Layouts for your sketchbook. Make your sketches organized and interesting! | Asya Alexandrova | Skillshare

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Layouts for your sketchbook. Make your sketches organized and interesting!

teacher avatar Asya Alexandrova, Travel sketcher

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Uniform & diverse layouts


    • 3.

      Layout types. Spread


    • 4.

      Layout types. Frames


    • 5.

      Text and headlines: how to add


    • 6.

      Layout types. Grid


    • 7.

      Layout types. Pattern


    • 8.

      About the class project


    • 9.

      How i made the task. Drawing process and stories


    • 10.



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About This Class

Sketchbook can be a compilation of random notes without any structure. Or, it can look like a real illustrated book about your life, trips, events and impressions. If you ever wanted to create a sketchbook of this second type, this class is definitely for you!

My favourite thing in the world is to visit interesting places and draw them in my sketchbook. When I travel, I want to capture all my impressions and make them visible and clear to other people. This layout techniques allows me to do that! I can't wait to share my experience with you.

In this class I'll teach you how to improve your sketchbooks with easy layout tricks. We will analyze different layout types: spread, frames, grid and pattern, and I'll show you the points and advantages of every type. Also you'll see timelapses of my sketching process and get acquainted with my approach.

In the end of the class together we'll create 5 layout concepts, then transfer them inside of sketchbook and fill with real drawings.


You will learn how to:

  • tell a story with your sketches
  • make your sketches organized and interesting
  • fill your sketchbook faster and more productive
  • fit all the detailes on one page
  • create infinite number of your own layouts
  • create a stylish and various concept for your sketchbook
  • make your sketchbook look like a real illustrated book

Bonus! I'll show you 3 ways to add readable text and headlines to your sketches and not break the composition of your page. 

This class can be interesting for:

  •  illustrators
  • visual artists
  • designers
  • travellers
  • and everyone who likes to draw

Your drawing level doesn't matter for this class. It is suitable for both beginners and professionals.


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Asya Alexandrova

Travel sketcher



Hi! My name is Asya, I'm an illustrator and travel sketcher from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. I'm crazy about visiting new places and draw them in my sketchbook, and this is what I' m going to share with you. 

I don't have any art education, so I can call myself a self-taught artist. I draw since I was a child and study all this time. I believe that my experience helps me to show and explain complex drawing topics in the most simple ways.  

I've been teaching drawing since 2012 here in St. Petersburg. And I'm happy that 2019 began for me with joining the wonderful Skillshare platform as an educator!


Follow me on Instagram to see my sketches 


See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Intro: Sometimes our sketch books can look a bit like a mess, like a compilation of random notes without any structure. Or it can look like a real illustrated book about your life, trips, events, and impressions. If you ever wanted to create a sketchbook of this second type, this class is definitely for you. Hi, my name is Ashley. I'm an Illustrator and travel sketcher from St. Petersburg, Russia. My favorite thing in the world is to explore new locations and draw them in my sketchbook. In this class, I'd like to tell you what helps me to capture all my impressions and make them visible and clear to other people. I call it layout technique. The word layout has many definitions. What I mean by layout is how elements of your sketches fit together and also how they look on your sketch book page. Using different layout types, you can tell different stories, you can make your pages look exactly how you want and fill them with information as much as you need. During the class, we'll analyze four layout types; spread, frames, grid, and button. At the end of the class, together we'll create five unique layout concepts, then we'll transfer them inside of a sketchbook and fill with real drawings. What will you learn as a result of this class? You will learn how to tell a story video sketches, how to make your sketches organized and interesting, how to create infinite number of your own layout, how to fill your sketchbook faster and more productive even if you travel, and finally, how to make a sketch book look like a real illustrated book. As a bonus, I'll show three ways how to add readable texts and headlines to your sketches without breaking the composition of your page. Also, I'm glad to tell you that I have a gift for you. Every student who completes the class project will get a free PDF with 18 unique layouts for a sketchbook. If you are an Illustrator, designer, artist, traveler, or just a person who likes to draw, this class can be interesting for you. Thanks for watching, and I wish you happy drawing. 2. Uniform & diverse layouts: My opinion is very cool when your sketch book looks like a whole single object. When you browse through it, you feel like it's not separate drawings, but a set of continuing illustrations. Of course, it doesn't mean that every illustration has to be super detailed and technically perfect. But how to achieve this whole object effect? You should just think before you start, how the pages of this sketch book would be combined with each other. A little bit of planning is always nice. I noticed two different approaches here. Two ways to create a layout concept for a sketchbook, uniform and diverse. None of them is better good. They just have different effect on the viewer. Here is an example of uniform layout concept. My Inktober sketchbook. I guess you all know Inktober. It's a popular online challenge in which artists from all over the world make ink drawings every day during October. There are official lists of topics, but some illustrators realize their own plan. In 2016, I decided to draw 31 weird animals. In this sketchbook, I intended to make a every drawing more or less in the same style. I drew everything with brush pen and framed every drawing with a bit rough square with rounded corners. As a result, it looks like a continuous series of pictures. Well, I hope it does. When I published this Inktober drawings on Instagram, the viewer immediately understood that they belonged to the same project. There's a simple conclusion. If you want your pictures look like they belong to the same project, it's better to use uniform layouts for them. Now, let's move to diverse layouts. Using various layouts makes your sketch book look more interesting. In every page the viewer meets your visual information and their eyes move differently, exploring every page. Here's my example of diverse layouts concept. Quite an old project called literal letters. It's not actually a sketch book, but I think it can illustrate my words pretty well. It's a book handmade by one artist from Ukraine, and I filled it with illustration from first page to the last. When I just got this empty book, I was really frustrated and couldn't think out what to draw here. But then I realized, if you need to create about 30 illustrations united by one subject, alphabet is at greater detail. In Russian alphabet we have 33 letters, but you can begin your art with under 30 of them. This is how the idea of literal letters was born. I constructed phrases containing the words which started with one particular letter. For example, in English, it could be something like an anorexic alligator always abuses artificial but attractive avocado. Then they made up 30 crazy phrases and draw 30 pictures illustrating these texts. That wasn't easy at all, but definitely very interesting. With this project, I learned that you can create detailed illustration literally out of nothing. Since from the very beginning I planned to create a whole book, not separate illustrations, I did my best to make various layouts so the viewer would be interested to watch it. Also, you can combine uniform and diverse layouts. In this case, you can come up with different layouts, but my advice is not to use more than three or four. My example of combined layouts concept is the square sketchbook from a trip through Georgia and Azerbaijan. I came up with three different layouts, rotated throughout the sketchbook. This helped me to integrate all the sketches into one story. Also it's not too boring to watch as they vary from one page to another. 3. Layout types. Spread: Now I'd like to talk about the layout types and how to use them. The first one is very simple, I call it spread. It's really easy, it's when we draw the only picture on the entire spread of our sketchbook, we use both pages for spread from one side to another, not breaking a drawing in the middle, ignoring the folding line so the picture has its maximum possible size. For example, in A5, sketchbook size of a spread is A4. For me, it's pretty large format because I usually draw in A6 sketchbooks. These type of layout is perfect for detailed sketches. If you want to include many items, characters, textures, use the space of whole spread. Spread is good for landscapes, city views, chaotic interiors, crowded places, panoramas. But keep in mind that the detailed drawing like that will take a lot of your time. For me, nothing is worse than drawing a detailed sketch in a hurry. In case of lack of time, maybe one of the following layout types would be more suitable for you. 4. Layout types. Frames: If you want to place more than one picture on your spread, you can use the next layout type. I call it Frames and from the name of it, you can understand the whole point. The easiest and the most accurate way to use this type is to locate your elements with Frames in the very beginning of your work. Try to keep the same space between your frames and between the frames and edges of the spread. It can sound strange, but making accurate frames gives you more freedom. Inside of a frame, you can do quick and loose sketch but neat layout assures viewers that you know what you're doing. Of course, it's easier to draw when you're already don't have to think about composition. When you have several pictures on your spread, it looks more like a reportage or a comic strip than just a sketch. You can amplify this effect by adding text, notes, headlines. You can copy signboards or a logo of a place where you draw. I think it's a very nice thing because with copying phones and stylization letters, you saturate your sketch with information. One of the nice ways of using frames layout. On one half of your spread place a large drawing showing the place in common. On the second half place several small sketches showing closeup details. This kind of spread brings much more information to the viewer than one big picture. To give you spread the uniform look, it's important to use the same style in all the elements. Use same materials, same line thicknesses and way of coloring, and maybe even the same colors. Sometimes to make a drawing more harmonic, I use not the colors from their reality but the colors that I've already used in this drawing. If one part of your spread is drawn with pencils, another with markers, third with watercolors, all these in common can look like detached pictures, occasionally located next to each other. Of course, the text should be treated the same way as other elements of your spread. If you place multiple elements on the spread, define a particular place for a test as well as for pictures. 5. Text and headlines: how to add: In my intro video, I promised you to talk a bit about adding text to the sketches. I think now is just the right time to do it. If you want to add text, treat it as responsibly as drawings. Try to draw letters rather than write them with your usual handwriting. I mean, that handwriting which we used to write notes, to-do lists, shopping lists, etc. Very few of us have natural, beautiful and readable handwriting, right? When we don't pay enough attention to the text, it can look like the artist did his best to make an illustration, spent plenty of time and use incredible techniques and then treat a text like a minor element and scribbled it impatiently. As for me, it always spoils my impression of the whole spread. So how do I add text to my sketches? I found three ways of how I do it. First one is the easiest one. When I need the text to fit nicely and look readable. At first, I took it out with a pencil and then repeated with pen. This helps me to find the right place, change sizes of letters in case if they don't fit and so on. This is the way I use very often but if I want text to look really good, then I use the next method. I use Photoshop, but you can use any text software instead like Microsoft Word or even Google Docs. I'm just so used to Photoshop that I'm trying to make everything with it. I choose the font, which would be nice for my picture, and type my text. I use large size to be able to see specifics of the font. Then I just draw the text in my sketchbook looking at the screen and being guided by proportion of letters, specific shapes and so on. I'm not trying to make an exact copy because perfectly measured letters as if they were printed here, could look improper and weird. All I'm trying to look here, it's keeping proportions space between the letters and words, thickness of strokes, length of descenders and ascenders and stuff like that. This technique helps me to bring specific mood to my text, make it accurate and most important, readable. If you want your text to be easy to read, it really worth effort. There is one more way to work with texts and I use it when I need to add a headline. Here, you can also imitate particular font or try some calligraphy. Remember that in case of headlines, text becomes an equal hero of your sketch. That's why it's really important to place it exactly where you want it to be. If I want to be sure about location of my headline, I do the following. I draw a small thumbnail of my spread, keeping proportions of width and height. I show a folding line in the middle and then draw elements that I already have on my real spread. Or maybe I'm just blending them now. Finally, I had a headline. If I'm not happy with what I see, I don't fix this thumbnail but draw another one or two. It doesn't take much time, but allows me to compare my thumbnails and choose the best one. In the end, I transfer the appropriate version to my sketchbook and continue working on the spread. This method is also nice to realize in Photoshop, you can take a photo of your spread and test to your headline just right on it. But it takes more time and not always you can reach the computer while drawing. 6. Layout types. Grid: Now back to the layout types. I have a couple more for you and one of them is grid. Grid layout is perfect when you want to collect on once bread different objects with similar features. For example, in a travel you'd try and local food and you'd possibly want to sketch old unusual dishes you had. You can place drawings of these dishes in a row. Drawings of the same size, maybe same colors. Add description to make it look clear and accurate. As a result, these spread looks like a compilation collection and pictures like that are always interesting to watch. You can use lots of topics for collections. For example, beautiful doors, creep up lands, funny old ladies, typical souvenirs or cats you met on the street. Making drawn collections helps to enliven your trip or maybe everyday life, and it doesn't take much time. Every single sketch is small and you can feel your spread add in elements little by little. 7. Layout types. Pattern: Another layout type, the last one, is a bit more chaotic than previous one. I call it pattern. Making patterns, you also feel you spread with different object, but this time not in a row, but less systematic. However, it's still important to combine elements with each other well, in terms of composition. That means no too empty places and no too crowded ones. Don't be scared to place your drawings right on folding line. Doing this you unite the whole spread. Otherwise it wouldn't look whole, but just like two doodles pages. Try to fill the space evenly. If some object go beyond [inaudible] , bounds the composition by adding something to the opposite side. If you've already drawn all the objects, but it spreads to looks empty, fill the background. For this you can use strokes, lines, dots, any textures, or some tiny elements. For example for a button from coffee shop, you can use coffee beans or biscuit crumbs as a filler. Text and arrows fill the space just perfectly. I always draw objects first, then I look where empty space is left and add text there. In patterns as in previous layout types, it's better to draw all the elements in the same style and with the same materials. 8. About the class project: I think it was enough theory and let's move to practice. As a class project together we're going to make a conceptual model of your sketchbook like this one, will create some layouts and then put them in our actual sketchbook. Don't be afraid because I'll be with you on all this way. Making sketchbook model is very easy. All you need is A 4 sheet of paper. Fold your sheet twice, then tear of the half fold again, then tear off, and one more time. We got four pieces of paper, but we need only three of them. Take your papers, put them together and fold like a book. We have a super primitive model of a sketchbook. It has five spreads because we don't count the cover. Now, we need to think of different layouts for average spread based on previous videos. Let's not use the first layout type called spread because it would be too easy and we need to practice in creating layouts. The boxes mean pictures and lines are texts. If I want to place a headline, I just write a word headline as big as I needed to be. It's a flexible system. You can change it while drawing and your sketches not necessarily have to be framed in boxes, but with rectangles it's easier to plan. I repeat my layouts with bold pencil to make them more visible to you, and now my sketchbook model is ready for being transferred. Of course, if you actual sketchbook has other proportions like square or landscape, make a model of your format. My actual sketchbook is not much bigger than a model. Model is is A 7, and my sketchbook is A 6. I really like these small formats, but you of course can use any size you like. This particular sketch book is handmade for me by my student, and it luckily has exactly five spreads like it was made specially for our class. I transfer my layout to the sketchbook with a pencil. I try not to make too bold lines to be able to erase them easily. I don't use a ruler, but try to draw accurately relying on my eye. I'm quite experienced in these, but if you don't feel sure about it, don't hesitate to use a ruler. Just don't be a perfectionist. After all, it's only a sketchbook, not an architectural design project or something serious like that. On my button spread, I place elements roughly. I don't know yet what I'm going to draw here, so shapes and sizes of elements would be changed for sure. I draw this layout now just to remind myself that I want a button here. Finally, my sketchbook is ready to be filled, but honestly the hardest work is already done. Now I'm going to show you my drawing processes and comment to them a bit. 9. How i made the task. Drawing process and stories: In this video, I'm going to show you how I completed my own task, and tell you a bit about the process. I hope it will inspire you. I use my usual materials, graphite pencils for preparatory sketch, pens and liners for lines and details. I use water resistant pens, but later, you'll see that one of them bleeds a little. Watercolor for coloring, a couple of brushes, a couple of watercolor markers in case, in need of really saturated colors and white acrylic marker for highlights. This is my usual set of art supplies, which I always carry in my bag. But, of course, you can make your project with any materials you like. You don't even have to use color. By the way, let me know if I should film a more detailed class about my sketching process. Let's start. In October of 2018 I had a trip through Turkey. These fives spreads are dedicated to my adventures. I use my photos as references. I like to draw from live much, much more. But for filming is more reasonable to draw the table, not from the film. For not taking too much of your time, I already prepared all the pencil sketches, because is the most boring and less spectacular part. I start with main outlines, but not trying to draw all the details now. I add them later after coloring. For this spread, I chose IS Sophia, one of the most famous and base cathedrals in the world. It's in Istanbul. Through centuries, is been Byzantium Christian church, then a mosque, and now, it's a museum. It's a magical and impressive place, but because of enormous size, plenty of details and complex geometry, it's really hard to draw from life. I'm happy I get an occasion to draw it from photo. As you can see, I add frame lines only after my main line work is done. Just in case of something goes wrong, and doesn't fit the borders. With the color, I try to show the contrast of dark and light parts. That's why I use complimentary colors, yellows and violets, oranges and blues. Also, there's a lot of real yellow colors, because most of these paintings have golden background. Of course, I skipped many, many details. Otherwise, the sketch would never end. After the coloring, I'm going back to lines, adding details, shading textures, and thickening some lines. It was one of the frames layout. Now, let's move to the grid. For grid layout, I decided to follow my own advice and create a collection of food and drinks. To be honest, I wasn't lucky with Turkish cuisine. I spent two weeks there and visited several regions, but the only dish I really miss is the fresh fried fish from a Cafe on a fish market near Galata Bridge in Istanbul. If you're planning a trip in Istanbul, this is a place you should visit. This bread, I removed the boxes but still fit in my elements into them. To bring the uniform look to my drawing, I use more or less the same color here, but that's easy. Most of these objects have really similar colors. There is not much of shading, but I slightly tried to eliminate error thin from the same side, making a shadow on the left, and keeping the right side lead. I'm not sure if you can trace it, because the process is sped up. But this spread took significantly less time and energy than the previous one. Obviously, every all these elements is incomparably simpler than interiors of IS Sophia. But the result is still interested and maybe even tells more about my trip and personal impressions than a previous one. By this, I want to say that you don't have to draw complex sketches to tell your story. Next layout is frames again, but completely different ones. I told you about five layout types, but actually, you can modify and combine them in unlimited number of ways. Here, I decided to draw a couple of sunset landscapes to show how various Turkish views can be. Also, this try applicant frames give me a hint about panoramas. First, view is from the ferry going to Bosphorus, and the second one is Cappadocia. The process here, a bit differs from previous spreads. As you can see, I start not with lines, but with color. I do this because landscape, especially sea and sky, doesn't have any clear lines. It's more diffused and flowing. Lower landscape with mountains could have outlines. But I give the same technique to create deep tick. When I just outlined the frames, they looked LM comparing to dedicate landscapes. Then I added lettering in the middle, and now, I think it became more balanced. Sorry. Here, I accidentally turned my camera on, not in the very beginning of the process, but, actually, you've missed nothing important. Here, I have a pattern spread and as usual, I made a pencil drawing and started with lines. In this sketch, I collected cats I've met in different spots of Turkey. I guess, you can find one dog here, but it was so sweet and nice as if it was a cat. Sorry again. I'm completely a cat person. While coloring, I tried to move all over the sketch evenly. This helps me not to fall into details too much, and keep the same pellet. To fill the gaps and to bring more information to this spread, I add text. I locate text and lines depending on composition and empty spaces. I know the places where I met this animals. I don't think it's a very important information for viewers, but it keeps my own memories and again, makes my sketchbook more personal. If you wish to add text to your sketch, but don't know what to write, remember this, it's always better not to copy formal information from Wikipedia, but add your personal thoughts, impressions, and stories instead, even if they seem to be silly. Finally, the last spread, and again, it's frames. Three of my five spreads are frames, but all of them look different. Here, I wanted to show views of [inaudible] , the small historical city in the Black Sea region of Turkey. Well, the region is called Black Sea, but there is no sea there. From all the Turkey, I liked these plays most, very cozy, historical, but not crowdy. I guess is quite far from main touristic routes. Instead of one frame, I drew this certain floor because this place is famous for its suffering fields. That's why arithmetic is with suffering here. Tea, lacoon, jelly, and even soap. Again, I add frame lines only after I finish all the outlines. To draw faster, I color the whole spread in one time. All the trees then all the ground, then all the sky, roofs and so on. It helps me not to mix too much paint, keep the same pellet, and move really faster. Even if in reality, colors of the roofs, for example, differ a bit, for me, it's more important to create a harmonic drawing than to pick up the exact color. This way of coloring, it especially helps when you work with photo reference, because we can't totally rely on colors of photo. They can be distorted, and in them, believe me, the viewer is more interested in watching a beautiful drawing than in comparing it to photo. Now, I just want to show you quickly my sketchbook model together with finished sketches. As you can see, I slightly changed the layout here and there, but they helped me a lot to vary the spreads. Without pre-planned layouts, I mostly made the same over time. Just draw one big picture on a spread. 10. Final: Now is the moment to remind you what is your class project. One, make a small sketchbook model of five spreads. Two, fill the spreads with different layout types. Of course you can use mine, but I think it would be better if you create something new. Three, transfer these layouts into your actual sketchbook. Four is my favorite step, fill these layouts with your drawings and texts. Five, publish your sketchbook model and final sketches as a class project. Everyone who completes the project will get a gift from me. A PDF with 18 different layouts. Please remember that you don't have to draw perfectly or to be a professional artists to make this project. Nice layout can make even simple sketches more interesting and informative than detailed complex illustration. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me here or in any social network. That's all. I hope these class is barred you and at the moment you are choosing your favorite layout type and folding the model of your sketchbook. Looking forward to sketches. Bye.