The greatest skill every designer should have is the ability to draw. It’s an important part of the design process and it should become a habit for every project. Whether it is an illustration, logo design or icon, always draw out your shapes and composition on paper first.

A common mistake beginners make, is never putting their ideas on paper. They gather their first thoughts, rush to the computer and open up illustrator. Drawing first gives your mind space to think on a deeper level and let your hands be free. It get’s you into a creative flow state allowing you to produce out many concepts before even executing on the design. Not only is it quicker but you can make mistakes on paper and easily erase them.

Opening up illustrator first will cloud your mind because there are so many tools to use, you will end up spending too much time thinking or throwing random elements onto the artboard. To avoid designing random junk try to express the images in your head into your notebook. You may think you can’t draw but everybody can, it’s a learnable skill. It’s just lines and shapes it’s not that complicated. Practice a little each day and you will improve, you don’t need fancy pencils or paper just your imagination.

Here are tools I use currently:

  • A4/A5 Moleskine notebook
  • A4 Canson tracing paper
  • HB Staedtler Mars Technico
  • Derwent eraser, tombow mono zero eraser
  • Copic multi liner, sakura pigma micron pen

If you get stuck on how to draw an object just write down words that would associate with that object or scene. When you can break down the image into just simple shapes and words it becomes easier to build up your design.

When drawing your ideas keep them as a thumbnail size and leave them rough. When you have narrowed down your concepts you can then scale it up and focus on adding some details. Depending on the project, (e.g hand lettering, hand-drawn illustrations) you can either keep redrawing the design with tracing paper until its refined. If using tracing you can use sticky tape or a bull clip to hold the paper in place.

Once you become more experienced the process becomes quicker and drawing will become like second nature. When drawing becomes a habit your ideas will start to improve and you won’t be doing any guesswork when you jump onto the computer.



  • Always draw ideas on paper first
  • Don’t focus on details
  • start with thumbnails and make it rough
  • simplify shapes and use words to help illustrate

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