How to colour your drawings in 10 steps

I published this article on Evernote in 2015 to answer questions from non-expert colleagues who were asking me how to simply colour a drawing on a computer. Since they regularly ask for it, I decided to import the article here on my blog.

I will explain a very simple and quick method. It is simple but complete. The starting point is (can be) a piece of paper with the drawing. Ideally, the drawing is not already coloured and the lines are in black ink on a white background for a strong contrast. If not… it’s still possible but you will spend more energy.

The method uses Adobe Photoshop CS6 but all steps are applicable to older/latest versions of Photoshop and on GIMP too. If the method does not use any advanced functionality, I assume, however, that you have a basic knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, or equivalent, to feel comfortable in the tool. Note that in the text below “Adobe Photoshop” is shortened in PS.

Last but not least, you can work with your mouse, then you need a good mouse and a good dose of patience, but the ideal is to work with a tablet and a stylus (Wacom for example).

Step 1: Digitalise your drawing

You can use either a scanner or a camera to convert your hand-made drawing to a digital file. A scanner is the best solution for sketches on a paper which size fits with the scanner (common sizes are A4 to A3). You have companies that offer the scan of very large supports but this service has a price. Otherwise, using a camera is always a good alternative for all kind of sizes.

  • When using a scanner, check these settings:
    • Resolution set at 300 dpi minimum, ideally 600 dpi
    • Always use the Color mode, even with B/W drawings
  • When using a camera, whatever the device or model, ensure:
    • A uniform and constant lighting on the whole drawing surface to reduce shadow areas to the minimum. Indirect lighting is the best. Never use the flash!
    • Your camera lens and your drawing are on parallel planes to reduce distortion to the minimum.
    • Use a tripod or keep your hands steady to avoid motion and blur.
  • Camera or smartphone?
    • Cameras (DSLRs or Compact System cameras) still offer a better resolution and sharpness due to their larger sensors – a 50mm lens gives the least distortion -, and they are still superior in low or difficult lighting.
    • Lighting is very important when using a smartphone.
    • For both: take a bunch of shots with different setups and select the best result.
    • There are plenty of good, and free, scanner apps for smartphones. Just google ‘best free photo scanner app’ to choose one.

Step 2: Import and prepare

I would never say it enough: Always work on a copy of your original file!

  • PS Menu > File > Open : select your file (a copy or your original!) on your computer and open it
    • Display the “Layers” window: PS Menu > Window > Layers (F7)
    • Your drawing is in the unique visible layer called “Background”
  • Double-click the “Background” layer to unlock it
  • Rename the layer into “Original”
  • Duplicate the layer and Rename the duplicated layer in “Drawing”
  • Hidden and Lock “Original” layer. We will work on “Drawing” layer

Step 3: Adjust: Rotate / Cut

  • If your image is not oriented correctly : PS Menu > Image > Image rotation
  • Often with a photo, you have first to change the perspective of the drawing to a rectangle: PS Menu > Edit > Transform > Distort or Perspective
  • Then discard from the image what is not relevant around the drawing:
    • PS Select tool > select the zone of the image that you want to keep. You can always adjust your previous selection: Menu > Select > Transform selection
    • PS Menu > Image > Crop

Step 4: Adjust the white balance

As in our example, the white balance is never correct from photos (remember the importance of lighting in step 1?). Depending on the quality of the photo, you can try one of these techniques, or combine them. Play with them to discover which one works best for you:

  • PS Menu > Image > Auto-contrast
  • PS Menu > Image >Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast
  • PS Menu > Image >Adjustments > Levels
  • PS Menu > Image >Adjustments > Curves
    This last technique is my favorite because it allows you to define your white, gray and black points with samples in the image:

    Look at the result with Curves:
  • For photos of landscapes of several meters (common in graphic recording), you should envisage to divide the image into several areas, apply the “Curves” tool on them and mix appropriately them. Read this article in French by @_Fanny_ThomasComment retoucher ses photos de fresque ?” that explains the full method.

Step 5: Clean-up

You can use one of these tools to remove scratches, dots, and other mistakes in the drawing:

  • “Spot healing brush tool”  when possible because it’s just magic (note that it doesn’t work on an isolated drawing – see next point)
  • “Brush tool”  set to the background color
  • “Eraser tool” 

Since these tools have an irreversible effect,  I personally prefer to use “Layer masks” to always be able to recover what I deleted.

I will not explain Layer masks here but you can search for good tutorials on internet.

Step 6: Isolate the drawing

We will now detach the black lines from the paper.

  • PS > Magic Wand Tool with tolerance set to 0 -> 50 + options Anti-alias, Contiguous and Sample All Layers unchecked
  • Click on a white area of the drawing and press Delete to remove the White colour from this layer. All that remains are the lines that have been drawn in ink.
  • Add a new layer below “Drawing” and rename it “Background colour”; fill in this new layer with white colour or any other colour and lock it.

Step 7: Flat colours and shadows

Prepare your layers to welcome colours:

  • Set blending mode of the “Drawing” layer to “Multiply”
  • Add a new layer below “Drawing” and rename it “Colours” + set its blending mode to “Multiply”. This layer will welcome your flat colours.
  • Add a new layer below “Colours” and rename it “Shadows”. This layer will welcome your shadows.
  • Add as many layers as you need (one by colour, one by effect, one by gradient, etc)

All what we have done till now was to prepare our work for colouring. You are ready now to fill in the related layers (Shadows or Colors) with colors:

  • You have complete freedom using the different types of brushes available to vary the effects and textures.
  • For shadows, I like the “Air Brush” with Opacity and Flow set to “25-75%” and brush size as large as possible
  • On closed delimited area, I use the “Paint bucket tool” with Contiguous and All layers options checked
  • On open delimited area, I use one of the “Lasso Tool” with Anti-alias option not checked.

Step 8: Draw

It may be useful to add lines to the original drawing.

  • Add a new layer below “Drawing” and rename it “Pencil” and set its blending mode to “Multiply”
  • Use different types of brushes or better, use the Pencil tool to draw (this is where the use of a stylus and a tablet makes a big difference compared to the mouse!)

Step 9: Save

Always save your work in Photoshop format (.PSD) , this allows you to keep your layers and to come back later if necessary.  Then, depending on the destination of your image:

  • For screen, typically for the web:
    • First reduce the size and resolution of the image to one that is suitable for a screen: PS Menu > Image > Image size > Set Resolution to 75 pixels/Inch and a set Width/Height (1024 pixels is already a large image on internet)
    • Then save it: PS Menu > Save for Web and devices > PNG-24 or Jpeg format
  • For printing, the question is more complicated. Ask to the “print officer”:
    • Required file format: EPS, PDF, TIFF, PSD, etc
    • Required color mode: CMYK (for offset printing) or RGB (for photo printing). You can set it in PS Menu > Image > Mode.
    • If all your fonts are supported (if you added text from Photoshop)
    • Export your work to the right file format: PS Menu > Save as

Step 10: Publish and share

In my opinion, the best solution is to publish your work on a website where you have the editorial control and to share/promote it from that place through social media. [This was valid in 2015 and still remains valid in 2018].

But there are plenty of other solutions out there:

  • You can publish your work on photo libraries like Flickr or on art galleries like Deviantart from where you can share/promote it on social media.
  • You can post and share directly your work on a social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, G+, Pinterest, etc (pay attention to the copyright of your images that is often transferred to the owner of the platform)
  • Finally, you can use cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.

 

Your questions and comments are more than welcome.


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Visualisation of the 2017 #EURegionsWeek on Twitter

My original Visualisation of #EURegionsWeek 2017 on Twitter article is now  published on the Regional Studies, Regional Science open access journal.

It gives me a sense of pride that @RSRS_OA asked me to publish my data visualisation in their journal. I’d like to thank them very much for giving me this opportunity.

As so often with me, I started this project as an experiment. Little by little I worked on the data and, after a lot of tests, I finally arrive at this beautiful visualization. I anticipated that there was more to say, then I continued my investigation to conclude the article with the influencers.

I acknowledge that being published on the Regional Studies, Regional Science journal is a nice recognition. Nevertheless, I still prefer my original article where I allow my visitors to interact with the graph and with data. And as a bonus, I also give them some background information about the methodology and the used tools.

 

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12 mois d’illustrations

Que vous inspire le nombre 12?
Les douze coups de minuit? Peut-être un nombre sublime en mathématiques? (peut-être pas, désolé, j’aime bien les maths). Peut-être pensez-vous au nombre de signes du zodiaque, d’étoiles sur le drapeau Européen, de disciples de Jesus, de syllabes pour un alexandrin, de côtes dans votre corps, de travaux d’Hercules? Laissez courir votre pensée autour de ce nombre. Divaguez dans les mythes et les religions où il revient souvent.

Douze, c’est aussi et plus simplement, le nombre de mois dans une année. Eh ben, me direz-vous, toute cette diversion pour en arriver à cette banalité? Oui, car j’avais besoin que votre imagination s’évade en pensant au nombre douze, afin de mieux comprendre ce qui suit.

Ca fait un an, donc douze mois, que j’ai accepté de collaborer au blog toutestpossible.be de mon amie Florence Bierlaire en illustrant ses billets mensuels. Chaque mois, Florence m’envoit le texte de son prochain billet et elle me laisse carte blanche pour l’illustrer.

La confiance aveugle de Florence me rempli d’une joie immense car elle est le signe d’un respect, d’une reconnaissance et d’une grande amitié entre nous deux. Cette relation privilégiée fertilise le terrain où mon inspiration et ma créativité peuvent s’exprimer librement.

Liberté, certes, mais comme toute liberté il faut l’assumer. C’est pour moi un défi chaque mois. J’ai le trac quand je reçois l’email de Florence qui contient le texte de son nouveau billet à illustrer. De quel sujet s’agit-il? Vais-je en comprendre le sens? Serais-je inspiré pour l’illustrer? Trouverais-je un language visuel que les lecteurs de Florence comprendrons? Qui soit respectueux du sujet, de Florence la psy, de Florence mon amie et surtout de ses lecteurs? Autant de questions, et d’autres encore, qui reviennent chaque mois.

Mes inquiétudes laissent toutefois rapidement place à l’appétit et à l’excitation.

J’entre alors dans le texte, un nouvel espace à découvrir, un autre renard à apprivoiser, une nouvelle semence à planter.  Mon procédé est pratiquement toujours le même: lire le texte, comprendre, relire, ne pas interpréter, rester dans ce qui est dit, digérer, attendre, laisser reposer, relire ça et là le texte, le butiner, garder en mémoire ou esquisser mes idées visuelles, surtout les premières qui s’avèreront souvent être les meilleures, surligner dans le texte les mots ou les phrases qui me marquent, croquer au crayon les liens mentaux entre ces idées fortes. Puis, faire le point lentement. Décanter. Méditer sur les mots, les idées, les visuels, les connexions, les couleurs, mes émotions, mes ressentis.

A la fin vient mon carnet de dessin où j’y agence mes idées en traits de crayon d’abord, en courbes, en couleurs et en ombres ensuite. Parfois simplement en noir et blanc.

Voici les 12 illustrations de l’année 2017. Vous pouvez cliquer les images pour les agrandir et le lien en dessous pour lire l’article dans son entièreté:

"Comment garder ses bonnes résolutions"
Janvier 2017: Comment instaurer de nouvelles habitudes dans votre vie?

"Comment déborder d'énergie?"
Février 2017: Comment avoir plus de jus au quotidien et déborder d’énergie?

Comment définir et identifier le burnout
Mars 2017:  Le burn out: Comment définir et identifier ce mal qui nous consume?

Comment faire des choix éclairés
Avril 2017: Comment faire des choix éclairés en 10 étapes?

Comment s'affirmer et poser des limites
Mai 2017: J’apprends à m’affirmer et à poser mes limites

Sketchnotes: Comment sortir du burnout?
Juin 2017: Le burn out: Comment en sortir, comment se reconstruire ?

Sketchnotes "La slow attitude"

Juillet 2017: Retrouver l’art de flâner et adopter la slow attitude!

Sketchnotes: Comment vivre motivé et de meilleure humeur
Août 2017: Comment vivre motivé et de meilleure humeur !

Sketchnotes "Comment se simplifier la vie?" Sketchnotes "Comment se simplifier la vie?"
Septembre 2017: Apprendre à se simplifier la vie !

Sketchnotes "Comment réveiller son charisme"
Octobre 2017: Comment réveiller le charisme naturel qui est en vous ?

Sketchnotes "Le bore out"
Novembre 2017: Le Bore Out ! Un phénomène aussi destructeur que le Burn Out?

Sketchnotes "Les fêtes, du bonheur ou un calvaire?"
Décembre 2017: Les Fêtes de fin d’année : bonheur pour les uns, calvaire pour les autres !

 

Illustrer les billets de Florence qui traitent de psychologie ne fut pas chose aisée, même si l’humain et ses relations avec les autres et avec lui-même sont un domaine que j’apprécie particulièrement.  Je constate, outre l’aspect purement technique du dessin, que cela m’a demandé de la concentration pour bien comprendre ce qui est dit, et juste ce qui est dit, sans extrapoler. Une juste balance entre la méditation nécessaire pour digérer le sujet et … laisser courir mon imagination autour de ce dernier. C’est cet équilibre qui aura représenté la plus grande difficulté. M’en tenir au sujet mais imaginer loin comment le visualiser.

Les douzes articles de 2017 auront été un défi où, à chaque mois, j’aurais appris quelque chose. Ce fut avant tout une très belle expérience humaine entre Florence et moi. Je suis sûr qu’elle va grandir encore lors de cette nouvelle année (retrouvez les nouvelles illustrations dans mon album Flickr). Cette collaboration m’a aussi et surtout aidé à progresser dans ma pratique de l’illustration, dans celle de la lecture attentive ainsi que dans mes autres activités où j’utilise le language visuel.

Merci Florence!

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#SNDay2018

For the third year in a row, visual thinkers in the world celebrated the World Sketchnote Day on 11 January. At the call of Mike and Mauro , the two geniuses behind the Sketchnote Army blog, hundreds of sketchnoters, graphic recorders/facilitators, doodlers, or simple visual lovers, shared on social media their piece of work on sketchnoting with the #SNDay2018 hashtag.  See the amazing creativity and diversity of ideas posted on Twitter or Instagram.

Since 2017 for #SNDay2017, where I participated alone, I feel that the visual thinkers community has grown on Internet, but in my working environment too. Thanks to Catherine and Gene, who are two colleagues very engaged in visuals like me, we have a small but existing community of visual thinkers in the European Commission. I sent them an invitation for a collective sketchnoting session on 11 January lunchtime and four of them were available: Catherine, Gene, Celia and Fred. We met on two different sites in Brussels via video-conference facilities (this is why some pics look strange).

I offered to practice sketchnoting on “What does visuals bring us personally or to our institution?”

My take-away of the session:

There is a particular energy to “work visually” together on the same subject, respecting and adding our different visual styles. This energy is even stronger when you feel united to a global community that the same day celebrates the beauty and power of the visual language.

We shared our pictures and sketchnotes on social media with other practitioners (it’s fun to notice pics from one side of the screen to the other). We also photographed ourselves in #eyecontact mode, according to Chris‘ idea.

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I like silence to focus

13 December 2017, it’s a quarter past twelve. I am alone in a still empty conference center. I have the feeling of a cold and too big space. I don’t like that feeling before the start of a 2-day event where more than 150 communicators coming from all over Europe should engage into conversations about next year comm’s actions. The waterspouts that pound the ground and the stormy wind outside the large windows reinforce my feelings. My colleagues of the European Commission, Anne and Matteo, who organise the meeting should arrive soon. Participants and speakers will arrive in a couple of hours. Few time to change my feelings into another reality.

Silently I observe the large room. Its configuration. Hundreds of empty chairs around the lectern. The large screen on the wall shows a big Windows blue logo. Silence. I note that the walls are not suitable for drawing. Bad. I note that there is a lot of space available and the room is bright. Good.

I use the silence to focus. To center myself. To sense the space around me, its nuances. I try to sense what can follow. How my work as graphic recorder can help participants to enter more deeply into the topics that will be presented. How it can encourage them to open their minds and take an active part in conversations.

This reflection convinces me even more that I have to be visible; I will be in front of the audience. My visuals have be visible from afar; I will draw big. I have to try to warm up the atmosphere and minds; I will use warm colours.

With the help of a worker, who popped up at the right moment, we find large wooden panels in the stock. We install them against the wall in front of the audience, on the left of the large screen and of the lectern. From my position I can connect with the speakers and with participants. I install a roll of paper 4 meters long on the wooden panels.

Setup for graphic recording at the INFORM meeting

With a string, I hang on a corner of the panel a little snowman doll (to be disruptive, not to be too serious, and also because the holiday season is approaching).

My markers and pastels are ready. The setup is ready. I feel ready. What will happen is the best that should happen.

My colleagues enter the room. Participants some time later. The meeting starts.

Graphic recording: INFORM meetingClick the picture to enlarge it

Graphic recording: INFORM meetingClick the picture to enlarge it

The next day, Catherine and Frederic, two colleagues-friends, come to help me in the graphic recording of the parallel sessions that I cannot cover.

Graphic recording: INFORM meetingGraphic recording: INFORM meetingGraphic recording: INFORM meeting
Click the pictures to enlarge them

At the end of the 2 days, we have filled up meters of paper with our graffiti, the visual essence of all presentations, discussions and debates.

Being present from the beginning of the meeting, I have a huge fresco that sums up the two days:

Graphic recording: INFORM meeting
Click the picture to enlarge it

Have my intentions (those of the previous day before everything starts) been reached?

I don’t know. But the comments that participants, speakers, my colleagues, shared with me during and after the event, make me think so. As well as the smiles and the sparkling eyes of some people (like Agnès, my boss) in front of the fresco.

I’m happy. Catherine and Frederic, my friends graphic harvesters, too. Anne and Matteo, my colleagues, too. A great collaboration.

I feel happy and grateful for what happened.

 

Notes:

The meeting brought together the two networks of communicators in Europe of EU Cohesion Policy, INFORM and INIO, and the expert groups of programme communication officers from two DGs of the European Commission, DG REGIO and DG EMPL. It took place in the Mons International Congress Xperience (MICS) on 13-15 December 2017. “Our graffiti”, the graphic harvesting material, are part of the final report that was shared with all participants. More than 80% of participants said in the satisfaction survey that graphic recording was useful for them.

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Draw my mind: The benefits of visual note-taking

As internal communicator at the European Commission, I had the privilege to participate to the 2015 Internal Communication Summit organised by Melcrum (now CEB) in London. During the summit, I took visual notes, sketchnotes, of many sessions and shared them on Twitter. Organisers quickly “found me” in the room and an interesting chat on the power of visuals started.   What follows is a transcript of the interview, of me by Iliyana Hadjistoyanova from Melcrum, that was originally posted  on the Melcrum site on 9 Nov 2015 (see the note):

#melcrumsummit 2015

The 2015 Melcrum Summit brought together internal communicators from around the world for two days of lively conversations about organizational purpose. As delegates followed #melcrumsummit on Twitter to get the latest on Summit presentations, they noticed a set of incredible drawings pop up throughout the day, capturing presenters’ faces and arguments. Claudio Nichele from the European Commission is the communicator behind these drawings and he kindly agreed to share with us his personal highlights from the Summit along with the story behind his interest in visual storytelling.

#melcrumsummit 2015

“For me the Summit is an opportunity to recharge my batteries by listening to great speeches and different points of view,” Claudio attested. “Purpose matters both at the top and bottom of the organizational pyramid, which is why it’s so important to make sure there’s a strong connection between organizational and individual purpose.” That balance between the two brings meaning to Claudio’s own work as an internal communicator at the European Commission. “A better Europe for me, for my friends, for my children, a better Europe to live in, work in, grow in; I’m totally aligned and working for that. At the Commission, we may disagree on different aspects of execution, but we are all aligned on the idea.”

Beyond child’s play: How does doodling work?

A study in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal concluded that doodling can help us to better comprehend and retain information. When randomly tested, research subjects who were requested to doodle while listening to a phone call were able to recall 29% more of the information from the call versus those who just wrote down notes. According to the lead researcher on the experiment, doodling is instrumental in reducing episodes of daydreaming, which is a frequent response to the boredom a particular task might cause us to experience.

For Claudio, doodling is faster and easier than old-school note-taking, and the fact that he is an artist also helps, but that’s not the reason why he’s chosen to practice it. He insists that the goal of doodling isn’t to produce art, or anything beautiful, for that matter. Moreover, even though he started drawing at a very young age, he says that this is not an activity reserved for children. Claudio believes in the neurological superiority of doodling versus traditional note-taking and that’s the argument he uses to convince colleagues, who are unsure of their drawing skills, to try to take visual notes.

“When you’re doodling,” he says, “you’re working with both sides of your brain.” Taking text notes, for example, requires mostly using the left part of the brain. But when you start to draw, you’re accessing the other side, too – the one that controls imagination and creativity. In addition, you have the added layer of kinetic movement and you find both your mind and body involved in translating what you see and hear into visual notes. That kind of comprehensive internalization is crucial later on when you revisit your notes because it provides multiple reference points for teasing out memories.

Active listening makes for superb scribes

Claudio shared that he loved doodling about Rolls-Royce Claire Clark’s Summit presentation because he found the content extremely engaging (“I’m a techie guy also”).
#melcrumsummit 2015 sketchnotes

Another favourite for him was BNP Paribas Vinay Kapoor’s visual representation of the path from exclusion to inclusion. ”This for me is a complex topic that is brilliant to visualize,” Claudio explains. “The simplicity of his sketches was amazing and I actually took very few notes there because I just wanted to sit and listen.”
#melcrumsummit 2015 sketchnotes

This brings us to another ‘must’ for productive doodling – the quality of one’s listening. When coaching people how to take visual notes, Claudio talks about different levels of listening. One could just listen and record everything word for word. Or, you could draw a simple image that depicts part of the presentation but that way you can fill pages and pages with disjointed drawings. However, there are deeper levels of listening where one builds connections between the elements of what’s been said, so being an active listener is essential when trying to tell a story visually. Read Kelvy Bird’s excellent post on “The 4 Levels of Scribing“. And if you’re too tired to doodle, just sit back and listen, Claudio advises.

No art superpowers required

But what if someone is really embarrassed of his or her drawing skills? “I’ve witnessed this many times,” Claudio confirms. “Many people regard doodling as something reserved for kids. If you see someone doodling in a meeting, you might assume that they’re not paying attention, that this is not serious, and I want to fight this assumption.”

Claudio isn’t alone in hoping to empower aspiring doodlers. Michael Gough, a developer at Adobe, argues that drawing might be as important as reading or writing for the way we learn to think and communicate. Thus, as part of the “drawing as literacy” idea, Adobe made its first investment into hardware in 2014 by creating an internet-connected stylus and ruler, which makes drawing on an iPad significantly easier, especially for those who aren’t great at art. For Gough, who was on the team that developed the new hardware and matching apps, drawing is one of the most creative and distinctively human activities in our technology-driven world because, as he puts it, “Machines don’t dream.”

To help peers overcome their shyness, Claudio advises them to start small by maybe trying to draw very simple images, like a cup of coffee, at home and then progress to more complex drawings, executing them gradually faster. He even recommends getting a group of trusted friends together to try out doodling collectively in order to exchange ideas and tips without feeling judged.

What’s in it for communicators?

Claudio believes that these are all points that could help communicators deliver messages more effectively. For instance, some years ago, his department was appointed a new Director-General (the equivalent of a CEO in a private company), who requested major changes in the way the Commission ran its intranet. When Claudio’s boss told him about the changes, Claudio tried to explain his department didn’t have enough time to apply all of them, given its available resources. So, he asked his boss to give him a chance to personally make his case to the Director-General. And instead of using Powerpoint or Excel, he quickly sketched a story, presented it and the Director-General accepted his proposition. Why? “Because I was disruptive. I approached him with unconventional thinking. When I went to his office with a drawing, he said, ‘Oh my God, what is that?’ And when he looked closely, it helped him think differently about the problem. This for me was the opportunity to make my case and he accepted my explanation.”

Indeed, at a time when the average human’s attention span is one second less than that of a goldfish, communicators need to fight a tough battle to keep employees interested. According to Claudio, creative visual storytelling offers a potential change in mindset that could provide a solution. “If you go to someone with a Powerpoint, which is something that is in their comfort zone and they are desensitized to it, they will carry on with their current thinking,” he explains. “But if you go with a drawing, which is personal and unconventional, they are startled for a second and that gives you a short window of time to really get through to them and to access a part of them that’s less resistant.”

“It works, I can personally confirm that,” the doodling communicator concludes and sends us off to try drawing our first cup of coffee.


Note: The Melcrum/CEB site is restricted to the company’s customers, you may have no access to it.

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Photos and sketchnotes of my trip in India

This article was originally published in the Sketchnote Army blog on 25 April 2016.

I prepared well in advance all practical details of this solo trip to India, like visa, vaccines, drugs, itinerary, hotels, etc.  My goal was a journey which makes me grow internally rather than only enjoy the visit to tourist places. Therefore I also prepared myself to accept the unexpected as part of the journey. See my sketchnotes one month before leaving about that.

I also prepared carefully my material for photography and for sketchnotes. Considering my desire to travel light, I chose the essentials only. One notebook, 3 black markers (0.2, 0.5, 0.8), one marker for shadows, my favourite black pencil, a set of Faber-Castell watercolour pencils, an eraser and a pencil sharpener. All these preparations turned out to be what I’ve had need, no more no less.

Sketchnotes from India - my itinerary

One thing only did not go as I had imagined it: sketchnoting on place! Before leaving I planned to sketch during the day and every evening what I’ve seen, learnt and experienced during that day. This plan was based on wrong assumptions; that I would have had the availability, the right conditions and the proper mental state. I was immediately faced to a different reality.

Delhi - Pahar Ganj area

My first days were very intense with a tour by car (with a driver with me). I visited many cities and beautiful sites on the pre-established itinerary from Delhi to Jaipur, then Agra, then Delhi again.

On a rickshaw in HaridwarBetween Jaipur and Fatehpur Sikri

See the photos and the sketchnotes. During these days I changed the itinerary on the spot from time to time to follow my intuition or my driver’s advices.

Sketchnotes - The art of driving in India

Taking notes in the car while traveling was quickly discarded due to the mad Indian traffic or due to the bad road conditions. I was only able to write down keywords and some signs on the corner of my pages. At night, after a shower and a good vegetarian dinner (in different places every night) I was so exhausted that I felt unable to take decent notes or to draw. I still was thinking about my second week to do that correctly.

Sketchnotes from India - Along the road

After the tour by car, I left my driver in Delhi and, alone, continued my trip by train, towards the north. Well, I finally managed to start to fill in some pages in the train. It’s worth to mention that this was possible only because this train offered me good conditions to do it. This was far to be the case in the train on return one week later.

Sketchnotes from India - From Jaipur to Agra

During my stay in Haridwar and in Rishikesh I was again faced to the same difficulties to take notes. Traveling by bus, tuk tuk or rickshaw is worse than by car. But I continued writing down keywords and signs, many signs, on another small notebook that I bought locally. Then I arrived in the Phool Chatti ashram, a heaven on earth, for a retreat of one week. I was expecting to have time to sketch, to write, to draw. Again, wrong assumptions… The daily schedule of the ashram was intense; see one of my sketchnotes on it.

Sketchnotes from India - program of the day in the Phool Chatti ashram, north of Rishikesh

I also spent the free time of my first days washing my dirty clothes. I had the opportunity to work on my sketchnotes in the last days of my stay but in the meantime I continued with keywords and signs on the small notebook.

Sketchnotes from India - Some sacred symbols in India

The drawings of the meditative walks are the only pieces that I did on the moment while I was on the place. The watercolor on the banks of the Ganges river is even done with water from the river itself.

Sketchnotes from India - Meditative walks in Phool Chatti ashram, north of Rishikesh

My take-aways from this experience concerning sketchnoting:

  • Never plan in advance too much, be flexible and ready for the unexpected
  • Related to the previous point, and really linked to me: Put aside beauty and draw like it comes naturally on the moment
  • In case of lack of time or for any other reason, quickly write down a maximum of information on the spot, can be keywords or simple signs that will remember you what was your idea, your feelings, your impressions, the colours, etc [I use these technique when I practice live graphic harvesting at work during events]
  • When visiting, especially in crowd and choppy conditions, just take with you a small blocnote and a pencil. Leave other material in the car or in the room, they will be useless and they only risk to distract you from the essentials
  • Photography is also helpful to remember later what was seen to draw it

Last but not least, the best feedback I received on my return after I published my photos and my sketchnotes is about the latter. People told me that they were able to perceive more my emotions through the sketchnotes than through photos. Another proof of the power of handmade sketchnotes.

Namaste,

Claudio


In the original article on Sketchnotes Army, my friend Mauro added this part at the bottom:

You can see the whole bunch of sketchnotes and photos here:

Sketchnotes from India
Photos from India
All sketchnotes and drawings

I’m speechless Claudio! But there is one more of your sketchnotes I want to add to your story.

For our readers: Claudio live and work in Brussels.

Sketchnotes from India - How I lived Brussels terrorist attacks at 7500 km distance

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this story with us, Claudio!

Namaste

– Mauro

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