15 Sketchbook theme ideas (Explained)

Having a variety of sketchbook theme ideas to pull from will help you easily draw and fill more sketchbooks.

Here are some of my favorite sketchbook theme ideas I often find myself using again and again.

1. Nature themes – landscapes, flowers, trees, etc.

When it comes to practicing your drawing skills, it's important to draw from life as often as possible.

And what better subject matter to use than nature?

Here are four reasons why you should only draw nature in your sketchbook:

  1. You'll learn to see more accurately. When you're constantly looking at photos or drawings in magazines, it's easy to develop a distorted view of how things look in real life. By drawing from life, you'll train your eye to see more accurately, which will ultimately make your drawings better.
  2. You'll learn to describe objects more precisely. A big part of drawing is being able to communicate what you see on paper. The only way to get better at this is by practice. So, the next time you're out for a walk, take your sketchbook with you and try to capture the world around you as accurately as possible.
  3. You'll learn to notice the subtleties of light and shadow. One of the things that make each object unique is the way that light and shadow fall upon it. When you're drawing from life, be sure to pay attention to these subtleties so that you can replicate them in your drawing. 
  4. You'll have a better understanding of the subject. When you draw from photographs, you're limited by the angle and composition of the photo itself. But when you draw from life, you can choose any perspective you want and study the subject matter in detail.

2. Focus on urban sketching

When you practice urban sketching, you learn to see urban settings more accurately.

You also learn to notice the subtleties of perspective and shapes that make urban sketching so interesting to look at. 

As you draw urban scenes, you'll quickly discover that there are many different ways to depict the same thing depending on your vantage point.

Finally, drawing cityscapes and architecture can simply be more enjoyable than sketching other subjects.

There's something about having to physically travel somewhere to capture it on paper.

3. Draw animals as a sketchbook theme

If you want to improve your animal drawings, the best thing you can do is observe them in real life and sketch them – a lot.

If you want to get better at drawing animals, you need to improve your observational skills.

And the best way to do that is by drawing them from real life rather than from photos.

When you draw an animal from a photo, you're only seeing a two-dimensional image of it – but when you draw an animal from life, you can see it in three dimensions and observe how it moves.

This will give you a much better understanding of its anatomy and proportions.

One of the best things about drawing animals is that there are so many different opportunities to draw them around the world.

Whether you're interested in big cats or tiny insects, there's an animal out there that will pique your interest.

By sketching animals regularly, you'll gradually build up a catalog of knowledge about the different species that live on our planet – and that's an incredibly valuable skill for any artist to have.

4. Sketch gesture drawings of people in your sketchbook

Gesture drawings are quick sketches of a person or thing.

The purpose of a gesture drawing is to capture the essence of the subject matter in a limited amount of time.

There are many benefits to sketching gesture drawings of people.

First, it is a great way to improve your observation skills.

When you only have a limited amount of time to draw someone, you have to be able to identify the most important features quickly.

This skill can be translated into other areas of art.

Second, sketching people can help you become better at drawing poses.

This is especially helpful if you want to pursue a career in animation.

Third, when you make gesture drawings frequently, you will start to see an improvement in your ability to capture character in your sketches.

This is because you are constantly exposed to different faces and expressions.

Fourth, doing gesture drawings is simply a fun way to pass the time.

It can be enjoyable to sit in a public place and try to capture the essence of the people around you. 

5. Draw only abstract designs and patterns

By focusing on shapes and patterns rather than objects, you can help train your brain to see the world in new ways and discover hidden compositions and designs.

You need to closely examine the shapes and how they interact with each other to create a cohesive design and composition.

This process can help train your brain to see the world in terms of patterns and designs, which can be helpful for many different types of artists.

By stepping away from representational art for a while, you may find that you approach your other projects with fresh eyes and new ideas. 

6. Draw everything you eat

When you take the time to draw each component of a dish, you start to see all the different colors, shapes, and textures that come together to create a meal.

It also helps to develop a “documenting” mindset when it comes to your drawings and sketchbook so you don't start overanalyzing your ideas when you want to draw.

You're simply capturing a part of your day in a drawing and moving on.

Getting you closer to filling another sketchbook.

7. Document your travels in your sketchbook

One of the best ways to document your travels is through sketches.

There are several benefits to doing this, including the fact that it can help you better remember the places you've visited and also provide inspiration for new artwork.

One of the benefits of sketching while traveling is that you're more likely to remember the places you visit.

This is because when you're sketching, you're observing everything around you more closely.

By taking the time to notice all the tiny details, you're creating a mental record that will be much harder to forget than if you simply took photos or relied on your memory alone. 

Another great reason to sketch while traveling is that you can use your sketches as artwork later on.

Whether you decide to turn them into more finished paintings later on or having a travel sketchbook full of memories from your travels is a great way to document your travels.

Sketching also forces you to slow down and take in your surroundings.

When you're not focused on taking photos or checking things off a list, you're free to engage more with your surroundings.

This can lead to some great experiences and memories that you'll always remember—and it might even inspire your art down the line. 

If you're an artist who loves to travel, then documenting your trips in a sketchbook is a great way to combine two of your passions.

8. Draw textures and patterns you observe in your sketchbook

When you’re out and about sketching, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to look for texture and pattern.

But approaching this theme with the mindset of collecting or cataloging textures and patterns you discover can help you add another level of interest to your sketches.

When you’re out sketching, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to look for texture and pattern.

Start by looking for textures and patterns in everyday objects around you.

It could be the wood grain on a door, the weave of a basket, or the metal grating on a drain cover.

As I mentioned before, getting into the “documenting” mindset with your sketchbook can greatly help you produce more drawings.

9. Practice drawing light and shadow

When most people think of sketching, they think of achieving a realistic likeness of their subject.

But there's so much more to sketching than that.

With the right use of light and shadow, you can create the illusion of depth, realism, and mood in your sketches.

This is why it's a good idea to dedicate time to drawing light and shadow studies.

By paying attention to the way light falls on your subject, you can add a sense of depth, realism, and atmosphere to your sketches. 

For example, if you're sketching a portrait or a gesture drawing, paying attention to the shapes made by light and shadows can help your gesture drawing process.

10. Dedicate a sketchbook to your life drawings

Life drawings are sketches of the human form that help artists hone their skills in observing and capturing the human form.

By studying the human figure, you can learn how to depict movement and get better at drawing expressions and moods.

When you're looking at a live model, you have to see what's in front of you and pay attention to the details.

By studying the human form and practicing how to depict it on paper, you'll become better at drawing people in general.

Not only will your drawings look more realistic, but they'll also be more expressive and convey more emotion. 

Finally, practicing life drawing can help you develop a deeper understanding of human anatomy.

11. Draw still lifes

A still life is a great subject for exploring composition, color, and light.

  1. Pick your subject matter. This can be anything from fruits and vegetables to flowers or everyday objects. Consider the colors you want to use and the overall composition of the drawing. 
  2. Sketch out a basic outline of the still life on your paper. Keep in mind the proportions of the objects in relation to each other. 
  3. Start fleshing out the details of each object. Pay attention to the shadows and highlights as you add more depth to the drawing. 

12. Draw landscapes

You can explore different settings, like forests, mountains, seascapes, and cityscapes.

Just like in urban sketching, drawing landscapes offer ample opportunity to experiment with perspective and composition.

And if you're the type who enjoys being outdoors, landscape drawing can be a great way to get some fresh air and explore your surroundings.

When it comes to landscape drawing, one of the most important things you can do is learn the basics of perspective.

This will give your drawings a sense of depth.

Once you have a handle on perspective, you can start sketching out the basic shapes of the landscape elements you want to include in your drawing.

This can be anything from trees and mountains to buildings and streetlights.

Just get a feel for the overall composition before adding any details.

One of the best ways to build up a complex landscape drawing is to work in layers.

Start with the background and then move on to the mid-ground and foreground elements.

13. Draw different fashions and styles you see on the street

Making gesture drawings of fashion quickly, on location is wildly beneficial.

Not only are you drawing the human form but, you're also paying attention to the way clothes interact with the human form.

Gesture drawings are simple drawings that capture the overall shape and movement of a subject.

To practice gesture drawings, give yourself a creative limitation of making the drawing in one minute.

Once you get the hang of it, increase the time limit to two minutes or more.

Once you've practiced your gesture drawings, it's time to start sketching people on the street.

When sketching people, look for interesting clothing choices or details that you can focus on.

If someone is wearing an interesting jacket or hat, start there. If someone has an interesting hairstyle or bag, focus on those details.

The goal is to capture as much detail as possible in a short amount of time.

This will help simplify your sketches and make them more manageable.

Remember, it's okay if your sketches aren't perfect.

The goal is to capture the essence of what you see quickly and efficiently. 

14. Draw a muse or someone close to you

There are a few reasons why dedicating a sketchbook to drawing only one muse or person is a good idea.

Leonardo da Vinci would focus on drawing one thing for a while. Sometimes drawing hundreds of sketches until he had a deep understanding of it.

It can be really helpful to have a focus when you're trying to improve your drawing skills.

By narrowing your focus down to one person or muse, you can hone in on the specific details that make them unique.

By spending time sketching someone close to you, you'll likely start to notice small details about them that you never noticed before.

And finally, by drawing someone over and over again, you'll slowly start to develop your style of drawing.

15. Draw with one medium in your sketchbook

When it comes to sketchbooks, there are a few schools of thought.

Some artists prefer to use them as a catch-all for everything from doodles to full-blown paintings.

Others prefer to stick to one medium per sketchbook, using each book as an opportunity to focus on and develop their skills in that medium.

When you're trying to learn or improve your skills in a certain medium, it can be helpful to have a dedicated space for experimentation and practice.

If you stick to one medium per sketchbook, you'll gradually develop a stronger sense of personal style in that medium.

This is especially true if you make an effort to experiment with different techniques within the medium—for example, by trying out different mark-making techniques with a pen or experimenting with different color palettes in watercolor.

All things considered, I think there are plenty of good reasons to stick to one medium per sketchbook.

Not only will it help you focus your efforts and hone your skills in that particular medium, but it will also allow you to develop a strong personal style within that medium.