Watercolor Sketch Journaling: Illustrations, Typography and Composition | Fatih Mıstaçoğlu | Skillshare

Watercolor Sketch Journaling: Illustrations, Typography and Composition

Fatih Mıstaçoğlu, watercolor storyteller

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13 Lessons (39m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Materials

    • 4. Why Sketch Journaling?

    • 5. The Topic

    • 6. The Layout

    • 7. Why Watercolors?

    • 8. Seeing vs. Looking

    • 9. My Process

    • 10. Using Watercolors

    • 11. Adding Text

    • 12. Styllizing Text

    • 13. Conclusion

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About This Class

Ever dreamt of starting a sketch journal but just don’t have the time?

If you answered “Yes!”, then you're in the right place!


In this class, I will show you how to keep a beautiful sketch journal with limited time on your hands. You’ll learn how easy it is to document daily memories and practice your art without falling out of practice. 

To do that, we will go over:

  • Materials: nothing fancy
  • Why sketch journaling?
  • Defining a Topic: no more asking “what should I draw?
  • Using a Layout: what goes where
  • Drawing & Painting: my process and useful tips
  • Typography: how to add and stylize your text

I will break down each of these steps, so you’ll be able to apply the skills you're learning by working on your class project along the way. 

Sketch journaling could be for anyone who wants to start a hobby, practice drawing, painting and documenting daily life. You don’t need to have a drawing or painting background to take this class but it would help. =) 

With this class, you'll be able to keep your memories in a stylish and timeless way. You’ll know how to:

  • plan a page
  • use the little time you have
  • use watercolors and your text to make a beautiful sketch journal composition

You will need a watercolor sketchbook, a pencil, an eraser, a waterproof pen, watercolor paints, one or two brushes, some water containers, water, and a paper towel. 

So, press the play button, and let’s begin!


1. Intro: I love the documenting daily life. When I'm painting about the coffee shops I visited or peanut butter I like, I always think, wouldn't it be great to find a sketchbook from my parents to know what they saw, what they taught. Anything ordinary could look magical on paper with watercolors and the right words next to them, and I hope one day my son will enjoy looking through these pages. I'm sure I would. Hi, my name is Fabby. I've been painting with watercolors for 10 and working as an independent artists for five years. Today, I will show you how I go about keeping a sketch journal. I do sketch journaling because it's the perfect combination of memory keeping and art journaling. The way I do sketch journaling is a bit more structured and condensed because I work from home with a two-year-old. Daddy will be there in a minute and I never have time to do anything. So sitting down at my desk and staring at a blank page for half an hour is not an option. That's why I thought this class could help you if you don't have much time like me and have a sketchbook or willing to buy one, and don't know where to start. After this class, you will be able to pick up your sketch book and start documenting your daily life with ease and speed. I promise. You will know what to do if you have only 20 minutes or an hour. I will help you find what to draw and also show you how to plan a page and add your writings in a visually pleasing way. That's a mouthful. Visually pleasing way. You will do this alongside me and this will be your class project, creating your first sketch journal page. So if you are ready, let's get started. Are we done? James? I'm kidding. There's no one here. 2. Class Project: Through this class, I want every one of you to create your first sketch journal page. First, we will need a topic. A topic will help focus us to create a coherent and unified page. It can be whatever makes you excited. I picked the word explore and documented my exploration throughout the year. You can say my baby, my baby, and draw and write about your baby. You can say summer and document your summer activities. You can say lunch and draw your lunch at work every day on your lunch break. Now, I want you to write down your topic, take a photo of it and share it on the Project gallery. You can also go and have a look what the other speaks of their inspiration. Go, I'll wait. Then you'll pick one of the layouts I provided for you in the download section and sketch it on your sketchbook with a pencil. Once again, take a photo of it and share it on the project gallery. We will fill this layout with paintings and writings, and I will help you with all of those steps along the way. In this section, we will talk about pencil sketch, line drawing, watercolors, titles and captions, different font ideas, and tips about stylizing your texts. You'll be sharing your progress with me and the other students as we go. Don't wait until the page is complete. It's really exciting to see a page is getting filled bit by bit. I love to see that. Don't take it away from us. This way, I will be able to comment on your projects, give you feedback and answer the questions you might have. What do you need for this class? The next lesson will give you the answer. Next up, materials. La, la, la, la, la. Is that a bee? 3. Materials: On this lesson, we will go over the materials that I use for my sketchbook. I'm not big on materials. Of course, good materials will help you with your art, but they're only tools. Don't put off your drawings because you think you need better materials. Having said that, we will need these materials for this course. Pick a watercolor sketch book that you like. It's important that you like the cover and how it looks so you will want to take it to wherever you go. A hundred and eighty or 200 gram paper is fine. You can choose vertical, horizontal or square sketchbook. Vertical will give you almost a square when you open, and it's at least in ratio to feel with that. However, I like horizontal. It gets longer as it spread and this restriction helps with creating beautiful pages. Pencil. Any pencil, will do. Don't press too hard when you draw, so it will be easier to erase. I like erasing my pencil sketches after I put the ink, but you can keep it for added texture. Eraser. Any decent eraser will do. But this is something I didn't know until much later. There are erasers that don't make mess, like this one. It's Faber-Castell kneaded eraser. I recommend it if you don't like the mess from the erasers. Pen. I use 0.1 Faber-Castell ecco pigment waterproof pens. Good for clean, thin lines and doesn't smudge when you paint over them. I use 0.2 or 0.3 if I need more weight on the line, but 99% of the time I use 0.1 As a second option, I sometimes use Pigma Micron. Basically the same thing, but if I need [inaudible] or 005 is very different. Watercolors. Once again, I'm not a snob when it comes to paints. If you already have some, give it a go. I use St. Petersburg white nights. They have nice strong colors and they blend well. You can pick a small travel size container for a half pens and it will be easy to carry around. I also have this small set. It was my first set, and as you can see, I still have a lot of it. You can give it a go for this also. Brush. I use a number 10 brush. To be honest, I don't even remember the brand anymore. I picked it up from the counter at an art shop long time ago. I also don't use a tenant brush usually because I like going out of the line making mistakes while I'm painting. I think it makes it look more special. But sometimes you need the thin brush, then I use something like number two, nothing special. The most important thing about a brush is shape. It needs to hold its shape while carrying paint. Two water containers. One for dirty, one for clean water. It's not much clean at the moment, but usually it is. You use one to wash paint away from your brush, which will make it dirty, and the other to take water to blend colors and apply on the paper. It should stay clean. Another good thing to remember is when you do watercolors, always keep a paper towel handy. So that's all we need. It can be less. Like I said, just pick a pencil and a piece of paper and start drawing. That's how we start. We can do this. Next up, why sketch journaling? 4. Why Sketch Journaling?: [inaudible] today you will tell your story. How important they are? They don't have to be super-complicated or pieces of art every single time. In fact, if you want to improve your drawings, sketch journaling is a great way to go about it. You just start and keep going day by day, week by week. So sketch journaling gives you the framework and the habits to keep you going while you practice and experiment and keep the journal. The good thing about the way I do sketch journaling is you can do it at your own pace. That's why we have a layout. We now know what the drawing is going to be, what writings are going to be and you don't have to fill the whole page at once because that takes time. Believe me. In my layout, I used spaces for my drawings and they look like they are tiny Polaroid shots. If I have 20 minutes to myself and I know what I'm drawing because I have a topic, I can just feel the small space in my drawing and call it a day. If I have ten more minutes, I can add a title and such writing. If not, I'll do it tomorrow. Let's say your topic is lunch and you are at work. It turns out here you're alone today and you have a gorgeous burger in front of you. What you do is to take a photo. Don't make your burger get cold in front of you while you try to draw your lunch. You are hungry. It will be rushed and it will put you off from drawing. Take a photo, enjoy your lunch, and then take your sketchbook out and order a cup of coffee. Now, you can enjoy this 20 minutes before going to work. Be productive and feel good about yourself. You start drawing your burger from your phone in the layout you have formed. Added bonus, your phone is busy so you won't get distracted. James, ends lunch break. You fill this space and you are done for today. Next time, you will add writings and there is another exciting lunch to draw. You will do the same. It's an easy, well-defined practice to keep going every day. Next up, the most important part of this class, the topic. Well done, me. 5. The Topic: In this lesson, we'll talk about a topic. Oh, I'm fixing my son's car. The topic is the essence of your sketch journal. It is the main focus which will help you find what to draw and sometimes it will make you go and do things that you will have something to draw. The topic you pick could make the difference between a useful and long-lasting habit and a never fail attempt of drawing. I want to talk about one little word as a side topic here. One little word is a way to focus yourself for a whole year. It is a way to look at your life, your actions, your behaviors and say, is this what I want? My one little word for 2020 is explore. My one little word for 2019 was to improve. I will give you an example. Let's say you want to get better at doing things, you do this. Your main focus is to get better at overall everything you do. So you choose improve for your one little word. You look at the words through the lens of this one little word. When you have a dilemma, like you have an hour for yourself and you are in-between watching your favorite TV show or drawing on your sketch book for a while. You have to ask yourself, does this improve me and make your decision accordingly? So it helps sustain life. Coming back to our sketch journal, I used my one one little word explore as my topic for my sketch journal. This helped me with my, what should I draw problem. I have pages filled with my explorations, big and small. When I do something good, I immediately think, oh, this will look great on my sketches. Sometimes I think I should go and do something, so I will have something to draw. It's a feedback loop and it is great. You can choose whatever you are passionate about. It can be as wide or as narrow as you like. You can say my day and tried to document your daily life, like your breakfast in the morning or your bus tickets and so on. You can say cooking and only choose new and exciting recipes you try and like my baby, summer, lunch, people, coffee, doors, they're all good ideas. Imagine a sketchbook filled with all the coffee you had throughout the year. I would love to see a sketchbook like that. Now when I think about it, I wish I had done those. At the end of the day when you have a topic, you don't have to worry about what should I draw? You can focus your energy on creating and drawing and painting. So pick a topic you'd like to draw about and share it in the project gallery. Let's go. Next up. The other most important part of this class, which will make your life even easier. The layout. Done. Done. 6. The Layout: Welcome back. In this lesson, we will talk about layout. Layout is a structure which we will build our sketch journal pages up on. I noticed that when I just dive into a page, sometimes the end result isn't that good even though the individual paintings are fine. That's because your drawings have to make sense as a page too. You can imagine every page you create as a magazine spread. A big title, a few small titles, nice pictures, and the text wrapped around it. Magazine pages are pleasing because they have a layout. Layout doesn't care what the individual items are on a page, but it cares when you put two titles next to each other, two paintings without any words around them or if the page gets imbalanced where there is too much writing on one side and too many pictures on the other. As a general idea, it's good to break repetitive patterns. But the good news is you don't have to be an expert on this topic to be able to create beautiful pages. Just download the layout PDF I created for you from the download section and pick one for your page and go. Once again, apply the layout you picked on your page and share with us on the project gallery. It will only take five minutes. Next up, why watercolors? Okay. 7. Why Watercolors?: In this lesson, we will talk about why I use watercolors Probably you notice by now for my sketch journaling, I use watercolors. First, I make a rough pencil sketch. Then I draw over it with 0.1 waterproof pen and mostly erase the pencil marks afterwards on this I like the exact extra. Sometimes it looks better when it's more messy. After that, I paint with watercolors. I like water colors because you don't exactly know what's going to come out at the end. You have an idea for the end product, but you can only control paints running through the water so much. I welcome those unexpected incidents and misharps, it gets to somewhere new. I had an exacting moment in my life, therefore I'm documenting it in my sketch journal. This is exciting in and of itself. Like life is. You can use other means to color your memories. You can choose not to color if you like. You can use crayons, they are definitely more trouble friendly. You can use pastels, but it might smudge when you close the page. You can use markers. It's up to you. I like watercolor. For some reason it fits very well with what sketcher limits. Okay I'm done with coding and [inaudible] , let's sleep. Maybe I can get a cup of coffee. Next up. See what you look at. 8. Seeing vs. Looking: Welcome back. In this lesson, we will talk about the fundamentals of drawing a little sharply, seeing versus looking. When I started drawing, I read a line in the book that stayed with me ever since. There is a difference between looking and seeing. You looking at a scene doesn't necessarily mean that you see all the details, but when you draw, you have to see the details. You have to see how a cup stands in front of another cup. You have to see how the corner of the wall meets ceiling and the floor, how the table cloth falls and gets curved. You can choose how many details you're going to add to your drawing, but you can't choose none. Please have a look around you and try to see the details. We were evolved to look around and quick as a flash, we know what we're looking at and what we should do because that's what our ancestors did. You look at the bush, there's a lion, run. They didn't need to see the shades of green in the bush or the elongated shape of these, or how many teeth the lion had. We all do this in our daily lives. There's a mug standing next to a laptop. You know that it is there, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you know all the details of it. But when you want to draw, you need to start seeing because only looking is not enough. I think we got it. In the next lesson, we'll talk about how I do water colors. Next up, my process. 9. My Process: In this lesson and the next, we will talk about drawing some watercolors and my process. I have to say, this lesson isn't the part I teach you how to draw, let's end the lesson, but quickly I will show you how my process looks like and please be brave, pick up the pen and give a decor for yourself. It is not about drawing, there is drawing and then there is no drawing, that's all there is. Most of the time my process starts with a photo, long before I can sit down with my sketchbook. Did I mention that I don't have time for anything? I think to myself, this is going to be on my explore page and take a photo. Many of the photos I take I don't use them, but I take them anyway, it's better to have too many photos than none. This is because I usually don't have time to make my drawings at a location. Many of us don't, so always should use what we have, smartphones. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to paint a location and I like it, but especially if you're a beginner, the screen of your phone is a good cameras that you can replicate on your page, which is helpful. You can zoom in and look at the details more closely. Maybe you have few more photos from different angles, so it gives you a better idea of subject. I finally have time and I sit down with my sketchbook. I open the photo and make a pencil sketch in the area I have on my left. I don't like my pencil very sharp because I don't like to make a dent on the page, which is easier to erase them better. With sketching, I try to focus on the general shapes and perspectives than the details. Over time, I noticed that I am drawing some objects better than the others, for example, while drawing buildings come easy to me, drawing people is much more of a challenge. Since I'm short of time, I often choose the easy option and you should do it too. When you have more time, you will explore the other areas. What I'm saying is, there are a million ways to illustrate a topic. Don't beat yourself up every time you need one, get your practice in first. Once I establish the general look of whatever I'm painting, I switch the pen. I use 0.1 black for bear castle echo pigment waterproof pens, to draw clean single lines for a neat and tidy look. This way I create the objects on seeing clearly but my lines are not overwhelming once I've paint it, I just like this way. Line drawings might be a bit more scary for beginners because you might like your pencil sketch very much and be afraid to ruin it has been a mistake you can take back. At this point, think of your pen as a pencil tool, because you can take back your mistakes with your pen only not we can eraser it. If you make a mistake, add more details to tutorials, among all the details, your mistake will blend in. My paintings are full of mistakes. I just don't think of them as mistakes, but as little rebel lines which make my drawings want to pick up. After the drawing is done, I erase by pencil sketch unless I want to keep them for edit text. Congratulations. The drawing is done next up, painting with watercolors. That was good, wasn't it? 10. Using Watercolors: [MUSIC] In this lesson, we will talk about watercolors. I learned how to paint basically by playing around. Watched a few videos off the internet, and followed people on Instagram, and tried to apply their techniques onto my paintings. I always say, if I learned how to paint, anybody can. [MUSIC] If you are a beginner, try mix, see what works and what doesn't. It only needs to thesaurize. If you like something, there is no alternative to tell you that it is not good. Paint whichever way you like, especially with watercolors, colors doesn't have to reflect reality. Mixing colors and blending them gives the unique dreamy look to watercolor paintings. I know it's not easy, but try to let it loose while you are painting with watercolors. But for beginners, imitating what life has to offer is a good practice. Try to get what you have on your phone screen, on your paper. Mix the colors and have a scrap paper next to you to try out your colors first. Only on the paper you will see the real effect of the paint you have on your brush. If you are happy with it on the scrap paper, apply it to your paint. [MUSIC]. I use St. Petersburg white night watercolors. I have a set of start colors. Some of them I use more, some of them less. This set is not very comfortable for traveling, but I go and paint at coffee shops a lot, so it's not too bad. They blend well together and they have vibrant colors. [MUSIC] I mainly use one brush. It's a number 10. It's a fairly little brush. I can cover big spaces easily with this brush but also it is a point end so I can paint smaller details too. A smaller brush works better for fine details, but I like my paints messy and imperfect. Sometimes, I use a smaller brush like this one if that's what the painting needs. I have two water containers on my desk. One dirty, one clean. First, I wash the paint off on the dirty one and then I dip my brush in the clean one for the next paint. This way, you will go to the tap less for water. I always keep a piece of paper towel next to me while I'm painting. I use it to drop some extra paint off of my brush to see the color on it, or to pick up some paint or excess water when there is a mistake. It is a very important tool. I usually start painting with background colors. If I'm going to blend two or more colors, I do that. Then I go towards smaller objects and details and articles. From background to foreground, from larger to smaller objects, and lighter to darker colors. Of course, this doesn't always work. Painting with watercolors involves a lot of waiting for paint to dry. You want some colors to mix and some don't. So if there is a separate object while I'm waiting for one section to dry, I definitely go with that to save time. [MUSIC] This is how I paint in a nutshell, I hope this was helpful. Now you know all of my secrets on drawings and paintings. Apply them to your page and don't forget to share them on the project color. I'm super excited to see that. In the next lesson, we will talk about the fonts and why you shouldn't be scared of them. Next up, adding text. Are we done, James? 11. Adding Text: [MUSIC]Welcome back. In this lesson, we'll talk about adding text to your paintings. The fourth key ingredient to a great sketch and page is the text. The titles or bodies of text helps your page to stand out and pull in whoever is looking at them. I know calligraphy is a difficult skill to master, and I know there are so many different ways to write something. But here's a good news. You don't have to master calligraphy or know 100 different handwritten forms to be able to polish your drawing secure writings. You just need to know a few. Three is enough to be exact. Just like I mentioned in layout section, the components of a page have to make sense together on a page, and so does the font. Using too many fonts together on a page is also an unknown. So you will need three. You already have one of them, your handwriting. Your handwriting is already unique and you must edit in many, many years. You might not like your handwriting. For that I have entered, write in all caps, because we are not used to write in all caps. This action slows us down and helps us to write in a more readable way. If there are any specific letters you don't like, you can try to alter them. For example, items like my own letter S, and I tried to make them more curly than flat.[MUSIC]. You only need two more forms and you'll be set. I will help you with them. Next up, stylizing text.This is easy. 12. Styllizing Text: In this lesson, we'll talk about foams and bit easy tricks, how you can make fancy-looking hand-written fonts. Basically, serifs are those tiny dashes at the end of the letters, which makes them more old-school and typewriter like, and sans-serif fonts are the ones without them, so they look more water. Your handwriting's without serifs, I assume, so, It's always super easy and effective to its serifs, to your all caps writing, write it a little bit, use a thicker pen and serifs. You have a fancy-looking title. Cursive is a good one to mix because it looks different and currently therefore it matches very well as a parish, it at a plane and blocky forms. I learned cursive in primary school and except a few letters like F or R is same thing only without lifting up. If you're like me and know how to write like this, we can use that. I don't like the result when I write cursive with a pen and I'm not trained to do this with calligraphy pen or brush, but brush at shrink is very popular and you can easily affect one. All you need to do is to find out where the down and up strokes are. As a general rule, down stroke are thicker because you press harder with the brush and upstrokes are thinner because you press less. When you add a line like this in your writings, it suddenly transforms into a brush that shrink and they work very well as a title, or when you want to emphasize something on your page. Later, you've got your brush and fill these parts. Unbelievable. You are doing brush that shrink. I'm so proud of you. Just like in Microsoft Word, making some words fold also works very well on a page. All you need to do is to pick up a pencil and write with your handwriting a little larger and spacious than usual, and at another line like this one, or rounded with a pen and erase the pencil marks. You can fill them with colored for edit boldness. As you can see, I let the paint lead out of the letters to make my titles more impactful. You should try it. You can make tiny additions to your usual or caps handwriting and this will give you a new font. Look at this example where I add another line to every letters left side and the local scope, you can add set of studies and you have entirely different font. I use this font a lot in my works, and now you can do it too. You can play with it more and find you erase. Another trick you can do is to play with the width and height of your writing to make them appear different. This is especially useful when you have to emphasize the size of something or you have a certain amount of space to fill with writing. When I did my year-long challenge, I can draw everyday. I start using this elongated font and people really liked it and it became very well-connected with my brand. The only thing is, this is my normal handwriting, a little longer, neater than usual. That's it. One last trick you can use is to play with the height of your lights, make them taller or shorter to draw attention to certain words, you can make them wavy or straight but increasing or decreasing. You can use these tips along or put a few of them together like I'm doing here. This will give you many different ways to create catchy titles. These will all make your writings interesting to look at and help you create a pleasing page which your drawings. Long block of writings are usually not very attractive to readers, so it's good to emphasize words or sentences and break them into smaller chunks, but like everything in life, use it in motivations to matrix on one page will look childish and amateur. There is nothing wrong with both of these things. It all depends what we are trying to achieve and what pleases our eye. Now, you have everything you need to add your beautiful text next to your paintings. After you do, don't forget to share them on the class project career. I literally can't wait to see them. That's the end of the class. Let's go over everything before we say goodbye and cut. I always want to say. 13. Conclusion: So there you have it. Four ingredients for a great sketch journal page, the topic, the layout, the paintings and the writings. With this recipe, there is no reason for you not to keep your memories in a stylish and timeless rate. You will be so happy when you look back and flip the pages in the future. My first sketch books still gives me great joy when I look at it. Another amazing thing about this practice, as I look at the painting and the title and remember the memory, I often remember when and where I painted them too. So it becomes this layered, interlaced, complicated, but beautiful thing. If there is one thing I hope you take away from this class, that would be sketched journaling is for everyone and you can start today. For more of me, you can follow me on Instagram. There is always something new and inspiring there and it's for free. If you like this class, you can follow me for more, and if you have time and review would be much appreciated. Happy drawings everyone, bye. So, that's it. End of the class. We did it.