If you’re anything like me, you can never get enough good sketchbook ideas. I’m always looking for ways to engage students so that they truly want to work in their sketchbooks. Whether you use sketchbooks for project planning, skill development, brainstorming, or something else, you’ll find ideas here that will work for you. My sketchbook assignments and prompts take an “all of the above” approach, making the following list well-rounded.
The list covers many bases and is organized by category. There are prompts about animals, food, people, and other things that will spark interest among students. This list is geared toward secondary students, but you’ll find a lot here that will work for younger students as well. Take a look and see what will work best for you and your students. Add your own favorite sketchbook assignment in the comments below!
Click here to download the list!
100 Sketchbook Prompts Your Students Will Love
- Draw someone you sit by in an odd pose.
- Draw family members with things that are important to them.
- Draw yourself (or someone else) painting toenails.
- Find a quiet place in a crowd. Draw the crowd.
- Draw a relative by the light cast from a TV/Phone/Computer or other screen.
- Make a portrait of yourself in twenty years. Or in fifty years. Or both.
- Draw a masked man (or woman) that is not a superhero.
- Draw the ugliest baby you can imagine.
- Draw two sports figures–one in a dynamic pose, one in a static pose.
- Draw two self-portraits with odd expressions.
- Draw something or someone you love.
- Draw hair. A lot of it.
- Take a picture of someone near you on a bus or in a car. Draw them.
- Draw an animal eating another animal.
- Draw your art teacher in a fight with an animal.
- Draw an animal playing a musical instrument.
- There is an animal living in one of your appliances. Draw it.
- Draw a dead bird in a beautiful landscape.
- Draw something from a pet’s point of view.
- Draw an animal taking a bath.
- Draw an animal taking a human for a walk.
- Combine 3 existing animals to create a completely new creature.
- Draw a family portrait. Plot twist: It is a family of insects or animals.
- Draw an animal playing a musical instrument.
- Draw the most terrifying animal you can imagine. Or the most adorable.
- Draw a pile of dishes before they get washed.
- Tighten a C-Clamp on a banana. Draw it.
- Draw a slice of the best pizza you have ever seen.
- Draw junk food and the wrapper.
- Draw your favorite food.
- Create your own restaurant. Draw the restaurant, your executive chef, and a 12-item menu.
- Draw the ingredients or process of your favorite recipe.
- Draw salt and pepper shakers.
- Draw fresh fruit or vegetables, or something fresh from the oven.
- Draw a salad.
- Draw the oldest thing in your refrigerator.
- Draw a piece of fruit every day until it becomes rotten.
- Draw everything on a restaurant table.
- Draw what is in the rearview mirror of the car.
- Draw moving water. Draw still water.
- Draw an object floating.
- Make a drawing of all of your drawing materials.
- Find a trash can. Draw its contents.
- Draw tools that belong to a certain profession.
- Draw three objects and their environments. One of the three should be in motion.
- Draw the interior of a mechanical object. Zoom in, focus on details and shading.
- Create three drawings of messes you have made.
- Draw five objects with interesting textures: wood grain, floors, tiles, walls, fabric, etc.
- Draw a collection of purses, wallets, or bags.
- Draw your favorite well-loved object or childhood toy.
- Draw a watch or another piece of jewelry.
- Draw something hideous that you keep for sentimental reasons.
- Draw something with a mirror image.
Technical Skill/Skill Development
- Draw all the contents of your junk drawer with one continuous line.
- Make a detailed drawing of a rock.
- Draw a dark object in a light environment.
- Draw a light object in a dark environment.
- Make a detailed drawing of five square inches of grass.
- Draw a transparent object.
- Draw a translucent object.
- Do several studies of eyes, noses, and mouths in a variety of poses.
- Draw an interesting object from three different angles.
- Value Studies–Draw three eggs and part of the carton with a strong light source.
- Draw three metallic objects that reflect light. Focus on highlights and reflections.
- Refraction–Create two drawings of separate objects partially submerged in water.
- Make three drawings (your choice of subject) using materials with which you are not familiar.
- Draw a piece of patterned fabric with folds.
- Draw a bridge and all of its details.
- Draw yourself as an original superhero.
- Make a drawing that looks sticky.
- Draw a mysterious doorway or staircase.
- Draw an empty room. Make it interesting.
- Draw a flower. Make it dangerous.
- Draw an object melting.
- Draw an imaginary place, adding all kinds of details.
- Draw a gumball machine that dispenses anything but gumballs.
- Danger! Draw yourself in a dangerous situation.
- You are on the back of the bus. Figure out who is with you, where you are going, and why. Illustrate and explain.
- Draw what’s under your bed (real or imagined).
- Draw the most incredible game of hide-and-seek you can imagine.
- Create a new sport. You can improve an existing sport, combine two existing sports, or come up with something completely new.
- Make a drawing that is totally truthful.
- Make a drawing that lies all over the place.
- Make a drawing that is completely and utterly impossible.
- Story Illustration: Fix a story that you don’t like, or reflect/improve upon one you do.
- Let someone else choose your subject and tell you what to draw.
- Draw your greatest fear.
- Use song lyrics, quotes, or poetry to inspire a drawing.
- Find the three most useless objects you can and draw them.
- Draw an interesting form of transportation.
- Draw something for which you are thankful.
- Go somewhere new and draw what you see.
- Draw something that can’t be turned off.
- Draw something soothing.
- Draw something you think sounds or smells incredible.
- Draw something that needs fixing.
- Draw something you’ve always wanted.
- Draw something out of place.
- Draw something that should have been invented by now.
- Draw something you keep putting off, or something that causes you to procrastinate.
Does this list inspire you to take some sketchbook assignments head on in your art room? Or maybe the opposite is true and you are finding that you feel underprepared to teach drawing skills. Maybe you fall somewhere in between and you just need a little more inspiration to tweak your drawing curriculum. These are all great reasons to take a peek at AOE’s Studio: Drawing Course. The class is jam-packed with hands-on learning experiences, advanced technique tutorials, and opportunities to share and learn with art teachers just like you.
What are your favorite sketchbook prompts to use?
How do you use sketchbooks in your classroom?
You will be assigned certain sketchbook assignments, but you have the freedom to make the assignment more interesting to you.For example if you are assigned to focus on reflective surfaces one week, you might choose #6, #37, #64 or #88. When drawing remember to use the entire page spread and both sides of the paper.
1.Plant Drawing:Three Drawings of a Plant
iii.Magnify/enlarge a section
2.Three Hands:Blind contour (do not look at paper).Concentrate on your subject.
Make the drawings overlap each other at some points.
3.Two Feet:Modified contour (you may occasionally look at the paper).
Make the drawings overlap each other slightly.
4.Shoes:Find a very old shoe and draw it from an interesting and exaggerated angle.
5.Number:Draw your luck number and then keep drawing it over and over – Johns
6.Bunch of Keys:Group with a lot of variety and do a macro drawing of them.
Give them dimension and focus on the sharp lines of the cuts.
7.Toothbrush & Toothpaste:Show the difference in textures and the angles of the toothbrush vs.
the bulbous shape of the tube.Best if toothpaste is almost empty.
What happens to lettering on a curved surface?
8.Inside a Drawer:Make a line drawing of the contents of a partially open drawer.
The junk drawer in a kitchen would work well. Think Composition!
9.Egg Beater:Line drawing using techniques involved in drawing negative space.
10.Knotted Fabric:Tie a knot in a sock or dishtowel, striped is best.
Focus on the variation of line and shade to give the wrinkles form.
11.Coat Hanging on the Corner of a Chair:Try to show the effects of gravity.
Think composition and exaggerate value in the folds, especially at top.
12.Clouds:Pick a day when the clouds are dramatic.Use expressive lines.
Show movement and drama without closing in any shapes.
13.Hub Caps & Tires:Draw them so that they are elliptical and show any reflection.
14.Street Signs & Lights:Draw a street sign as if it was an analytic botanical.
Write notes as to location, height and color.Think Durer.
15.Lamp Posts and Telephone Poles:Focus on negative space, then go in w/ detail.
16.Lettuce or Cabbage Leaf:Look for the growth pattern, draw at ¾ view.
17.Three packages of Food:Make them overlap, focus on texture and text.
Can you see the form of the food, is it pictured or named?Include shadows.
18.Corner of a Room:Include a partial piece of furniture and use variation of line.
Lay on the floor so that a piece of furniture is highly foreshortened.
19.Front of Your House:¾ view
20.Glass of water with a spoon in it:Focus on distortion caused by the water on the spoon.
Don’t forget that the glass has dimension and distortion occurs on all edges.
21.View of a Room from a Mirror:Show something as you do not usually see it.
22.Machinery:Magnify a part that moves, try to show how it moves.
23.Eyes:Draw 6 while either looking in a mirror or at someone’s eye.Different angles.
24.Noses;Draw 6 while either looking at your own or someone else.Different angles.
25.Mouths:Draw 6 from observation, 4 of them open and showing teeth.Different angles.
26.Animal:Draw from observation using gestural, simple and expressive lines.
27.TV Shows:Draw gestures for 5 minutes of the show or 3 commercials.
Go in and add detail from memory after the show has ended.
28.Movie:From memory draw your favorite scene.
29.Logos:Glue or draw 10 logos that you think are exceptional in your sketchbook.
Write down your analysis of why they are successful and why they appeal to you.
30.Illustration:Take a few lines from a poem or song and illustrate it.
Include only 1-3 words of the text.
31.Balance:Cut out 12 or more words from the newspaper or magazine.
Arrange ½ into an Asymmetrical composition and ½ into a Symmetrical one.
32.Overlapping Forms:Draw 5 overlapping forms from an extreme view.
Shade them in an exaggerated fashion so that the furthest is in sfumato.
33.Repeated Motif:Use a shape and repeat it so that it could be used for textile design.
34.Fast Food/ Take Out:Choose your favorite and draw it so the viewer understands
just how tasty it is.Include text and packaging – think composition.
35.Ants-Eye View:Draw something as if you were the ant.Extremely exaggerated.
36.Birds-Eye View:Draw something from an aerial perspective.Think fisheye lense.
Your drawing must be imagined from at least roof height.Don’t get on the roof.
37.Reflections:Draw the images that you see reflected in a chrome appliance.
38.Fantasy:Draw a dream or “somewhere over the rainbow” scene with you in it.
39.Old Masters:Choose an artist from the Renaissance and draw a study in their manner.
40.Composition:Choose an image and crop it close.Draw it using only stippling.
Draw it using cross-hatching.Do not outline the forms in any way.
41.Photo:Recreate a photograph using only + marks or a continuous line to render.
42.Plumbing:Draw the underneath of a sink, a showerhead or an outside spigot.
Draw using crisp lines and then draw no more than ¼ of it in extreme detail.
43.Egg in Carton:Use value to show the smooth texture of the egg and rough cardboard.
44.Milk Carton or Condiment Container:Show the form and show texture.
45.What I did today:Make a diagram or floorplan to show how your day was divided.
Fill the rooms with representative objects
46.Old Hat:Use varying thickness of line and implied line to give it character.
47.Garbage:Draw an open garbage or recycling receptacle.Show that it is holding things.
48.Paper Towel or Napkin:Crumple it up and use value to show creases & shadows.
49.Hand Holding Something:Use contour lines to show that the hand is holding an object.
50.Person in a Chair:Use negative space to render someone sitting in chair.
51.Close up image of Popcorn:Make it look larger than life
52.Draw with an eraser:Cover the page with graphite or charcoal and erase light areas
53.Warped:This one is up to you to interpret.
54.Light & Object:A single object from different views with strong light source
55.Homework:Your school books stacked up on your desk or in your locker
56.Collection:What do you collect?Do a drawing collage of whatever they are.
57.Chess:Draw a chess set as though you were looking through the eyes of a pawn
58.Notes:Take an exam or notes you no longer need.Glue a page in and draw over it
59.Familiar Object:Draw 4 close-up views of a familiar object.
Zoom in so far that you wouldn’t recognize it if you didn’t know what it was.
60.Person talking on a Phone:Are they involved in the conversation?
61.Closet:Lots of lines and overlapping forms in a closet.Is it cluttered or neat?
Zoom in and make sure that you are drawing from an interesting point of view.
62.Looking Out:Look out a window and draw the scene, including the window.
63.Tree:Focus on its structure as an object.
64.Kitchen Stove:Draw from an extreme angle.Set up a still life with pots.
Focus on forms and make sure to get the burner covers and knobs in.
65.Pile of Shoes:There will be a lot of overlap, show the different lines and shoe laces.
66.Draw a Blind Contour Portrait of a Family Member:While drawing ask them to tell
you a story.Write the story behind the drawing and go back into the drawing.
67.2 Details & 1 Contour:Set up a 3 piece still life.Do a contour drawing using value
on only two object and the background.Leave one object contour only – focal point.
68.Bag of Chips:Show the dimension and texture of the chips.Show overlap and depth.
69.2 Versions:Draw a copy of an artwork that you admire.Then do a second version of the
same work of art, but make it your own.
70.Favorite Photo:Draw 2 versions of your favorite photograph.One realistic, one abstract.
71.Birds:Draw a real bird – as much texture as you can.Then draw an abstract version.
72.Make sure that the abstract is recognizable as a bird.
73.Newspaper:Cut out a newspaper article with an image.Glue it in your sketchbook.
Draw and write your reaction to the article over it.Rauschenberg & Saunders
74.Remembering a Landscape:Draw a landscape from memory.
75.Alive:Draw something that is alive and then paint the same subject.
76.Your Room:Draw a scene in your room with dramatic lighting – chiaroscuro
77.Intersections & Overlap:Draw a colorful design with intersections of lines and
78.Unguarded:Draw someone in an unguarded moment from observation.Make sure to use a sense
of mood.Use pencil and color pencil.Hans Holbein, daVinci
79.Illuminated Manuscript:Create a page that mimics an illuminated manuscript, but the text is your
favorite song or a letter that someone wrote to you.
80.Non-Objective: 1 non-objective and 1 asymmetrical composition using points of concentration
(areas where there are objects grouped more tightly) for focal point.
81.Non-Drawing Tool:Drawing or painting using only non-art materials and non-art
82.mark-making instruments.Example:“Draw” with coffee using a stick.
83.Ball-Point Pen:Create a drawing using two different colors of ball-point pens.
84.Art Nouveau:Create a page based on art nouveau techniques of line.
85.Off Hand:Draw objects of choice using the hand you don’t usually use or foot.
86.Collared Shirt on a Hanger:Get all of the details, overlapping lines and stitching in.
87.Solid turning into Liquid:Get creative and don’t draw ice melting.
88.Man & Machine Combined:Not Iron Man or a Transformer – Get creative!
89.Still Life composition that reflects you as an individual.
90.A realistic self-portrait
91.An abstract self-portrait
92.Hide an image within an image
93.Landscape from direct observation
94.Texture out of realistic context
95.Water bottles with colored water still life – white paper behind if too difficult
96.Metamorphosis from Natural to Synthetic
97.Objects floating on Water
98.Human & insect combined
99.Architecture from direct observation
100.Multiple frame sequential drawing
101.Object being sucked into or through something
102.Composition in which Movement is the primary focus
103.Human Figure from direct observation
104.Solid turning into a liquid
105.Zoom, zoom, zoom:Divide the space into 3 areas.Draw the same object, person or scene in each,
but zoom in exponentially in each of the separate spaces.
106.Cubist Trace:Trace an object over and over until it covers the pages.
Go in and add depth and rhythm by shading in some areas.
107.Spools of Thread:Draw a grouping with overlap or repetition
108.Dishes:Draw dishes in the sink after a meal, include portions of the sink
109.Dishwasher:Draw the dishes or utensils in the dishwasher.Clean or dirty, your choice.
You can view many artist sketchbooks on-line through museum or personal websites.When you visit a museum, they will often be on display.There are even Smart Phone apps that will show you sketchbook pages.I recommend looking at Leonardo daVinci’s as an exemplar.
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