How (and Why) to Improve Your Sketches

Inventors have a large toolbox filled with different skills and talents, and sketching should be somewhere in the mix. Making quality sketches is a talent, and it’s a talent that all inventors should work on. If the rough drafts of your new product or idea don’t impress, it’s that much harder to get funding or assistance. Here’s the thing: even if you’re convinced that you’re just not genetically pre-disposed to be a good artist, you can improve.

Davison Business Doodles
Doodling your idea or ideas is a great place to start.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

You may be thinking that your invention idea is enough to sell on its own even without sketches. It’s unlikely, and it just makes every subsequent step harder. Additionally, sketching has far more benefits beyond being a visual aid to help you tell your story. Sketching is an excellent brainstorming activity and can help you further visualize ideas you may already have. It’s cheap and effective, even when it’s not enormously detailed. Remember: sketches are not drawings. They’re simple, with minimal detail.  You don’t need color or multiple pens and pencils. It’s just the basic concept laid out in visual form.

Having sketches of your work also makes it easier to communicate. Some concepts are difficult to get across verbally. Having an image as a supplement makes communication less of a chore. It also aids in collaboration, as colleagues can actively see and comment on your project. People may interpret your words differently, but a sketch is more universal. It also allows for faster iterations and changes, even if you have an existing prototype. That’s another thing to keep in mind: sketching isn’t prototyping. Prototypes take time, money, and effort. Sketches require far fewer resources.

HOW TO IMPROVE

The most common piece of advice you’ll hear for any skill is “practice, practice, practice.” And it’s true: the more you work at a skill, the more you’ll improve. Painter Bob Ross once said, “Talent is a pursued interest. In other words, anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” Therefore, if you want to make better sketches, make as many as you can. Sketch whenever you have a free moment. Doodle in the margins of your notebook. Scribble on a napkin at a restaurant.

That being said, there are a few more specific tips we can give you. First, be messy. You’re not creating a masterpiece. It’s okay if there are overlapping lines or eraser marks. Taking field notes may also prove useful, depending on what sort of invention you’re working on. Consider practicing making pen sketches: it’ll prove useful if you’re ever without a pencil when inspiration strikes.

One common recommendation for artistic sketchers is to try precision, i.e. inventive, sketching. Using a different skill set broadens your options and gives you more freedom and experience. The same is true in reverse. Try recreating a garden scene or a loved one’s face in your sketchbook. It may not be the most flattering likeness, but it’s still practice.

If you’re especially passionate about polishing your sketches, you might want to consider taking a class in sketching. Plenty of art and business schools offer courses in inventive or production sketching. Websites like Skillshare also host seminars on the topic. This is a great step if you want your sketches to be above and beyond in quality.

Do you know your inventing personality?

THE BOTTOM LINE

The value of a good sketch can’t be overstated. It’s invigorating, helpful, and even fun. Having a unique, useful idea will always be the most important factor, but coupled with visuals, it becomes something more. It makes the product feel real long before the prototype phase. Sketching is a skill any good inventor- any good creative type, really- should consider having.


Many people struggle to draw a stick figure, but if you can get it down on paper it will be easier to talk about. If you have the time and you have several ideas a class might be a great place to start. Not everyone can be Bob Ross, but everyone can have an idea. Find out what kind of inventor you are today by taking our inventor quiz!

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