "analogue" media. ;-) Jun 28, 2011 at 15:13

4 Answers 4


This might be relevant for you: 5 tips on sketching user interfaces:

  1. Draw box-elements with four separate lines — do not try to draw them with one continuous stroke.
  2. Use drop shadow to distinguish graphical elements.
  3. Use a thick sharpie to focus on loose form rather than details.
  4. Get your arm off the paper: you'll draw with your shoulder rather than with wrist and your lines will be straighter.
  5. Constrain yourself: do not focus on details, set up deadlines and maybe try to sketch on post-it notes

An additional useful resource The Messy Art Of UX Sketching by Pieter Buick, covering topics and tips such as

  1. Work in Layers
  2. Loosen Up
  3. Play To Your Strengths
  4. Sketching Interactions
  5. Copying And Pasting For The Real World - Use a photocopier
  6. The Design Is In The Details - Use a ruler
  7. Tell The Whole Story
  8. Ditch The Sketchbook

Eva-Lotta Lamm also has a great presentation on Speaker Deck on Sketching Interfaces and also describes her list of favourite equipment.

  • Yes, thanks for linking directly. Now, that was a good start, I will practice this a lot ... so, where's the rest? :) Jun 28, 2011 at 17:56
  • 1
    I can now add one more tips to that list, after finding this: youtube.com/watch?v=4szf2FTaVU0 - Always rotate the paper, do not change the position of your hand. Jun 29, 2011 at 19:41
  • And, from the youtube-clip as well, the shading technique he's using is great. Doing that in an interface sketch would add real depth. Jun 29, 2011 at 19:45

Here's a blog post that has some ideas:


There's a Flickr group, though I don't know if it's being moderated anymore:


And Jakob Linowski has a lot of great posts on hand sketching:


Personally, I'm a fan of simple tools:

  • pencil for quick sketching
  • thicj and thick black markers for clean-up
  • a few primary colors for noting interaction (red, yellow, etc)

I might be reading this wrong, but there seems to be an implicit assumption here that freehand sketching practice must be achieved through analogue means. If you have access to an iPad and stylus, I can heartily recommend the Brushes or Penultimate iPad apps as a way of getting better at sketching freehand. I had almost totally abandoned sketching on paper because I was getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of an Undo command and the general messiness of erasing and/or starting again, then I was lucky enough to have use of an iPad for a while, and it totally changed how I related to sketching — it became a real pleasure.

I have the Griffin iPad Stylus: it's cheap, very nice to use, and good all the way down to one or two pixels in Brushes, though for Sharpie-type sketching I tend to use Penultimate, which has much better detection for quick pen-strokes.

The stylus also works pretty well with Brushes on the iPhone, though obviously you have less screen to play with there. But it's still good for doing stuff on the fly.

Anyway, hope that's helpful.

  • Good point. I do have the Griffin stylus and Penultimate, as well. Even if I have the tools, analogue or not, I still feel I lack some skills in sketching though. :/ Jun 29, 2011 at 18:58
  • Yeah, I know what you mean. I think it's just about practicing and practicing and eventually you get better and/or it starts feeling less weird. Good luck! :) Jul 1, 2011 at 16:45

I think there's only one way to get better: Practice, practice and practice.

  • Oh yes, but it would be nice to get some pointers (no pun intended) in the right direction. Jun 28, 2011 at 15:08
  • Ok, I should have read your short bio before, didn't know that you already have years of experience. Good answer by Roger though - he got my vote.
    – Phil
    Jun 28, 2011 at 18:38
  • No worries. You can always blame the UI for not pointing that out in a better way. :) Jun 29, 2011 at 7:06

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