How to Start a Sketchbook and Let Go of Perfectionism

How to Start a Sketchbook and Let Go of Perfectionism

Sketchbook spread by Magali Franov in an Odd Orange sketchbook


Starting a new sketchbook can be daunting! The endless possibilities and beauty of a blank book often leave us feeling excited but intimidated, unsure of how to begin. Over the years, I've discovered many ways to tackle first-page fear and thought I'd share them with you today, as well as include some super inspiring sketchbooks to kick-start your ideas.

Firstly, try to let go of expectations and perfectionism when starting a sketchbook. A 'perfect' sketchbook is a place that taught you something new, helped you explore an idea, or gave you hours of fun. Instead of focusing on creating great art, focus on learning and enjoyment. It makes sketchbooking a much more rewarding and relaxing activity.


Introduce the Sketchbook

A great way to start the first page when you don't have many ideas is to introduce yourself or the sketchbook. It could be as simple as writing down your name and contact details or as complex as a full-spread illustration introducing the sketchbook (i.e. 'sketchbook number twelve', or 'landscape sketchbook'). This is also an ideal opportunity to have fun decorating with stickers, images, sketches, and more.


My sketchbook

Helen Strom

Magali Franov in our Green Wave Clothbound Sketchbook

Joe Linton


Drawing Sessions and Art Classes

My preferred way to start a sketchbook is to use it during a drawing session or art class. The subjects are already chosen for you, removing the hassle of selecting the 'perfect' references, and the time constraints prevent overthinking. I often fill up multiple pages during classes, which can take a lot of pressure off starting a sketchbook.


Charlotte Ager

My sketchbook - Birds in Flight Drawing Session

Ralf Nietmann


Draw Your Surroundings

A fun way to break in your new sketchbook is to draw your surroundings. This could be a landscape (your view from a park bench, out your window, your garden, etc.), food and drink or people around you. It alleviates the stress of choosing references, helps you practice a range of subject matter, and can provide a memory to look back on.


Andrea Yi Deng

Charlotte Ager


Magali Franov in an Odd Orange sketchbook


Comfort Zone

If you're feeling especially overwhelmed when starting a sketchbook, it can help to draw subjects that you're familiar with or bring you comfort and joy. Filling up a spread with art that you're proud of and makes you happy can take some of the pressure off and bring excitement to filling the rest of the sketchbook.



My sketchbook




Material Tests

Another fun way to begin a sketchbook is to fill a page with swatches and tests of your favourite materials. It's the perfect opportunity to observe how your art supplies interact with the paper and can even spark new ideas. I particularly love to start sketchbooks like this as it introduces colour and messiness, encouraging me to carry on that looseness.


Danielle Bennett

Danielle Bennett

My sketchbook - Book Plates Sticker Sheet

My sketchbook


Prep Your Pages

If the blank page intimidates you no matter where you are in your sketchbook, prepping your pages can help. Go through your sketchbook and apply random swathes of paint, ink or collage to each spread. You can go through and work on top of them later. This breaks up the whiteness of the pages and can make everything less scary. If you want to go extreme, consider dunking your sketchbook in a bowl of water or paint - or even tear up some of the pages! Taking away the pristine quality of the sketchbook may be all you need to let go of perfectionism.


Dieter Roth

Emma Carlisle

Lars Henkel


Mood Boards

Finally, if you're too afraid to draw anything at all, a collage or mood board can get the ideas flowing. I used to begin all of my sketchbooks this way, printing and sticking in some of my favourite artwork. This would give me heaps of inspiration for the rest of the sketchbook and was always nice to look back on. Collages are also a brilliant way to be creative and set a tone without putting pencil to paper.


My sketchbook

Lars Henkel



And if all else fails, open your sketchbook to a random page and start working there. You can always go back to the first page when you're feeling more up to it!

I hope you're feeling much more excited to tackle that first page! Let me know in the comments your favourite ways to start a sketchbook and if you'll be trying any of these tips out.

Thanks for reading! I hope you have a wonderful day full of joy, inspiration, and colour.

- Morgan


* Special thanks to Magali Franov for inspiring this blog post. You can check out her post 'Starting a New Sketchbook' on her Patreon.


Enjoyed this blog post? Make sure to give these a read!

Get Back Into Sketchbooking: 3 Prompts to Revive Your Practice

Inside the Sketchbook: Danielle Bennett

Inside the Sketchbook: Magali Franov

Comments (3)

  • Ivette on Jun 06, 2024

    LOVE this post!! (I always read everything you post and love it…hehehe) Thank you for taking the time to motivate and inspire others. Perfectionism is the constant enemy.

  • Mae on Jun 06, 2024

    Thank you so much for this super-inspiring article and the heavenly illustrations❣️😍🙏🏼

  • Vici on May 28, 2024

    Thank you for the inspiring read! Great visuals!

Leave a comment